Fetch TV owners can curl up under the sheets and use the TV in the bedroom to watch something they recorded in the lounge room, thanks to the latest firmware update.
When I reviewed the Fetch TV Mighty personal video recorder and Mini set-top box in the middle of last year I said the Mighty is the go-to device if your old TiVo is about ready to give up the ghost, and the one against which you should measure other contenders. Since then Fetch has continued to add new features, while TiVo owners prepare for the inevitable.
The TiVo Electronic Program Guide suffered a week-long outage over Christmas, at which time I threw in the towel and finally upgraded my mother-in-law to a Fetch TV Mighty. TiVo owners are understandably incredibly loyal, because it's such a great device, but her TiVo had been crashing regularly for months and the EPG outages were the last straw.
TiVo owners contemplating change might be won over by the fact that this week will see Fetch TV flick the switch on its long-promised multi-room streaming options, letting you stream recordings from your Fetch TV Mighty recorder in the lounge room to Fetch TV Mini set-top boxes in other rooms. It might take a day or two for the upgrade to reach your Fetch TV unit and, to be honest, it's a work in progress. Some features are still "on the roadmap", but it's certainly a welcome improvement to the Fetch TV ecosystem.
Stream to me
The Fetch TV Mighty already acted as a DLNA server, letting it share your free-to-air and internet Pay TV recordings with other devices connected to your home network including the Fetch TV app. The ability to stream recordings to the app was disabled for Optus customers, I've been using the Optus firmware to test the English Premier League streaming so I hadn't realised that Fetch TV had actually disabled this feature for all users.
It's not a rights issue, more that Fetch is rebuilding the app-based streaming to support both standard and high-def recordings. It might not reappear for a while, but when it does it should be available to Optus users. It's not a major issue when you can still use a mobile app like 8player to tap into the Mighty's DLNA server on a non-Optus box.
The latest Fetch TV firmware update integrates this streaming into the Mini's onscreen menus, with "Recordings" now appearing under "My Stuff". Open Recordings on the Mini in the bedroom and you see a list of recordings on the Mighty in the lounge room, as if those recordings were stored on the Mini. Of course they're not, they're streaming to the Mini across your home wired or wireless network.
Click on a recording and there's a 5 to 10-second delay before it starts playing on the Mini, but thankfully it retains the same picture quality as the original recording and seems very reliable. You can still fast forward and rewind up to 32x but you see fewer frames so it's harder to fast forward the ad breaks. Thankfully the "backtrack" feature is available, jumping back a few seconds after you press play, but you might need to dip into Manage > Settings > User > Recording > Backtracking to ensure it's enabled.
You can also use the mobile app to control the Mighty or the Mini, switching between them using the Manage Account option at the bottom of the home screen. Unfortunately if you're halfway through watching a show on the Mighty in the lounge room, when you move to the bedroom and press play on the Mini it won't pick up where you left off. At least if you stop and start playback on the Mini it remembers where you were up to.
Still waiting for remote chasing playback
The biggest frustration is that you can't yet view recordings in progress via streaming, they're not visible on the Mini until after the Mighty has completed the recording. Fetch TV assures me this feature will come with the next multi-room update but can't put a date on its release.
This will be really useful if you're viewing a live broadcast on delay and watching the start while you're still recording the end – a trick known as chasing playback. It's great for watching late night sport like the Australian Open or Tour de France on delay, letting you hop into bed and pick up where you left off while the Fetch TV is still recording. It works on the Mighty, you can use chasing playback in the lounge room, it just doesn't yet work when streaming from the Mighty to the Mini.
Another feature we're still waiting for is the ability to press record on the Mini's remote when watching a show in the bedroom and have the Mighty automatically start recording – once it's enabled the Mini will basically feel like a second Mighty.
The fact we're still waiting for streaming chasing playback is frustrating, to me it's the Fetch TV's killer streaming feature, but the latest update is certainly a step in the right direction. There's still work to be done but Fetch TV is gradually coming good on its promises, which is more than you can say for most Australian personal video recorders.