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The Freeviewer Diaries (4)

by Mark Dansey

Seven weeks is a long time to wait for something you expected to take seven days. So it was for our Magic TV. Finally on Friday the 30th of October, it was couriered to my work. At long last!

Taking my Magic TV out of the box, it looks impressive. It has no buttons on the box, and it has many outputs, from S-Video through to HDMI. On my TV I used the latter. Starting it up for the first time, you are guided through an easy setup process where it asks you about your TV's aspect ratio, output settings, et cetera. Then the Magic TV scans for channels automatically.

Setup took the best part of two minutes. In that quick time, I had set up Freeview. Looking at the receiver, it has an informative front panel display. At a glance you can see your remaining hard drive space in a rudimentary graphical representation. The display also shows which channel you are on, and if you are playing a recorded programme it will display the running time. Furthermore, the front display shows a familiar red recording light and a red scheduled recording clock icon. Less important to the consumer are the output indicators. However I still think you would find this helpful for troubleshooting reasons, or if you had friends who are impressed by screen resolution and refresh rate.

When I got it up and running with my Sony Bravia, it looked stunning. Finally, this is what all the fuss was about. It was worth the wait! I could detect the picture clarity right away. When I eventually found a programme broadcast in high definition, it was amazingly clear.

What about the pros and cons?

The good:

• Live TV pausing is great, if slightly freaky. Takes a bit of getting used to.
• The electronic programme guide (EPG) is simple, clear and very useful.
• The record function is very easy to use. Recording can be done either by pressing the record button on the remote, making a scheduled recording using the EPG, or using the timer record function. If you have opted to record a programme which Magic TV detects is a series, it will ask if you wish to record every episode in that series. It is smart enough to not just record the same time-slot every week - if repeats are on late at night, or if the programme's scheduling has changed, it will record those too.
• The big hard drive is reassuring with a massive 500 gigabytes of space.
• Picture output is good, even on standard definition programmes. However, some older programmes not broadcast in 16:9, like Friends, don't have very good video or audio output.

The bad:

• Rewind and fastforward of programmes is cumbersome. For example, if you were rewinding back to 10:00 minutes into a programme, and you pause at 10:00, it will display 10:00, however when you press play it resumes in a position a few minutes before or after this. This is significantly worse than seeking with DVD, and I would expect better from a hard-drive, which should have a better read speed than compared to a DVD.
• When you pause live television, an annoying timeshifting icon appears in the upper left hand corner of the screen, which comes and goes every three seconds.
• Magic TV includes function to "cut mark" recorded programmes. This means that you can select a section of a recording so that it will not play (good for cutting out advertisements). However, this still shows on the progress bar as a black section. If you wish to permanently remove a section (so there will be no gaps on the progress bar), the owner's guide claims that edits can be made permanent by selecting the programme from the recorded programmes list, pressing "OK" and selecting "Edit and Move". Try as I might to find this menu, I have come to the conclusion that it does not exist on my Magic TV, and this is an erroneous entry.
• Device crashes whenever I select "NZ Herald Technology" news in the RSS feeds. Strange!
• Programmes are shown as being broadcast in high definition in the info banner when they are not. The owner's manual states that "HD icon shows the current programme is broadcast in high definition." It seems the HD icon is shown whenever a channel is selected which broadcasts in high definition. For example, Neighbours is shown in the Magic TV info banner as high definition. However, it does not show the

TV2 high definition logo, like displayed on The Cult.

The first week of using the Magic TV MyFreeview|HD recorder has been great. It has already changed the way we watch television with recording and timeshifting. It'll be good to see an updated firmware which allows the USB ports to be used for external storage and to export recorded programmes.

Mark Dansey

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