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Initial impressions from a series 1 user


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#1 OFFLINE   DBSPaul

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Posted 10 May 2004 - 02:36 PM

Well, since Chris asked for it.. :D

I'll add to this thread as I get more experience with my unit (primarily in the area of OTA reception sensitivity and whatever else I discover). Mine went online Sunday afternoon and I gave it about 6 hours to munch APG data, etc. before I tried to do much of anything with it. Even at that, it was painfully slow. It's been soo long since I activated my series 1 combo units that I don't remember how long it took them to get beyond the initial setup, etc.

Cosmetics/Aesthetics:

I dunno about the rest of you, but whoever designed the face of this unit needs to go back to a real design school. For $1k I'd expect something that is at least neutral to pleasing in appearance. I liken this to the older-style Volvos: boxy and not elegant.

If you ever go poking inside:

I've only seen the insides of series 1 combo and standalone devices, so I can't compare to series 2 units, but this has to have the most dangerously exposed power supply of any TiVo unit I've personally seen. If you do power one down to add a hard drive, I strongly suggest you let the unit sit for 10-20 minutes to discharge the power supply caps, etc. before going in. (I did a virgin backup on mine since I've have bad experiences with Western Digital hard drives before.)

Basic functionality:

It's a TiVo. There are some new menu options, but it's the same interface. I've had some occasional glitches with HDnet (and the "no audio" problem - switch to another channel and switch back and the audio returns), but until the unit settles a bit, I'll wait and see. I went through last night and set up channels I receive and favorites. Hopefully this unit won't have the "feature" my series 1 units do where the favorites list gets nuked and all the channels I receive become checked (see tivocommunity.com if you've ever had that happen).

OTA:

This is the area where it is going to take me awhile to come to some sort of a subjective comparison. You need to understand that the HD situation in Denver is a joke, and I've pulled out all the stops just to try and get NBC. (ABC and CBS, along with the PBS channel that does put up 1080i content, are unreceivable by those of us significantly outside of metro Denver. Mark Lamutt knows all too much about the eventual resolution to that subject.) My initial sense is that it isn't as good as my Hughes HTL-HD in multipath rejection, but since I had to unwire that receiver to get enough signal strength to compensate for the internal splitter in the unit, I can't do an A/B between the HTL-HD and the HDTiVo right now. NBC was breaking up even during the news last night, so I'm guessing SD backup recordings are going to be mandatory for me. (And some year D* might actually give me CBS-HD-W .. waivers granted March 15th, still don't have the channel..)

The oft-hashed "native resolution" issue:

Honestly, I thought I understood this issue and it was going to be a non-factor for me since my TV does all stretch modes on 480i delivered via DVI or component. I think this issue is mis-named. On my HTL-HD, if I tune to a 1080i (or 720p) channel, I get it in 1080i and I only have 2 stretch modes. If I tune to a 480i channel, the picture fills the screen in 16:9 standard mode, and I can run through the various 4:3 stretch modes to pick what I want.

On the HDTiVo, however, what actually happens is that when you go to a 480i channel or recording, instead of filling the screen with the picture, you get bars on the sides. This was when I perked up and went "ah .. this is what they're talking about". I had to go back into the setup menus and tell it I had a 4:3 TV to get comparable functionality to the HTL-HD in 480i, and thus be able to use my TV stretch modes. I'm wondering if I have to do the same to archive off to VCR or DVD. DougS keeps hinting at a fix for this issue, so for now I'll leave it be. But suffice it to say that I'll likely keep most of my recording on the SDTiVo also in the family room.

Noise:

This is a BIG issue with me. Whoever did the mechanical design of the series 1 combo units should be shot, IMO. Pulling air from bottom left and exhausting it bottom right was just plain idiotic. The HDTiVo has a rear-facing fan, but still pulls air from the bottom, so I added the obligatory set of foculpods to raise it off the shelf some more. Right now my DSR6000 is making soo much noise (Maxtor drives going bad) that I couldn't tell how loud the HDTiVo is. And I was recording/watching Survivor so I didn't have a chance to pull the power on that. I'll try tonight, but putting my ear next to the HDTiVo didn't yield a lot of "new" noise, so I'm hopeful that this unit is quieter. My series 1 standalone (which this replaced) was virtually silent.

Simultaneous outputs:

This was mostly a disappointment area to me. I got the HTL-HD primarily because it did simultaneously output to the DVI/component and s-video/composite ports at the same time. I had it on my standalone TiVo as a "poor man's HD". Obviously a chipset limitation, so oh well.

Cool feature I've never seen before:

Dig down in the menus and there is one that will tell you what DMAs the unit thinks you are in. I was quite surprised at the # of them in my list - half of them being Nebraska and even one Utah one! You do have the ability to edit that list, but for now I left it alone.


If you made it this far, I'm impressed. As I get more time with the unit I'll add to this, but as Chris said in another post: this is basically going to be a big "ho-hum" for me given the paucity of HD content (particularly the OTA situation where I live). Being able to time-shift the Champ Car races on HDnet is about the biggest thing this will mean for me this summer.

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#2 OFFLINE   jsanders

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Posted 10 May 2004 - 06:03 PM

I dunno about the rest of you, but whoever designed the face of this unit needs to go back to a real design school. For $1k I'd expect something that is at least neutral to pleasing in appearance. I liken this to the older-style Volvos: boxy and not elegant.


I agree, it is an ugly box. No thought to industrial design here. The 921 is at least elegant even if it doesn't work right so far.

The remote seems to be a bit lacking too. Looks like one of those $5 RCA universal remotes you buy. Why have a "Sat/TV" switch on there? What about controlling the Tivo, the TV, and the Stereo? I could do it with the 921 remote, power them all up with just a few button presses.

On the HDTiVo, however, what actually happens is that when you go to a 480i channel or recording, instead of filling the screen with the picture, you get bars on the sides. This was when I perked up and went "ah .. this is what they're talking about". I had to go back into the setup menus and tell it I had a 4:3 TV to get comparable functionality to the HTL-HD in 480i, and thus be able to use my TV stretch modes. I'm wondering if I have to do the same to archive off to VCR or DVD. DougS keeps hinting at a fix for this issue, so for now I'll leave it be. But suffice it to say that I'll likely keep most of my recording on the SDTiVo also in the family room.


I don't quite follow. If you are watching on a 16x9 tv, and watch an SD broadcast, can you stretch the picture to fill the screen? I realize there is no zoom yet, but stretch should work, right? If you are watching an SD broadcast on a 4x3 TV, did it frame the picture *inset* into a letterbox? That is a bummer.... The 921 does that too, unless you tell it you have a 4x3 TV. The question I have about that is, can you tell it different settings for HD and SD? Tell if you have a 16x9 for HD, and a 4x3 for SD? That solves the problem. It is also nice to use this feature to record an anamorphic squese for widescreen TVs.

Simultaneous outputs:
This was mostly a disappointment area to me. I got the HTL-HD primarily because it did simultaneously output to the DVI/component and s-video/composite ports at the same time. I had it on my standalone TiVo as a "poor man's HD". Obviously a chipset limitation, so oh well.


How hard is it to switch from HD mode to SD mode?

#3 OFFLINE   jsanders

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Posted 10 May 2004 - 06:30 PM

I also have two more questions... I just got my HR10-250 today via FedEx. I haven't opened it yet, as I can still take it back to circuit city and stick with the 921.

When you are viewing the guide, I understand there are two versions, a Tivo guide, and a grid guide. Can you watch a program in a PIP like window while flipping through the guide?

Is there any way to do picture-in-picture with this box? There are four tuners, i would expect at least some capability to be able to do it... The 921 does it, but only for SD programming.

What is this "Live TV" button? Why do I need a button like that??

#4 OFFLINE   jsanders

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Posted 10 May 2004 - 06:32 PM

Is there a button to skip ahead 30 seconds?

#5 OFFLINE   Steve Mehs

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Posted 10 May 2004 - 07:05 PM

On DTiVos the guide lays on top of the programming, you cannot do picture in picture, like on E* receivers. The Live TV button allows you to toggle between each tuner, power up the TiVo and if you are in menus or if you are watching a recorded show, you can press Live TV to take you back to watching live TV. For the 30 second skip, do the following: press, Select-Play-Select-3-0-Select. This will turn the skip button, into a 30sec skip feature. Every time the unit is rebooted or unplugged, you’ll have to reenter the code.
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#6 OFFLINE   Tusk

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Posted 10 May 2004 - 09:00 PM

I agree, it is an ugly box. No thought to industrial design here. The 921 is at least elegant even if it doesn't work right so far.


At least Dish knows how to build the outside of the box, they are just confused about the inside. :D

#7 OFFLINE   Chris Blount

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Posted 10 May 2004 - 09:41 PM

Excellent writeup Paul. Thanks! I guess it will be my turn next. :)

#8 OFFLINE   DBSPaul

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Posted 10 May 2004 - 10:32 PM

I don't quite follow. If you are watching on a 16x9 tv, and watch an SD broadcast, can you stretch the picture to fill the screen? I realize there is no zoom yet, but stretch should work, right? If you are watching an SD broadcast on a 4x3 TV, did it frame the picture *inset* into a letterbox? That is a bummer.... The 921 does that too, unless you tell it you have a 4x3 TV. The question I have about that is, can you tell it different settings for HD and SD? Tell if you have a 16x9 for HD, and a 4x3 for SD? That solves the problem. It is also nice to use this feature to record an anamorphic squese for widescreen TVs.


Okay .. tonight I had a chance to finally mess with this. I recorded Harry Potter last night and tried to play a bit of it last night before bed, which generated my initial description. As with everything HD, it takes some messing around to get it right (or put another way, RT[F]M..).

Let's try this again:

Basically, "native resolution" = what format comes in, goes out. That is what my HTL-HD does. The HDTiVo, on the other hand, sticks with whatever mode you're currently in as you switch channels or view recordings. Thus, it stays at 1080i even while viewing 480i material. However, using the "up" arrow allows you to switch between formats (selectable via menu). For me, I set it up as 480i and 1080i. When I did this, viewing original 480i material means hitting the up arrow twice (when I'm in 1080i) to get to 480i. If I use the "ratio" button on the HDTiVo remote and switch to "full" mode (there are only two modes - "full" and "panel"), then everything is groovy (ie. I can use the 4:3 stretch modes on my TV as before).

Note when I said the unit sticks in whatever mode you were in - this includes the menus! The menus are stable in 480i, but in 1080i I do get some lines bouncing around (this is with the HDMI-DVI cable to the TV). I'm certain your mileage will vary.

What was really interesting to me is that my TV, which remembers different settings for each input, appears to also remember zoom modes per format - ie. when I switch the HDTiVo from 1080i to 480i, it goes from a 16:9 mode to a 4:3 mode. (Hitachi 57S700 for those wondering.) So for me, as I had originally thought, the lack of native resolution passthru is a relative non-issue. A few up arrows isn't that bad. If dswallow is right and we've got a native resolution fix coming in software, then I won't have to bother with the up arrows.

It's really just a question of what is doing the format conversion: the HDTiVo or the TV. In general I suspect most people who have invested in their TV will prefer their TV do the conversion, as their sets will have more stretch/zoom modes.

I'm waiting for the local news to complete to see how much of it came in (NBC via antenna). This will be the first in my series of tests regarding OTA reception.

#9 OFFLINE   DBSPaul

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Posted 11 May 2004 - 12:41 AM

How hard is it to switch from HD mode to SD mode?


Since no one else answered this, whenever you are in 480i the s-video and composite video outputs are operational (and also the HDMI or component, so technically in 480i it does simultaneous outputs).

I just hope that whoever wrote the software realized that the unit needs to go into 480i mode for "Save to VCR..." to work.

#10 OFFLINE   jsanders

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Posted 11 May 2004 - 12:42 AM

When you switch from 480i to 1080i, do you have to switch inputs to watch the different signals? For instance, can you watch both, 1080i, and 480i on the component outputs? Obviously, the composite input can't do 1080i, but I am curious if the component output switches to 480i when you swtich to SD mode.

#11 OFFLINE   jsanders

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Posted 11 May 2004 - 12:53 AM

On DTiVos the guide lays on top of the programming, you cannot do picture in picture, like on E* receivers. The Live TV button allows you to toggle between each tuner, power up the TiVo and if you are in menus or if you are watching a recorded show, you can press Live TV to take you back to watching live TV. For the 30 second skip, do the following: press, Select-Play-Select-3-0-Select. This will turn the skip button, into a 30sec skip feature. Every time the unit is rebooted or unplugged, you’ll have to reenter the code.



Thanks for the info. When you said, it will turnt he "skip button", into a 30s skp feature, are you referring to the button that normally did fast forward?

I saw the guide laying ontop of the display tonight at my friend's house, that looked okay. The grid guide speed was not what I would consider useable though. I did like the Tivo guide.

Is there an equivalent to the Dish banner guide? I can watch a program, hit the browse button, and a banner at the top displays the current program. The banner at the bottom of the screen shows the program info for any channel I select. I can hit the up/down channel buttons to scroll through the guide using the banner while watching a program.

I currently use the equivalent of the grid guide, and the banner guide to "surf the guide" to decide what channel I want to watch in the event that I am watching live TV for some reason. Is there a close equivalent with the DirecTV HD DVR??

#12 OFFLINE   jsanders

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Posted 11 May 2004 - 12:56 AM

Since no one else answered this, whenever you are in 480i the s-video and composite video outputs are operational (and also the HDMI or component, so technically in 480i it does simultaneous outputs).

I just hope that whoever wrote the software realized that the unit needs to go into 480i mode for "Save to VCR..." to work.



Whoops! Looks like you answered my quesiton while I was asking the same one in a different way! Anyway, this is a cool feature.... The 921 requires you to switch from the component output to the s-video output when moving between HD and SD. This will make it really easy for my TV to switch between HD and SD and do its own stretch modes accordingly.....

#13 OFFLINE   dswallow

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Posted 11 May 2004 - 06:37 AM

When you switch from 480i to 1080i, do you have to switch inputs to watch the different signals? For instance, can you watch both, 1080i, and 480i on the component outputs? Obviously, the composite input can't do 1080i, but I am curious if the component output switches to 480i when you swtich to SD mode.

Component and HDMI can output 480i. Not all displays can accept it though.
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#14 OFFLINE   CAL7

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Posted 11 May 2004 - 02:35 PM

I have had ReplayTV since near the beginning, and a Dish 501 since its inception, but never a Tivo; and never DirecTV. So, I have a learning curve to get over to be able to post anything cogent.

However, I swapped out a 921 for the HR10-250 last night and, so far, couldn't be happier. My only minor loss of meaningful functionality is the UHF vs. IR remote - my box sits back on a shelf and does not have perfect line-of-sight to my chairs. I need to come up with a better way to deliver IR to it.

It's great to move from two dishes to the DirecTV triple-LNB single dish. I have local guide info and it actually records local stations (unlike the 921). The sound level is still too much, but significantly less than my 921.

I was using both composite outputs on the 921 and this is a minor loss on the HR10-250.

Most importantly, I now get YES.

I have to tip my hat to Justin Walker at Mainstreet. He did a great job getting an early unit for me and delivering it quickly.

#15 OFFLINE   jsanders

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Posted 11 May 2004 - 02:55 PM

However, I swapped out a 921 for the HR10-250 last night and, so far, couldn't be happier. My only minor loss of meaningful functionality is the UHF vs. IR remote - my box sits back on a shelf and does not have perfect line-of-sight to my chairs. I need to come up with a better way to deliver IR to it.


Hey CAL7, I remember you on the 921 support forum. I got my HR10-250 yesterday, haven't installed yet. I see a number of things that trouble me on it that are making the switch harder to make.

What do you think of the grid guide? I saw it on my friend's Tivo, and it was really unacceptable to me. Is the HD one faster? I noticed that their box and remote (the $100 tivo) was exactly the same as mine. It is very strange that the remote is only IR, not RF for a $1000 unit. The $5 tivo remote baffles me. One FF button, no skip ahead button, but you can change the functionality to skip ahead. The 'select' button is horribly placed. There is NO off button for the Tivo! You have to go through some stupid menu to put it in standby! What were they thinking? The TV power button is in the middle of the remote, just stupid! There is a physical switch for 'tv/sat'. Here is one, you can change the volume on your stereo, but you CAN'T turn it on or off! Who designed that thing? There is no banner guide, I use that a lot. There is no RF out to pipe the SD signal to the rest of the house. Updates currently come from the phone line, not the satellite. DirectTV will cost me $31.01 more than Dish! This is because I don't want the basic SD package, and I want the HD package, and HBO.

On the other hand, I like dual OTA tuners, I like OTA guide info, and I like the season pass on the DirecTV box. Dish will have OTA guide info, and season pass before the end of the year if you believe them.

This actually a hard decision to make. There are a lot of refinements with Dish that I like better, and there are things about the HD Tivo that I like better. It doesn't appear to be a 'slam dunk' decision.....

#16 OFFLINE   CAL7

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Posted 11 May 2004 - 03:27 PM

Yup, the remote is definitely not as sophisticated as the 921 - time will tell if this also is a loss of useful functionality as I get to know it better.

The grid guide didn't seem particularly slow, but I haven't had enough time with it. My tinkering threshold is of pain is higher than my real-use theshold.

I cannot believe anything DISH says about Tivo-like guide features. They have had four years (is that right?) since the 501 to come out and have done nothing.

I had the HD pack iwth DISH, but I skipped it with Direct. I can get enough with HBO, CBS-HD, and my locals; I don't need the junk on HDNET, et al. ESPN-HD was nice, but not very much HD content.

My opinion is that Direct and Tivo are more a "production shop" than Dish. This has its pluses and minuses - reliability is good, but responsiveness to the geek community is probably less. Things like the 3-sec skip represent that. I think DirecTivo will always tend to gear their design to the lowest common denominator for the mass audience; but it will work.

#17 OFFLINE   Chris Blount

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Posted 11 May 2004 - 03:43 PM

This product takes care of the RF remote problem. I've been using it since November and it works just fine.

http://www.dbstalk.c...ighlight=bluedo

#18 OFFLINE   CAL7

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Posted 11 May 2004 - 04:05 PM

Thanks, Chris. I ordered one. The only issue I saw in that thread was possible contention between the original IR and the "blasted" IR. Seems like if that is a problem, I can just tape over the remote IR transmitter.

#19 OFFLINE   jsanders

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Posted 11 May 2004 - 04:23 PM

This product takes care of the RF remote problem. I've been using it since November and it works just fine.

http://www.dbstalk.c...ighlight=bluedo


That is amazing. Most products don't innovate, and this one is really creative and unique!

#20 OFFLINE   Dan L.

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Posted 12 May 2004 - 08:06 AM

Is there a way of determining how much recording time is left on the hard drive? Has anyone directly compared PQ w/ 921?

Thanks, Dan




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