The ProCaster 6200c

April 14, 2007

Haven’t found anything on this elsewhere yet, so some quick notes on our new DVB box. The image quality is really good, the PVR stuff looks very impressive looking indistinguishable from broadcast quality. Makes sense since it’s probably not transcoded at all. And the fact that it can record up to 4 broadcasts at once is really cool.

The EPG works well and the interface isn’t half bad, especially after the firmware update (which seem to come out pretty regularly, you can even download betas!). Just pick your show and hit record. I think that as people start buying more PVR units (which they will, because this is a quantum leap from analog TV + VHS in terms of ease of use and quality), there’s going to be a major scandal about the incorrectness of program guides. That most commercial channels basically state the ending time of the previous show (+1 one min) as the starting time for the one you want so that your PVR would pick up on all the ads. So now you have 6 (~160 MB) minutes of crap taking space on your HD already before the show even starts. Luckily the 6200 has editing capability. :)

Oh, and I’m pretty sure that this is the DVB spec’s fault, but why the heck does the box have to change the channel just to view that other channel’s EPG? I’ve noticed this on every DVB-C unit I’ve used.

6200c-mpegsc

It plays well with Macs. I didn’t even notice a silly Windows-only software CD. Just use a USB cable and the FAT32 volume will show up on your desktop. There was a weird little snafu after the firmware update when the machine just wouldn’t mount anymore, but after switching it completely off (from the power switch) it started to work again.

The PVR results in .AVR files which seem to be yet another type of MPEG2 wrapper. VLC will not play them, but the good news is that MPEG Streamclip will. The bad news is that you’ll need the $20 MPEG2 QuickTime component to open them, however I haven’t researched this very deeply yet so a free alternative might be just around the corner. I’ll report back if I find one. Here’s what the MPEGSC says the media actually is:

Stream: Penn & Teller_#001_200704022300.AVR

Path: ~/Desktop/Penn & Teller_#001_200704022300.AVR

Type: MPEG transport stream



Duration: 0:29:55

Data Size: 755.40 MB

Readable: 753.39 MB

Bit Rate: 3.52 Mbps



Video Tracks:

516 MPEG-2, 704 × 576, 16:9, 25 fps, 5.00 Mbps, upper field first



Audio Tracks:

690 MP2 stereo, 48 kHz, 224 kbps



Stream Files:

Penn & Teller_#001_200704022300.AVR (755.43 MB)

It uses a 3,5” HD so it’s not silent, but the noise isn’t that bad at all. A lot quieter than a GameCube and maybe just a tad louder than a Mac mini. The 6200c costs 630.- EUR so it’s not the cheapest device out there. I just wonder how much it would’ve cost for them to stick an Ethernet jack in the back and include an DiVX/XviD decoder. Then this thing would be pretty close to perfect. Now we still need an Apple TV - type device.

The scary bit about all this is ofcourse that now I watch a lot more TV. :) Which maybe isn’t so bad since I at least get to choose what I want and there’s actually pretty good stuff out there.