Plenty of designers fall back on tried and tested designs, and that's exactly what TViX has done with the R-3300 PVR box. Put it next to the Dvico TViX 4130SH PVR we reviewed early last year, and we'd swear that you'd have a tough time picking the two apart. The only problem with relying on an existing design comes when the design you're falling back on was unremarkable and plain in the first place. That's exactly the trap that the R-3300 falls into. It's a plain black box with a simple LED display flanked by a circular array of buttons that annoyingly flash whenever any key or remote button is pressed. In a darkened environment — like, say a home TV viewing room, exactly where the R-3300 is meant to be placed — that's rather annoying.
The R-3300's remote control belongs to the same school of few cosmetic changes, and just like last year's model, we can't fault its basic design, but we can't get excited by it either.
The R-3300 is a combined digital PVR and media streaming unit. On the PVR front, it uses the freely broadcast EPG information supplied by each channel to form its guide. Media streaming is via NFS shares on a compatible PC, and a client application called NetShare is provided with the unit. Video file format support is reasonable with compatibility offered for .mpg, .mpeg, .avi, .divx, .vob, .tp, .ts, .trp, .dat, .iso, .ifo and .m2t files, but critically H.264 and MKV files are not supported. It's also somewhat disappointing that a system that sells itself as an "HD" PVR and tops its video output at 1080i.
Connections on the rear of the R-3300 include HDMI, component, composite and S-Video output, as well as coaxial and optical audio out. Wired networking is provided via a 10/100 Ethernet port, and there's also a video-in function through an S-Video port if you wanted to use the R-3300 to record other video sources.
There's one big catch to be aware of when shopping for the R-3300, however. The base specification for the unit doesn't feature a hard drive. Or a TV tuner. Or wireless. They're technically optional extras, and a quick bit of web searching revealed vendors selling the unit with all sorts of interesting hardware combinations. That's great if you want to fit your own drive — or don't need the tuner, or wireless, or whatever — but less so if you end up having to spend more money to get functionality you might have assumed was "built in". For our review, distributor Also Technology supplied us with a model with a single tuner and integrated hard drive.
There's a very apt word to use to describe the R-3300's performance. That word is "basic". As a PVR (as long as you opt for a model with a hard drive, or fit one yourself), the R-3300 offers basic performance. You can pause live TV and schedule recordings, but only at the most basic level. There's no functionality built in for season or even repeated recordings, and you're totally at the mercy of the free-to-air EPG, which is often catastrophically slow to update, if at all. You can't alter settings while you're recording, even if those settings have nothing to do with recording at all. As our review sample was a single tuner product, we also couldn't record two channels at once, although the in-built EPG software was at least bright enough to pick where we set up channel recording conflicts. The one area where the R-3300 did excel was in signal reception and display, factors we had no problems with at all.
Likewise, the streaming functionality of the R-3300 was basic, but flawed. As an example, the supplied NFS streaming software, NetShare, only allows you to share four folders in total. You can't stream from a UPnP-compliant storage device such as a NAS, and when first installed NetShare drops itself in the system tray without letting you first configure it. To add to the streaming woes, the default install parameters on-board the R-3300 look for a SAMBA share, not an NFS one, so at first the R-3300 won't see any shares at all. Switching between the in-built drives and networked ones is slow and fiddly, with the left button often (but not always) defaulting to sorting folders rather than helping to select them. We also encountered instances of the R-3300 locking up within menu structures or during playback, and only pulling the power at the back resolved these.
Ultimately, the R-3300 is a flawed PVR. As with TViX's previous models there's not much here that couldn't be solved with a few firmware updates in theory, but we can't assess theory — just the products in front of us. As it stands, you'd be better off looking elsewhere for your PVR needs unless they're very basic needs indeed.