New Options – SageTV 4, Beyond TV 4

November 10, 2005

Just as I start to get my MCE box back stabilized, there are starting to be a lot of tempting new options. SageTV has released version 4 of their PVR system, and SnapStream is now shipping Beyond TV 4.

Both now support HDTV, although each has (as always) a bit of their own spin, and like MCE, both are still limited to recording OTA (over-the-air) HD.

Hopefully someone will soon give us some detailed comparisons of them in use; I’m tempted to do it myself, but I won’t have time to even start such a thing for another couple of weeks.

In previous versions, SageTV always ended up having better picture quality, as far as I was concerned. Beyond TV, on the other hand, has always had a bit more network functionality and multi-format convenience. Beyond TV also had the prettier interface of the two, although still not close to MCE’s interface.

Both systems are reasonably cheap (Sage starting at $80, Beyond TV at $70), although the software is pretty much always the cheapest part of building a PVR. All of the systems support the same major SDTV tuners that Windows MCE does, although there is a little variation in the HDTV tuners supported.

On the whole, it’s a great time to be a PVR do-it-yourselfer.

You can buy the OEM MCE for about the same price you’d pay for an XP Pro license, and if you decide you want to try one of the other systems, you can simply disable the MCE recording service and install it. Both SageTV and BeyondTV offer a free trial, and purchasing either one will cost you less than you spent on a tuner cart.

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