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Review: Simple.TV 2 knows some great DVR tricks but also has flaws

Lincoln Spector | Nov. 10, 2014
This network DVR costs less to run than a TiVo Roamio OTA, but we had a few issues with its lack of Wi-Fi and its excessive fan noise.

But what about watching the recorded shows on your TV? Both mobile apps support Chromecast, so you can easily go big screen if you've bought one of Google's $35 streaming sticks. There's also a Simple.TV channel for Roku. Both worked flawlessly and easily for me. The iOS apps can also AirPlay the content to an Apple TV.

Downloading a show to your computer can be confusing. When you click a program in My Shows, you get a download icon next to the Watch button. Click it, and you get three quality options: Mobile, Tablet, and Full. Then you wait a few minutes while "Our video elves are hand stitching your video."

But when the "elves" are finished, you're back where you started, without a downloaded file. The trick: Click the download icon again. You'll get the same options, but below them, in tiny letters, you'll find downloading links. The downloaded videos, in MP4 format, play just fine.

Power consumption: Good when on, wasteful when off
When recording or playing a show, the Simple.TV burns a tad under 12 watts. That's excellent and admirable.

Unfortunately, it doesn't burn much less when it has nothing to do--about 9 to 12 watts. Not that it never does nothing. There's no option to put it into standby mode. The connected hard drive is always spinning, and the fan usually is too. I suspect those add a lot to the wasted power. My tests estimated that it would burn more than 8 kilowatt-hours over a month of no real use.

And you can't just pull the plug. By its nature, a DVR can't be shut down completely and still do its job. It must be able to record at odd hours, and in the case of the Simple.TV, also to respond to network commands. But when it's not working, all it really needs is enough power to know the time and to monitor the network. That doesn't take 9 to 12 watts.

To be fair, this is a common problem with DVRs. I've never tested one that didn't burn excessive power when not in actual use. And many of them burn far more than 12 watts.

Bottom line
If you've given up cable, and you're looking for a way to timeshift broadcast television, the Simple.TV 2 makes a very good choice. At least it does if you can get Ethernet and an antenna connection in the same room, and you don't intend to stream recorded shows to your computer. You can always download them.

 

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