What is the VBox Home TV Gateway?
Now we’ve reviewed many a personal video recorder here at AVForums but this one is something a little different from the norm.
Design & Connections of the XTi 3340
XTi 3340 SetUp
It becomes apparent during initial procedures that this is more like setting up a router or PC peripheral than it is a PVR. You will need to ensure your PC and router are configured to use the UPnP protocol - most are by default - otherwise we’d advise looking at the instruction manual for more info. You can perform the initial, ‘Quick Setup’ through the mobile apps but we’d recommend being PC based as using touch controls can be a bit awkward for this.
VBox Home TV Gateway Operation
VBox is largely aimed at the tablet and smartphone user market, along with those fond of their Media PC setups. As well as the aforementioned mobile apps, there is a Chrome browser extension for PC and Mac that is marginally quicker than connecting manually but there is also integration with the XBMC media server. Note: those wanting to actually view live TV or recordings from the VBox will need to at least install VLC Media Player but since it’s a very good bit of software, we consider that no great hardship. Still, it is another process in what some may consider a fairly complicated procedure.
Mobile Apps and Browser Extension
VBox Home TV Gateway Video Review
VBox Home TV Gateway General Performance
The next thing folks will miss is the ability to view content on the big screen, easily. You will need some sort of media device/streamer with either XBMC built-in or, at the very least UPnP compatibility attached to your TV to do so, and these aren’t that commonly found in the home. The only thing we had to test it out was a PS3 and, even then, we couldn’t get past a loading screen so the user experience could hardly be described as smooth. We tried to get it working with our resident Roku 3 as well, but got even less close to achieving that than with the PlayStation.
UPDATE: Good news for Roku owners since this review, VBox has confirmed they are working on a Roku channel, set for release in 2015
We hate to tell you VBox but there are more regulation PVRs out there, particularly in the case of the Panasonic’s, that allow for much easier distribution of both live and recorded content using DLNA. Moreover, they feature the niceties of a remote control, series recording, on-board video connections and access to the likes of BBC iPlayer and Netflix through their app selections. The Panasonic DMR-HWT230 is one such that comes to mind and it’s currently available for only £25 more than the VBox 3340 in the UK, and it comes with storage built-in. It also doesn’t tie you in to being on a home network connection to view content as you can do it from anywhere you can get the internet.
Where the VBox does score well, particularly with the multi-tuner versions, is in being able to stream multiple sources to multiple devices, to as many users as you're network will allow - both for recoded and live TV content - so it's definitely worth considering if that's your goal. We realise that won't interest all that many people but there is a market for that kind of utilisation out there.
- Effectively distributes free-to-air TV via IP
- Reliable recording function
- Easy to fit in your setup
- Good mobile app
- XBMC Integration
- No video outputs
- No built-in storage
- Some will find it complicated
- There are more conventional solutions achieving similar things
VBox Home TV Gateway (XTi 3340) PVR Review
Setup is easy enough for anyone that’s PC savvy but those accustomed to a more traditional PVR might find it a little long-winded and complicated. Once up and running the user interfaces are reasonably simple to follow although, again, not the prettiest. Both the mobile apps (iOS & Android) and Chrome browser extension follow the same general layout, from where you can access the EPG and your recordings, as well as make various settings adjustments.
In terms of reliability in making recordings, the VBox scores well and there are new options in the latest software release that allow for timer paddings to ensure you don’t miss anything in the event of over-runs. Also included in the latest software is full integration into the XBMC media server which we know will interest quite a few.
The real issue we have with the VBox’s place in the market is that you can go out and buy more mainstream PVRs which include a lot of the features – such as distributing content to mobile devices – which are supposed to differentiate it from the pack. They will also come sporting video and audio connections, have Freeview HD capability and have in-built storage for very little more than the asking price of the XTi 3340.
This is not to say that there isn’t a market for the VBox, just that it is going to be a very specialist one, confined largely to those with Media PC setups or those looking to distribute both satellite and terrestrial signals around the home. It works but we think it’s going to be something of a hard sell for the manufacturers in the UK market.
Ease of Use Menus/GUI
Picture Quality SD
Value for Money
Our Review Ethos
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