Beyonwiz has added a third model to its ‘T’ series of personal video recorders. So far we have seen the three-tuner T3, and the T4 with four. So this new T2, of course, has two tuners. But don’t feel short-changed, for it comes with an additional USB tuner.
As with the other models, you can buy the T2 with a range of hard-disk sizes (see panel, left), with two new options here using SSD (Solid State Disk): $599 for 250GB and $699 for 500GB. The nice things about these? They are totally silent. Beyonwiz has even been able to dispense with the cooling fan for the T2, so the only thing you can hear is the occasional chatter of the hard-drive read/write heads. With SSDs there’s not even that.
Beyonwiz says that the T2 is good for recording up to eight programs at once from two different broadcasters — three if you use the supplied tuner dongle. Obviously the total length of recordings depends on the size of the hard disk.
It is the entry-level unit of the range in other ways. First and most obviously it is a far smaller unit, only 260mm wide, and very light at less than a kilogram, in part because the power supply is external. Also it does not have a front-panel display. Indeed, there’s no obvious indication whether the unit is on or not, other than what appears on your screen. This one does not offer PIP either.
The unit has HDMI output, plus composite video, stereo analogue audio and optical digital audio. A short cable daisy-chains the pass-through aerial output from one tuner to the next. The USB tuner comes with its own short cable which can plug onto the second tuner’s pass-through. In addition to the USB socket on the back, there’s another on the front under a flap, plus Ethernet and RS-232C. Wi-Fi is supported with the addition of an optional Wi-Fi dongle.
The fundamental operating system here is Linux, with an overlaid interface called WizOS. The Linux underpinning means there’s room for the expansion of capabilities. The 500MHz MIPS processor provides somewhat faster performance than the T3, but remains slower than the premium T4. And since the last time we looked at a Beyonwiz PVR, the company has launched an Android and iOS app called WizOS (shown above).
Not surprisingly the unit starts up with a Wizard. This allows you to select your time zone and location (it looks like TV stations are pre-programmed for a number of areas, but not our test area of Canberra). A full scan grabbed all my local stations within a couple of minutes.
It is possible to remove duplicate channels, but only at the cost of renumbering —e.g. delete the ABC duplicate 21, and ABC 2 is renumbered from 22 to 21.
The unit also supports FreeviewPlus, but it was woefully slow and eventually got in a tangle. However the ABC iView and SBS On Demand apps work fine. If you want more than the standard free-to-air EPG, you can take advantage of three free months of IceTV, and if you like it, subscribe afterwards.
The free-to-air picture quality was good. The colours and contrast levels were accurate and scaling was fine. The deinterlacing seemed to be always in a motion-adaptive video mode which gave reasonable results, although sometimes resulted in unnecessary moire patterns and the like.
The unit defaulted to 1080i output, but also supported 1080p and the other standard resolutions including 576i, so you can have the unit upscale or output natively. This setting is well down the menu system, though, not something you’re going to want to change every time you flip between HD and SD stations. Our ideal remains a setting in which the output resolution automatically matches the program resolution.
Among the things that a nerd like me loves: the highly detailed information on the pop-up information panel, even down to which tuner is in use, and the resolution of the picture in pixels.
The T2 certainly seemed a very stable platform, aside from FreeviewPlus. As I write, there are 10 shows recording from the two tuners plus the USB one at the same time, and an 11th show is network streaming to an iPad using the WizOS app. I set the unit to recording both manually, and by choosing things from the EPG. The unit adds pre-and-post recording padding of a length you can choose, and there’s highly flexible series recording. All worked properly.
Manual recording is flexible with a set of menu choices for how long you want the recording to be. If you rewind live TV a little first (this is on by default) then you can choose whether you want the time-shift buffer saved. That’s great for when you decide you want to record something after it has started.
And time shift is on by default. There is no setting for how long a buffer you want. It will just keep on adding more to the memory for as long as you remain on the one station and don’t play something else back — if you leave it on all day in that condition, then you can rewind for hours. And you can save each programme that is stored there individually, selecting them by name. And usefully if you rewind live TV just a little, then you will be warned if you try to do something that will purge the buffer.
Playback was flexible too. You can set skip amounts on up to five sets of keys. Fast forward and rewind can go up to 128×, and if you hold down an arrow key you can move along a time bar to anywhere within the programme within a few seconds. There’s pausing, but no slow motion nor frame advance.
You can control the unit via a web interface (type its IP address into your browser) and you can download and upload media to a computer using any FTP software (hint: username is ‘root’).
The WizOS software was a surprising gem. In addition to replicating the remote control, it displays the EPG and allows you to set up recordings from there, to see and edit timers, and to play back your recordings or watch live TV on your smart device. It will even work over the internet if you gather the necessary information from your T2... except for the streaming. (For that you need a T4 which can transcode live TV and recordings to something that will work better over the internet. The distributor provided me with log-on information for a T4 located I know not where, but probably in Sydney, and this did indeed work, although there was some breakup of the picture.)
The T2 supports DLNA playback, but I’d be reluctant to use it as my main way of accessing DLNA content. The interface is slow and pretty clunky. The unit acts as a DLNA player, but not as a renderer, which means you can’t use an Android or iOS app to send media to it. Also, while it played such things as 192kHz-sampled FLAC files, it down-sampled them to 48kHz before passing them on via HDMI to the receiver. One oddity — an old MPEG test clip with native resolution of 704 by 576 (rather than the more usual 720 by 576) had its aspect distorted into a short, squat appearance on playback.
As a DLNA server, though, it was impressive, allowing its recordings to be played anywhere on the network.
It also has some apps ready to run: YouTube TV, Last.FM, SHOUTCast, Flickr, Web Cams, a GMail reader, a web browser and, of course, weather information. For best use of some of these you should plug in a keyboard and mouse.
The unit’s menus have a slightly scattershot approach to control. When the auto station tuning completed it told me to hit ‘OK’, which I did, and no stations were memorised. I did it again, more carefully, and realised that it meant press the green key, which was labelled ‘OK’ on the screen. The colour keys have inconsistent functions depending on where you are in the menu system. And half the time you have to use the red key to Exit instead of the ‘Exit’ key.
Incidentally, despite the lack of a fan, even after many hours of heavy use, the T2 was only slightly warm to the touch. It uses a 2.5-inch notebook-style hard drive, and these tend to produce less heat than the full-sized ones. But it also means that the capacity is limited to 2TB, compared to the 6TB available in large hard disks.
The Beyonwiz T2 is a fine, powerful PVR with decent picture quality and tremendous versatility. Plus if you get one with an SSD (or the ‘bare bones’ model and install your own) you’ll have just about the only totally silent PVR on the market.
+ Excellent recording of up to eight programmes at once, Good value for money, Very fancy WizOS app
- Can’t delete TV channels without upsetting numbering, No frame step on playback
Tested with firmware: 4.4/3.14.2
Outputs: 1 x HDMI, 1 x composite video, 1 x stereo analogue audio, 1 x component video, 1 x optical digital audio, 2 x aerial loop out
Inputs: 2 x aerial
Other: 2 x USB, 1 x Ethernet, 1 x RS-232C
Storage: 500GB HDD (see text for other options)
Dimensions: 260mm wide by 60mm tall by 175mm deep
Weight: 0.93 kilograms
Warranty: 12 months
Product page: www.beyonwiz.com.au