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DBSTalk First Look: H21-200


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#1 OFFLINE   Stuart Sweet

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Posted 16 July 2007 - 02:56 PM

DBSTalk First Look: DIRECTV H21-200 Interactive HD Receiver

In the tradition of other user reviews dating back to Earl's excellent review of DIRECTV's first self-branded DVR, the R10, I'm pleased and proud to present this first look at DIRECTV's latest HD receiver, the H21-200.

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#2 OFFLINE   Stuart Sweet

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Posted 16 July 2007 - 02:57 PM

The unit arrived in retail-ready packaging with almost everything you would expect to see in an HD receiver. There were composite and component cables. These were of average quality, not the sort of thing a high-end user would go for but just fine for the average Joe. It also came with an extremely long phone cord and an HDMI cable. Hopefully it will continue to come with these cables. The only disappointment was the lack of any sort of digital audio cable. It wouldn't have been so hard to include a single RCA cable for digital audio.

Images
The Box
The Included Cords

The B-Band converter (BBC) was of a new type which I had not seen before, and was packaged so there was no bend in the cable, unlike the older type. This is a big improvement since according to hasan, the older packaging bent the cable more than you should.

Images
The BBC Large Small

The manual is very much like previous DIRECTV manuals, and to be honest if you are the sort of person who reads manuals you might think it's a little light on technical information. It's really written for people who have never used any of the current generation of DIRECTV receivers.

#3 OFFLINE   Stuart Sweet

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Posted 16 July 2007 - 02:58 PM

My immediate reaction on looking at this receiver is that it bears a lot of resemblance to the HR20-100. It's got the same horizontal "cove" detail as the HR20 series. The biggest difference is that instead of the light ring, there is a simple 4-way rocker switch. There's no record button either.

The color is flat black, very clean looking. The receiver doesn't have the pebbled finish of the D12 series, it's just clean and black.

Images
The Front Large Small

The H21 is almost exactly the same width as my old R10, which makes it a little shorter than HR20-700. However, it's nowhere near as deep. It's also not as heavy, since it has no hard drive.

The blue lights are FAR dimmer than on the HR20. This was a great decision in my humble opinion.

The power cable hs a two-prong 115V plug. DIRECTV doesn't seem to be very consistent as to whether they use grounded plugs.

The only vent holes are on the side. This is great for me, since one of my DIRECTV receivers got killed when my cat threw up on it, or should I say in it, since the vent holes on top didn't shield the components at all. It's probably also great for people using this receiver in a rack, like bars and restaurants.

On the back are the normal assortment of outputs, including coax and optical audio. This is great because it seems that everyone's got his own opinion as to which is better. There's also component and HDMI.

Images:
The Back Large Small
The Ports Large Small

The single satellite in is designed to take input from legacy or SWM cable. Notice that there is no input for an antenna. That's right, folks, there is no ATSC tuner hardware in this receiver. If you live somewhere that doesn't have HD locals, or if you're a subchannel fan, I've been told that there are going to be H20's around for a while... you might want to pick one up now.

There is also an ethernet port, which ships with a dummy plug in it. It's not any sort of terminator, just a plastic shell. This is probably so the average user doesn't try to plug the phone line into it. At this point the network connection is completely unused, it's not even in the software as far as the user can see.

The new B-Band converter was a tight fit and I would be worried that an average user wouldn't connect it all the way.

#4 OFFLINE   Stuart Sweet

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Posted 16 July 2007 - 02:58 PM

I'm not a hardware engineeer but the one thing I can tell you is, heat dissipation seems to be the goal here. For a receiver-only unit, H21 is pretty big. (The dimensions of the H21 are 15"W x 2.5"H x 9.5"D with the foot pads adding approximately .25" to the height.)

When you open it up, you see why. There is plenty of space between the major components, and there's plenty of epoxy board showing. This means it's going to run cooler than if DIRECTV tried to shove everything into a smaller package. It's also probably less expensive to engineer.

The CPU is from Broadcom. Other than that I don't have a lot of information about it.

Images
The Inside Large Small
The Power Supply Large Small
The Circuits Large Small
The Broadcom #1 Large Small
The Broadcom #2 Large Small
The Built Date Large Small

#5 OFFLINE   Stuart Sweet

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Posted 16 July 2007 - 02:59 PM

If you've ever setup a DIRECTV receiver then you'll be extremely familiar with the setup here. It's pretty much the same. There is an option in the dish setup for multiple dishes. I didn't know DIRECTV did this - I know that dish network does. I don't remember seeing the option with my HR20.

WARNING: The initial boot screen is in 480p. If you're planning on hooking this up to a TV that doesn't support 480p,you might want to hook it up via composite temporarily just to see the screens. Either way, once you get past the boot screen, the display changes to whatever resolution you've selected on the front panel or remote, so you're ok.

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Main info

#6 OFFLINE   Stuart Sweet

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Posted 16 July 2007 - 02:59 PM

The manufacturer is -200, which I believe is Samsung.

If you're familiar with the standard GUI used in D1x, H20, and R15, the one that was on HR20 until recently, you'll be right at home. It's all there for you. There are very few differences.

H21 has a Centering feature which has been a request of HR20 users for a long time. It works very intuitively and the only thing I would like to see would be a box around the edges of the screen so that, if you can see all four sides, you should be set.

Images
Centering Option

There's also an item in the Info screen which says, "Picture-in-Guide: On". There's no way to turn Picture-in-Guide off, but it does tell me that they might want to do this in the future, so they have at least reserved some memory for the state variable.

At the moment, there is no network setup, as I said before. The hardware is in place, and if it is activated, I'm sure it will be similar to setting up HR20.

THE GUIDE IS FAST! It's true, there's no one-button guide (yet) and no way to turn off the animations, but I swear I have never seen a guide as responsive as this. The animations don't slow you down at all. I do hope they implement the one-button guide soon.

Parental Controls are on when you first activate the receiver, the same as HR20. If you want the mature audiences stuff, you have to enable it.

The remote is the new RC64 which looks just like the RC34 but has a lot more codes, from what I'm told. It's a lot lighter than the RC24RF, since it doesn't have the RF hardware in it. The receiver will use an RF remote, but it doesn't ship with one.

The RC64 remote has bigger buttons and a couple different labels than the RC24. In particular the RC24's mute button says MUTE and is coved in so you can find it in the dark. The RC64's mute button is shaped just like the others and has a pictogram of a speaker with a line through it.

Images
The R64 Large Small
The R64 Close Up Large Small
The R64 and R23 Large Small

Caller ID worked just fine for me right out of the box.

Closed captioning was completely acceptable for me. I was able to turn it on and look at it along with my TV's CC and it kept in sync and showed no garbling at all. Unfortunately there is still no 1-button CC.

Images
Captioning

#7 OFFLINE   Stuart Sweet

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Posted 16 July 2007 - 03:00 PM

Active content works just the same as on HR20. It takes about 15-20 seconds to load. Same with the mix channels, they take a long time to load and act pretty much the same as HR20.

Game Lounge doesn't work. I'm guessing that there is a master list somewhere that says that a particular model receiver will work with Game Lounge and H21 isn't on it.

#8 OFFLINE   Stuart Sweet

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Posted 16 July 2007 - 03:00 PM

This receiver works almost exactly like an R15 or HR20 but aside from what I've already said I found some key differences that I'd like to see addressed. There is the one-button guide and the old GUI, I'd like to see that taken care of.

The search function is like the way it used to be with HR20 where if you want to find "THE SIMPSONS", you'll find it under T for "THE" instead of S for "SIMPSONS, THE". I don't know how many people are going to take advantage of the Autotune and search capabilities but it should be consistent.

The FORMAT button shows you the current setting when you push it. You have to push it twice to change the format. This has been suggested for HR20 and all I can say is, people pick one and stick to it.

The LIST button brings up the to do list instead of the playlist (because there is no playlist).

#9 OFFLINE   Stuart Sweet

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Posted 16 July 2007 - 03:04 PM

I think DIRECTV has delivered a very solid receiver which should do very well for installations where there is no need for OTA. It seems built for long-term usage and should be very appealing in bars and restaurants as well as guest rooms.

I am very interested to see if the network port is ever used and to what purpose.

#10 OFFLINE   bonscott87

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Posted 16 July 2007 - 03:34 PM

The H21 is SWM capable out of the box. It works fine either by itself on an FTM port or when used off splitters with another SWM receiver (like the HR20). I have one cable from the Power Inserter to a standard RCA splitter with one cable to the HR20 and another to the H21. Works great.

An interesting addition to the setup screen when connected to the SWM is the information about the SWM switch including it's firmware version.

Remember that when using an SWM you don't need the B Band Converters. As of software version 0x4009 the H21 fails the channel 499 test but it does work fine in other respects with the SWM.

#11 OFFLINE   PoitNarf

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Posted 16 July 2007 - 04:33 PM

H21 pictured with his older brother:

Front View
Back View

#12 OFFLINE   Earl Bonovich

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Posted 16 July 2007 - 08:40 PM

Thanks to all the first wave Field Trial users for the "First Look".

One last image to add:

Two of DirecTV's latest technologies playing together:
The H21 and Sat-Go Large Small

The SAT-GO "TV" portion is, 720p compatible... and produces a fantastic HD image... and I sit about 3 feet from the screen.

#13 OFFLINE   Earl Bonovich

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Posted 17 July 2007 - 07:30 AM

So let's continue the discussion of the latest DirecTV receiver: H21

http://www.dbstalk.c...ead.php?t=92278




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