I’ve written in the past about different systems that I’ve tried out to find the perfect system for recording and watching TV. The last system I wrote about was MythTV and it was working pretty well. However, it was a bit fragile. When Plex announced their DVR, I decided to give it a try. Once I found scripts to skip commercials and transcode the video to play well on my Apple TV, I thought I had found the system for us. Unfortuantely there were a few pieces that annoyed me to no end. It basically boiled down to the system would sometimes strip too much of a show when it removed commercials and the audio kept becoming out of sync with the video. If you’ever ever watched a show this way, you know that it degrades the viewing experience.
Last year when Channels released their Apple TV app, I was hooked. The app let us watch TV on the Apple TV; while this sounds almost useless, the Apple TV became the only device we used and the remote could control the TV, sound bar, and Apple TV. The folks behind Channels said that they were working on a DVR. If they could combine the Apple TV app with a DVR, it could be the next great solution for me.
About a month ago, Channels released their DVR into a public beta. At first, the $8 per month fee seemed a bit high as TiVo is around $13 per month and could Channels be as good as the gold standard? Breaking down the fee, there is about $2 per month for the guide data (based on what I’ve paid for the data in the past) and $6 for the application; that made it more palatable to me. I decided to give it a try. The DVR portion runs on my Mac Pro and does all the recording pieces and commercial detection (the fact that it has ComSkip built in for detection is a huge win for it). The Apple TV app has a decent interface and makes it easy to play back videos. When videos are playing, double clicking the right side of the remote skips the commercials that ComSkip marked. While my old system didn’t require me to manually skip commercials, this system means that if the commercial detection isn’t perfect, I can rewind and see what I missed.
The playback is excellent and we haven’t experienced any audio sync issues. The Channels team wrote their own player to playback the MPEG transport streams that come off the HDHomeRun. One downside of this is that you don’t get the built in Siri controls like “what did he say” that rewinds, turns on closed captioning, and then plays the video. However, by playing back the raw video instead of transcoding like I had before, I can turn on subtitles and read what I missed; not as convenient, but it works.
The team behind the app is constantly working on the app and making nice enhancements and fixing bugs. There have been some hiccups with some releases, but they have been quickly fixed.
WIth all the different systems I’ve tried, people may ask why I just don’t spend the money and get a TiVo with one of the best interfaces around. I really don’t want another box and I like the flexibility of running a DVR on my media center.
I obviously can’t say that this is the be all, end all system for my TV viewing, but at the moment, it is the best option for me.