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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Well, I've been lurking in the background reading everyone's posts and I thought now that I've had the unit for a week, I would give my thoughts. People on this forum generally focus on the negative (that seems to be common on message boards. Anyone here a UCLA football fan? Those boards are really negative right now too), so I thought I'd start out with what I like about it.

First though, my background with DVRs.


  • 1st DVR was an UltimateTV. For me this is really the gold standard of DVRs. This is really hard for me to say knowing that it was a Microsoft product and me being such a big fan of Apple, but this box had it all for SD as far as I'm concerned. 30s skip, first box with two tuners, PIP, one touch record, two touch series record, worked right out of the box (and I had two of the boxes within 30 days of release) and a great UI. The only reason I stopped using it is because after many years, the tuners started to fail. I still have the box though.
  • 2nd DVR (and I've had a couple) is the DTivo. Works really well. I don't care for the UI that much. Very reliable recordings. Great search. Don't care about the Suggestions. Maybe I was spoiled with the UltimateTV, but as soon as I started using it I felt like it was a step backwards. No one touch record. No two touch series record. No PIP. And the most annoying thing, when you go to the playlist, you lose the audio and video from the live TV. With UltimateTV, recorded shows were essentially treated like another channel (in fact, I think that is how they implemented it, because I remember them giving it channel 1020 or something similar). I never felt like the system was very responsive either.

HR-20: My likes
  • Obviously, it is great to be able record all of the HD that DirecTV offers and not have to use an OTA. I live in the Bay Area, so we get all the majors over the dish. I know some markets don't have all of their locals, but we do and I like it. Due to distance from the antennas and the topography of our area, I was not able to get all of the locals via OTA.
  • Overall system speed is the best I've seen. You click a button and something happens. Not to say that there aren't errors in the code, but at least the hardware is up to the task. I can see a day when the code is rock solid and we all just enjoy how responsive the box is.
  • One touch record, two touch series record. Finally, they implemented something that had been around for years. This makes so much sense as to be obvious. Why in the world does Tivo make you leave the guide to record? The red circles in the guide are a huge help to know whether something is going to be recorded. No more doubting. I heard the ReplayTV boxes had this too, but I've never owned one of those.
  • 12 hour jump in the guide with the red and green keys (I think that is right). Coupled with the quick recording and fast responsiveness features mentioned above, I was able to set up about 15-20 SeriesLinks (is that the right terminology?) for the entire week in about 5 minutes. Maybe less. That is phenomenal.
  • The MiniGuide is awesome. I hadn't seen that feature in any previous box and it so great to be able to watch the entire screen and just see one channel displayed at a time. A lot of times you just want to see what is coming on next.
  • The Quick Menu is also great. You can still watch the show while you search for the function you need. By far the best feature of the Quick Menu is the MyVOD. Without leaving a show or the menu, you can see the 5 most recently recorded shows. Brilliant.
  • I know that eSATA isn't fully implemented yet and that you apparently can't exceed the size of the internal drive, it is great they've obviously thought about this and there will be a day soon when we can have as much storage as we want without having to hack the box.
  • One touch and hold of the jump back button to get to the beginning of a recording. I love not having to use a menu just to get back to the start of a show.
Issues
  • Pixilation on trick play can be a problem for me. Nothing I can't live with, but this should be fixed
  • Two touch series record doesn't work with shows that are Mon-Fri, like Jeopardy, the Colbert Report, etc. This wasn't a problem with Tivo or UltimateTV. This needs to work. Manual record has worked so far, but is obviously less convenient.
  • Time to change channels, as fast as the system is, changing channels can still take time. I've tried Native on and off and I can't tell if there is a big difference between them. If performance in this area could be brought up to snuff, that would be a tremendous improvement.

Must have features
These are features that I feel like the box should absolutely have with no excuses.
  • 30s skip. Or even better, programmable skip. The slip feature is a blatant slap in the face of DirecTV's customers and a bone they've thrown the content partners. Other boxes have had 30s skip and not lost their content partners. To me this is inexcusable. There are some instances where I actually like the slip feature, but not at the expense of skip. Put two buttons on the remote if you love the slip feature so much, but implement skip. Programmable skip might even be better where you could go in and set the skip time to be whatever you want. I also read about a feature on another box where you hit a number and the skip and that is how many minutes you jump. That should be included too.
  • PIP. Granted most televisions (including mine) have this built-in, but it is much more convenient to do it with one remote on one box. Let us control the placement and size of the PIP box. Let us easily switch between audio of the two windows. Let us use just one button to switch the windows.
  • HDMI should just work. I know this isn't entirely DirecTV's fault because of the evolving standard, but if you can't just plug in your DVR to your TV using the most modern ports available, well, you've lost a lot of value there.
  • Two touch series record for daily shows. This was mentioned earlier in my post.
  • Auto padding for sports. How many games now-a-days go into overtime or start late or whatever? Put the default auto-padding for sports at an hour, but let us change it if we want to.
  • Better understanding of repeats, first-run, etc. Just because I watch a show during primetime doesn't mean I want 3 or 4 copies of the show in a week. Hasn't been a huge problem yet, but I just received my box and it is at the beginning of a new season. I don't want my box littered with re-runs in the summer.
  • Fix the "Channels I receive" feature or give us a dedicated filter for it that the user can set.

Wish list
  • Dual buffers. I know most of you, especially the football fans, would put this in the must have feature, but for me it is a nice to have
  • OTA. Again, for some of you this is a must have, but for me not so much. I get everything over the dish. I know some of you have compression and bitrate complaints, but for me it is fine.
  • 3 satellite tuners. There have been times when I've wanted to record three shows at the same time. Why limit me if I'm willing to pay?
  • Slave/master system. Make the HR20 the only box I record on and then let me play the shows in any room I want using a slave box (that doesn't cost more than $50) over my wireless network. The slave box should support HD obviously and I should be able to see the guide, schedule shows, etc. all from the slave.
  • Video on Demand. I don't care how it is implemented unless they take up all the space on my hard drive, but for me this is the only feature from cable that I pine for. Allow me to use the box to search an unlimited number of titles and pull them down to my box. Also, I know you (DirecTV) see this as a revenue opportunity, but cable doesn't charge for this. Just give it to us. (OK, I'd probably agree to a $5/mo monthly fee for unlimited use of VOD).
  • Allow me to schedule recordings from anywhere with an Internet connection. I can't tell you how many times I've been at my older son's soccer games and realized I forgot to schedule a football game recording. I have a phone with data capabilities. Let me set a recording.

That's my review of the HR-20. Quite long, but DVRs are complex machines that deserve a lot of inspection. My overall impression of the box is overwhelming positive. They've taken many, many positive steps and I'm looking forward to what they do next.

Finally, I thought it best to explain my expectations for DirecTV. It is simple: give me the best technology to access the best and most comprehensive programming. Period. That means, I didn't like waiting 1 year longer than Dish and cable companies to be able to record HD (I know the HDTivo was around, but it didn't get locals and I hate spending money on products that are already planned to be obsolete). I don't like hearing from my wife that the Style channel is available on cable so why can't we get it (I don't know if that is still true or not, but it was). I don't want to hear about you turning off TNT HD because you need the bandwidth for another channel even though I don't really watch TNT anyway. The reason is simple. I expect you to be the best. I expect you to offer the best hardware, the most HD, have the most capacity, to carry EVERY SINGLE CHANNEL THAT EXISTS, whether I watch it or not. I don't like that DISH offers two German channels and you offer nothing (because I actually speak German).

Now that might not always be the case and some company might get a jump on you for some new technologies, but you'd better not be far behind (like you were with the HR-20) and you'd better not be perceived as second in the marketplace for anything as far as TV is concerned. For me it is not a money thing, I want to be with the leader. If that ends up being someone else, then my time with you (8+ years) is over. Recently, I think you were caught with your pants down, but the HR-20 is finally in my living room and is very good. I can see the direction you are heading with next year's new satellites, so I'm good for now.
 

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Great review! I'd just add to the wish list fixing the sports packages on the Hr20, and it would be perfect!

P.S. I use HDMI to DVI cable on my 2 year old Mitsubishi TV, and I have had no problem. Is it mostly newer TVs that are having this problem?
 

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Ausgezeichneter Job! Willkommen zu DBSTALK
 

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Great review! Agree with it. Just 2 more things to add. Should have given all your loyal and so call A list customers first chance to upgrade, and give us the bigger discount for staying loyal all these years. Not that we have to call and bargin lke buying a car
 

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the comment - schedule over the internet.. I believe in a recent conference call, head tech dude for directv (forget his name) is doing that now - so it looks like that will happen at some point
 

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Good review. Not to change the thread to an Ultimate TV lovefest but I agree that is the gold standard - still have mine and it's my backup for the HR20 until it settles down. Never had any stability issues with UTV. Only issue was a tuner failed after ~4 years - I sent the unit to some company in Ohio to replace both and no other issues since.

The HR20 certainly seems to borrowed some good ideas from UTV. Some more they could have used:

-In the guide, UTV had both a 12hr jump (fw/rev) AND a 3hr jump. 3hr jump nice for quicker access to the desired schedule block. Also very handy for doing manual searches for movies. I would select a set of favorite movie channels and just continuously jump ahead by 3hrs and 1-touch record and movies I was interested in.

-2nd the idea of having playback assigned to a channel (like 1020 in UTV). I notice some non-intuitive behavior of HR20 when you stop playback. It seems like it dumps you back in MyVod but will have the live feed from an active tuner.

-More specific autorecord criteria - match exact phrase, only certain category (movie, comedy), etc.

-PiP is not a must but it's nice to have

-Obligatory 30s skip gripe (yes - non-technical issue)

-Ability to buy/record PPV in advance. I haven't play around with this too much in HR20 but it appears that if you want to set a PPV to record in advance, you just hit record. When you start watching playback, when you get past the free first 5 minutes, it asks if you want to purchase. This feature may look good on paper but I didn't like the interuption. I've never set a PPV to record that I didn't intend to buy. They should add a "buy now" or "buy in advance" option when you initially set the record.

I'm cautiously optimistic that when the HR20 stabilizes, it will be a very good box and hopefully is future-proofed enough to be a solid platform for enhanced features (VOD, internet programming, sharing content between receivers, etc.). For now, I'll settle for having it record shows I asked it to record.

-mvkasjk
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
mvkajsk said:
-In the guide, UTV had both a 12hr jump (fw/rev) AND a 3hr jump. 3hr jump nice for quicker access to the desired schedule block. Also very handy for doing manual searches for movies. I would select a set of favorite movie channels and just continuously jump ahead by 3hrs and 1-touch record and movies I was interested in.
I had forgotton about the 3 hour jump. That was very nice as well.

Here's another story about the UTV. UTV was a project that came out of Microsoft's aquisition of WebTV and they kept the offices in the Bay Area after the purchase. I had the pleasure towards the end of the product to play with their next generation updates as part of a UI test. Unfortunately, they never released them. Suffice it to say, that they had some interactive sports features that we still haven't seen 5 years later.

I don't think I'll ever know why UTV wasn't a huge hit.
 

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bobg said:
Great review.
Can you comment on closed captioning. I read that there were some problems with this.
Bob
There are a lot of problems with closed captioning on the HR20 - particularly with MPEG4 HD Locals but also with some MPEG2 HD National channels (HBO HD in particular). It has been talked about a lot in this forum - one place you can see what some of the problems are is http://www.dbstalk.com/showthread.php?t=67044

By the way, since I'm posting here in this thread, I would like to say it was a very good review of the HR20 by the original poster.
 

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3rdGenBruin said:
I don't think I'll ever know why UTV wasn't a huge hit.
Easy... $$$

It cost more then TiVo (a lot) just to purchase
And it cost more then double the monthly fee then the DTivo

Also Microsot pulled the plug on it, as I don't think it fit into their long term plans.
 

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3rdGenBruin said:
  • Allow me to schedule recordings from anywhere with an Internet connection. I can't tell you how many times I've been at my older son's soccer games and realized I forgot to schedule a football game recording. I have a phone with data capabilities. Let me set a recording.
I have a LARGE interest in this one. Will sure miss that on my HR10-250 when it finally gets replaced.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Earl Bonovich said:
Easy... $$$

It cost more then TiVo (a lot) just to purchase
And it cost more then double the monthly fee then the DTivo

Also Microsot pulled the plug on it, as I don't think it fit into their long term plans.
I think your second point is more salient than your first. Yes it cost more and the monthly fee was higher, but a Series 3 today costs $800 and the most UTV ever went for was $300. There was a place in the market for it.

I think Microsoft just decided it didn't want to be in the STB business. I wish they would have at least sold it to someone.

All of that is moot however, because now I'm the proud owner of an HR-20 ;)
 
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