Smooth Streaming, however, isn't something you're going to benefit from right now - it just means the 3view box is well-placed for future developments. Thankfully there's yet more to it that makes this device a potential winner.
One of these is an interface that, at first glance, looks slick and intuitive. Its PVR functionality is particularly thorough. Not only can you set warm-up times before recordings, just in case your programme starts early, you can also set recordings to overrun - a great feature for extra time World Cup ties, or extended F1 races. You can also search the EPG for keywords, making it easy to check when your favourite presenters, actors or programmes are appearing on TV.
These features, however, all fall under the standard PVR experience. Aside from the catch-up services, which we've already covered, what really sets the 3view apart in our eyes is that it's also a very well featured media streamer. While we haven't got the full skinny on the format support just yet, we can confirm it'll play MKV and it's safe to assume it'll have all the major HD codecs covered too. Given streamers, such as the A.C. Ryan Playon!HD Mini, cost around £85 to £100 alone, having that functionality alongside the HD PVR and catch-up services adds a great deal of value.
No Internet connected device would be complete without some widgets. Facebook and Twitter are the predictable candidates here and they're duly present. We didn’t get the chance to try them out, nor the news based widgets that joined them, but the box will support wireless keyboards that use USB dongles that can plug into the back.
Handily 3view was good enough to have the internal system boards on display. As one of the reps pointed out, the tuner (above, on the right) is simply an add-on board that slots into the main video processor board. This means it should be relatively easy for 3view to make a Freesat or cable based version should it wish, while also opening up avenues for repeater boxes that don't have any tuner (or possibly hard drive) at all - an idea 3view reps said was on the roadmap.
One more curious aspect of the 3view box is support for Z-Wave home automation technology, whose chip is pictured above. This RF-based wireless tech is better known in the US, but it's looking to penetrate Europe and - going by the website - there appears to be a large number of European devices (e.g. energy meters, thermostats, motion sensors) that support the tech. Unfortunately there were no examples of this tech in action at the event aside from this radiator valve (below), which obviously wasn't in action!
Overall, then, the 3view PVR looks like an enticing prospect, though it does face some challenges. One will doubtless be the lack of brand recognition, not helped by a name that invites confusion, particularly as more established names begin to offer the same functionality. Another will simply be the speed at which people take up Freeview HD, which is beyond the control of 3view. If you're planning on making the jump, however, this is one product to keep and eye on.
Update 25.05.10: Unfortunately because of "unexpected problems with suppliers and the manufacturing process", 3view will now not start shipping until the end of June.
"The product will be in limited numbers initially and quickly increase towards the end of July when we guarantee everyone who wants one will have a new 3view box in their home," explained CEO John Donovan. "We can only apologise for this unexpected delay and will give a full-refund to anyone who decides they do not want to wait."