It's not glamorous and won't change your life, but it is a good basic dual HD tuner PVR without the bells and whistles.
Compared to some of the more glamorous offerings out there, the Wintal PVR2HD is a basic hard disk drive recorder which isn’t much to look at. The front panel is rather boxy with a yellow LED display that is more what you would expect on a clock radio than a snazzy PVR. It lets you know what channel you are watching and that’s it. There are also several buttons to turn the unit in and out of standby and select channels and a panel which looks as if it opens but doesn’t.
The back of the unit has an HDMI connector, component video, composite video and stereo analogue audio. Missing is S-Video and coax digital audio. There are also no Ethernet or USB expansion ports or multichannel analogue audio connectors since the unit only supports stereo sound.
Setup was fairly straight forward and unlike some other units, it correctly negotiated the HDMI settings with our panel the first time around. The unit has two antenna connectors which means that if you want to use both tuners you need to patch the connectors with a supplied fly lead. Presumably this is so that you can support two antennas but for most people it just means another lead that needs to be connected.
The setup menu quickly guides you through finding available channels and allows you to start watching television. If you want to refine a setting you need to go to the setup menu where you can specify the video output (widescreen or 4:3), audio settings and your time-zone.
The remote control fits well in the hand but, like the rest of the unit is fairly basic as it lacks backlight or glow in the buttons making it hard to operate in a dark room. The buttons are reasonably spaced and whilst the instructions state that it is a learning remote, we were unable to get it to recognise the codes from our Samsung panel. We question whether the learning function has properly been implemented because the instructions refer to a receiving window on the back of the remote which is not there. Likewise the instructions mention a picture in picture button and swap buttons which are just unmarked buttons on the remote that don’t do anything.
The user interface is clunky and takes some getting used to particularly since the printed instructions aren’t that good either. Being a basic PVR, it only works with the EPGs broadcast by the networks and conversely suffers from the same limitations that plague all PVRs being that the networks are notoriously bad at keeping to their broadcast schedules. Since IceTV or other forms of remote scheduling are unsupported if you don’t want to use the broadcast EPG you have to manually program your recording schedule which defeats the purpose of a PVR to some extent.
The broadcast EPG allows recordings to be scheduled up to 7 days in advance and whilst it works, it is not the easiest thing to navigate through particularly since schedules are only displayed on a per channel basis. The on screen help provides some prompts but in our view it is confusing as it is not always clear which button performs the required function. Given time you will get use to it but a PVR really should be easy enough to operate that you won’t have to dive for the instructions.
On the positive side, the unit had no problems simultaneously recording two high definition programs or recording a program whilst playing back another but then again that is what you would expect.
This unit is clearly aimed at the value end of the market and is not expensive for a dual tuner HD PVR. It lacks the bells and whistles of the more sophisticated (and expensive) units such as the ability to copy shows to DVD, support for streaming media and the ability to read memory cards to play music or display photos.
More work is definitely required on the instructions and the on screen help but if all you want is basic PVR without an analogue tuner or smarts and you are prepared to learn how to use it, the Wintal PVR2HD is worth considering. It won’t change you life but it will record television.