HR10-250 DirectTV HD Tivo DVR Reviewed

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Every year new words that represent the latest way people speak are added to dictionaries. Sometimes fad words are added because they are used by a large percentage of the "groovy" population. Product names are included that have become generic terms for an entire genre of goods. (Think: facial tissue or Kleenex?) A new product word that can be found in your Funk & Wagnall's is TiVo.

Additional Resources
• Read more about DirecTV here.
• Read other HD DVRs, Satellite Receivers and Cable Boxes from Moxi, TiVo and many others here.

What was once a name for a small brand of digital video recorders (DVR) has become the term for DVRs in general. TiVo is also commonly used as a verb to describe the digital recording of a TV program with any PVR hardware or software. So well known is TiVo, it has been mentioned on all the hit television shows and accepted as the standard by which all other DVRs are measured.

The DVR is a consumer component allowing users to capture TV programming digitally from antenna, cable or satellite and save it to internal hard drive storage. DVRs with TiVo service function like VCRs, but use non-removable hard disks and have sophisticated software to record and manipulate programming. The electronics and software programming was created by TiVo Inc., a company started by veterans of Silicon Graphics and Time Warner's Full Service Network digital video system.

TiVo recorders have seen many upgrades since inception in 1999. Significant software upgrades and hardware technologies (larger hard drives, integrated satellite receivers and a home media option to play digital music and view slideshows in various rooms) have emerged. When news broke that long-time partners DirecTV and TiVo were planning to release a high definition satellite recorder, TiVo aficionados were ecstatic. Since the first announcement of the October 2003 release date, calls poured into DirecTV and TiVo. Both companies knew they had a captive audience, and they wanted to make sure they delivered the best product available to market, so beta testing ran on for what seemed like years.

Unique Features - The October 2003 release date was pushed back to January 2004, and then March, April and finally June. Wait speculations included TiVo wanting to produce an OpenCable-compatible HD TiVo, which would be an integrated HD TiVo/cable box following industry standards. Other thoughts were design changes, such as the inclusion of four tuners for recording two programs at the same time. Some believed that there were so many bugs, it took more time than the designers expected. In any event, the delayed roll out of the DirecTV HD
TiVo units has been hotly discussed in places like the TiVo Community Forum online.

The unit comes with a 175-page manual, "peanut" remote control, and cables for composite, component, S-Video, HDMI and HDMI-to-DVI connections. Outputs are two USB2 ports, one serial and one IR (all four reserved for future use), one component video, one HDMI, one S-Video, one composite video, one stereo audio, one optical digital audio, and one modem jack. It's noteworthy that this is the first DirecTV unit ever to offer HDMI interface. The reserved USB ports that have been used previously in Series 2 TiVo units for the Home Media Option are not enabled at this time, but plans to open up streaming photos and audio to the HR10-250 are intended future upgrades. In fact, it won't be long before XM Radio can be streamed wirelessly from a personal computer through TiVo to your home entertainment system. As far as inputs, there are only a coaxial 11F jack and two satellite LNB connections.

The DirecTV HD TiVo is a HD satellite receiver and recorder in one. This combination is packaged in a rather small silver case. It is simple in design with a few control buttons on the face and lights to display the current video output format and recording status. Features include access to HD and SD DirecTV programming, as well as off-air ATSC digital broadcasts from the same receiver in digital form. The aforementioned four tuners (two OTA and two satellite) allow recording of two sources at the same time while watching a previously recorded third show from a 250 GB hard drive that stores up to 30 hours of HD programming or up to 200 hours of SD (or a combination). The TiVo software has many features that I have come to love, such as a 30-minute buffer of live programming to pause for bathroom breaks, instant replay to review an amazing touchdown pass and numerous fast forward and rewind choices. Popular features such as the Season Pass option to record an entire season of shows is included, as well as the many search functions for finding and recording a show.

Read Much More on Page 2

HTR Product Rating for HR10-250 DirectTV HD Tivo DVR

Criteria Rating

Performance

4.5

Value

5

Overall

5

Disagree with our product rating? Email us and tell us why you think this product should receive a higher rating.


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Installation/Setup/Ease of Use
Since I was stepping up to satellite service from cable, DirecTV arranged for a local satellite installation company to install the new hardware. The HD satellite receiver requires an elliptical triple low noise blocker (LNB) multi-satellite dish to receive programming from DirecTV's three satellites at 101, 110 and 119 degrees. This dish, along with an additional OTA antenna for local broadcasts was mounted to my chimney, properly aimed southward and connected to the receiver. Component video cables were run to a Mitsubishi WS-65611 65-inch HDTV and a digital audio cable ran to a NAD 1763 A/V receiver powering MB Quart Vera speakers. After it was activated by the DirecTV people, I ran into a problem. The receiver showed a near perfect satellite strength, but it could not acquire satellite data to watch or record television. This is a common problem with non-HD DirecTV TiVo receivers, so I tried the same recommended fix. I unplugged the power to reset the system and booted it back up. After dozens of attempts, more visits from the satellite installation guys and phone calls to DirecTV, it was determined that I had a bad receiver. DirecTV sent a replacement to me overnight and when it was installed, I had similar results. Determined, I reset the system and double-checked my wiring until I had a successful satellite link-up. The HR10-250 came to life, began downloading the software update, and tested my phone line.

The first thing I had to do was watch some HD programming. From Discovery HD to HBO HD, I was amazed at how clear everything was. It was like cleaning off your windshield after driving 300 miles through bug-infested farmland. The picture quality seemed almost 3-D compared to cable and was better than the HD I had received from a Terk OTA antenna previously. The video output format display on the front panel changes from 480i, 480p, 720p and 1080i, depending on the source resolution. Although the output format is automatically switched to match the source material, you can change the output format the TiVo is using through a setup menu or by pressing the Up arrow on the remote while watching a program. With the press of the Ratio button on the remote control, the unit will toggle between full screen and panel view during SD broadcasts.

Ultimately, the HR10-250 receiver is very user-friendly. Navigating the menus and recording different content is a snap. There are two channel guide styles from which to choose. One is a typical TiVo-style guide that displays a list of channels on the left side of the screen and upcoming programs on the right. The second is of the DirecTV-style with long rows of each channel displayed at once. The advantage to the DirecTV-style of guide is all HD programming has an HD logo for easy screening. The down side of this style is the guide loads very slowly versus the TiVo-style guide.

There are no adjustments for video quality as in other TiVo devices, so programming is easier and every recording looks sharp. I never completely filled up the recorder with recordings; however, if hard drive space is a concern, an upgrade on the drawing board is an external 300 GB hard drive that would connect to one of the unused USB ports.

Final Take - Many simple features add to the package. For instance, the remote can be programmed to control other devices, and switching resolution on the fly is straightforward. A few complaints were the slow channel guide load time, and channel logos are missing from the list of recorded shows, so you can't tell what channel was recorded without selecting the program. There are no zoom, crop or justify modes either. Nevertheless, these problems may be addressed in future software downloads.

Hardware problems are tougher to tame. The attrition rate may be higher than the ten percent average reported. I was batting .500, but to be fair I did get two of the first units on the market. In addition, saving recorded HD programs to anything else isn't possible as of this writing. Owners of D-VHS HD VCRs were left out in the cold because the HR10-250 receiver doesn't have a 1394 output. Therefore, until HD DVD or Blu-ray technology emerges, saving HD programming isn't an option.

So was the wait worth it? Yes. The initial cost is a bit steep, but prices will drop. The ability to record satellite HD and play it back at my whim is terrific. The picture is incredible and there is ample storage space on the hard drive. It lives up to the standards other DirecTV TiVo receivers set and with some upgrades down the road, it will perform even better. I can't imagine watching live television ever again.

HR10-250 DirecTV HD TiVo DVR
Integrated Receiver Decoder
Satellite Receiver
Digital Video Recording
250 GB Hard Drive
480i, 480p, 720p and 1080i Video Formats
Off-Air ATSC Input
2 Digital Satellite Inputs
S-Video Output
Composite Video Output
Component HD Video Output
HDMI AudioNideo Output
Audio Output
Digital TosLink Optical
Stereo UR RCA Outputs
33.6 Telephone Modem
2 USB Port (Future Use)
Built-in Fan
3"H x15"W x 12"D
1-year Warranty
MSRP: $999 (plus service charge)


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