When you first enter Live TV mode, the PVS will start displaying whatever channel the system has tuned. A key on the remote both summons and dismisses the onscreen display (OSD) shown below.
Like all of the onscreen displays with the PVS software, the Live TV OSD is translucent to minimize its disruption on the show underneath, and rather than just appearing, the various segments slide in smoothly from the edges of the screen. It's a nice effect, and looks much more professional than if the OSD appeared abruptly or completely blocked the show underneath.
Though we'll cover the program guide in a moment, you can also navigate to different channels straight from within Live TV. Typing a channel number in on the remote will bring up the name and description of the program on that channel. Similarly, pressing the arrow up/arrow down keys will show the name and description of the program on the next higher or lower channel (depending on which arrow key you're pressing) and it will continue to cycle through channels as you press the up/down keys.
Whether you use the number keys or the arrow keys, if you find a show you like, simply leave the remote alone for a few seconds and the PVS will automatically switch to the last channel you were looking at on the OSD. If you decide to stick with your current channel, there is an "escape" key on the remote that will dismiss the OSD without changing the channel.
One of the benefits of a PVR like the Tivo is its ability to pause or rewind live TV, which is also known as "time shifting." Tivo accomplishes this magical task by constantly recording the channel being watched, up to a half hour back from the current time. The constant recording of Live TV is an option with the Snapstream, and it can be disabled or enabled from the web interface we'll see later.
Assuming you have the time-shifting feature enabled, you have a number of options with regard to live TV. The screenshot above shows a horizontal bar representing the show you're watching. The lighter area within the bar represents the portion of the program which the Snapstream has in its buffer, and the yellow "needle" within the bar represents where you are in the buffer. You can pause, rewind, and fast-forward within the buffer at three different speeds. Separate keys will let you skip seven seconds backward (useful for replaying something that just happened) or thirty seconds forward (useful for skipping commercials if you're trying to "catch up" to live action, since commercials are typically thirty seconds long). Interestingly, there doesn't appear to be any facility for frame-by-frame advance or slow motion.
Pressing the record button on the remote will bring up a menu with a number of record options: Record this episode, record all episodes, record all new episodes and timed recording (which lets you record for a user-selectable number of hours and minutes from the current time). As we'll see shortly, the first three options are available from the program guide, but it's nice to be able to schedule recordings without ever leaving live TV.
One final thing I'd like to point out here is the remote help. Pressing a particular key on the remote will bring up the following screen:
In my review of ATI's All-In-Wonder 9800 Pro, I complained about the remote control help facility in the EAZYLOOK software, which was ill-suited to pointing out which key was responsible for a particular function. ATI would do well to adopt a system like Snapstream's, which shows all of the remote's functionality on a single screen.
You'll notice that the current "mode" is shown in the upper right corner of the screenshot. Because different buttons will have different functions depending on which mode you're in, the help key is context sensitive, showing you the key layout of the current mode. I have only two complaints here: One, the PVS software supports six or so remote controls, but only has help screens for three of them (Streamzap, ATI Remote Wonder and the X-10 remote). Two, the help key always brings up the Streamzap screen first, forcing you to cycle between screens using the arrow keys on the remote (assuming you don't own a Streamzap). Perhaps a future version of the software will note which model of remote is being used, and only show the help screens for that remote.
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