HR20-700 - The Review

Discussion in 'DIRECTV Tips and Resources' started by Earl Bonovich, Aug 12, 2006.

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  1. Earl Bonovich

    Earl Bonovich Lifetime Achiever

    Nov 15, 2005
    Well it has almost become an annual tradition.
    First with the R10....
    First with the R15....

    Now, I am lucky enough to present to you all.....

    The DirecTV Plus HD-DVR ..... The HR20-700
    Large Version

    Official Discussion Thread, for the Review

    The information, opinions, statements found in this thread are my own... they don't necessarily reflect the opinions of DirecTV, DBSTalk, AVS Family of websites, or any implied persons.

    Note: Spelling Errors
    There are bound to be some... I'm a programmer after all.. not an English major. I will do my best... but please don't nit-pick :D


    Edit: 11/3/2006 -
    The HR20 has changed since this early review of the unit.
    More uses have used it, and there is more information about the unit... in this forum.
    The HR20 has received mutliple software updates since it first release... be sure to examine the Current Software release thread, for the latest on the HR20.
  2. Earl Bonovich

    Earl Bonovich Lifetime Achiever

    Nov 15, 2005
    Thanks to Chris Blount and the DBStalk forum for providing the space to do this, and the opportunity to participate here.
    Thanks to Clint Lamor for "Flashing" the video files

    Thanks to all the Forum members who have made my last 8 months here... fun.... I don't get paid to do this... This is my way to pay you all back...

    Just like in books and movies... Thanks to my wife and my son.. who have tolerated all the time away from them these past months (in general), to allow me to do this... (Forum life, and most recently the review)... And thanks for tolerating all the "changes" in the main room...

    Lastly... but most certainly not least...
    Thank you to my Father (who passed away April 28th, 2006)...
    It was you who brought home that First Zenith Top Loading Beta II machine in mid/late 70's.... And for all the other "toys" that you provided to the family over your many years, that fostered my love for electronic gadgets.....

    I wish you could have seen this one... you would have liked it :(
    Well... you would have liked my hand-me-down... ;)
    I love you... and I miss you tremedously.......
  3. Earl Bonovich

    Earl Bonovich Lifetime Achiever

    Nov 15, 2005
    In general you'll find most Images and Videos as links.
    I did this to save time in loading the review (and do to some limitations of including a lot of inline images)

    Most "pictures" will have a Large and Small versions.
    These where taken with my Canon Digital Rebel.

    Screen Shots:
    Where captured via 480i Analog outputs of the unit (I don't have an HD capture method yet), via my Sony MINI-DV camcorder....
    (Then via WinDV->Virtual Dub->Corel Photo)

    Video Shots:
    I am going to try to provide DIVX, WMV versions of the videos. These where captured via the same method as the Screen Shots.

    I have been lucky enough to get one of the first HR20's available...
    So this review isn't just me pounding on it for a night or two (like the previous ones)... the unit was used as my primary DVR.... and now is my primary DVR for the main room.
    So this isn't like the R15 review, where things where done on the fly and blog style.

    My TV is a Pioneer 503CMX Plasma.. It only can do 750 lines of resolution (it is 3 years old after all.... anyone need a review done of a current 50" Plasma unit? I am game :) ), The connection to the TV was via HDMI->DVI conversion.

    Audio is Optical to my Onkyo receiver.

    I attempted as much as possible to keep this segment of the review as objective as possible... facts vs opinions

    Well... I think that is about it... now for the good stuff.
  4. Earl Bonovich

    Earl Bonovich Lifetime Achiever

    Nov 15, 2005
    Here is a brief summary of the HR20 features

    -) High Definition TV Output (via HDMI and Component)
    -) 2 Sets of RCA (Red/White/Yellow Outputs) - 1 S-Video
    -) 1 Optical Digital Output
    -) Dual SAT Tuners
    -) Dual ATSC Tuners (functionality is disabled at this time, see notes later in the review)
    -) Wired RJ-45 Ethernet Port
    -) External SATA Connection
    -) 300gb SATA Internal Hard Drive
    -) RF Remote Compatible with the Included RC24, and the soon to be released RC32RF

    Estimated Recording Space (Not a cumulative value)
    ~ 30 Hours of MPEG-2 (OTA) HD
    ~ 50 Hours of MPEG-4 HD
    ~ 200 Hours of Standard Definition (SD)

    Unit was manufactured by PACE
    The Official Model Number: HR20-700
  5. Earl Bonovich

    Earl Bonovich Lifetime Achiever

    Nov 15, 2005
    In the last 6 years.. I have opened a lot of DVRs and other DirecTV equipment for these reviews.

    So far... the HR20 is the most "solidly" constructed box I have ever opened.
    A little difficult at first, but once I figured out how everything was put together... not so bad.

    After removing the hex screws from the back (5 of them).... you have to slide back the top.
    It is tough... really tough... but it only has to move about 1 inch and then you can remove it.

    Instead of just 1 or 2 "case hooks" like you see in PC's and other units, this one has about 6 or so on each side.
    Solid thick metal (when compared to the R10)... I didn't notice any "sharp" edges... but use caution... as just like a paper cut, a case cut really stinks.

    The unit weighs more then it's older siblings (The H20 and the R15), and it's distant cousin (HR10-250)
    The size though is marginally larger (depth wise) then the HR10-250 and DSR704

    Front Left: USB Port; Power; IR : Small Large
    Front Center: "The Eye" : Small Large
    Front Right: Access Card and Reset But (plus RID and Model Information); Mode Selector and Indicators : Small Large
    The Top... Notice the design? : Small Large
    The Back: Small Large
    The Back Left: The Inputs : Small Large
    The Back Right: The Outputs (and Other): Small Large
  6. Earl Bonovich

    Earl Bonovich Lifetime Achiever

    Nov 15, 2005
    When I finally got the unit opened... my first impression was WOW!
    There is a LOT of stuff in here... It was very impressive to see the layout, the main board, the tuners, the drive, the bright red SATA cables...

    Removing the hard drive was a bit of a challenge...
    In the unit I got for this review, they used a "push pin" connection.
    Basically there was a housing the size of the "hole", and a pressure pin was inserted to make it fan out... Took a little bit of finagling but I got them to work.

    Each mounting point for the drive had rubber bushings to minimize the vibrations... There where 4 mounting points for the drive...
    The front two where the most difficult to get at... To put them back in, you have to remove the entire front bezel.

    It is held on by 11 pressure clips.... no screws.
    The method I employed was start on the left and move to the right.... releasing the bottom, then the side, then the top.. and just worked my way down. Note... their is a thin communication cable there... but there is enough room, to pull the bezel out enough to work with... just go slow... and when you put it back together... make sure that ribbon cable is fully set.

    The Drive "mounting" chassis is "grounded" to the rest of the chassis with a single screw. Be gentle when removing it... a lot of torque could snap the bottom portion of it, but you shouldn't need that much to get the screw to turn..

    The Fan is mounted directly to the drive chassis... it connects directly to the power supply as well. I didn't test the unit while the case was off, so I don't know if the fan runs all the time.... You can't hear it if it does.

    I didn't take the time to investigate what each and every chip did... I'll leave that up to you all...

    Here are the images of the inside...

    Overall Inside: Small Large
    Inside Back Left: Small Large
    Inside Front Left: Small Large
    Inside Front Right: Small Large
    Inside Back Right: Small Large
    Inside Back Right Zoomed: Small Large
    Inside Tuner Cards: Small Large
    Hard Drive Ground: Small Large
    Hard Drive Fan: Small Large
    Under the Hard Drive: Small Large
    BroadComm Chip (The Decoder Chip): Small Large
    Hard Drive in it's chassie: Small Large
    Hard Drive Details: Small Large
  7. Earl Bonovich

    Earl Bonovich Lifetime Achiever

    Nov 15, 2005
    The setup procedures for this unit are nearly identical to that of the R15...

    When the system reboots, you get the first two screens (which I'm unable to get a screen capture of)... the basic "System Is Starting" and the "Almost There"

    After that, you get a black screen for about 3-4 minutes.
    The lights on the front of the unit will flash on occasion, but not consistently... Don't reboot... the unit is doing it's boot up.

    You will then get to the large DirecTV Plus HD-DVR Screen.
    This screen will take about 1-2 minutes before you get to the acquiring sat information.

    After that if the system has already been setup, you will go right to LIVE TV..
    If not, you will have to go through the setup wizard in order to configure the system.
  8. Earl Bonovich

    Earl Bonovich Lifetime Achiever

    Nov 15, 2005
    This unit supports the standard HD video outputs:

    480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i
    You have CROP, PILLAR, and STRETCH mode for those resolutions as well...

    You have a choice now....
    You can fix the resolution to one setting (Everything output at 720p->Stretch) or.... you now have the choice of a NATIVE resolution mode.

    When in NATIVE resolution, the unit will change to the appropriate resolution....
    When surfing it adds about a half second/second delay while the unit changes resolutions

    You can configure the unit to only allow certain resolutions, but you can't set it to see just certain modes (pilllar, stretch, crop)

    I am currently using the HDMI connection to a DVI converter, to my TV.
    So I can't test Audio on the HDMI....
    But I can test.... the fact that the composite outputs WORK at the same time my HDMI is connected (that is how I captured all of the screen shots)

    There is no RF output for this unit

    The unit does offer Close Captioning options as well...
    I don't know much about the different formats... but this appears to be similar to most standard setups I have seen on other units.

    Native Resolution
    Close Caption Settings
  9. Earl Bonovich

    Earl Bonovich Lifetime Achiever

    Nov 15, 2005
    Just like the other receivers. (HR10 and H20)... Single Optical output.
    You can toggle on Dolby Digital output...

    The HR20 will play the Digital audio when available, or will fall back to other available audio outputs.
    Along with the Optical Output, are two sets of RCA (Red/White) outputs.

    You can toggle between available audio formats with the YELLOW button, or a Quick Menu->Audio Option

    Digital Audio
  10. Earl Bonovich

    Earl Bonovich Lifetime Achiever

    Nov 15, 2005
    Before we dive into the GUI... I want to take a moment to review the included documentation....

    1) The printed manual is 90+ pages.... It is VERY detailed. I didn't read the manual (typical guy move), so I didn't validate every page... but those that I did look at... Are pretty good.

    This is a major improvement from the R15 "pamphlet".. and is more on par with manuals received in the past.

    2) On Screen Help... On screen you have a HELP option... There are several categories for different items about the unit and different actions you can do. To me, the Help is written in a way to help a beginner to the unit... but even the advanced users may find a thing or two of interest to them in here.

    3) OnLine Help...
    Official Forum: DirecTV Forums
    Unofficial Forum: Here... at

    Help menu option
    Help Screen
    Live Buffer Help
  11. Earl Bonovich

    Earl Bonovich Lifetime Achiever

    Nov 15, 2005
    Like the R15, the HR20 is interactive out of the box.
    Sports Mix and What's Hot

    The Active features work a little different with the HR20 (as compared to the R15)
    After the application is initialized the first time, if you happen to go somewhere else in the box... the application will continue to run... minimizing load time the next time you come in

    Help menu option

    Sports Mix: DIVX Windows Media Flash-NoAudio
  12. Earl Bonovich

    Earl Bonovich Lifetime Achiever

    Nov 15, 2005
    Well... Here is one of the nice improvements with the unit...

    Moving the items around in the prioritizer is nearly instant... no lag when moving the items up and down the list...

    There is still a limit of 50 items (for now). However DirecTV does plan on increasing this limit in a future release.

    The ToDo list HAS been increased over what we saw in the R15.
    I have had my ToDo list as high as 240items

    First Run / Repeats....
    The HR20 is using some new algorithms... and so far in the first two weeks... it has been VERY good. Not one repeat recorded, when I had First run selected. Stargate and Stargate Atlantis have worked for two weeks straight. I also have all the CSI's and the L&O's and several others that are recording properly...

    Single button Record and Series Link setting are part of the live guide options. Clicking on a program once will set that one show to record, clicking twice will set it up as a series link (based on the defaults)

    Dash-Dash erase works in Prioritizer as well to remove programs.

    One difference from the R15. When viewing the episode list, you can't click R to set Record options... you have to go into the record menu.

    Another difference from the R15.... you can schedule shows from multiple channels....
    See the screen shot below.... this was done by having THREE Series Links for the program, one for each of the three channels the program airs on.

    One thing to note: After setting a Series Link, the HR20 will schedule the program you where working off of... even if it doesn't meet your requirements (say you clicked on a Re-Run, but only wanted First Runs).... It does schedule that program... but not for long.

    After a short amount of time (I haven't figured out the exact time window), a background process will complete and schedule the new Series Link at this point it will appropriately setup the recordings based on your options and the 14days worth of guide data.

    Quick Guide: By hitting the blue button on your remote, you get a one line guide on the bottom of the screen...
    Very handy when trying to find other programs to watch, setup to record, or just to flip through during a LIVE commercial.

    Mini Guide
    Multiple Channels
    Same Show; Multiple Channels, Scheduled Priortizer
    Scheduler Overview
    To Do List

    Mini-Guide DIVX Windows Media Flash-NoAudio

    Prioritizer Adjusting DIVX Windows Media Flash-NoAudio
  13. Earl Bonovich

    Earl Bonovich Lifetime Achiever

    Nov 15, 2005
    The HR20 has the same Trick Play (navigation options) as the R15.

    FF 1x,2x,3x (no 4x)
    RW 1x, 2x, 3x (no 4x)

    30s SLIP and Jump Back

    Single Live Buffer - 90 Minutes, with autosave.
    The Live Buffer will continue not only when you enter a record program, but also when you put the unit in Standby.

    The TrickPlay works fantastic... fast, very quick responding, to start the action, and return to playback.
    In most cases, it is nearly instant... A few times there was less then 1 second delay for audio to return

    The Jump Back appears to be consistent, and the 30s Slip is just as good.
  14. Earl Bonovich

    Earl Bonovich Lifetime Achiever

    Nov 15, 2005
    The HR20 has caller-id....
    The unit will log the calls even if the unit is standby.

    The unit does allow DirecTV to send messages, just like any other DirecTV box.

    The recording (and activity History), has been increased in size (vs the R15), but not in content. Currently I have 130 records in the history.
  15. Earl Bonovich

    Earl Bonovich Lifetime Achiever

    Nov 15, 2005
    The network connection... is enabled, even though there is no real function for it yet.
    The unit does appear to be pulling an IP address via DHCP..
    The lights light up, and there is plenty of activity on it.

    The ATSC Tuners....
    Yes.. as of this moment, they are disabled.... I don't know why they are... all I know is they are. From what I have been told by the HR20 team... that they WILL be enabled, in a relatively short time frame... I was told a "month", but until the date is more solid... I'm not going to post it.

  16. Earl Bonovich

    Earl Bonovich Lifetime Achiever

    Nov 15, 2005
    In the two weeks I have been using the unit... I have not had to reboot due to a freeze or a lock up. I have rebooted to format the system (to test it), do to some software updates, and when I pulled the power to crack the case.

    I have had the hard drive up to 50% full, had over 240 items in the ToDo list, and 30+ items in the SL... the unit performs EXACTLY the same as it does when empty.

    Picture Quality ... I will leave that for the "comments" thread, as I have no way to objectively measure the picture quality.

    So there you have it....
    If I missed something in the review, and it can be objectively commented on... let me know, I will add it.

    Everything else... is for the Comment thread.
    Official Discussion Thread, for the Review

    Thanks for taking the time to read this review.

  17. Earl Bonovich

    Earl Bonovich Lifetime Achiever

    Nov 15, 2005
    Here are some of the additional shots

    The Box: Large Small

    The "Disabled" Antenna: Screen

    Close Caption Being Used: Shot 1 Shot 2


    I just tested it:
    -) Composite
    -) Component
    -) HDMI
    Note: I don't have two TV's, so "maybe" there is a chance, then when my TV changes off the HDMI input, the HR20 knows this and enables the component... but I dobut it.
  18. Earl Bonovich

    Earl Bonovich Lifetime Achiever

    Nov 15, 2005
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