Customer Reviews: Multi-function Digital Converter Box: TV Recording/Media Function/QAM Function (Old Version)
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on March 1, 2013
I bought a new TV that replaced my 2005 Phillips 32" Flat Panel TV. I took the Phillips TV to work with the thought that I'd at least be able to get network TV for the news or whatever (I have no intent of getting pay tv). I picked up and antenna and to my surprise came to find that this tv was not digital TV ready!? Okay, no problem - I roll over to my local Walmart and pickup a DTV converter box, hook everything up and everything works great. Except.... the picture looks like crap. While it maybe an 7 year old TV, it's still 1080i and the xBox looks great. So here I am at Amazon where I find this little box of wonder. And I couldn't seem to find too many of these converters with an HDMI out. I was a bit skeptical because no reviews were written on it. But I figured - it couldn't be worse than the RCA converter. I ordered it on Monday - arrived at my office on Thursday. Plug everything in, the box boots and does its channel scan and low and behold - (queue the church choir "ahhhhhh" and the golden rays of sunshine emitting from this box) - the picture looked AWESOME! The menu is easy to navigate. I would have paid double for this product. Huge value in my opinion.
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on April 25, 2013
Having recently "cut the cable" and gone to an HDTV antenna (for the local channels) and a couple of Roku's (for everything else), I still wanted the convenience of having a DVR. So, I began the search.

I of course looked at the Tivo's, but hesitated because of the additional fees. I also looked at some of the (few and far between) stand-alone DVR's out there, such as the Magnavox models, but besides the higher price I also read the reviews about overheating, having to use a notebook cooler with them, etc.

I then just happened to run across a couple of reviews of the iView 3500, and the reviews looked good, especially since these units have the USB output option for recording. I had not seen this feature in any other tuner boxes, and I was initially put off by the low price, thinking 'how good can this thing be?' But, I opted to give it a try and I'm really glad I did.

First, I won't reiterate all of the pros and cons from the other reviews -- they are all for the most part true, although my unit thankfully did not "smell" coming out of the box. And, the controls/remote do take some getting used to.

HOWEVER, I AM able to record 1080 HD onto a thumb drive, which I can also unplug and use in a laptop or desktop. The onscreen channel guide appears to go about 12 to 16 hours ahead, depending on the TV stations' input, so it's easy to set up a recording. Or, you can do it "blindly" by, for instance, telling the unit to record something at 8PM three or maybe four nights from now, as long as you know your program is on at that time. Very similar to the way you used to set up the old VCR timers. I think you can schedule recordings about a week ahead.

The channel readouts on the unit itself do NOT correspond to the actual channels -- for instance, Channel 001 on the box may be your Channel 3.2. Always look at the on-screen display and you'll be fine.

Bottom line: for the money, this little box just can't be beat. It gives you a true HD 1080 DVR option for well under $50, and that's a one-time investment -- no recurring fees, etc. I'm very happy with it, but then this unit is exactly what I was looking for, so I'm satisfied.
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on March 28, 2013
Update 11/27/13;

A slightly revised model with the new, larger remote is now available at the same price as the original. Cosmetically it is the same with the same board (chipset), but a couple of changes to the display were made. The term "boot" is replaced by the term 'menu" when one is using the menu. Also, a new website replaced their current, slow to respond site. The firmware page needs a lot of work. I wouldn't try to figure out what is what, but go to the thread in AVScience forums to get the current (or past) versions.

For OTA (Over The Air) the latest FW version is probably the best. For CATV users, it will depend on you system. For systems that provide virtual channel numbers for their OTA stations use versions labeled (virtual). For systems that don't provide this, use versions that are labeled "physical".

1. Tuners: one ATSC/QAM, NO analog (NTSC) capability,
2. Ability to enter individual channels without doing a complete scan,
3. Ability bypass a initial scan in the Installation setup,
4. Ability to remember both channel tables; OTA & CATV in one list as long as you don't do a scan. You would need to add a A/B switch to access both. (see photo)
5. Allows complete removal of channels, not just skipping them,
6. Lightning fast boot time of 10 seconds. Yes, I said 10 seconds,
7. Fast channel changes, unlike many other DVR's,
8. HDMI, component, coaxial audio, composite & analog audio outputs,
9. Extremal HDD capacity has been reported to be as large as 3TB not just 500GB as stated,
10. Ultra low power consumption of less than 1 watt off, 7 watts on and 11 watts with a 2 1/2" HDD attached to the USB port (but that requires an cooling fan),
11. You can rename recordings. Unfortunately, all recordings are a overly long cryptic number,
12. Timeshift is adjustable in size, not time from .5GB to 4GB. Timeshifting does not start automatically,
13. Adjustable volume and mute, but not when HDMI is set to 'Raw' audio,
14. Unusual recording info screens showing data transfer rates among other details. Huge plus,
15. This is capable of more than one storage device using a USB hub (thanks to jjeff), though there is only one front panel USB jack,
16. Internal power supply instead of another wall brick,
17. The format utility is fast. It's a quick version and takes around 5 seconds. (I didn't try it with a blank drive, it was formatted to ext2),
18. Recordings off the connected hard drive can be played to a PC and/or transfered there with no issue. The photos section didn't display some .jpg's for some unknown reason. It had no problem with .ts files from DVD's.
19. Choice of RF pass through (loop through) or modulated RF ch 3 or 4 (NTSC) for old school TV sets with no a/v inputs. But, only when powered up,
20. Music files can be played while in the Photo mode. Selections automatically advance no matter how thew pics are being viewed,

1. Channels numbers on the display are just consecutive numbers starting with the lowest virtual channel number and ascending upwards. What on earth were they thinking here?,
2. Some recordings do not get recorded. Hard to find a pattern to this. No where as bad as before,
3. Bright ugly red display. Surely can't use it in a bedroom at night,
4. The very small enclosure size doesn't allow it to be placed under any other equipment.There is also the probability of heavy cables pulling it off the shelve due to lack of size & weight,
5. The remote is just as small, so are the labels. Very hard to see and push buttons. The button layout is not logical either,
6. There is no indication on the display of recording status. Nothing preventing it from getting turned off which will cancel the recording,
7. The manual misses a lot of functions and there are numerous mistakes. It's too small to read (though you can download a full size manual off their website). Being written for the Chinese market with mis named terms is a major problem,
8. No skip function,
9. Clock can not be set manually. If the reference stations clock is wrong, you can't do anything about it. Also it is only a 24 hour format,
10. You can't playback and record at the same time,
11. Only one tuner,
12. The single USB port is on the front panel. While practical for a memory stick, it surely isn't for a HDD connection with the cable hanging off the front.
13. There is no mention anywhere other than in the system information screen that this has a ATSC tuner, only QAM. there is also little mention about the recording capabilities,
14. There is no analog capability.

update: added info on different firmware versions
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on April 1, 2013
For the price I can't really complain too much, I mean for the <$50 that I got this for you can't even purchase a HD tuner let alone something that records and plays back photos, music and video.

The good:
Compact, very low current draw both on and off.
Using thumb drives(faster the better) or USB HDDs you can record TV or playback things you already have on your drives. Such as photos, music, or movies. I was able to playback a DVD I had ripped with Shrink but it did pause a second or two between the VOBs. It would be better if what you wanted to playback was in one file.
Ability to take your recordings and play them back on your PC in a standard format.
Direct plug, no wall wart.
Lots of cool technical screens/info for those who care.
Fast channel changes(using up/down button).
HDMI, Component, composite, RF and audio coax. Note 5.1 is also available via HDMI when configured so(RAW HDMI).
Resume feature available on any title, must push STOP to save resume point.

The bad/odd:
Remote, like most Chinese goods in this price range the remote sucks! It's small(remote and buttons), hard to read and has several buttons that are miss marked or make no sense. Since it's so small and illogically laid out it's also hard to push the button you want. Oh and there is no - or . key, only whole numbers and also the numbers are laid out in a odd non standard fashion.
EPG is buggy and slow to load, occasionally locks up and no ability to set your programs from the guide. You need to program it like a VCR with start/stop and channel number(and note channel numbers are odd, not your normal 2.1 etc).
Cannot record one program while watching another, you can chase play the program being recorded though.
Units display is overly bright and only the channels number order(C0001 for your first channel, C00002 for your second, etc) is displayed.
For cable users the channel numbers make no sense, every clear QAM channel is 0-0 and another cryptic number.
RF output(passthrough) is only enabled when unit is ON, OFF and you get no passthrough. You can also set the output for modulated CH3 or CH4 when ON.
No native output, only fixed 480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i or 1080p, and all channels are scaled to your selection and as you can imagine the scaler in this tuner isn't the best, probably OK for smaller(<40" HDTV) or less discriminating viewers but if you are fussy and plan on hooking this up to your 110" projector either look elsewhere or plan on manually switching the output resolution dependent on the station(takes ~ 5 seconds via menu button).
No way to tell your channels resolution, only after recording it and playing it back does it tell it's resolution.
Manual very sparse, many features are not documented, it's kind of a plug and play device and hopefully you've used such a device before so you don't get totally lost.
A bug where you cannot program an event spanning midnight without it recording forever.....Yes it's true, unless you want the iView to record until you push STOP, if your event spans midnight your only work-a-round is to use 2 events. The first one ending at 23:59 and the second starting at 00:00 to your end time. Yes I know you'll miss the minute from 23:59 to 00:00 but unless they fix this rather serious bug it's your only choice. Remember this thing is <$50 and for that you may have to live with it's bugs and limitations.

I'd be hard pressed to have this be my only DVR, it's poor guide and inability to record one thing while watching a previous recording is a killer. My main use for this product will be for a backup for my 2 tuner Tivo(when both tuners are recording something else) so in that vein this should work just fine. The manual states 500GB is the largest drive you can use but I tried a 1TB USB drive I had and it seemed to work just fine(and I've found with a USB hub you can use more than one drive at a time but again be wary of the power usage for USB powered devices). For larger drives I'd suggest a external power supply, for how light this is it's hard to believe the power supply could supply much more than a thumb drive or small power sipping USB HDD.
For a nice owners thread talking about this unit and lots of nice pictures, please check out AVSforum dot com(a AV enthusiasts forum) and click forums, then HDTV Recorders and finally look for the iView-3500STB DVR & Tuner Owners Thread by videobruce. He has lots of nice photos and posts from iView owners.

If you like to save money and are willing to put up with it's quirks and limitations, this DVR may be just your ticket!

update: added note about midnight bug under THE BAD and removed note about sub-standard composite quality, it was a problem on my end not the iView.

4-20-2013 I'm ordering another one, dropped a few dollars and for the price it just can't be beat!
9-23-2013 One of my major complaints has been fixed......just received my replacement remote(it was free for a short period of time but now is a nominal fee of ~$10 I believe, from iView). Anyway the new remote is much better than the original, it's larger, has larger buttons and the layout is better :) Oh and through firmware fixes many of the original quirks and bugs have been fixed, firmware available for free at iViews website.
Given the updates I'd now give the box 4 stars(again considering it's very low cost). To get 5 it would have to be able to allow me to record a program while watching a different one, something that I've been told will never happen because of hardware limitations(due to the low cost of this box).
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on September 12, 2013
Background. I live in a dorm. I have no power over my cable provider/plan. I lack all ability to do anything besides plug a coaxial cable into my coaxial cable output in the wall. We also have a projector (Viewsonic Pro8200....amazing buy off of ebay. 120in" of spectacular HD picture). The projector only had HDMI inputs no coaxial input. After doing a lot of research into a converter, I happened across this product. And boy is it perfect. We now can route our cable into our projector (and our sound system).

The box only has "antenna" inputs not cable inputs. Do NOT fear. Just go in the settings and change the channel search options from air to cable. Scan. Problem solved.

Our cable plan is actually amazing for a dorm. Probably 80-100 channels. However, the signal was screwed up and we did not get any non-local HD channels. As a group of 4 red-blooded males, the fact that we "had" ESPN 1 and 2 in HD, but the picture was not coming through, infuriated us. After being told "it's your tv's fault." We looked into our options but it seemed hopeless as our cable provider doesn't have set top boxes for sale/rent. Fortunately, it was not our TV, because this box has given us like 15+ HD channels we did not have before. It is amazing an incredible.

For $40 this thing is a steal.
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on March 27, 2014
I recently ditched cable because I was tired of paying high fees for channels I didn't watch. I bought this unit because you can receive cable TV's standard channels over QAM if you have a QAM enabled tuner in your TV. Sadly, my older TV doesn't have one. So I bought this box, and all I can say is that it's awesome. It was a tad difficult to setup, and you needed to be patient as it searched for channels. But once it was setup, it works great. I get all QAM channels without renting an expensive cable box or having to replace my older TV.

The unit has a couple nice touches that I thought were sort of "scams." The best one is a personal video recorder (PVR) feature. Essentially, the unit has a USB output on the front side, and software that lets you record whatever plays on this box. So if you want to record the news, or your favorite show, you can do so easily onto a USB stick and/or portable hard drive. Recording can be programmed to occur at a later date through its program guide, or via an older style VCR-type "Tell it the date, time, and channel and I'll record it" interface. In addition, the PVR feature allows you to pause, and rewind Live TV. The files it writes are viewable on your computer as well! It can read many different file formats, so it can play mp3's and display your photos on your TV screen. While I don't expect I'll use these features, they are a nice touch. The remote is fairly decent, and the codes for this box were easily found using my Harmony Universal remote. Overall this was the best $40 I spent on TV equipment. I love the unit, and I would highly recommend it to anyone whose TV doesn't have QAM built in and wants to stop paying the cable company for renting a box.
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on April 25, 2014
. I had been subscribing to Aereo's cloud DVR service using a Roku and loved it, Until they got shut down in Utah for copyright conflict. I started researching OTA DVR's and was very skeptical when I saw this converter for 36$ And NO monthly subscription fee. I decided to buy it with the expectation that it wouldn't work very well and I would be returning it, But I was surprised at how well it works and easy it is to use & set-up. Great product if your looking for an over-the-air DVR ( USB thumb drive for DVR not included, 30 minute show is about 700MB)
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on August 14, 2013
I bought this box back in May and have been a defacto beta tester ever since. This is an inexpensive box that acts as a HDTV tuner and a recorder. It has HDMI as well as RF coax, component and composite video. I purchased it mainly because I've been looking for an inexpensive digital TV recorder for OTA TV that I could recommend to people who want to "cut the cord." This box is a step in the right direction, but it needs a fair amount of work. The components are cheap, including the tuner, and that causes some problems. The current issue remote is small and difficult to use, but iView is in the process of replacing it. There is a new official firmware release that fixes a lot of the problems with the box. It's also possible to run the firmware for the HomeWorx HW-150PVR on it if you have a HomeWorx remote or a Logitech Harmony remote (remote codes for the two boxes are different, but the interior hardware is for the most part the same).

The good is that it has great picture quality and it records in the same quality as what is broadcast. I'm recording to a Toshiba Canvio 1TB drive, and as far as I know haven't had any drive related problems though there is some question whether the power supply in the iView 3500STB will support a USB powered hard drive long term. The hard drive can be plugged into a computer and the files can be viewed on the computer, or transfered to the computer. I've also been able to watch the recordings using the playon MyMedia channel on my Roku, so for you Roku folks out there, there is that option (video hangs if you try to skip commercials though).

The bad is that, at least with past firmware, the box has problems recording some channels which the tuner has difficulty tuning. I've also had a problem with the tuner stopping working and the box needing to be unplugged to fix it. I believe that most of the other problems (midnight and daily and weekly recording bugs) have been fixed with the new firmware.

Overall this box shows the potential for inexpensive over the air and clear QAM (clear QAM isn't long for this world since the FCC has authorized the encryption of all cable channels including basic broadcast channels) digital video recorders. The basic concept is sound, and with firmware updates this will be a decent box. If the hardware was updated (better tuner and higher output power supply) this would be a serious cable cord cutting device.
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on March 26, 2013
This set top box is somewhat of a rarity among the cheap digital converter boxes, in that it outputs full high definition video on both HDMI and its component video connectors. Nearly all other so-called 'digital TV' converters that I've seen out there only have composite and S-Video out, and consequently output only standard definition NTSC video, however if you own an early HD compatible TV set from the era when they did not include an HDTV tuner, this unit is exactly what you're looking for. I have an older 720p set in my guest bedroom, which does not have an ATSC tuner built in, however it does have component and DVI in. I connected this receiver to it using the component inputs, and the picture is outstanding. The initial setup was automated, and the receiver was able to find all local over-the-air digital channels without any problems. It has a basic electronic program guide, and the remote controller is reasonably designed, even if a bit cheap feeling. Looking through the instruction manual (I know, who does that right?) I discovered an unexpected feature of this receiver. Though I hadn't tried it out yet, it supposedly has some basic DVR (digital video recorder) capability! On the back of the unit, there is a USB port, which can be used to connect an external storage device, such as a hard drive or a flash drive. With this connected, the box can supposedly be programmed to record TV shows. Again, since I hadn't tested this capability, I can't vouch for it, but I did see some references to it in the unit's set-up screens. I will try to test this functionality out, and update this review accordingly, however even if it doesn't work well or at all, I think this receiver is a perfect choice to add to your aging SD or early HD-compatible TV set.
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on July 19, 2013
This is now a good product at an excellent price. This product receives both OTA HD broadcast and cable QAM in SD and HD and displays in composite, component and HDMI. I have used both composite and HDMI and the picture quality is excellent at any price. The just created firmware update has fixed most of the QAM tuner issues. It still skips about 20-30% of the channels in my case because they are not labeled with the channel name by my cable company. UPDATE: Note you can NOT add them manually and label them. Thanks to this firmware update, gone is the problem of it adding a couple hundred scrambled channels you had to manually delete and having to manually label the channels you want to keep. Also fixed is the QAM tuner ability to add program info into the guide. These were only QAM tuner issues as the OTA broadcast tuner was working fine. Now both work good. Recording and playback from a USB device is an unexpected bonus! Almost 5 stars. If the remaining bugs are worked out it is worth twice the price. Excellent value as-is.
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