DVICO – TViX R-3300 review

upgradeable media jukebox, streamer and PVR
Photo of DVICO – TViX R-3300
£180 (basic, bare-bones version)

We recently reviewed DVICO’s TViX 6500a, the supposed ‘world’s most advanced jukebox’, and were left with mixed feelings about its balance between performance and usability.

The company has recently released a ‘baby brother’ if you like, in the HD-R3300, which is almost identically designed and offers similar support, though can only play back HD resolution files up to 1080i.

All of the cables required to connect the device to a television are supplied in the box but you don’t get any of a range of accessories that unlock some of the device’s most useful features. The most obvious of these is an internal hard drive to store media locally, but you can also fit a digital HD TV tuner to watch and record Freeview channels, and you will need a separate wireless dongle if you want to stream data across a network without cables.

The interface has been tweaked since the 6500a and is now a bit more responsive and more intuitive, offering fast access to video, music and photo files. We were really hoping that DVICO would address the issues we had with network support on previous devices and this has been done to an extent, since you can now stream over a secured wireless network that uses WPA encryption rather than being limited to WEP.

You’re still only able to share a maximum of four folders, though, whether you use the NetShare application supplied (which is still unnecessarily awkward) or SAMBA via Windows folder sharing.

Thankfully DVICO has maintained its high standards in terms of control, playback quality and format support and we were extremely impressed by how quickly the unit accessed files, either locally or across a network. Even large collections are fast to browse and can be sorted by various criteria such as name or date to make things more accessible.

It performs well in this light and we noticed that even lower resolution files appeared to be sharper and more vibrant than on many rival devices. Skipping back and forth through files and pausing and resuming is highly responsive with little or no buffer time even when streaming, and with a similar degree of control to the 6500a this area is by far the highlight of DVICO’s jukebox.

We also managed to get our hands on a TV tuner to test the device’s capabilities as a PVR, but had mixed feelings about the results. After scanning for and populating a channel list you can pause and resume playback much like Sky+, instantly record to an internal hard drive or set up a schedule to record a specific channel at a certain time.

Performance is excellent in terms of both playback and record quality but we weren’t too pleased with the EPG (electronic programme guide) which is a little sluggish and doesn’t organise channel lists very well, which means it may take some time to browse the 50-odd stations you should have available. The situation isn’t dire enough to ruin the experience but it’s fair to say that the tuner pales in comparison to the more straightforward approach taken by most Freeview boxes and PVRs in terms of usability.

Unfortunately this isn’t where the problems end and, despite the excellent performance and media control on offer, the overall stability of the unit threatened to undermine its strengths. We encountered numerous unexplainable crashes when browsing the media menus which caused the device to reboot each time. These were fairly infrequent but certainly intrusive enough to have you running back to the shop for a refund if you encounter similar troubles.

Even without these problems you’ll still have a decision to make with the 3300 in terms of value for money. The bare-bones unit will set you back around £180, but a wireless adaptor will cost £20-30 extra and if you want to use it as a PVR you will have to shell out about £70 for a compatible T331 TV Tuner.

More details about these sorts of accessories are available from the website, but by the time you’ve thrown in a hard drive you could be looking at around £400 to unlock all of the features highlighted in this review, which is a steep price to pay even despite the impressive performance.

We’ll include an addendum here to say that after getting in touch with DVICO about the problems we encountered with the device, we were provided with a beta firmware update designed to address them. This did appear to fix issues with media access and also improved the responsiveness of the EPG, which certainly goes some way towards addressing some of the bigger problems we had.

When all’s said and done, stability and compatibility problems, along with the fact that the device is sometimes overly awkward to configure and use, should be considered the main drawback of the 3300. As such it’s not a great solution for beginners by any means, but more experienced users who know their way around a network and are patient enough to work through the odd crash or reboot may find that the excellent media playback performance makes up for its faults.

Company: DVICO

Contact: 0844 445 7000


Verdict
The 3300 pretty much cements DVICO's position at the top of the pile when it comes to speed and performance from its TViX range, but sadly it's nowhere near this successful when it comes to general operation and usability. Despite some improvements in this area the high price of the 3300 means that issues with stability are difficult to justify and, while DVICO does offer firmware updates relatively frequently, you're still paying a lot for an all-singing, all-dancing setup.