DirecTV HR23 Satellite Receiver and HD DVR Reviewed

DirecTV HR23 Satellite Receiver and HD DVR Reviewed

This is the next step up from DirecTV's HR21. It has a larger hard drive which allows for about 100 hours of HD recording and 400 hours of SD recording. No BBC box is required to get the full HD lineup. However, even through you pay to "buy" this DVR, DirecTV still owns it and charges monthly equipment fees...

DirecTV-HR23-reviewed.gifThe HR23, which has been on the market since mid-2009, is currently DirecTV's primary HD DVR (a new HR24 model was purportedly on display at CES 2010, but there's no official release on it yet). We have not performed a hands-on review of the HR23, but this model is, in many respects, similar to the HR21 that we previously reviewed--with a few noteworthy changes. The HR23 has a larger hard drive than the HR21: 500GB versus 320GB, which allows for about 100 hours of HD recording and 400 hours of SD recording. Like the HR21, the HR23 has dual DirecTV tuners, which allows you to record two shows simultaneously or watch one show while you record another. However, the new box uses wide-band tuners, so you no longer need the small, external B-Band Converter boxes required by the HR21 to tune in the complete HD channel lineup. The box supports MPEG-2 and higher-quality MPEG-4 signals. It does not contain internal ATSC tuners to pull in over-the-air HD content.

The back panel offers one HDMI, one component video, and one S-video output, plus dual composite video outputs. On the audio side, you can output PCM or Dolby Digital 5.1 signals via the HDMI, optical digital, or coaxial digital audio outputs; two stereo analog audio outputs are also included. The box features two Ethernet ports: One port serves as a pass-through to attach other networkable devices, while the second port allows you to add the box to your home network. Through this network connection, you can order video-on-demand titles and stream photos, movies, and music from your PC to the HR23. DirecTV recently launched its DirecTV2PC application that allows you to stream content recorded on the HR23 back to your PC. The HR23 also has two USB ports that are currently inactive, as well as a phone jack for pay-per-view and Caller ID display and an eSATA drive to add an external hard drive. The HR23's front-panel cosmetic looks very similar to that of the HR21, with some slight changes to button design and illumination. The box has a gloss-black finish, and its front panel features a navigation wheel and buttons for power, guide, menu, record, active, info, and resolution. The Active button launches DirecTV Active, which provides access to local weather, lottery, horoscope, and customer service information. LEDs indicate the resolution of the current channel.
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The HR23 supports 480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i, and 1080p resolutions. (Some of the company's video-on-demand titles are available in a 1080p resolution.) The video setup menu includes a native option to output every channel at its native resolution, which allows you to bypass the box's internal scaler. The supplied remote control is the same model that accompanies other DirecTV set-top boxes: It has a generally intuitive layout, with the ability to control a TV and two additional components. The remote lacks backlighting but supports both IR and RF control. The HR23 has a built-in RF antenna, so you do not need to attach any external device in order to control the box via RF.

In terms of DVR features, the HR23 shares the HR21's 90-minute buffer and 14-day program guide. You can set up manual recordings and series recordings, with options to record first runs only. The List menu is easy to access and shows you how much hard-drive space is available. You can schedule programs remotely via the DirecTV website, via your mobile phone, or via the DirecTV iPhone/iPod touch app. A new development that has DirecTV fans excited is the company's Multiroom HD DVR functionality. Right now, DirecTV is beta testing this option: If you own multiple DirecTV HD DVRs, you can go into the setup menu and enable the beta test that allows you to watch recorded content on various models around the home. DirecTV has also announced a new non-DVR set-top box called the H24 that will support the multiroom feature, so you'll be able to view recorded content through this set-top box, even though it is not a DVR itself.

Competition and Comparison
Compare the DirecTV HR23 against its competition by reading our reviews for AT&T U-verse DVR and servcie and the Scientific Atlanta Explore 8300 HD cable receiver.  Also, visit our All Things HD Recevier & DVR section for more information on a variety of products.

Click to Page 2 for The High Points, The Low Points and The Conclusion.

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High Points
• The DirecTV's HR23 has a large 500GB hard drive, with the option to add external storage.

• This receiver does not require the external BBC boxes to tune in the full HD channel lineup. • Some reports suggest that the HR23 is quieter and offers better A/V performance than previous DirecTV's HD DVR models.
• The HR23's network connection allows you to view media files stored on your PC, and you can view recorded DVR content on your PC with the DirecTV2PC application.
• The HR23 will display TV channels at their native resolution, so you can bypass the box's internal processing.
• Some VOD content is available at a 1080p resolution. 
• DirecTV is launching a multiroom DVR function, and this box is compatible with that technology.

Low Points
• Even though you must pay up front to "purchase" an HR23, you do not technically own it: DirecTV still charges monthly equipment lease fees, in addition to DVR service charges.
• This box does not feature a built-in wireless network connection.
• DirecTV does not support access to Internet services like Netflix, YouTube, Pandora, and the like.
• The HR23 does not have internal over-the-air ATSC tuners.

Conclusion
The HR23 is a worthy HD DVR with a large 500GB hard drive, a fairly intuitive interface, compatibility with DirecTV's new multiroom function, and the ability to send and receive streamed content over a home network. The HR23 has a $199 asking price, and DirecTV generally doesn't offer the rebates or equipment deals you find with Dish Network and the cable companies. Plus, as I stated above, you don't technically own the box and still must pay lease fees and DVR service fees. Unfortunately, for DirecTV subscribers, there's no getting around these issues if you want to enjoy HD DVR service, since the TiVo and Moxi boxes are not compatible with satellite.

Speaking of TiVo, DirecTV has rekindled this partnership. A new DirecTV/TiVo HD DVR was supposed to arrive in 2009, but it did not materialize. The company says 2010 is the year; so, if you prefer the TiVo interface, you might want to wait before investing in the HR23.

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