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DBSTalk.com First Look: DIRECTV HD DVR Pro


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#1 OFFLINE   Tom Robertson

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Posted 23 February 2008 - 02:55 PM

DBSTalk presents their First Look at the DIRECTV HD DVR Pro, the latest and coolest member of the HR2x family.

Posted Image


This smoking hot unit (not temperature!) is best viewed in the large format picture.

Since the Pro is in the HD DVR+ family, the software side is already well known and documented. This First Look will focus on the cool hardware and features found only in the Pro.

Some thanks:

To DIRECTV for the opportunity to play with the Pro.
To OWLink for their great assistance.
To Earl Bonovich for his help and insights.
To Stuart Sweet for his amazing skills at making my mediocre pictures look great!
To Chris Blount, David Bott, and the rest of the DBStalk staff for DBStalk.com and their dedication.

And to ALL the fantastic readers and contributers of DBStalk for making this such a fun place to want to be. Thank you very much. This work of love by the team above is for all of you.

Let's talk about the Pro: DIRECTV HD DVR Pro Discussion Thread

#2 OFFLINE   Tom Robertson

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Posted 23 February 2008 - 03:08 PM

The Pro has all the basics we’ve come to expect and enjoy: HDMI cable, remote control with batteries included, power cord, phone cord, AV and component cords, etc.

The included remote control is the RC64RB, the RF, backlit version of the most recent remote. Yum!

The unit also comes with a 500GB drive, effectively double the recording times of the other models, very handy. :) (The drive is a Seagate DB35.3 500GB, set at 3gb/s.)

The Pro shares the same software set as the HR21-200 (the few differences between them have been reconciled into one code line.) So all HR21-200 software releases apply to the Pro.

The HDMI port is version 1.2 (with HDCP 1.1).

#3 OFFLINE   Tom Robertson

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Posted 23 February 2008 - 03:58 PM

First off, the case is completely different from the rest of the HR2x family: wider, taller, with more fans in back and wings for rack mounting. Plus a fan under the disk drive, with side and bottom vents toward the front. Color is a flat black with a burnished front panel.

The front panel is sleek with the silver ring of left/right/up/down buttons surrounding the thin blue line LEDs. Very, very nice look and feel.

Aside from the nicely sized power button, other front panel buttons are very small. Clearly the designers aren’t worried about mildly visually handicapped people trying to use the front panel. :) Fortunately, the latest models of remote controls go a long way toward helping the situation. Thankfully the RC64RB is a great remote (and also very cool). :)

You might have noticed, the Pro is built for rack mounting as well as table or shelf top. The four feet come already installed with regular Phillips screws for easy removal to fit in 2U. Also included in the accessories box are two wing mounts that have holes to accommodate the side vents. The wing mount screws are also Phillips for easy installation.

The Pro is 17”(w)x3.5"(h)x11.75"(d), or 2U rack mountable. With feet installed, 3.75” tall. (For comparison the HR20-700 is 15"x2.75"x12.25" with feet installed, of course.) :)

Posted Image


Let's see some more (higher resolution) pix!

Another view: Large Small
(Note the 4 screws for the wing mount and the front side vent.)
Removable feet: Large Small
Wing mounts: Large Small



Comparison pix with the HR20-700:

Posted Image



Angle: Large Small
Front: Large Small
Side: Large Small



#4 OFFLINE   Tom Robertson

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Posted 23 February 2008 - 04:12 PM

Since you're dying for this view:

Posted Image


And we all know you'll really go straight to the large back view immediately. :) (We'll wait while you ogle a bit...)

...Welcome back to the First Look.

As you can see, the back panel gives the best view of the awesome new features of the Pro. Of course we have all the AV connectors we’ve come to rely upon in the DVR+ line: HDMI, component, composite, and S-Video connectors with two RCA audio outputs. And we’re used to having at least the fibre optic TOSLINK, dual Ethernet, phone, eSATA, and USB ports. Of course, satellite ports that are SWM capable are there too. :)

As always, all the AV outputs are active all the time the unit is not on standby. (I use that feature ALL the time!)

The Pro adds several top shelf connectors: RS-232 DE-9F, IR input, coaxial TOSLINK (found on some other models as well), and the way cool optical HDMI extender port built into the unit. As the newest (and coolest, IMHO) feature, the optical HDMI extender will be a major focus of this First Look.

One more comparison picture with the HR20: Large Small

#5 OFFLINE   Tom Robertson

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Posted 23 February 2008 - 04:30 PM

Posted Image


The Pro has lots of room inside, to better move the heat through the case. Nicely laid out. The cover has 14 screws—but remember 8 of those are for the rack mount wings. :) The power supply is roughly the same size as we’re used to, with the motherboard being a single unit with CPU, tuners, etc.

Aside from the power supply there are two daughter boards for the card reader and the OWLink features: HDMI, HDMI optical extension, RS232, and IR input.

The other pix you've been dying to see:

Internal layout: Large Small
Motherboard view: Large Small
OWLink card: Large Small
Power supply: Large Small
Disk Fan: Large Small
(immediately beneath the drive and above the vent slots)



#6 OFFLINE   Tom Robertson

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Posted 23 February 2008 - 04:59 PM

As seen earlier in the pictures, built into the back panel of the Pro is a DE-9 female connector for RS-232 remote control of the unit. Connect this to a high-end remote control system, and you're set. Completely the same commands as the other HR2x family as described in the installers documentation for DIRECTV receivers. (Note the documentation has been updated with more commands for the HR2x family.)

To connect a laptop to the Pro's RS-232 port, I used a USB to serial adapter for my laptop into a "straight through" RS-232, male to female cable. Male into the Pro, female at the laptop. Works very well.

And like the rest of the HR2x family, a USB serial adapter can be used from either USB port. Both serial ports can work simultaneously if attached.

(Reminder: Attaching a USB serial adapter to any member of the HR2x family requires a reboot for the unit to recognize the adapter.)

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#7 OFFLINE   Tom Robertson

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Posted 23 February 2008 - 05:56 PM

As previously hinted, the really, really cool newness is the optical HDMI extender built right into the unit. Technology created by OWLink, the HDMI extender is an HDCP compliant extender for HDMI using the DLI dongle contained in a separate kit.

Amazingly, the bi-directional HDMI protocol is managed over a single fibre, is spec’ed at about 1,200 feet and up to 1080p24 or 1080i60. Also, the DLI unit can send IR information back to the Pro for remote control. The full HDMI handshaking between the Pro and the TV is supported, hence giving the HDCP certification.

The DIRECTV DLI dongle kit includes a short HDMI cable, a power supply, and an IR sensor that plugs into the DLI to send IR signals back to the Pro.

Posted Image


Kit: Large
DLI top: Large Small
DLI back: Large Small

Fibre optic cables are also sold separately from both the Pro and the DLI kit so installers can purchase the correct length.
Fibre cable: Large Small

#8 OFFLINE   Tom Robertson

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Posted 23 February 2008 - 06:03 PM

To use the HDMI extender, all I had to do was plug the fibre optic cable into the Pro and the DLI, flip the HDMI switch on the back of the Pro to DLI, plug the DLI into power and the HDMI cable going to the TV. A moment later the devices finished the HDCP and HDMI handshakes and voila, I had HDMI over a fibre link. Oh, how cool!

The DLI dongle has a blue LED that lights up when connected to the Pro and blinks otherwise if there is power.

The OWLink fibre cables are extremely easy to use and hide in typical situations. Glue it on the floor molding, run it up walls, paint over it, even tape it if you want. The fibre jacket is very fine and translucent (almost completely transparent) so hides immediately. Should be high WAF! :)

The IR sensor works great, sending IR signals back thru the Fibre Optic link directly into the Pro. No worries about signal bleed into other receivers inside the rack or with RF signals reaching to a Pro inside a metal equipment cabinet, one thousand feet away from the TV. Very nice! :)

#9 OFFLINE   Tom Robertson

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Posted 23 February 2008 - 06:11 PM

The DIRECTV DLI kit is expected to be $269 with fibre costs starting at $99 for short lengths going up to $450 for a 300' run. (A few online sources already have the full OWLink kits and cables available.) Some installers might build the costs into their quotes.

What about those of us that already have fibre runs throughout the house? OWLink is working on fibre termination kits that aren’t the full-blown kits used by telco companies (and hence not as costly), yet are easy and reliable for typical home theatre installers. No timeline or pricing has been announced yet.

At their website, OWLink mentions it is working on gateways and switches to let multiple TVs share multiple devices in the future. Woohoo, let me have one! :)

#10 OFFLINE   Tom Robertson

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Posted 23 February 2008 - 06:17 PM

Another fun new feature is the built-in IR input port.

One of the things I appreciated immediately is the flexibility of the port. This port can be used with a 5V IR sensor OR a direct connect to an IR blaster!

I was able to control the Pro just by connecting the IR blaster output from my TV into the Pro. The IR pass-through feature of my TV worked great! Similarly, any IR blaster from a home IR network, slingbox, or PC control should work beautifully. No messing with touchy IR LEDs. :)

The proper cable for direct connection is easily made by any competent HT installer, using the port pinout on the back of the Pro.

If I preferred, I could control the Pro by using an IR sensor instead. Put the Pro in a closed or hidden cabinet with the sensor near the TV, and you would be gold.

A note about the two IR ports
The IR ports on the Pro and the OWLink DLI are not the same. Our DVR Pro tour guide from DIRECTV explained it very well:

The OWLink receiver [the DLI] uses negative logic (-5V) and expects an unmodulated signal.

The Pro IR Input was designed to be more general by allowing a modulated signal to be used. The positive 5V output is important to commonly-used external gear looking for a positive voltage indicator.

[Thus]... the ports are not electrically compatible as they serve similar purposes but differing applications.


I tested both ports in their intended manner, they work great. (And I had a lot of fun working with them, but then again I'm an EE geek in a CS sheepskin.)

All in all, the Pro has extremely flexible arrangements for control when you consider all the IR ports, the RS232 port, USB, RF, IR, and DLI possibilities.

#11 OFFLINE   Tom Robertson

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Posted 23 February 2008 - 06:22 PM

Much like the HR21 brethren, the Pro’s LEDs are muted and could be used in a bedroom. And while the Pro has three fans for cooling, they are thermostatically controlled variable speed fans. Sitting on top of the heating plate of an HR20-700 (which top-vents), the Pro was smooth and quiet. No disk ticks and only minimal fan noise was detected. Really nice. Internal temp usually ran about 104° Fahrenheit.

The most fun comes from the flexibility of the outputs (and control inputs). I could envision several very useful situations for the fibre optic HDMI extender:

1) The obvious—a home theatre equipment rack that is hidden away in a closet. The fibre is easily run darn near anywhere.

2) A home theatre with a ceiling mount front projector. The nearly invisible fibre optic cable for the HDMI extender is instantly hidden by moldings, in corners, or just glued and painted to the walls!

3) A master bedroom/bath combination where the component outputs feed a smaller bathroom TV and the OWLink feeds the big screen next door. Put the Pro in the closet, out of the way, and you have a great arrangement.

How many other ways can you envision using a Pro in your home? Tell us in the Discussion thread.

Humbly submitted,
Tom Robertson




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