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Diamond XtremeTV PVR-550RC: Not Quite Ready for Prime Time
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The XtremeTV PVR-550RC only includes SnapStream BeyondTV "Subscriber Edition" and Beyond Media 1.0 package. "Subscriber Edition" offers a 60-day free trial to the Snapstream.Net TV guide, while the full version provides lifetime membership. The hitch here is that to continue accessing program listings, you'll have to pay a fee of $4.95 a month, unless you cough up $69.95 for a lifetime subscription, which happens to be the same price as the non-subscription full version of BeyondTV.

Although the software is very good, it's not remarkably better or worse for TV viewing/recording than ATI's Multimedia Center, which is always free! A few other companies also offer free program guides; Hauppauge, for example, provides WinTV2000 with WinTV-Scheduler linked to free Internet TV listings.

A large font menu allows easy task selection from a distance

SnapStream.Net eases program recording...until your free trial runs out

Easy menus access images, audio and video recordings

The major failing of SnapStream BeyondTV is the complicated process required to switch between RF tuner and analog video sources. The only method we've found is through the setup wizard, which requires first shutting down all BeyondTV services, then launching the wizard, carefully selecting the source without changing other settings, and then restarting BeyondTV. Simply capturing camcorder video and returning to TV viewing requires you to repeat the process. Diamond should have included a capture program, or better still, SnapStream might try making S-Video and Composite Video sources selectable from their main menu, the way ATI has.

Like ATI's recent endeavors, SnapStream also imparts tuner lag with forced time shifting. Once again, this can be annoying if you have a nearby television tuned to the same station. Yet the box advertises "no delays when you're changing the channel" - Diamond conveniently ignored the effect of included software when making that statement!

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