Lots of manufacturers use the same basic design for their products, and Beyonwiz, maker of a variety of PVR boxes, hasn't shucked this trend with the Beyonwiz DP-P2. If you're familiar with the Beyonwiz DP-P1, in fact, you may find the DP-P2 all too familiar. Same black box, same blue circular power button that sits beside a simple LED and a hidden flap that hides USB and media card slots. Even the dual-HD tuner nature of the P2 and P1 utilises the same convenient single cable in approach.
As with the DP-P1, the P2's remote control remains unimpressive. It feels light and cheap, it isn't backlit, and even after a couple of weeks worth of testing, we were still sometimes struggling to instinctively find functions, especially as the unit's play/stop/pause buttons are small and indistinct. It may have only been a quirk of our review sample, but we also found the channel down button had a tendency to get stuck, leading to us often skipping many channels when we only intended to jump one, invariably leaving us stranded on the NSW Parliamentary Channel. There's a reason it's there — to put people to sleep — but it wasn't what we wanted to watch all the time.
The DP-P2 is intended to be an all-in media box; part TiVo, part media centre streaming box, with a dabble in home photography to boot. Much of what makes the Beyonwiz DP-P2 an appealing prospect was present in the DP-P1 too; you get two HD TV tuners, compatibility with IceTV for EPG and remote recording, UPnP video streaming over a network of compatible file types — and the DP-P2 will support pretty much anything you choose to throw at it in terms of common internet video.
On-board storage has been beefed up on the DP-P2, with an internal 320GB hard drive as standard. Beyonwiz claims that this is good enough for up to 40 hours of HD broadcasts, or one 120 hours of SD. Owners of the DP-P1, or Beyonwiz's other PVR boxes will find that they can also stream files to and from each Beyonwiz box quite simply, which would be one simple way to extend your recording times.
Where the DP-P2 earns its extra numeral is in its ability to record Pay TV via an AV port at the back. Beyonwiz touts this feature quite prominently, pointing out that you can pause and rewind up to two hours worth of Pay TV signal, as well as schedule recordings, although the practical truth is a little less endearing than it first sounds. More on that shortly.
One thing the DP-P2 will let you do that other, more commercially minded PVRs won't (we're looking right at you, TiVO), is skip commercials easily. We know why the commercial broadcasters hate this feature — but it's the exact same reason that viewers love it.
Setting up the DP-P2 was moderately painless, although because we were connecting via HDMI, we did have to skip through a number of other pre-set video modes before we could begin configuration properly. How many people, exactly, are going to buy an HD PVR and not connect it in a way that'll send an HD signal?
Unlike the DP-P1, we had relatively few problems getting IceTV up and working on the DP-P2, as long as you leave aside the fact that IceTV didn't list it explicitly as a compatible model. Telling the system you've got a DP-P1 seemed to do the trick, regardless, and we were quickly pulling down EPG data. We even managed to get the IceTV App for iPhone 3G to schedule some recordings for us, and watched them unfold.
On the network streaming side, Beyonwiz hasn't really reinvented the wheel here, and it shows. If you're familiar with older Beyonwiz units, you'll be on familiar ground with the DP-P2, and that's both a good and bad thing. The company hasn't changed its basic, somewhat geeky file browser at all, and this means you're still in slightly clunky territory. It's nothing that you can't overcome with a bit of determination, but then again, this is an entertainment product, and the pursuit of less effort should be at the top of any GUI designer's notebook.
On then, to the DP-P2's show-stopping feature; the ability to record, pause and rewind Pay TV. Beyonwiz isn't exactly telling fibs here — the DP-P2 does do what it says on the box — but those looking for a more flexible alternative to the Foxtel IQ2 will have to keep on looking.
The Pay TV recording feature (although it could, in truth, record just about any AV source) is managed via AV inputs on the rear of the box, and they top out at S-Video quality. As such, it's perfectly feasible to record a single Pay TV channel, but not in particularly fine quality. You'll also need to do some fiddling around with timers to get everything to synchronise properly, which is again effort that some couch potatoes will find exasperating.
Ultimately, the Beyonwiz DP-P2 is a good product that does perform as advertised for the most part. At the same time, it's not as purely convenient as boxes like the IQ2 or TiVO, and in the world of TV Junkies, convenience counts for a lot. It's also arguably badly in need of a GUI refresh. If you're the tinkering type, but don't want to go down the Windows Media Center route, it's a worthwhile purchase.