Simple.TV's second-gen DVR streams to mobile apps, ships December 12th for $249 (hands-on)

Simple.TV gave us a peek at its second-generation streaming DVR back in September, and today it's committing to a US launch. The dual-tuner set-top should arrive stateside on December 12th, when it will sell for $250 in a basic kit with both recording and live streaming to local devices. Matching new software, also available for the first-gen device, delivers TV to native Android and iOS apps alongside previous support for browsers and Roku players. Avid viewers can spring for a premium service that offers remote viewing, automatic recording and downloading either as an after-the-fact subscription ($60 per year, $160 lifetime) or bundled with the hardware ($300 per year, $400 lifetime). We gave the media hub a spin at Expand here in New York -- read on for our impressions of the pre-release gear.

The new Simple.TV box looks nothing like the original, and that reflects an equal amount of change on the inside. Hardware partner Silicondust created a "completely different" platform, the company's Mark Ely tells us. That upgrade includes both a new chipset and higher-sensitivity tuners, the combination of which should provide better overall performance and quality. A USB port provides room for local storage, too. As we mentioned, the dual tuners will likely be the selling point; like with other multi-tuner DVRs, you no longer have to interrupt one show to record another.

However, the biggest upgrade is the addition of native Android and iOS apps for watching while on the road. The two clients have straightforward interfaces that make it easy to tune in live, catch up on a recording or -- at long last -- download episodes. We had no real trouble finding a favorite series or sorting shows by category. The early software was a bit buggy and took several seconds to begin a stream, but the image quality of a 720p feed was excellent on a Nexus 7. There are lower-quality options for those with poor connections. While an AirPlay video sharing feature wasn't available to try at Expand, it should be available just ahead of DLNA support (expected by the end of the year). Simple.TV is also looking into support for other TV-friendly technologies, like Miracast, and may develop a Windows Phone app.

It was difficult to tell in our hands-on whether or not Simple.TV has addressed all the gripes that we had about its initial hardware, since we didn't have access to either finished software or a screen big enough to gauge picture quality. However, it's already clear that the next-generation device is a much better value proposition; you're not stuck in front of a computer or a TV. If you want to catch up on Big Bang Theory while traveling, it's worth keeping this new hub in mind.