While searching for products to review, I came across one that honestly, I’d never heard of. That’s not to say that I know every piece of gear on the market but more that when something claims what Hava does, you’d think it would be well publicized in the Media Center community. Especially with a product that’s been around since 2006. There are a few reasons why we who use MCE, as well as other HTPC software users haven’t heard of Hava, but I’ll get to those in a bit. First, let’s talk about the hardware and the included software.
The Hava Platinum I received for review is a small black box, which looks really simple on the outside. What this little box can do is no small feat however. Basically, the Hava combines the networked tuner ability of an HD Homerun with the ability to take advantage of the “analog hole” for HD content like the Hauppauge HD-PVR. These are two great features to build into a tuner, and using the included software, everything works like a charm. Connecting the Hava to a digital cable box, I was able to stream several encrypted HD channels to the PC on my network where I installed the software.
The back of the Hava Platinum comes well apportioned. In a move which I can only imagine is to save space, the box ships with special cables which will get you connected to your input but have a 3.5mm jack on the other end to connect to the Hava, Connections are provided for HD (component) in, S-Video and A/V in. You also get each of these out. The 3.5mm jack system allows the Hava to provide the listed connections as well as Ethernet, power, and a port for the included IR blasters. The one thing missing is a coax connection. This was almost an issue for me as I was about ready to return my digital cable box. Luckily I still had one laying around. Why coax isn’t provided is beyond me as the Hava has the ability to be an NTSC and QAM tuner. This lends itself perfectly to standard as well as digital cable so no coax is certainly puzzling.
Setup of the Hava is relatively easy. Once it’s connected to a source, your network and powered on, you simply run the included software on the PC where you want to be able to receive signals. Installation is quick and again, relatively painless. The software is intuitive and easy to follow. One thing that can cause some confusion is where you set up Media Center options but again, I’ll get to that.
One thing that I didn’t like about the Hava setup is that with this particular model, which requires a wired connection, you’re also required to have your PC wired. This meant that I wasn’t able to use this box as a tuner for my laptop. Why the Hava can’t connect to a wireless device on the same network is beyond me. A minor hang-up for me as I had another test machine available. It is something to keep in mind however if you intend to use this box on a wireless network. Hava offers other solutions for you.
Once you have everything setup, you can give the Hava software a try. As a desktop TV client, it works quite well. You get a virtual remote control which allows you to control your digital box perfectly. This means that using this software, you can use your On-Demand services, something we lose in Media Center. The interface is as responsive as expected. There is a slight delay but when you consider that the signal is going through your network then over an IR blaster and back again, this isn’t a fault of the Hava.
Hava also offers the ability to stream live TV to mobile devices outside of your network. In limited testing with Josh, this seemed to work well. He was able to log on, get TV going and while there was some stutter, this can be expected. Getting a perfect picture on a Windows Mobile phone isn’t always going to work. That being said, if you’re sitting at work during your lunch and want to catch a little news at noon, the Hava will let you do that.
I’ve kept the Hava software and it’s use in Media Center separate until now and for a reason. As good as the Hava Platinum is when using it’s proprietary software, it may not be the best solution for a Media Center setup. The issues that the box has all have to do with Media Center and that’s where the problem comes in for people like me. Without solid MCE functionality, it doesn’t do me a whole lotta good.
The first problem you’ll run into with the Hava is if you want to run more than one. You can only have one per network. I’m not sure why this limitation exists but Josh was able to confirm this with the customer support people. This seems like it could be an issue for the typical Media Center user as the products in the Hava line are only single tuners. This means you’d better have another solution if you want to record more than one show at a time.
There were two other issues I ran into with the Hava. The first was regarding the TV signal. While every channel I tuned to would come in perfectly in the Hava software, after about 15 seconds of playing in Media Center, I would get a message telling me that there was no TV signal. This continued for awhile and then somehow seemed to clear itself up. It worked absolutely fine after that initial issue.
The other problem the Hava had when used it Media Center was very strange. For some reason, the Hava box would attempt to change channels three and sometimes four times at once. For example, if I wanted to change to channel 10, instead of sending 10—>enter, the box would send 10—>10—>10—>enter. While for some people this might not seem like a big deal because it makes the change eventually, that’s not always the case. There were times that the Hava would somehow send only half of the last signal. This would put you on channel 101. Not exactly an optimal situation when you are expecting to record something on a particular channel. I thought at first that this was a Windows 7 issue since that’s the OS I was using at the time. However, after searching through the forums, I found many people who had the same issue with Windows Vista, so I know it wasn’t my machine. After further reading, I found that there are ways around this problem. I won’t go into details here but suffice to say that Hava customer support should be able to help you get over this hiccup. This is something that could make it a deal breaker for Media Center users and something Hava should look into.
In the end it all comes down to whether or not I would buy one of these boxes. With the current software, it would be hard to decide. Being a network tuner and capitalizing on the “analog hole” are definitely big pluses in the Hava’s advantage. I don’t know of any other tuners on the market that offer both of these features. The packaged software is solid and along with encrypted HD content, it will also allow you use VoD services. This is definitely a plus. The issues that the Hava has can be fixed but they are annoying. Also, only being able to have one installed on your network could be a problem. Overall, the Media Center issues are enough to keep me from buying one myself. If however, you’d like to have a network tuner that will get live content outside of your home and are willing to put in the time to get it to work with Media Center, the Hava is good second or third tuner to add to a setup.