Review by dipswich
Good "Finally, competition! Works as advertised, for the most part."
- Location: Raleigh,Wake,NC
- Cost: $136 per month
- Install: about 4 days
Bad "Total Home DVR far from perfect. Internet first hop is 21ms. Outbound email hassles."
Overall "Meets most people's needs, but worth a close look before committing, especially for the tech-savvy."
|Pre Sales Information:|
Value for money:
(ratings match consensus)
U-verse just became available in Raleigh. I ordered on 12/11/08 after being surprised to see it listed as "available" on a cursory check on the website. I chose the first available install date, 12/15 for "U200" TV and "Max" Internet. I didn't know at that time that 12/15 was actually the go-live date for this market.
Installer showed up on-time 9am after calling 20 minutes earlier. He showed great enthusiasm over the product and set expectations high. If I wasn't already excited about U-verse, I was by 9:05. The tech had a lot of salesman in him!
In my online order, I had added a comment that I knew the phone line from the street to the house was cut. That comment wasn't reviewed before the install and an outdoor crew wasn't scheduled. Normally, a lineman would've visited first, somewhere from a day early up to even a half-hour before, to drop a cable. The tech and I had to wait 5 hours for facilities to be connected (a 20-minute job), but I was kept informed.
Once the line was in, everything was smooth sailing. Since I already have structured wiring installed, wiring consisted of routing a wire from one side of the garage to the other to get to an RJ-45 jack. We placed the gateway near my wiring panel, patched it in, and hooked up the set-top boxes. The tech programmed the remotes and then went over the features of the TV and Internet services.
Given that it was day zero and I had U-verse, I'd say the install was a success.
The service has been up, running, and stable. I do notice some breakups on TV, so I hold some reservations there. But, the video quality is good. The standard definition channels look far superior to the digital cable equivalents. The HD picture is acceptable, as well, although it isn't quite as sharp as the OTA HD I was used to. Other than the occasional breakups, the quality easily meets or exceeds expectations.
The "Total Home DVR" feature is great in that recorded shows can be viewed on any TV from a single DVR. This is the feature that drove me to U-verse TV. I've had Media Center DVRing by OTA HD, and I've looked at media extenders without finding one I'm satisfied with. (The other reason I signed up was the "no contract" offer. That could be seen as either confidence or marketing desperation, but I like it.)
The playback part of the DVR is fine, but one glaring deficiency needs addressed. Recordings can be scheduled from the DVR box or the web, but not from other set-top boxes. This could be fixed by locking up the programmers for a few more hours, and it needs to be fixed, so that the record button can be hit from a guide on any STB. After that, there is a lot of potential for improvements over time. The upside is good, so overall I'm positive that improvements loom and that AT&T is working on them.
As for the Internet, I'm getting my rated 10/1.5 speeds for Max Internet, but the latency is worse than cable. There are two reasons. First, the first hop on U-verse is 21ms away due to the interleaving profile used for error correction. That's quite an up-front hit for latency. Next, practically everything routes to Atlanta before leaving the AT&T network. Not that cable always takes the shortest route, but it comes closer most of the time. In my experiments to various datacenters around the country, Road Runner put U-verse to shame for latency. For example, pinging a Raleigh datacenter on AT&T is 63ms, routing through Atlanta while pinging it with Road Runner is 24ms, jumping networks without leaving town.
For downloading and streaming, the increased latency isn't that notable. For more interactive applications like gaming or remote desktop, the extra latency is noticeable.
I'm still on the fence about whether to keep the Internet portion. Yes, it's faster and cheaper (my Road Runner is 7/1 Business Class for $105), but I think cable will close the bandwidth gap at the flick of a switch. It will be interesting to see AT&T's response.
Pre-sales information: 5. The information is out there on the U-verse site and forums. I enjoyed being able to directly compare channel line-ups side-by-side vs. the "lower tier + these" methods competitors use.
Install co-ordination: 4. Tech was on-time and the install happened, but I would have been happier without the 5-hour delay getting the line ready. Also, I wasn't convinced until I heard from the installer that I'd see anyone on 12/15. After the online order, there was an automated confirmation and nothing else. No human (or human-initiated) contact or followups.
Connection reliability: Preliminary 3. For now, I'm putting reliability at a 3 due to picture breakups but no downtime. I'm not filling it in on the "official" grid yet because I don't think 5 days is long enough to rate.
Tech support: Unrated. Haven't needed; can't rate.
Value for money: 4. This is comparative to the competition, as I'm still justifying that paying much of anything for the crap they program on the cable channels is worth it.
All-in-all, I'm satisfied.
Changed price to reflect now-revealed taxes/fees (4%) and $2/mo fee increase for the additional STB that will take effect on February 1, 2009.
Filled in "connection reliability" at 3. Picture/audio still breaks up occasionally, enough for me to lean closer to a "3" than a "4".
Filled in tech support at 4. I called about DHCP reservations/port forwarding to my downstream LAN to not have to reconfigure all my devices or double NAT. The fact is that the 2wire firmware in the residential gateway is too stripped down to get this working the way I wanted, but support seemed competent even though the best solution was unattainable. I ended up just bridging (DMZ+ in 2wire-terminology) my old router to the RG to not bother playing with the rest of the network.
Also, another important observation-- the local channels don't include the over-the-air digital subchannels. I think it's important for all the OTA-available programs to be available.
At this time, I think I'll be dropping TV as I don't think the value is there thanks to all the channels you have to pay for but never want to actually watch.
I've lowered tech support to "3". This is more for "features", but "features" isn't usually associated with Internet and isn't a choice. It turns out that email for U-verse is shear crap.
1) Port 25 is blocked.
2) TLS authentication only. It isn't good enough that someone is sending from an AT&T IP address that can be traced to a physical address?
3) It's practically impossible to use it for sending mail under alternate roles. Despite authenticating to send, one still has to register and validate outgoing e-mail addresses. I understand spam fighting, but this is overboard.
It breaks a lot of stuff (like UPS or NAS notifications with firmware default email addresses that can't be received at, using one's own domain easily with throw-away email addresses, using an older but well-liked mail reader, ...). When email is this restrictive, it isn't the Internet anymore.
Lowered value to "3". The negatives are piling on... I never had these problems with RoadRunner.
I'm standing pat on my ratings.
Since my last review, the Internet tier was upped to 12Mbps without an additional fee. Also, the "Phase 2" update to the set top boxes is welcomed to allow erasing recordings on "non-DVR" boxes. But, until "trick play" is available in "Phase 3", the "whole house DVR" differentiator isn't complete. Finally, I'm not experiencing any picture breakups.
However, I've also started to see some of the slow responses to the remote along with a couple of other oddities (30-sec skip backing up instead, inconsistent guide data, infrequent picture freezing on DVR playback). Also, I'm experiencing an outage right now, 24 hours old. The first tech has visited, but the problem is due to low/no signal outside the house, so a VRAD tech is being assigned. I expect the problem to be resolved within 24 hours, and if it isn't I'll update the review again.
Pluses and minuses are somewhat even, hence no change to the net ratings.
Oh-- I did try to drop TV service, but AT&T saved me with an offer for a reduced rate. I'll still be reconsidering after that expires, depending on my satisfaction at that time.
It's been a year, and I've bumped up the ratings on the reliability and tech support. I haven't been experiencing breakups, and AT&T has been upgrading things behind the scenes to improve features and reliability. And they have warn about pending updates with on-screen messages and automated phone calls. Overall, they give good information.
Unfortunately, I am also canceling the service at this time, primarily because my "value" rating is stuck at 3, even with a "Free HD" retention discount that wouldn't have expired for another 7 months.
For TV, several factor added up including lack of digital sub-channels, poorer HD quality, some channels moving to the HD premium tier vs. when I signed up, and just too high a price for the entertainment value.
It was a tougher call on the Internet side, but with Clear 4G lit in the area and winning on price ($50/mo for 2 separate and mobile 10/1 connections vs. $55 for a single U-verse 12/1.5), AT&T loses out for now. I will go back in a heartbeat, though, if Clear stumbles.
I ended up only cancelling the video portion of the service. Clear never proved reliable enough (but is still great for roaming access). No problem with the Internet. Latency has improved noticeably (from better routes to various locations), but it still isn't near the level of a cable connection.
I will say this, though-- after seeing other cable/satellite programming, while U-verse is obviously compressed digital video, it is very competitive picture-quality-wise. Its biggest problem is with the high action scenes.
Have started the wheels in motion to transition service and cancel the remaining U-verse Internet service. Caps. Not that I exceed the announced cap (I'm sure I don't, however announcing the cap before making the meter available is stupid), but the overage rate is in the stratosphere. $10 per 1TB would be fair. $10 per 250GB would be justifiable. $10 per 50GB is just rapacious. I won't sign up to that.
Too bad, because otherwise the service has been good.
Final Update 4/14/11:
All cancelled. Easy enough, and handled well by the rep on the other end of the phone.
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updated 3.6 years ago