Review by cypherstream
Good "Software, Multiroom, HD Picture Quality"
- Location: Reading,Berks,PA
- Cost Contract price not specified.
Bad "Rain fade, HD channel count, VOD, SD Picture Quality"
Overall "A little more advanced than Cable, but still not king (no one is)."
|Pre Sales information:|
Value for money:
So I had Comcast for years, but recently I moved out of their service area. I finally bought a house after 6 years of renting, so I figured I'll try something new this time. Originally I was going for Dish Network and their 922 DVR, but I couldn't get line of sight. Luckily DirecTV points South West from my area in eastern Pennsylvania. Dish Network points straight south. If you have trees on your property, it doesn't hurt to try either provider to see what type of look angle/line of sight you have.
So I have the new SWM (Single Wire Multiswitch) setup with an HR-24-200 (500 GB HD-DVR) and a H24 (HD box). At the time of this install, it's supposed to be the latest receivers available. I also have an ICK (Internet Connect Kit) which is basically Ethernet on one side and coax on the other. It bridges the internet from the Ethernet network onto the Coax network. The Multi-room DVR functions work pretty well. The whole system talks to each other over the Coax using DECA (DirecTV's version of Cable's MoCA). You can schedule recordings from any box, which is one step ahead of TVWorks/GuideWorks A28 Multiroom software on cable. The only thing you can't do is watch the same show on multiple receivers at a time. If youre watching "LA INK" for example in the living room, you cannot watch that same episode in the bedroom (it's greyed out). I think they lock the file being played back to satisfy the content providers - I don't see why there would be a technical limitation.
The guide software is far Superior to Cable. It's not perfect, as in not full HD, but it doesn't look as bad stretched because they squish the text in horizontally when the TV is configured for 16:9. Then when the graphics are stretched, the aspect is not way off when the UI fills the screen. Still a true HD UI would be welcome. There's on screen games (a ridiculous amount), there's TV Apps (which I can't get working - error code 11), a "Smart Search" that includes VOD and linear TV results, and poster art and actor/actress search. You can dive into a movie and look up cast members and see what other shows or movies they will appear on in the next two weeks. It's a pretty nice system, I have to say. You can create 2 sets of favorites lists and automatically filter the guide to show only your favorites list. I created one that is only channels I get, and I eliminated the swaths of shopping and infomercial channels that you get with Satellite. What's also cool is by default on the Hx24 series, SD duplicate channels are hidden. You can change this of course, but it sure does make tuning HD much easier. If I want Channel 6 in HD, we just type 6. How simple is that? No more nagging the wife "youre on the wrong channel" arguments! No more learning 2 sets of channel numbers like you do with Cable. This is single handedly the nicest feature of this guide, and I can't believe in 2010 not everyone is doing this. With 500GB hard drive and MPEG4 compression, who cares if your "wasting space" recording HD all the time. It looks better, even if it's 4:3 pillar-box.
DirecTV's SD compression is horrible. Comcast's digital SD looks far superior to DirecTV's Mpeg2 SD. However, with that being said DirecTV's MPEG4 HD channels look a tad better than Comcast's. By better, I would have to say more consistent, slightly more vivid color definition and less micro-blocking during screen transitions and fast action. It's very noticeable during screen movement, because there's less artifacting going on. However, Comcast truly has more HD (In world of more area's only). With DirecTV were missing E! HD, We HD, Style HD, CNN HN HD, Fuse HD, Investigation Discovery HD, TruTV HD, AMC HD, TCM HD, BBC America HD, DIY HD, GMC HD, GSN HD, History. International HD, IFC HD, LMN HD, Sundance HD and a few others. It's not a capacity problem either with the D12 satellite. They are just sitting on this extra capacity and not utilizing it. Not sure if there some heavy contract debates or what, but over at dbstalk there is a 500,000+ viewed thread on HD Anticipation and plenty of people are bringing up these channels (and others) which are missing. What does Beyoncé have to say for herself now? Upgrade? To better software and multiroom sure, but NOT the most HD channels or choices.
That brings me to VOD. Video on Demand UI is awesome. You can search. Each VOD channel has its own custom graphics. It looks professional, it's easy to read, and a whole boatload more information appears on screen than you get with Comcast. However the issue is that all content must be downloaded through your ISP before it can be viewed. This goes for the 4 minute music video to the 3 hour movie. Yes, even those small clips must download first. When you choose a VOD program, the option is "Record". When you select this it will appear in your playlist along with a download progress bar. Once the bar turns green, you can start playing it without running into a buffering or contention issue. It will stay in your playlist until you delete it, or until it expires (the date is listed) just like regular Cable VOD content expires after a while. So while it works, you have to plan ahead so programs download. Because of this downloading, VOD is only available on the DVR. You can use Multiroom to play it on the other receivers once the download is complete, but the VOD menu's only appear on the DVR. I find this frustrating, because if all the receivers are networked, why can't any one just instruct the download to go to the main DVR and then play it from there, like network attached storage? Also there is not nearly as much content as Comcast, but I don't think anyone comes close to Comcast. Like music video's? Well Music Choice and Havoc do not have a deal with DirecTV. That's about 95% of the music videos on cable VOD. You do get Fuse on demand, MTV on demand and Concerts TV, but that's it. Movies on the other hand are the usual selection, but they are pricey. I'd rather just stream Netflix for much cheaper. That's the thing too... Netflix figured out how to STREAM movies to all kinds of devices - from a cellphone to a Wii, to a PS3, to a Netflix integrated TV, etc... Why can't DirecTV VOD STREAM like Netflix? Why does it make you "Download" everything? Hopefully they figure this out, because until then Cable has the clear edge here.
Last but not least - Rain Fade. Now over the years dish design and receivers have gotten better, but it still does happen. My signals on the 101 satellite hover in the 90's, and I even get 100 on a few transponders. But we had a NASTY storm a week ago with some serious lightning. Were talking trees blowing like crazy, sirens going off like you wouldn't believe. It was intense. What happened to DirecTV? Well it started macro blocking, turning green, etc... and then the dreaded "Searching for Satellite" message came up. National HD goes out first, then Local HD, then finally SD. Now it rained yesterday off and on, and there was no interruption in service. So it could just be that we had a freak storm a week ago that caused it. So what happens to a recording if you lose service? Well you still get most of the recording, but when you play it back, the system warns you that part of the program did not record due to loss of signal. When you get to that part of the program, it just skips over it. Looks just like someone hit the 30 sec skip function. So recordings are thankfully not corrupted.
The remotes are pretty great. They are 2 way remotes, so when programming them you use the DirecTV on screen menu to pick out your components for TV, AV1 and AV2 functions. When you select your component and model, the receiver actually talks back to the remote and programs it for you! No messy codes to type in. How easy is that? I'm telling you, the software on this thing is pretty slick. The HR-24 remote is RF compatible as well. I changed the remote to RF (from IR) and the whole UI response went up 10 fold. I can also use the remote from the dining room, or use it buried under a blanket, or whatever. RF remotes are the way to go, for sure. The regular HD box will accept an RF remote, but it does not come with one. When you go in the menu to change the remote to RF, it asks you to type in a 6 digit number or so. This pairs the remote to the receiver, so yes; you can have multiple RF remotes on different receivers in one household.
Other feature frills include being able to program your DVR from DirecTV's website or iPhone app. Although you cannot manage your series priority. Comcast let you do this, and I miss it dearly.
Overall it's a pretty neat service, but it does have its drawbacks. From the lack of national linear HD, the very poor SD quality (which wouldn't matter if they added more HD), and that VOD can't stream - it must download part (or most) of the program first. It doesn't make it for everyone. Also you need line of sight and you need to be tolerant when the signal goes out during storms.
I have a 30 day risk free trial until my 24 month commitment starts. Will I keep it? Possibly. My ear's to the ground on the National HD channel situation, and if it doesn't sound like that's improving, I might have to go with the local cable provider (Service Electric). If Comcast was in the area, it would be a no brainier. I would stick with Comcast in a heartbeat. They just came out with Multiroom and they have about 101 national HD channels in the area. I know cable is a hit or a miss, however.... but in my area Comcast is number 1. Their on screen guide software may not be pretty, but they have the content to back their name up.
member for 9 years, 3972 visits, last login: a few hours ago
updated 3.2 years ago