Opentel ODT4200PVR

I recently purchased the Opentel ODT4200 PVR from oznetics for $460. I bought via ebay and picked up from them and had problems at all; in fact they were very helpful.

Overall, we are quite happy with the unit. It has a large enough 80GB harddisk, and most importantly two tuners so you can watch one channel whilst recording another. Unlike the more expensive models, you can not record two channels at once. There is also no way to access files (USB or Firewire, etc) though the box comes with instructions on how to upgrade the harddrive should you wish to. The remote is a good size and very functional.

As I said, we are quite happy, but there are a few points of annoyance. I am running the latest 1.27 firmware. Some of the issues, both bugs and wishlist include:

  • The recording interface is quite unintuitive. When you add a "reservation" after selecting the time you automatically start a new reservation. Should you wish to change the file name for the recorded program, you need to go into the list of reservations and select one you added, and then modify the file name.
  • The reservation list only shows the channel and date and time information for your reservations. It would be nice if this showed the filename it is going to record to. It would be nice to have a few more reservation options, like "only do this on weekdays" or "repeat this 13 times".
  • There are many digital channels, most of which you want to skip over for normal use (some, like high def you want to skip all the time). The Opentel has a nice feature of favourites which allow you to group only the channels you want into one of a few favourites groups. However, one more than one occasion the box has become a bit confused if I'm in favourites mode or all channels mode requiring about five switches between modes and random channel changing, etc to come back.
  • On more than one occasion it has been randomly unable to lock onto channels and simply displays a black screen. The only way to get it to come back is to power cycle the box. This may be a heat issue as we have the box in a cupboard, and has not been a major issue.
  • If a show is recording, you can not modify in any way any of your existing recordings. This means changing their filenames, deleting an existing recording, etc.
  • I'm not sure what the deal is with the 4:3, 16:9 and letterbox formats. There is an "auto" format which seems to just be 16:9 mode. It would be nice if it just used 4:3 for non-widescreen broadcasts and letterbox when it was.
  • Fast forward using the time slider (rather than just kicking into 2x, 4x or 16x speedup this mode shows a standard time bar that you move a pointer along) occasionally gets confused. When this happens it generally ends up playing the audio for where you stopped but displaying a paused static image from where you left off. What would be really nice is if a tap of the [>|] button skipped 30 seconds, and hold it down to "slide" the time. As it is, you can get the feel of how long to hold down the button to slide past most of the ads after a few shows :)
  • "Time-shift" for pausing live TV is basically useless. Once you have started the time shift, you can't swap channels without stopping the recording and you can't rewind. So you might as well just start a normal recording, which you can watch back whilst it is recording anyway.
  • Some of the error messages are in engrish.
  • It can get very hot, though we do keep it in a cabinet. Turn the box "off" spins down the harddrive but it still remains quite warm to touch.
  • The harddrive appears to be almost constantly churning away. You can't hear it in normal operation with the TV playing, but it does make you wonder what it is doing. I can only assume it is a background defragmenter to try and keep space contiguous.
  • Guide information is only for the current and next show. This is a network thing, not a Opentel thing.
  • Channel 10 has some white dots which are apparently due to overscan from incorrectly (that might be a bit strong, I don't fully understand) broadcast VBI information.

In conclusion, the above bugs are all annoyances, and in most day to day use the unit works fine. This is a great unit if you don't want to hit the $900 mark for the Topfield model or spend more time fiddling with MythTV than watching TV. I wouldn't say we watch that much, but it's nice to be able to record the good stuff and watch it at your leisure and the Opentel works great for us.