Video services

Tru2way 'Phantom' Box Is a DVR Lightweight

A new class of tru2way "set-back" boxes aims to give TV makers a more flexible digital cable service option at retail, but their Achilles' heel so far has been the lack of a DVR. Of course, consumers can simply add in a DVR by installing a separate box, but that would sort of defeat the general purpose of keeping the devices out of view.

One option is that makers of these new set-back boxes could just bake in a DVR, but doing so could make the devices too big and bulky to hang off the back of a sleek, flat-screen TV.

Advanced Digital Broadcast (ADB) is looking to solve both issues at the same time with the "Phantom," a new tru2way-based set-back box that uses standard SD High Capacity (SDHC) cards for video storage.

Backside Box

ADB calls this option "DVR-Lite" because it's not a full-fledged DVR, but does offer some DVR-like functions. Users, for example, could transfer a movie or TV show to the card, plug it in to the Phantom, and play it back with all the usual trick-play functions (play, fast-forward, pause, rewind, etc.), or record programs on the card directly from the box itself.

One obvious limitation with this approach is the amount of storage afforded by SDHC cards, which, depending on the product, offer several gigabytes. In comparison, some of the newer HD-DVR tru2way boxes sport up to 500 gigabytes of storage. (See Cox Guides Tru2way Forward.)

But ADB's approach with DVR-Lite does give the Phantom box some recording legs to stand on that the company's tru2way set-back box predecessor, the 4820C, does not. The Phantom also supports Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) 1.1, so it does have the potential to function like a full-featured DVR when connected to a primary HD-DVR that also uses the speedy coax-based home networking platform. (See ADB Develops Tru2way 'Set-Back'.)

ADB is classifying the Phantom, which it presented in close-room demos at The Cable Show in Los Angeles last week, as its second-generation tru2way set-back box. Its initial set-back model was designed to hook onto Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE)-made Bravia sets, but officials say the Phantom can be fixed to the back of a broader range of HDTV sets. (See Sony Drives ADB's Set-Back.)

The Phantom also uses the same OpenCable Application Platform (OCAP) stack (the middleware component of tru2way) from ADB corporate cousin Osmosys SA that graces the 4820C, which still remains the only tru2way box to gain retail certification from CableLabs . Panasonic Corp. (NYSE: PC) and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC) have been awarded similar certifications for a handful of tru2way hi-def sets.

Panasonic is also developing a tru2way set-back box, and there could be more on the way following the recent publishing of a new set of CableLabs specs for so-called "thin chassis" tru2way boxes. (See CableLabs Specs Tru2way Set-Back Box.)

ADB wouldn't say when it will shoot for CableLabs certification on the new box, but the company hopes Phantom will reach commercial availability late this year or by early 2011.

Retail distribution is an obvious target for the new box, but ADB also thinks the out-of-the-way Phantom could score deployments as cable operators pursue new ways to deliver video services to hotels and the wider hospitality industry.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 4:35:53 PM
re: Tru2way 'Phantom' Box Is a DVR Lightweight

I like this idea, and don't see why other boxmakers can't just copy it.. in fact, they should.  The DVR is still making its way to the proverbial cloud, but keeping some storage on or near the client will remain important, too, and I suspect that the amount of storage that can be crammed into these SD cards will continue to rise.

I could just connect some storage to the box but this lightweight option gives this set-back idea some legs to stand on that it didn't have previously.

But still not sold that this will be the answer for tru2way at retail (will there ever be an answer?) but it's definitely a step up from the initial set-back boxes I've come across. We'll know more if and when this ever makes it to store shelves, but in the meantime we'll have to play the waiting game to see if there's an operator out there that will give this type of thing a go.  JB <---- trying not to hold his breath

gleapman 12/5/2012 | 4:35:51 PM
re: Tru2way 'Phantom' Box Is a DVR Lightweight

If this hits retail, I'll take back all (well, most) of the nasty things I've commented about tru2way. 

Frankly, what would work for our needs is if the box would let us pause/rewind five to 10 minutes.  We've gotten so used to the rewind function that we don't always pay attention.  For our main family room tv, we 'need' a full dvr.  But for the dining room/living room area where the tv is on while we are doing other things, a set-back box with a small rewind capability would be great.  Actually, at this point, any set-back box that allows for wall mounting the tv would be fine.

Here's hoping you prove me wrong.


Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 4:35:49 PM
re: Tru2way 'Phantom' Box Is a DVR Lightweight

That's always the big question with these types of tru2way products... will they ever reach retail?  Until the big guys get the platform installed, it'll be hard to know for sure. Given the two markets this box is supposedly targeted to, I'd have to guess that the MSO hospitality opportunity is the nearer-term play for the Phantom.

But i see your point... good to have a box with a built-in buffer for secondary sets, but a full DVR is still the ideal on the primary TV. JB


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