I bought one of these for $100 on woot. I like it a lot and bought three more for $90 last woot. At this point in time, I may actually know more about these than Patrick and the other Simple shills. It's good and bad.
I love the hardware and the Premier software, but the software is very buggy, the documentation is useless, and support is nonexistent.
For those who do not know what a Simple DVR is, the Simple DVR is a single tuner whole house DVR. It plugs into your antenna (or Clear QAM source), your local area network, and a usb disk. The Simple.tv DVR requires a wired ethernet connection.
This woot includes a lifetime subscription to their Premier Service. This service costs $150 alone when purchased directly from Simple. This software lets you access and control the device from a web page. This page must be viewed in Chrome or Firefox, so you cannot use Internet Explorer. It doesn't work with Silk either.
The web page is *very* nice. The home tab is a list of tuned channels with virtual numbers, channel logos, and the names of currently playing programs. Click a program to begin watching in your browser. The right side of the panel links to other features and includes a summary of the recordings currently on your USB disk and scheduled for recording. The Guide pane replaces that summary with a TV Guild like grid of upcoming programming. The MyShows tab displays the shows recorded to the disk. Click a show for a list of recorded episodes including title and description.
The Guide tab includes a search box. Type some words into this box and a list of matching programs is returned. Click one of these for a list of all upcoming episodes along with title, description, and channel. Click an episode to record it or click Record This Series to begin recording all episodes (or just new episodes of the show). When you choose to record All Episodes and Reruns, the DVR will record all episodes on all channels. It will NOT re-record episodes already recorded. This is really great.
There is a Roku channel. The Roku channel can tune a live channel, initiate a recording (individual program or series, new only or new and reruns), browse upcoming programming in a Netflix-like grid, or search for programming.
I brought a Roku to my mother's house and we watched my antenna and recordings from there. There was no buffering after the show started, but YMMV. I was traveling during the World Series. I was able to watch the games locally, but switched to the Simple.tv web page (to my tv via hdmi out on the laptop) to watch post game coverage.
At 74% full, a 500g disk holds 292 30 minute shows at 720p -- I should mention that you can record at 720p or 1080p.
That's the good.
This device is not a great DVR for football games. If you like to rewind and frame-by-frame review, this will not do that, but you can back things up and pause a program.
You will be asked to let the DVR know if a program should be recorded or deferred in the case of a conflict. You will be kicked out of a live viewing without warning if a recording starts. If you try to get back in, you will be warned that a show is recording, but be given the opportunity to cancel that recording and watch live. If someone tries to watch a different live channel, the tuner will change and anyone already viewing live tv will be bounced to the menu. If they choose a live channel already being viewed, they will begin watching the live channel at the beginning of the live session rather than at the current time.
I am still learning about disk requirements. The very first disk I plugged in was a Seagate 3t backup disk (STCA3000101). It formatted to just over two terabytes, so I replaced it with a Seagate 2t backup disk (9zq2p5-500) assuming a firmware limitation. This disk formatted properly and worked for about a week before the DVR stopped recognizing it. At that point I formatted the disk on my PC and all was fine. Plugging it back into the DVR, it could not be recognized. Surprised, I plugged in the 3t disk and it was not recognized. Then I tried a 1T Seagate (9zcag-501). Also not recognized. Finally, I plugged in a 500g (WD5000H1U-00) which formatted and performed perfectly. Thinking this might be a Seagate issue, I purchased a 2t WD WDBFJK0020HBK. Not recognzed.
Now, let's talk about the error messages. The STV recognizes the fact that there is a disk attached and properly reports disk size and utilization. When I click the format button it comes back with the information in the right side of the image -- no disk attached, we couldn't detect your hard drive. Obviously untrue.
Absent any support from Simple, I continued to troubleshoot the problem by resetting the DVR. To my delight, this solved the problem and I have been happily using the DVR with the 2t WD disk for nearly a week.
As far as I can tell, there is no way to add a second DVR to a Premier account. I have read that this will be remedied by a software update in the middle of December.
I think that is about all I know about the Simple.TV DVR. I really like the Simple.tv DVR. It's not perfect, but is works better than most alternatives and the price is right. The Simple FAQ says that this premier license will work with future devices and that accounts can have multiple devices, so this is a cheap way to get the $150 license for $90 and a free tuner.