disappointing TV+ 250 experience

Ethernet, 80GB, 250GB
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Archos Novice
Archos Novice
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Joined: Thu May 20, 2010 3:23 pm

disappointing TV+ 250 experience

Post by jdcpa »

This turned out to be the most expensive 250G HD I ever bought. Archos is definitely not a company to buy from if you like doing things for yourself.

Woot had this for $120 or so last fall. It looked interesting, so I got one, but left it in the box until after its short refurb warranty ran out, as is not uncommon for things I get from Woot.

A few weeks ago I decided it might be useful, so took it out and hooked it up.

Disappointment 1: multiple output sets cannot be used simultaneously. I can't fathom why this annoyance is part of its feature set. I find no A/V recorder component ever has enough inputs, or outputs, and certainly one is never enough.

Counterpoint: pass-through, at least using legacy connections, works without apparent loss.

Disappointment 2: recorder menu always starts at the least useful tab. Picture & sound would certainly be the best starting point, but certainly the scheduler page would be better than being bashed yet again with an instruction page. Best would probably be for it to remember last used tab and open it first.

Disappointment 3: recorder screen shrinks and distorts the video while it's the selected tab, making it a poor place to be monitoring what's happening.

Disappointment 4: recorder captures and displays ground loop interference. This comes and goes (or rather, came and went - see below), but ends up permanently in its recordings.

Disappointment 5: ground portion of blue out connector stayed in the end of the cable when I removed it the first time. This turned out to precipitate the fatality. I opened the TV+ up to fix it, only to discover this particular breakage would be unfixable without replacing the whole I/O board. It turns out that the ground portion of the jack is apparently there for looks and retention only, with no mechanical connection to any type of conductor for grounding. The severed component had actually been held in place by barbs shoved into plastic, which was really only discoverable after removing a shield affixed by 13 solder points. During solder removal, I slipped with the solder iron, melting the edge of the delicate attached ribbon cable that I had thought safer to not try to remove and replace. At that point I decided either I would buy a replacement I/O board and ribbon, or owned a relatively expensive HD. So I took a hacksaw to the port block board to confirm my determination that the severed piece had had no connection to any conductor.

Disappointment 6: customer service via telephone wait time was too long. I gave up after 20 or 25 minutes on hold, and I logged in on the manufacturer's support site to fill out the only available form, in no way indicating that I wanted to send the unit back for it to repair. The result was a firm assumption by Archos that I wanted RMA. After getting nowhere trying to have support call me about this via several emails that ensued from the support form submission, I finally tried calling again, and got through only to find a support rep who apparently got up on the wrong side of the bed. He refused to discuss any technical issues that were the reasons I wanted to contact via phone rather than email. He emphasized that Archos "due to policy" does not sell any replacement parts under any circumstances. He also noted, not that I expected any differently, that because the unit was in an irreversibly disassembled state that it could not be RMA'd or traded in for another product. Apparently Archos thinks they still own the product they sold me, unlike Toyota, Sanyo, Toshiba, Sony, Mitsubishi, et al, who are only too happy to sell any parts they stock for products their dealers originally sold to end users. Oh, and according to the rep, my TV+ was "5 years old", even though its manual's copyright date is 2007, this forum's first TV+ post is less than three years old, and its standard 3.5" Hitachi PATA HD was manufactured January 2008.

Disappointment 7: Upon attaching its HD to a PC, I discovered the TV+ uses the unjournaled and space-wasting FAT32 file system. This means file sizes are limited to 2G, which means many of the AVIs it makes must be split into multiple files that fit under the archaic FAT32 size limit. An additional inference here is that the software the unit runs on is based upon one of the familiar insecure operating systems emanating from Redmond WA.

Counterpoint 2: at least the recordings it made remain usable after the unit's death. I played those of size no greater than 2G using VLC. I still have to discover a procedure for playing back those programs that were split into multiple files. Try that with a HD removed from a dead Pioneer DVR!

Counterpoint 3: I could put that Hitachi PATA HD in a PC or a Pioneer DVR.

Disappointment 8: the breakage occured while I had the unit at a friend's for testing compatibility with an SA HD cable box. Recording video using the component video ports was blocked, meaning video recording from it required use of the S-Video or legacy RCA video port.

Disappointment 9: no network availability at my friend's, meaning the TV+ couldn't use the internet to keep the clock accurate. Even though I had set the timer recordings to start 1 minute prior to program start time, and carefully set its clock to be 20 seconds fast, in less than a week it was beginning recordings after the source programs had begun.

Disappointment 10: because it broke, I never finished discovering what it was actually capable of. I found some poor quality sample video online to watch, but not the online TV that was my ultimate goal (TNT & USA networks in particular). Nor was I able to test using it as a source for my computers or Pioneer or Magnavox DVRs, in particular, aspect ratio management.

Counterpoint 4: it did a reasonable job as a player of MP3s across the network from my Linux server. Once a directory was selected and a song selected to play, it played every song in the directory. Too bad it didn't play the ogg files too.

In summary, it was a learning experience. Primarily because of the apparent Redmond heritage and my support experience, but also why what broke broke, I doubt I'd ever buy another Archos product again. Dare I? Do newer ones use soldered grounds? Has FAT32 been abandoned? Has PATA (discontinued by all major HD manufacturers some time ago) been abandoned?
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