There aren't many times where we're caught off guard by a new product enough to think, why didn't we think of that, but this is one of them. The set-top-box manufacture, Pace, has just launched one of the coolest multi-room DVR solutions we've ever heard of. Not only does it over come the limitations of other so called solutions by not being limited to two tuners (for the whole house), a 160 GB hard drive, copy control flags (it streams, not copies) and a scattered recorded TV list; but it doesn't require even a single extra wire to be run in your house -- no, it doesn't use WiFi. What Pace has done is to work with Rovi and load up new software on its standard dual tuner HD set-top, the DC700X. This new software paired with a MoCA 1.1 NAS (pictured above) makes every DC700X set-top in the house a multi-room DVR. If this sounds like what you've been waiting for, then you'll want to click through past the jump to learn all about it -- or just to see another picture.
UPDATE - Pace announced deals with Buckeye Cablevision, Mediacom Communications, NCTC and Sunflower Broadband to deploy this.
The current crop of DC700X HD set-tops can already function as a dual-tuner DVR with the help of an external drive plugged into the eSATA port, but what Pace has done now is take it one big step further by releasing a MoCA 1.1 NAS. The way this would work is you'd order one of these from your cable company and then every DC700X set-top would use it instead of locally attached storage. What's even better is that with all the content stored on the network, all the shows will be available on any set-top in the house. Not only will you be able to resume the content, but each box works as a full blown dual tuner DVR, complete with dual live buffer functionality.
Now of couse there's a catch, with the worst one being that you'll have to wait on your provider to offer the NAS device, which assumes that your provider has an relationship with Pace -- currently this equipment only works on Motorola head-ends and although the boxes are tru2way ready, this solution doesn't use it. The first offering of the NAS will only be a 500 GB model, which is over double that of most cable provided DVRs. The NAS does feature an eSATA port, but it won't be enabled until next year. The other disappointment to us is that each set-top maintains its own scheduled recording list, so you'll have to resolve the conflicts yourself by walking to another room and if someone deletes a show, there is no way to un-delete it or even see who deleted it. Sure these could all be addressed in software, and a representative of the company did say it was on the radar.
Now although the NAS features built in MoCA, the set-tops only have an Ethernet port, so the provider will have to install a MoCA to Ethernet bridge behind each set-top -- this is much easier than running CAT5 cable to every TV, but will require yet another wall-wart for power. MoCA is fast, but it does have its limits and currently 1.1 can support about 175Mbps of throughput. We're told this works out to 9 simultaneous HD streams in the house. So you could be recording six HD shows at once while playing back three. Because of this, Pace says the sweet spot is three set-tops, but says there is no hard limit so add as many boxes as you want.
Although we wish these were available directly to consumers, we do see how this is also an attractive solution to cable providers. The big advantage to them is they no longer need to stock a DVR and a standard set top. Instead they use the same set-top for all deployments and just add the NAS when DVR functionality is needed. Hopefully since this benefits both the customer and the provider we'll see this offered by provider all over the country. Until then we'll have to stick to solutions like Media Center and TiVo which although doesn't have all the same benefits, it is available to anyone willing to pay extra for it.
Read - Pace Introduces First to Market Multiroom DVR Solution