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September 29, 2004

Review of GB-PVR

This weekend, I had a little time to try GB-PVR out for the first time and it is definitely a contender for people willing to build their own PVR using a computer. You can't beat the price of free (although I recommend giving a donation to the author if you use it) and combined with the ability to support multiple capture cards and distribute throughout a house using Hauppauge MediaMVP, it’s a good low cost solution.

The two aspects I really like about the product is its support for the inexpensive MediaMVP, as well as the developer plug-ins that are currently available. The user interface is very mature for this type of product, and although I ran into some minor problems, it looks to be fairly stable from all that I've encountered and read in their active discussion forum. The downside for me was the video format support, as I'll mention later in the article.

I used a vanilla P4 system with 512 RAM with a Hauppauge 250 capture card installed. This is my benchmark system used for testing and reviewing new products. I started with a clean Windows 2000 OS with the latest updates and drivers.

I followed the very helpful GB-PVR QuickStart Guide that made setup a snap. I ran into two minor issues during installation, but nothing that was unrecoverable. First, I installed the pre-requisite technologies such as Microsoft’s .Net Runtime and DirectX 9, but GB-PVR also needs the latest Microsoft MDAC technology that isn't installed automatically with Windows 2000. It required another download and install, but nothing to really knock a person off track.

The other issue that had me scratching my head was the support for the MediaMVP. The GB-PVR MediaMVP server gets installed automatically and will run as a separate application. It took me a few tries to have the GB-PVR user interface come up on the MediaMVP until I realized that I needed to stop the original MediaMVP server.

The integration with the MediaMVP was flawless and provided the same functionality as the software on the PC. Given the low cost of the MediaMVP and its silent operation (e.g. no whirling fans), GB-PVR definitely has its advantages. While I didn’t try this, the GB-PVR website suggests that you can hook up multiple MediaMVPs throughout your house.


GB-PVR has all the PVR functionality that you would suspect. Among the highlights is support for multiple capture cards, allowing you to record multiple programs at once. The electronic program guide is attractive and easy to use. Recordings can be set to different quality levels and playback, depending on the level, looked great.

Its ability to search out new content was simple, but lackluster compared to Tivo. Tivo allows users to search by an attribute such as a particular actor or director, along with keywords, so in that sense, GB-PVR can't really compete. That is one of Tivo's strong points, and with the monthly service charge, you pay for it.

GB-PVR also has an active set of developers writing plug-ins and that adds some interesting features. Some were more reliable and easier to install than others, but I really liked some of the unique things you can do like browse Movie Listings, read about a movie title from IMDB, and get your daily Dilbert cartoon fix.

While GB-PVR is a good solution for many, there was one issue with my setup that makes it unusable at the moment. I have a lot of video content stored in XVID/MPEG4 format to save on space, and while the Hauppauge MediaMVP software supports streaming of this video format, the GB-PVR MediaMVP software does not. The MediaMVP hardware can only stream MPEG2 video internally but Hauppauge gets around this by transcoding an MPEG4 stream into MPEG2 before sending to the unit. At the moment, GB-PVR doesn't have a comparable feature.

GB-PVR beat my expectations on quality and number of features. For finding content to record, Tivo is somewhat better, but GB-PVR has good basic functionality and some unique features. As a low cost solution, it's really hard to find anything cheaper and combined with the MediaMVP integration, it is a distributed PVR that is hard to beat.

Posted on September 29, 2004

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Comments

I can't get the darn thing to uninstall itself, everything I hit a secure html page e.g. https://whatever.whatever.com the thing pops up an installer screen and tries to reinstall components of itself after I tried everything I could think of to uninstall it. I think maybe it is some kind of spyware or trojan horse designed to steal sensitive information.

Posted by: David at March 6, 2005 04:45 PM

GB-PVR is the best free Digital Recorder program that I have seen for windows. It isn't very difficult to use, and has a nice TV guide. And there is no "Spy-ware" in it, David no doubt fell victim to some ad-ware ploy.

Posted by: Josh at June 30, 2005 09:02 PM

GBPVR now supports streaming of wmv and avi. It also has more advanced searching now
with xsearch can search by title, description, subtitle, cast, channel, genere.

With wildcard support.

Posted by: jorm at September 7, 2005 02:13 PM

lots of new features added since the writing of this review. check them out at the website. (don't forget the plug-in section for even more functionality)

Posted by: Ted at March 13, 2006 05:14 PM

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