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
Digital Video Recording
250 GB Hard Drive
480i, 480p, 720p and 1080i Video Formats
Off-Air ATSC Input
2 Digital Satellite Inputs
Composite Video Output
Component HD Video Output
HDMI AudioNideo Output
Digital TosLink Optical
Stereo UR RCA Outputs
33.6 Telephone Modem
2 USB Port (Future Use)
3"H x15"W x 12"D
MSRP: $999 (plus service charge)