Review: Honest Technology’s IPTV & CAM Anywhere Deluxe

I’m a big fan of using my media wherever I happen to be. I carry my entire music library on the road in the form of my iPod, I watch TV and TiVo via a Slingbox, and I have three wireless and two wired ways to connect my notebook to the Internet when I travel, so that I will rarely be off the grid. I also have set up a bunch of WebCams on Bonaire so I can see what’s happening when I’m away. I then came across Honest Technology IPTV & CAM Anywhere Deluxe, a $130 product combining place-shifting TV viewing and an integrated WebCam server (with a WebCam).

I’ve used the IPTV & CAM Anywhere Deluxe on and off for the last few months and find it an interesting product. I have also seen a number of features added and fixed via the built-in automatic update system (very convenient).

Because the IPTV & CAM Anywhere Deluxe includes the “MY-IPBOX TV&CAM – USB 2.0 TV/Video Capture Device & PC Camera” – a piece of hardware with a TV tuner and built-in WebCam – let me start with this box. First, in order to use both the WebCam and TV tuner functionality, you need two free USB 2.0 ports on your PC, as all of the functionality is exposed through server software running on the attached PC. The box also features a port for allowing composite or s-video input (and sound input), as well as cable TV input. For my testing I used the cable TV connection, as well as both USB cables. That, incidentally, required an inexpensive cable TV splitter. The actual device is pretty small, and when the attached PC is powered on, thus providing power to the device, a bright blue LED is visible in front.

Software installation was relatively painless, although I found a system reboot was required. I did have some issues with configuration at first because the software was using the TV tuner already installed in my PC, but after I changed that in the software configuration, all was good with the TV server. The TV server software and WebCam server software are separate applications but can be run concurrently. Both require the use of a login if you want to be able to access the TV playback and WebCam views from the outside world, and part of the IPTV & CAM Anywhere Deluxe package includes a code key to allow you to register for this login ID and on-line service via the web site at http://www.my-iptv.com. This integration with the web site also allows for configuration settings (like channel names) to be accessed remotely.

The initial version of the TV tuner server software did not properly allow me to auto-scan my available channels, but a later software update appears to have resolved this issue handily.

Viewing the TV output on a remote system requires installation of an 11MB “player” application. That too was simple and easy, and once I identified my server using the login ID and password, I was connected. Included is a very cool “TV surfing” feature, which goes through each channel, grabs a screen shot, and then creates an array of these images for a visual channel menu. It took about half a minute to create for the 30 or so channels my cable system here on Bonaire has. And TV viewing (with sound) worked just fine. There is presently no DVR (digital video recorder) functionality built-in – i.e. no ability to rewind live TV, but there is a recording capability available, and if you reside the U.S. and have a ZIP code and standard cable TV provider, you can use the My IPTV web site to select programs to record on a single program basis. I did not find any sort of “Season Pass” capability to allow me to record all programs of a particular title like TiVo or Window Media Center offer. And unlike Windows Media Center, you cannot edit the channel listings or assignments – probably not important to the average user, but those of us in places without ZIP codes need that feature.

You can also apparently burn recorded TV programs onto DVD, but I did not test this feature.

The only real issue I had with the IPTV & CAM Anywhere Deluxe was that on the Windows XP system I installed the server software on – and note that the PC and server software must be running to allow remote viewing – the sound of the TV program was always audible. Other than muting the system sound entirely, there was no way to turn off sound output for the IPTV server software so that I could use the PC to listen to other audio without sound “collisions” (interference caused by multiple sound sources being blended). I am told by Honest Technology that under Window Vista this is not an issue – only under prior versions of Windows, such as XP. What this means is that you should not run the server software on an XP equipped PC that will be in use by others in your household while traveling and enjoying remote TV viewing. I do see the reliance on a running PC as being an added imposition, mostly because of the additional power consumption and the unreliability of Windows over long periods of time, but I also understand the necessity, as otherwise this would be a much more expensive product (like the Slingbox).

The WebCam feature is pretty simply to use. The WebCam server supports the integrated WebCam in the “box”, as well as up to two other WebCams, all connected to the same PC via USB connections. That limits the distance the WebCams can be located away from the PC, and in practice, I suspect most people would not use more than one or maybe two WebCams. For my test of the WebCam server I placed the IPTV/CAM box in my living room (attached to my HP Digital Entertainment Center PC), pointed the box at the couch, and then used the integrated WebCam both to keep an eye on my kids in the living room while I was in the office, as well as letting their mom and grandparents in New Hampshire observe them. All they needed to do was login to the My IPTV web site and select the MY-IP Cam option, and voila, they could watch the kids be couch potatoes too. The only thing I needed to do was open up a port on my router to allow the outside world to connect to the PC where the WebCam server was running. This same router configuration also appears to have allowed the remote TV viewing to work.

The tiny little camera in the box provided reasonable enough clarity, and worked surprisingly well in low-light conditions (when the kids were highlighted only by the light from our big screen TV). It took the kids a while to figure out that I could see them from my office, after which they took to covering the box with a hand towel to avoid parental monitoring.

The IPTV & CAM Anywhere Deluxe package is pretty good deal for someone who wants to have both remote TV viewing and WebCam monitoring of the area near their PC back home (or in the office), especially consider the price of $130. You’d pay that or more than that annually just for TiVo or other integrated EPG service. Having the system require an operating PC is the biggest drawback I see, and mostly from a reliability perspective, because if there’s a power outage back home (or a Windows crash or hang) while you’re traveling, you might need physical involvement to restart the PC. Then again, we’ve had the Slingbox hang as well, requiring a power cycle to be done manually.

I give the IPTV & CAM Anywhere Deluxe a 7.5 out of a possible 10.0 on The Richter Scale.