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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Now that I have had my HR20 for a while, I thought I would chime in with my thoughts. There are already many informative threads in this forum so I don't expect to shed any new light but since this forum is here for information and discussion, I thought what the hell. :)

First, let's get this out of the way. The following opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of DBSTalk or the AVSForum family. They are simply my personal ramblings about the HR20.

OK, with that out of the way, let's begin.

As most of you know, I have had my HR10 for the past 2 years. Back in May of 2004 I wrote up a review of the unit. Basically, despite the bugs, I liked the HR10. As a side note, I also have owned a few Dish Network DVR's and currently own a Dish DVR-508 which is still in use.

Now comes the HR20. At first I was going to wait a bit before taking the plunge but the early adopter in me had to have one just to see what all the fuss was about.

At the time I received my HR20, I still had the standard 3 LNB oval dish. I simply unplugged the sat inputs from the HR10 and plugged them right into the HR20 and powered up.

The boot sequence was a little bit faster than the HR10 but not all that much. I went through the setup procedure, called DirecTV to activate the receiver, and all was well although the CSR screwed up. She activated an H20 on my account which meant I had no DVR functions. I quick call back corrected the problem.

I like the Tivo interface although I have always thought it was a little "cartoonish". Once I got the hang if it, I settled in pretty fast. Despite the shortcomings of the Tivo interface itself, the software is extremely reliable. If I set a timer, there were no worries on whether or not it would record. I have always thought that the Tivo interface is more like "DVR For Dummies". Stripped down, but it works well.

The interface on the HR20 is much more functional. There is a lot going on here yet it's still easy to use. For instance, while browsing the programming guide, a simple one button press on the record button will record a highlighted title. Another press will setup a series link (season pass). Very cool feature and definitely takes its cue from what the Dish Network DVR's already offer.

This has already been mentioned numerous times but one big improvement over Tivo is the overall speed of the interface. Every button press is almost instantaneously met with a response. Surfing the programming guide is very quick and being able to jump 12 hours at a time is handy. Kudos to the team at DirecTV for making an excellent looking and functional guide.

What really blows the HR10 out of the water is the amount of time it takes to re-shuffle the season passes (prioritizer). On the HR10, if you want to change the priorities of season passes, it can take several minutes. On the HR20, changing them takes a fraction of a second. Very nice! (It should be noted that the HR10 6.3 software upgrade speeds up the process but it's still not as fast as the HR20)

Overall, the HR20 interface is not necessarily better or worse than the Tivo interface, just different. However I must give it a nod because it's faster and easier to navigate. I really didn't have any problem adapting. Within a few hours, I was comfortable using the HR20 so leaving Tivo behind really isn't a stretch.

At last! A DVR that outputs audio and video on all connections no matter which resolution mode is selected. I really like this feature. Now I can watch 1080i HDTV on my main living room monitor, while my wife watches the 480i version on the TV upstairs. This is one big feature that should have been included with the HR10. On top of that, we now finally have caller ID which has been part of the Dish Network receivers for years.

Now, let me talk a little about MPEG 4. On Saturday, I had my AT-9 dish installed enabling me to receive my MPEG 4 local channels over satellite. I was using the HR10 to receive them OTA so I was quite anxious to see how they looked.

The installer came out on Saturday afternoon. It only took him 1 ½ hours to take down the old dish and install the AT-9. The installer had no idea about the actual installation practices required to put up an AT-9. He never read any manuals or viewed any videos. He simply followed the instructions of the guy who trained him. I was a little worried but the good news is that he did an excellent job and I am getting between 95 and 100 signal strength on all satellites. I guess he was trained well.

My initial impressions of the MPEG 4 locals are less than enthusiastic. They definitely don't look as good as their OTA counterparts. Compression artifacts are easy to see especially during fast moving scenes. Some channels are better than others but overall, my MPEG 4 locals need work. Earl B tells me that new uplink equipment is being installed at some local locations which should improve the PQ. I hope so. When the local OTA tuners get activated on the HR20, I will probably use them until the MPEG 4 issues get ironed out.

IMHO, the 30 second time slip is a joke. It's much too slow. It's faster just to hit the FF button. Then when arriving at the beginning of the next segment, a couple of quick hits on the jump back button puts me where I need to be. I understand that advertisers hate the 30 second skip. I can understand. It's obvious that DirecTV wanted to find neutral ground. I will say that after using the FF-Jump back combination for a few days, I really don't miss the 30 second skip. At least this way I might catch a movie trailer or two that I missed elsewhere.

Now the bugs. I have experienced a few of them as others have on this forum. The one that really bugged me was the timer I had set to record Saturday Night Live. It was recording from a MPEG 4 local. The time fired and all was well. I even checked the recording in progress to make sure it was working. The next day when I came back to watch the show, the HR20 completely locked up. It would not react to any button presses so I had to do the dreaded "red button" reset. After the reboot, same thing happened when I tried to bring up the recording again. Apparently, the recording was corrupt in some way. All of the other recordings were working fine. While I don't consider SNL a high priority, this better not happen with a show I really care about. Hopefully this bug will get squashed soon.

Other than that, I have not experienced any unexpected reboots or lockups. All timers are firing as they should which is a good thing. Only time will tell on the reliability of the HR20 timer system.

Another thing I would like to see cleared up are some of the audio problems. When fast forwarding through commercials and then pressing play, there is a second or two delay until the audio comes back. With Tivo, the audio is there instantly. This may not be a bug but it sure get's annoying after a while.

The remote is laid out well. There is a quick button press for just about every important function. Sometimes though when I press a button, it actually registers twice but I think this is a known bug. I really wish the remote out of the box could have been the backlit version (RC34RF). I had to call DirecTV and order the backlit remote for $25. When I ordered, the CSR didn't even know it was available until she searched for the model number I gave her. At first she was going to send me the RC34 for $15 until I corrected her.

My general assessment about the HR20 is good. If most of the major bugs get squashed, the HR20 could definitely squash Tivo. The HR20 has many features that Tivo should have had years ago. Over the coming months as the software in the HR20 is improved, I suspect that many more Tivo users will make the switch.

The concept behind the HR20 software is not groundbreaking, but definitely a step in the right direction. Just keep the feedback coming. The DirecTV engineers are reading this forum. Many of the bug fixes you have seen are a direct result of what has been discussed here at DBSTalk.

In closing, I am giving the HR20 a thumbs up. Not a big thumbs up but a cautious one. The software still needs a bit of work but for now, it's good enough. Once dual buffers and OTA arrive (with no major bugs), I will be a completely happy camper.

Thanks for reading.
 

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Legend
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my experience and thoughts are directly in line with what you have posted. well said.
 

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Great assessment Chris. You and I switched from Dish at about the same time also.

The interface on the HR20 reminds me of the Dishplayer 7100 (so do some of the bugs). :D
 

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Phil T said:
Great assessment Chris. You and I switched from Dish at about the same time also.

The interface on the HR20 reminds me of the Dishplayer 7100 (so do some of the bugs). :D
I also agree with the assessment. I was a long time R10 user and just recently moved to the HR10. Moving to the HR20 from the TiVo interface only took about a week to be comfortable in. Just a few hours to learn as well. The quick menu is my favorite way of navigating the programming and feature set. Being able to review quickly what is recorded without leaving the current program is a HUGE improvement on the TiVo environment.
 

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Godfather
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Thanks for sharing your opinon, nicely written. Helps those of us watching for a HD entry when we decide to take the plunge. I'd have to be really convinced of the dependability and other features of the HR20 to overcome the lack of a 30-second skip and dual buffers. Given the track record of D* with the R15 (judging from the message board, I don't own one), I'm not sure how long it will take to work the bugs out.

For football games in particular, I've found the 30-second skip indispensible. Someone gets tackled, hit a button, and they're walking up to the line of scrimmage for the next play. Very nice. 30-second "slip" OTOH, takes 5 seconds for every 30 seconds you advance. I can see where you would say that FF works better.

Thanks again for sharing your experience!:)
 

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Agree with your main points, for sure. I miss the dual buffers as well, but my only gripe, and it has been all along, is the reliability issue you encountered in recording. That's the main bug, by far. It's basic, in fact. I'd be curious to see if you do a follow up to relate if it has continued. I've had only two in a week (since the last download). But it's two too many. Also, I contacted D* Level 2 tech today, and he said if after a major reset the problem (corrupted recording, as you said) didn't stop, they were going to replace the box. Doesn't sound like a bug to me, more like a damaged machine.

What do you think?
 

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Your review is consistent with my experience. I would call it conditionally positive and a reasonable assessment of the current state of the HR20. It's nice to see comments that are dispassionate, absent both cheerleading and over dramatizing. Nice job!
 

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Chris, I would agree with your review and experience with the major exception of the stability and recording issues of this DVR. Honestly I desire this DVR to work well for me and everyone else but I think you are either lucky or you might not be using it as much as some of us with more frequent problems. I hit some kind of glitch every 1 - 3 days.

On the surface I like the HR20, when it is working correctly, based on your writing and experience, I would provide basically the same feedback.

The big problems are and continue to be recording that can't be watched (a random issue), lockups (I have had 2, one a hard lockup and the other a please wait endless loop), and then the odd problem that it could not lock into a transponder when it went to record a show, this was resolved by canceling the recording and changing the channel down and back up again, where it locked in fine and I was able to record from that point on. What ever is causing these problems it feels like D* need to work on their event and exception handling logic in this box, when something goes wrong it appears to do some wonky things at the expense of the end user, and there appears to be no way to reconcile or repeat the problem consistently, undoubtedly these are the hardest kind of problems to resolve.

If they can fix the issues of RECORDING and not locking up or producing failed recordings, I think this will be a fine box, particularly if they fix the dual buffers issue. The key point is this is a DVR and the R stands for recorder, if it doesn't do that right 99.999 percent of the time, then it needs to be fixed because you can't trust it in the hands of someone that is not a tinker or understand how your HT is set up. In the end it is just TV, but that is what I purchased this box for, it need to work like it is suppose to. Right now I would say the box is @ 95%, that is a far cry from where it should be. For example I would bet $1000 or more that you could pick or make any recording on my DTivo and it would record or play with no problems. I might bet 10 or 20 bucks that any one recording on my HR20 would play back, and even less that it would record in the first place, you just don't know it is going to work or not.
 

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Great review and spot on! Hopefully the freeze thing will be corrected soon.

I didn't know about the backlit remote. Is it a one time fee of $25? I'm good at "remote by braille", but the HR-20 is pert near impossible to use in the dark so the backlit version would be great.

I haven't seen a workaround for the lack of twin buffers, but you can record two channels at once and then flip back and forth. Not elegant but it works if you want to surf.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Thanks for the comments everyone.

Phil T said:
Great assessment Chris. You and I switched from Dish at about the same time also.

The interface on the HR20 reminds me of the Dishplayer 7100 (so do some of the bugs). :D
Agree. It's good to see some of the Dish Network DVR features hitting the DirecTV DVRs.

tstarn said:
I contacted D* Level 2 tech today, and he said if after a major reset the problem (corrupted recording, as you said) didn't stop, they were going to replace the box. Doesn't sound like a bug to me, more like a damaged machine.

What do you think?
Not sure. I seems to be a common problem which points to either a bug in the software or common bad hardware. I am leaning toward the software side.

snowghost said:
I didn't know about the backlit remote. Is it a one time fee of $25? I'm good at "remote by braille", but the HR-20 is pert near impossible to use in the dark so the backlit version would be great.
It's a one time $25. I recieved my remote via overnight FedEx. The buttons are much easier to read. I highly recommend upgrading the remote.
 

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btmoore said:
Chris, I would agree with your review and experience with the major exception of the stability and recording issues of this DVR. Honestly I desire this DVR to work well for me and everyone else but I think you are either lucky or you might not be using it as much as some of us with more frequent problems. I hit some kind of glitch every 1 - 3 days.

On the surface I like the HR20, when it is working correctly, based on your writing and experience, I would provide basically the same feedback.

The big problems are and continue to be recording that can't be watched (a random issue), lockups (I have had 2, one a hard lockup and the other a please wait endless loop), and then the odd problem that it could not lock into a transponder when it went to record a show, this was resolved by canceling the recording and changing the channel down and back up again, where it locked in fine and I was able to record from that point on. What ever is causing these problems it feels like D* need to work on their event and exception handling logic in this box, when something goes wrong it appears to do some wonky things at the expense of the end user, and there appears to be no way to reconcile or repeat the problem consistently, undoubtedly these are the hardest kind of problems to resolve.

If they can fix the issues of RECORDING and not locking up or producing failed recordings, I think this will be a fine box, particularly if they fix the dual buffers issue. The key point is this is a DVR and the R stands for recorder, if it doesn't do that right 99.999 percent of the time, then it needs to be fixed because you can't trust it in the hands of someone that is not a tinker or understand how your HT is set up. In the end it is just TV, but that is what I purchased this box for, it need to work like it is suppose to. Right now I would say the box is @ 95%, that is a far cry from where it should be. For example I would bet $1000 or more that you could pick or make any recording on my DTivo and it would record or play with no problems. I might bet 10 or 20 bucks that any one recording on my HR20 would play back, and even less that it would record in the first place, you just don't know it is going to work or not.
BT, right on target. I've been trying to say this on this forum from the start. It's all about reliable recording. The other stuff can be annoying, but not mission critical for a DVR. It is just television, but that's not the point, right? I like your betting analogy. It really makes the issue clear.
 

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Nice, honest assessment of the box, Chris. A good read for anyone considering making the jump to it.

PS-I used a Dish PVR 508 for several years and was very happy with it. So, you subscribe to both satellite companies?
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
btmoore said:
If they can fix the issues of RECORDING and not locking up or producing failed recordings, I think this will be a fine box, particularly if they fix the dual buffers issue. The key point is this is a DVR and the R stands for recorder, if it doesn't do that right 99.999 percent of the time, then it needs to be fixed because you can't trust it in the hands of someone that is not a tinker or understand how your HT is set up. In the end it is just TV, but that is what I purchased this box for, it need to work like it is suppose to. Right now I would say the box is @ 95%, that is a far cry from where it should be. For example I would bet $1000 or more that you could pick or make any recording on my DTivo and it would record or play with no problems. I might bet 10 or 20 bucks that any one recording on my HR20 would play back, and even less that it would record in the first place, you just don't know it is going to work or not.
I totally agree. The recording issue is definitely a large issue with me as well. The new software (0xDC) that was just downloaded is supposed to take care of the problem. Cross your fingers.

911medic said:
PS-I used a Dish PVR 508 for several years and was very happy with it. So, you subscribe to both satellite companies?
Yes.
 

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Large Hairless ApeCutting Edge: ECHELON '08
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Chris, your thoughts on the HR20 are about in line with mine. Good review. The only exception I make is on something you probably don't use: closed captioning.

The closed captioning on the HR10 and my other tivos works flawlessly and I need it to do so on the HR20 as well. There are serval different problems (garbling, cutting off letters, timing issues of when, how lines appear) as well as some things I really would like implimented in regard to CC staying up when one hits 1x FF as well as when menus come up.

I'm ready to be an HR20 convert if OTA, dual buffers, stability, and CC fixes are all satisfactory. Not just ready--eager!
 

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Capmeister said:
I'm ready to be an HR20 convert if OTA, dual buffers, stability, and CC fixes are all satisfactory. Not just ready--eager!
OTA soon...latest firmware fixed tons of bugs....

....looks like we're getting close now....
 

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Large Hairless ApeCutting Edge: ECHELON '08
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I wasn't complaining about when OTA is enabled--my main DVR is still the HR10 in the living room. But with my DMA getting HD locals in the next few months, and my enthusiasm with the HR20 if they can work certain things out, I'm now planning on replacing two other SDTVs with HD and swapping out my tivos for HR20s. But it's an IF: If they can fix these things. I have no doubt that OTA is coming relatively soon and dual buffers will eventually happen. But as I've mentioned here before, my brother is deaf and closed captioning is a must. I can be interpreting missed or garbled lines every time we watch something. I don't like that CC disappears if I hit INFO. I don't like that CC disappears if I hit FF 1x, because we often scan through things at 1x on certain shows we watch together.

I can perhaps live without that, but cannot live without consistantly working, non-glitchy closed captioning. If they can't get that working, I will be very annoyed.
 

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The CC seems to be working a little better after the latest software update but it is still not where it should (needs to) be. The majority of the problems are with the local HD channels - CBS works fairly well, NBC is 50/50, ABC is nowhere to be seen and Fox isn't much better. The basic SD channels and the movie channels (both SD and HD) the CC works fairly well nearly all the time but there are still glitches. It isn't anywhere as reliable as my HR10 or my SA8300HD on Brighthouse, the latter has no probs with ANY channel :rolleyes:
 

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Stevesdigi said:
The CC seems to be working a little better after the latest software update but it is still not where it should (needs to) be. The majority of the problems are with the local HD channels - CBS works fairly well, NBC is 50/50, ABC is nowhere to be seen and Fox isn't much better. The basic SD channels and the movie channels (both SD and HD) the CC works fairly well nearly all the time but there are still glitches. It isn't anywhere as reliable as my HR10 or my SA8300HD on Brighthouse, the latter has no probs with ANY channel :rolleyes:
So far I didn't see any CC improvements with the latest software update. Last night on ABC (Lost) the CC was terrible and garbled to the point of being unreadable. Will have to check HBO HD - but before this software update it too was usually very garbled. Had to record Lost in SD upstairs on my Tivo (separate from the SD receiver) so my wife could watch it with CC. So far my wife is not too happy with the HR20.
 
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