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I purchased my Inverto IDL-7000PVR-T off Ebay 3 1/2 years ago because it was cheap, when I was a student looking for an inexpensive gadget, and now I wouldn't swap it for anything currently on the market.
The first plus about Inverto (or Verty if you a reader of any dedicated Inverto forums - of which there are a few highly specialised ones for Inverto owners coping with it's many foibles that I will cover later) is that because it is no longer sold in retail stores / in great demand it can be found for a very reasonable £30 - £60, however the flipside of this is that it is difficult to find and only really sold on ebay (where I bought mine for £45).
Hardware wise Inverto is packed full of technology associated with higher end, more modern, PVR's; it has a twin tuner (meaning you can record two programs at once, or alternatively record one and watch another), built in freeview tuner, and an easily changeable hard drive (meaning it can be upgraded). Unfortunately most Inverto IDL-7000PVR-T's have an inherent hardware flaw, which has effected most posters on Inverto forums, in that it's original Maxtor hard drive is likely to fail and become unfixably corrupt relatively quickly; this isn't a huge problem though, given most hard drives compatible with PVR's can be transfixed into Inverto - solving the problem.
Inverto's software functionality is generally excellent, almost intuitive. The remote is easy to use despite the numerous buttons, especially with the simple on-screen prompts, and the menus are straightforward and logically ordered. Setting Inverto up is easy, due to the auto-tune function, as is deciphering the best personal settings for yourself. Two downsides are that the 14-day Electronic Program Guide that Inverto comes with is now redundant, following the financial collapse of the company that provided the service - meaning you can only see what is on and what is on next, and secondly that Long Play recording is inherently flawed and will corrupt the recorded data on your hard drive.
Recording is easy enough - either done by selecting programs from the TV guide or by programming in what you want based on time and channel; viewing your recording is easy as well, done simply by going into the library and selecting what you want either by program or by specific 'scene' / time frame.
Overall however, as I said earlier, I would not swap Inverto for anything else currently on the Market, while it is still running; if anything, for me, Inverto's problems and foibles, which would put some off as unreliability, give it a sort of personality that somehow enders it to me.
In a Nutshell
+ An easy to use PVR with functionality more commonly found on more expensive models. Twin tuners allow for simultaneous recordings and the 14 day EPG makes recording a doddle. Integrated Freeview tuner. Ability to pause and rewind live TV.
- Hard to find in stores and a few hardware issues that might cause you to lose or miss recordings.
Technology has come a long way since the days of tape recorders and video recorders. For many people, the convenience of a hard disc recorder is a plus - no tapes or DVDs to worry about and, to steal a quote from the old Scotch video advert you can just "re-record not fade away" to your heart's content.
When our video recorder gave up the ghost a couple of years ago I just happened to be surfing on MoneySavingExpert when I came across a posting about the Inverto PVR. At around £60 at the time (on offer) it seemed too good to be true, especially when PVRs at the time were around £300. What's more, this PVR had an inbuilt Freeview receiver and, as we were having a lot of trouble with our cable provider this seemed an excellent way to find out whether Freeview would allow us to lose our cable TV (thereby saving money).
I couldn't find much out about the Inverto before we bought it, just a few "fans" who said that it was the best thing since sliced bread but that the instructions were appalling....
Boots (online) had the Inverto in stock at this silly price and so, without much further ado, we went for it. This is one purchase I don't regret!
-- A Digital Freeview Receiver --
We hit on our first problem almost straight away. Our aerial just wouldn't deliver a Freeview signal and, when we could get it, we seemed to have the audio for BBC2 running constantly in the background. This shouldn't have been a surprise as our terrestrial signal has always been poor, hence the reason we opted for cable.
A specialist aerial engineer came round and fitted a new external aerial for us and bingo! Freeview was ours. We'd probably have updated the aerial anyway but the box provided the perfect excuse.
The picture is crisp and clear and, aside from the standard reception issues that come from aerial received signals (particularly in poor weather) the reception is superb and certainly above that which we managed when we borrowed a neighbour's set top box.
-- A PVR --
Most people these days will be buying the Inverto for its PVR functions and the fact that it has an inbuilt Freeview receiver just means that you lose a box from under the TV!
For the money I wasn't expecting anything great, perhaps just the ability to record and store a few hours programming to watch at a more convenient time. I was pleasantly surprised.
The Inverto features twin tuners - this means that you can record one programme and watch another at the same time and, should you so desire you can record two programmes simultaneously whilst watching a third recorded programme back. The ability to have two channels tuned at once was most novel and a great step up from cable where, if we wanted to record something, we couldn't watch anything else (unless we used the aerial and put up with the bad reception). In fact, for various reasons we've kept our cable package meaning that we can record 2 and watch back a recorded programme or watch a third channel through the cable set up.
The twin tuners also mean that the Inverto will allow a picture in picture set up (PiP) allowing you to view 2 channels simultaneously. The PiP is particularly useful if you want to keep your eye on a sports programme whilst watching something else!
The Inverto box will download an electronic programme guide (EPG). The EPG shows then next 14 days programmes and allows you to set recordings at the click of a button. In general the EPG is good although the programme listings are dependent on the signal received. We do have some channels showing but where the signal isn't strong enough for us to receive them. This means that the EPG will show as "no programmes available". In the event that this happens there is one slightly annoying consequence. The EPG shows several channels on the screen at once and you use simple buttons to scroll through the menu to see what's on at different times. If a channel with "no programme information" is at the top of the list then you won't be able to scroll through the time listings. I assume this is because the processor looks for a time stamp on the first listing. It's easily overcome though - just hit up or down so that the top channel listed is one with reception.
Note though, that you have to leave the box on standby overnight if you want the EPG to download (and update). Not that green, but it's the only way. The download usually happens about 2am.
One click recording is good - the next feature is, to my mind even better!
Like Sky+ and V+ the PVR will, so long as it is tuned to the relevant channel at the time (and remember it's tuned to 2 channels at all times) record a programme from the start even if you forgot to hit record at the beginning! You walk into the room and realise that you've missed the first 20 minutes of the film. No problem. Hit record and you have it from the start. If you want, you can then "chase play" the movie from the beginning whilst keeping the recording.
Alternatively, if you want to watch the programme there and then (and are not bothered about keeping a recording) you can simply "rewind" live TV. The only thing you have to do to access this function is to set the "time shift buffer" when you set up the PVR. This can be set at anything from 5-60 minutes and indicates the amount of recording time that the PVR will remember at all times. We've set to 60 minutes so, as long as we're tuned in then we can be 59 minutes late for a programme and still watch it! The other thing the time shift buffer is useful for is pausing live TV - great not only for telephone calls mid programme but also for avoiding adverts! Just watch your film about 15-20 minutes behind the advertised start time and you can fast forward all adverts and finish the film at the same time as you would have had you watched it, adverts and all, from the beginning!
If you are using the time shift buffer then you only have 60 minutes of recorded programme (unless you've hit record too) - this means that if you start something 50 minutes late and then try to pause the TV a few minutes into the recording for another 15 minutes you'll have lost some of the start of the programme that you've yet to watch as there's only a 60 minute rolling store. This doesn't affect anything you have pre-recorded and won't affect the recording if you have hit record and are watching on chase play.
-- User Interface --
The user interface is particularly user friendly. On-screen menus are used which, with the exception of the "Library" (where your recordings are kept) overlay the TV picture so you can browse them whilst still watching a programme.
There's a TV guide (displaying about 8 channels at once) that allows you to scroll through what's on and get a brief précis of the programme highlighted and a Personal Planner which allows you to see in calendar form, what you have selected to record or set as a reminder.
A record list shows what is currently programmed and allows you to make a manual recording. Free disc space is also shown here (along with reserved space).
The Library is where your recordings are stored. A selection of thumbnail screen shots allow you to jump to a particular part of a recording (fast forward and rewind facilities are also available on playback). To view, simply highlight a recording and hit OK on the remote.
-- Recordings --
One of the things that is most annoying when recording a programme is when it doesn't quite start or run to time. To get over this a recording buffer can be set (between 0 and 5 minutes either side) so that the recording will start early and finish late ensuring, in most cases, that you don't miss any of the programme. The downside of this is that you'll have to fast forward the start of most recordings to get to the programme itself.
You can record programmes with or without subtitles too.
-- Set Up --
Set up is extremely easy. Channels auto-tune and you can customise how you view the channels (favourites list). The operation is intuitive, even if the user manual is less than helpful!
The hardest part for us was getting everything connected through our scart switching box! There are 2 scart sockets as well as connections for Hi-Fi equipement and co-ax cables.
It is also possible (although I've not tried) to archive recordings from the box to a VCR, DVDr or other recording device.
-- Any Problems? --
We've had a few.
The first led us to discover a brilliant forum for the Inverto (and leads me to the conclusion that this really must be a geek's product!).
In an attempt to pack more into the recorder I decided to try out the option to convert some recordings into long play. This resulted in a lost recording and a box the kept freezing. Apparently the problem is a common one and Inverto have been unable to provide stability in the long play function. A shame and one wonders why the option is there if it doesn't work.
The other common problem with the boxes is that they might just lose ALL your recordings! Not much good for a PVR. It's happened to us once in the time we've had it (about 3 years) and, had we known the warning signs we could have prevented it. It's fixed by doing a reformat, again following simple instructions on the forum. The warning sign was the fact that recorded programmes no longer had thumbnail screen shots in the Library mode.
Occasionally our box will freeze when it downloads the EPG - switching it off at the wall unfreezes it.
For the price I'd have expected more issues and less functionality if I'm honest.
-- Anything Else? --
The recorder offers up to 80 hours of recording on the system memory plus 2 hours programming on the flash memory. In reality you'll get about 2/3rds of this as the 8- hours only works in the lower quality long play format which doesn't seem to work.
There's a bit of noise in operation (rather like the whirr of a computer hard disk) but it's not too bad nor does it interfere with other equipment.
Operation is via a remote (lots of buttons but actually very easy to use) or the limited control panel on the front of the box.
You can get teletext through the box (personally not much use).
Support from the manufacturer is generally good and they respond to emails promptly. The manufacturer also joined the forum to provide advice.
-- Bottom Line --
I'm very happy with my purchase and there's much that the Inverto can do that more modern models can't. The recording space is enough for me but if you are a serious film buff then it might not be enough.
The niggles are just that, it doesn't mean I wouldn't recommend it.
My biggest gripe is that Inverto seem to have stood still while others, such as Humax keep getting better and better. Support seems to be drying up and there's little advance in the downloadable firmware anymore.
However, I'd still recommend it if you can find a stockist as it's a value product that has more plusses than minuses.
... and that invaluable forum: www.invertoforum.co.uk
The Inverto IDL7000T's unique technology allows the maximum possible amount of programming to be recorded onto the internal hard disk drive. Movies and other content can also be easily archived via SCART to tape or recordable DVD.