Official details and support information is now available at www.shawdirect.ca/external
. I don't think there's a way to get to the page other than via the direct URL right now, so I apologize if I'm breaking site rules by posting the URL.
For the questions:
I am wondering how the programming is managed. Is the external drive treated as a separate device (like Bell PVRs) or is it treated as one big drive combined with the internal drive (like Rogers PVRs?)
Effectively the latter.
Is the drive portable between PVRs on the same account (like Bell PVRs?) I would like to transfer some programming from one 630 to an external drive and watch it on the other 630. Is that possible?
No. Like the cable platforms which use DCII, it's not possible for recordings to be played anywhere but on the unit they were created on.
Another issue would involve replacement of the internal drive. I want to transfer the programming to an external drive, return the original drive to the 630 and watch the programming on the external drive. Will that work or will the 630 make the programming on the external drive inaccessible?
Also a no, for a couple of different reasons. First, there's not a way to copy files between the internal and external drive, because they're basically treated like the same "big drive". Second, you've lost the PVR database by replacing the internal drive which would also cause you to lose the recordings on the external drive.
Can I use a regular external HDD that is USB and get a USB/eSATA adapter to plug into the 630? Or is it a must that I buy an eSATA enclosure?
We haven't found a device which converts USB to eSATA, but as ScaryBob mentioned it'd probably be too slow. We specifically stuck with eSATA because it goes up to ~3.0 Gbit/s, versus ~480 Mbit/s for USB 2.0.
eSATA enclosures work great and can be had for ~$30 if you've got a drive to put in it.
Any special HDD needed?
Drives rated for PVR or DVR usage are highly recommended, but not required. Naturally, DVR use is hard on a drive, so performance and longevity issues may be encountered if you use a regular consumer-grade drive.