Sun 6 Apr 2008
We recently got a second Pace HD DVR from Service Electric to go with our nifty new TV. The only problem is that HD content is big, and the 160GB drive in the Pace box offers a paltry 30 hours of HD content recording. Thanks to some helpful information by a Pace engineer on AVSForum and some parts from NewEgg, I’ve added quite a bit more space. Read on for the details.
The Pace 779X HD DVR set-top box is a pretty full-featured unit. It has dual tuners, does upscaling to at least 1080i, has HDMI, component, composite, and S-vid output, as well as Toslink optical in-out for audio. It also has an Ethernet port, USB port, and eSATA port. After inspecting the box I got curious about those last 3 and whether I could use them for anything.
Thanks to a thread on the AVS forum started by a Pace engineer named Linden I was able to get the details. The Eth and USB ports are presently used for anything. But that eSATA port can be used to provide additional storage space for the DVR!
One catch is that it is possible (though, apparently uncommon) for the provider to lock down the eSATA port so it can’t be used. Linden described the method to get into the diagnostic screen of the DVR box and check the status. It’s pretty easy:
- With DVR turned on (and TV on, of course) press the Power button on the remote
- Within 1 second of hitting the power button, hit the Select or OK/Sel button
This brings you into a basic blue screen with submenus. Go into the Interface item, find the SATA item, and hit OK on that. It should indicate whether the eSATA port is enabled. Mine is!Linden recommended an external enclosure with only eSATA, rather than the more common eSATA/USB combo type. So I buzzed over to NewEgg and ordered up these:
Koutech External eSATA Enclosure
Samsung 750GB SATA 3.0Gb/s Drive
As always, NewEgg delivered within about 2 days. I installed the drive into the enclosure, hooked it up to the DVR, and brought the DVR out of standby and…. nothing.
So I tried hard power-cycling the DVR, and plugging it back in with the eSATA drive connected and powered. The DVR put up a message on the screen about formatting the drive, and a couple minutes later it was ready!
Here’s the drive next to the DVR in my AV cabinet. Sorry for the dark pic.
Here are the diagnostic screens showing the drive status and the DVR status. Notice the capacity lists in hours. The number before the slash is Standard Def (wow!) and the number after the slash is the equivalent HD capacity. I have a total of about 160 hours of HD recording capability now!
There’s just a couple of caveats:
- The drive with the largest free space (the external) is where the circular real-time buffer for both tuners are written. So if your drive is noisy when it’s doing IO, it will get annoying quick. I keep mine in a closed AV cabinet, so it’s not too bad.
- Even with the door closed, my drive was sending a lot of vibrations through the shelf. The clatter was pretty annoying. I found a piece of high-density foam/rubber type stuff we used to line some shelves in the baby’s room. I put that under the drive, and now it’s whisper quiet.
- It sounds like 750GB is the largest drive the Pace will recognize, so unfortunately I doubt getting a big external RAID5 cabinet with a 4TB array would work. Booo!