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Control Your TV

The Plextor PVR, plus the Seagate 400GB external hard drive.

The Plextor Convert X PVR is a personal video recorder for your PC, much like the Tivo is a digital video recorder (DVR) for your television. But unlike the Tivo, you can use the Convert X to edit, modify, or burn to CD or DVD whatever you record. At the heart of the unit is a multi-format encoder chip that converts video to the DivX MPEG-4, MPEG-2, or MPEG-1 formats as it’s transcoded to your PC’s hard drive. And because it uses DivX, it’s able to record three times as much video as normal without sacrificing quality. The PX-TV402U also contains an integrated high quality TV tuner to assure the highest possible quality video from your cable or satellite connection.

The package ships with Ulead’s VideoStudio 8 SE DVD video editing and DVD creation software, (which allows you to edit and manipulate video before making a permanent copy), as well as Intervideo Win DVDCreator, Intervideo WinDVR, and a trial version of SageTV, which enables you to program shows for recording at later dates and to search online program guides. Of all the included programs, the one most likely to make you want to purchase the full version is SageTV. By upgrading from the trial version, you’ll gain the ability to access music lists, skip through commercials, record multiple shows at the same time, and much more.

Not into the idea of watching television on your PC and don’t want to fill up your DVDs with copies of ‘Desperate Housewives’? The PVR also gives you the choice of recording at resolutions uniquely suited for playback on handheld and portable devices such as Mustek’s PVR-A1 or V-Gear’s PocketTV.

Easy to install (via USB 2.0, on a PC running Windows XP or 2000) and even easier to use, the Convert X PVR proves once again why, in the world of optical storage solutions, the name Plextor is synonymous with quality. The drive retails for $200, and is available through Plextor and your better electronics stores everywhere.–Joe DeRouen

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Remember when a 100GB hard drive was impossibly huge? Seagate’s new 3.5-Inch 400GB external drive breaks that threshold four times over, and it’s their fastest external drive yet. This drive can hold 6,665 hours of digital music, 98,000 digital photos, 400 hours of digital video, or roughly 200 games. Regardless of what you use it for, that’s a lot of storage.

The drive, which can be connected to your PC via USB 1.1, USB 2.0, or IEEE 1394 Firewire, is a breeze to install and took me less than ten minutes, including first using USB 2.0 and then deciding I liked the response time with the Firewire interface better and switching to that. And, because it comes pre-formatted for FAT32 file systems, it’s ready to go immediately upon installation.

The drive comes bundled with BounceBack Express, a handy piece of software that, in conjunction with Seagate’s one-touch back-up button residing on the drive itself, enables you to make backups faster and easier than just about any other method currently available.

Seek time is about what you’d expect for an external Firewire drive; an average of 9.5ms according to the tests I ran, while overall transfer rates were around 1GB per minute. The drive boasts an RPM of 7200, 16MB of cache, 350 Gs of non-operating shock resistance and, at only 25 acoustic decibels, is whisper quiet.

And because the drives are stackable, you can add more for a near-unlimited (we’re talking terabytes here, folks!) storage capacity without sacrificing much precious space around your workstation. The drive comes with both a USB 2.0 and Firewire cable and retails for about $400.–Joe DeRouen

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