Playing back content isn't quite as good, though. For starters, there aren't many options when it comes to sorting recordings and you aren't able to break shows out of their folders. Worse even, is that while the show names are displayed, the episode titles are not, making an entire season look like much of the same. The scrub bar is also nothing special, only showing the current time of the show and not how long the show is. Overall, the trick play and responsiveness of channels changes is on par with what we're used to, but there were a few times when the box would get laggy and once it even locked up, requiring a reboot -- we kept the cabinet where it lived open after that. One thing sports fans won't appreciate is the single live buffer that can make it more difficult to switch back and forth between two live programs without missing a play.
Vudu and other media features
One of the most compelling features of the Chanel Master TV is the merging of a traditional DVR with modern streaming services. The headliner here is of course Vudu and its portfolio of Vudu Apps
. As HD snobs, we've always been impressed with Vudu and its Blu-ray comparable video and audio quality
, but many would prefer to not pay per view. The problem is that Vudu Apps themselves have never been that compelling and many of the other services you might hope for are missing-in-action. Netflix, Hulu, ESPN3? No, no and no. The list of over-the-top services that other streamers offers, that the Channel Master TV does not, is long and compelling, but then again the list of DVRs with Vudu built-in is exactly one. We did reach out to Channel Master and they told us "we are working diligently to add more streaming content partners," and that it is the company's goal "to have several other content options."
The lack of other services isn't the only problem, however. The other big concern is the lack of integration between Vudu and the DVR. You'd think that by buying one box that did both, you'd get an integrated experience, but you'd think wrong. There's no unified search, and a few little annoyances make it worse, like the guide button on the remote doesn't work when you are in Vudu. The live TV buffer doesn't even build while you're watching a Vudu movie. Sure, you still have one less box under the TV, but if you already own a Blu-ray player or game console with Vudu, the benefit of having it also built into the Channel Master TV is nada.
There's no doubt in our mind that the future of TV is a mix between live and on-demand programming. And since we love free over-the-air HD
and the quality and selection of Vudu, this is a great combination. Then again, at $399 the hardware and specs aren't looking that appealing when you compare it to picking up your provider's DVR and a sub $99 Blu-ray player with Vudu. But that really isn't the point. This is directed at cord-cutters and the lack of a cable bill will make it easy to save $400 in about six months time. The Channel Master TV does have a long way to go to being a cord-cutter's dream, though, but with the promise to roll out new advanced features in the future, it does have the potential to be just the right fit for those who want a DVR, sans the strings, and aren't willing to roll their own.