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Over the last few years Comcast has started to label their boxes as different numeric levels of "RNG" (Residential Network Gateway). This is a Comcast designation for cable boxes that meet a certain level of features and performance. RNG labeled cable boxes must decode both MPEG2 and MPEG4/AVC (H.264) [for future uses], have an integrated DOCSIS 2.0 (or better) modem, and be capable of supporting Tru2Way (formerly called OCAP) middleware for future software updates (i.e. X1).
The RNG designation allows Comcast to have a standard grading scheme for boxes from all set-top box vendors (i.e. Motorola, Pace, Cisco, and any other brands that Comcast chooses to buy from in the future). An "N" in the model number tells us that it has MoCA networking for AnyRoom DVR support.
It is expected that boxes compliant with the RNG specifications will eventually get the X1 Guide software. Link to initial report from Light Reading. More confirmation from Ted Hodgins, Sr. Director, Video Product Development - Navigation, in Media & Entertainment for Comcast, here:
RNG100 -- This designation has only been used for one Cisco box (a relabeled Cisco Explorer 1540C). It is unique in the fact that this is the only standard definition cable box to have meet the requirements for an RNG. All others in the RNG line-up are HD capable.
RNG110 -- This designation has only been used by one Pace box, which Pace actually named the RNG110 on their manufacturer site. It has no AnyRoom client abilities, it is a simple HD capable digital cable box. Commonly deployed to customers who do not wish to have a DVR for their first TV or as a second room TV box. It also comes in a variant with an RF coaxial output (ch. 3/4) for legacy customers who would like a modern cable box and/or have a reason to use both an HDMI connection and an analog RF one (i.e. a VCR, DVD recorder, etc.).
RNG150 -- This has only been used for a single Cisco cable box (a relabeled Cisco Explorer 1640HDC), as the designation implies, it does not support being an AnyRoom client. It appears to be roughly equivalent to the Pace RNG110 used in Motorola areas.
RNG150N -- These boxes are widely used and come from all three main vendors (Cisco, Motorola and Pace). They are made to be used as AnyRoom DVR clients and are also commonly deployed as single HDTV boxes for bedrooms, etc.
New deployments of the X1 DVR use Pace branded RNG150N's (model numbers "PR150BNM X1" and "PR150BNC") in a new custom chassis loaded with the X1 Guide software as their boxes for other rooms. More recenty, this Pace model is also being used for regular installations (non-X1 customers), the box will boot to a diagnostic screen and download the standard i-Guide software, overwriting the X1 version.
RNG200 -- This an HD DVR without AnyRoom abilities. This code has only been used for a relabeled Cisco Explorer 8540HDC/8550HDC.
RNG200N -- This is the top level of features. It is an AnyRoom capable DVR. This generic labeling has been applied to Cisco DVRs and to Motorola DVRs. Pace also has an RNG200N on their products website, but it appears Comcast is not using these yet.
In Motorola systems RNG200N refers to two models: either DCX3400/M or most recently DCX3501/M. The DCX3501/M shows up as code "MOR200BN" in the equipment listing of the Comcast customer website.
Like Pace, Cisco has started to offer up product pages using the Comcast naming scheme in addition to their traditional "Explorer" naming scheme for other cable providers. The newest Cisco DVR that Comcast and Cisco label as RNG200N is basically a Cisco Explorer 8652HDC.
NOTE: If you are in a Motorola area and want to find the actual manufacturer's model number, check the bottom or the backside of the cable box for the FCC label. The front panel was customized by Comcast with an RNG designation, so it is not a reliable way to find the actual model number.
X1 is Comcast's next generation platform that is HTML5 based. It has nothing to do with any of the previous legacy guides such as the blue and white i-Guide or SARA.
For information about X1 and AnyRoom please see the X1 DVR with AnyRoom Functionality FAQ from the official Comcast forums.
Comcast has a direct hotline for X1 customer support: 1-877-896-8678
X1 is a totally new guide software written as Tru2Way (also called OCAP) middleware. As such it should be fairly easily ported to different vendors compliant cable boxes.
The X1 Guide is also referred to as "The X1 Experience" and sometimes referred to as "On Screen Guide 3.0", this terminology typically has only been used in Scientific Atlanta/Cisco markets.
You can see the new user interface and features here: »xfinity.comcast.net/x1/
There is a new codename "X2" software, this is an internal code name only, the end result will still be branded "X1", it is an evolution of the first generation X1 software, the X2 guide features a recommendations engine (ala TiVo), cloud DVR storage, and other enhancements/refinements. It is expected in early 2014.
Somewhat confusingly "X1" is also the common name used for Comcast's first DVR that implements the X1 Guide software. So for the purposes of clarity in this FAQ we call the guide software the "X1 Guide" and the DVR the "X1 DVR". The X1 DVR and Guide combination was called codename "Xcalibur" during testing.
Cable Box Hardware
Much like the "RNG" designation used for current digital cable boxes there are different levels of "X" designations being used for different levels of features and boxes can come from a variety of vendors. These boxes are based on Comcast's new Reference Design Kit (RDK). Unlike previous cable boxes, the RDK made boxes have a common physical design standard, so boxes from different vendors will now look nearly identical.
All currently deployed X1 set-top boxes come with the XR2 remote control (Version R2 or newer). The online user guide for the remote is available here:
The current "X1 DVR" is made by Pace. This has been known by the codenames "Parker" and "Spectrum" while under development.
ARRIS-Motorola is the second announced provider of XG1 hardware, model "XG1-M" ("M" for Motorola). It appears to be a customized variant of the DCX3600M. Announced in June 2013, it will be available in Q3 2013 (this now appears to have slipped to Q1 2014). Press Release.
The secondary boxes that are being used with current X1 DVR deployments are a special build of a Pace RNG150N. Currently it is the only known RNG series set-top box used with the X1 platform. Some technical info is available from this press release here.
There are also very small (similar to the size of a DTA) client-only boxes called "Xi3" coming with the launch of the X2 update from a variety of vendors, including: Pace, ARRIS-Motorola, Humax and Technicolor, that will allow the X1 enabled DVRs to provide multi-room DVR services. These boxes are tunerless, they rely totally on MoCA networking from the main DVR and the DVR's tuners to do all TV functions. This is similar to how the TiVo Mini works. It is expected to be paired with the XG5 "headless" gateway.
Original Xi3 design as seen in FCC documents
Newer Xi3 design and voice control enabled remote as seen at The Cable Show in June 2013
Lastly, there is an "XG5" specification which is meant to be a whole home solution (a Media Server Gateway) that combines DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem, wireless router, digital voice telephony, digital cable DVR, and transcoding hardware for streaming TV inside the house, into one box. It intended to be "headless" (i.e. not connected to a TV), instead it would be put somewhere near the cable line into the house (perhaps in a closet) where it will function as a server to other clients including MoCA enabled cable boxes, and transcoded video streams to smart phones and tablets. Pace and ARRIS-Motorola are producing hardware compliant with the XG5 specs. A few more details can be found here. The ARRIS-Motorola version, Model MG2402, was shown at CES in the Intel booth. It is expected in early 2014 with the X2 guide update.
How to use a Motorola DVR
Motorola Customer Premises Equipment (Set-Tops)
About 80% of Comcast's systems are Motorola based.
There are a few series of Motorola set tops.
The low-end Motorola 68k models include the DCT-1700, 1800, and 2000. Due to the limited memory and processing power, these models have a reduction in amount of guide data that is stored in memory. While they can still support simple ITV applications, the local area will need to employ guide filters to these set tops that prevent them from loading a full set of guide listings. Also ITV transparency elements are not available, as well as video scaling. The general performance (navigation and channel changing) is much slower. These set tops are SD capable ONLY. Back in the early days of HD, a Motorola HDD-200 sidecar box could be connected to the data port on DCT-2000's to enable HD decoding.
The mid-range Motorola MIPS-32 models include the DCT-2500, DCT-700, DCH-70, DCH-100, DCH-200. These models are noticeably faster than the older 68k models. They support video scaling, which means you will see the current channel scaled down to fit in the upper right corner of the guide. These set tops are SD capable ONLY.
The high-end Motorola MIPS-64 models encompass a larger subset of equipment:
DCT-5100 Original HD cable box (DVI Interface)
DCT-6200 Widely used HD cable box (DVI Interface)
DCT-6208 Single Tuner HD DVR (DVI Interface) (80GB)
DCT-6412/6416 Dual Tuner HD DVR (DVI Interface, except for Phase 3 revision which has HDMI) (120GB/160GB)
DCT-3412/3416 digital-only Dual Tuner HD DVR with HDMI (120GB/160GB)
DCH-6412/6416 CableCARD Dual Tuner HD DVR with HDMI (120GB/160GB)
DCH-3412/3416 CableCARD digital-only Dual Tuner Cablecard DVR HD DVR with HDMI (120GB/160GB)
DCX-100 MPEG4 compatible SD digital-only cable box with 1GHz tuning (M Models support MoCA) and CableCARD
DCX-700 Small Form Factor MPEG4 compatible HD digital-only box with 1GHz tuning (M Models support MoCA) and CableCARD
DCX-3200 MPEG4 compatible HD digital-only box with 1GHz tuning (M Models support MoCA) and CableCARD
DCX-3400 MPEG4 compatible digital-only dual-tuner HD DVR with 1GHz tuning (M Models support MoCA) and CableCARD
DCX-3501 (AKA RNG200N) MPEG4 compatible digital-only dual-tuner HD DVR with 1GHz tuning (M Models support MoCA) and CableCARD
The latest DCX models have the most available memory and processing and can be configured with as much as 512MB RAM, and 500GB Hard Drive (DCX-3501). The DCX-3x00 series also allows native HD resolution pass-through, video sharpness post processing, and can decode Dolby Digital Plus. The DCX models also run much cooler than their DCH / DCT cousins. All i-Guide and Interactive TV features will work on the MIPS-64 based boxes.
The Motorola naming scheme is as follows:
DCT series - integrated security (no CableCARD slot)
DCH series - separable security (CableCARD pre-installed)
DCX series - separable security (CableCARD pre-installed), Advanced functions (Processor, Memory, MoCA, MPEG4, Dolby Digital Plus, 1GHz Tuning)
QIP series - integrated security (no CableCARD slot), similar to DCX series with MoCA and IPTV functionality paired with traditional QAM tuning. This series is only used for Verizon FIOS.
DTA stands for Digital Transport Adapter. Comcast also refers to them simply as "digital adapters." It's an inexpensive and very basic digital cable device that allows you to watch all Limited Basic and Expanded Service channels that were migrated from analog to digital (Usually the first 99 channels). DTAs will not receive premium channels such as HBO, Showtime, etc. Consult your local Comcast center for an applicable channel lineup card for details.
The DTA does not offer any advanced features such as OnDemand or Pay-per-view or even an on-screen guide. DTAs are intended for legacy analog TV sets, as such they only feature an RF coaxial output that transmits a video signal on channel 3 or 4 (switchable), in this regard it is like a VCR or the old analog cable boxes used in the '80s and '90s.
For Limited Basic users Comcast is offering the first two DTAs for free and then charging $1.99 (plus taxes and fees) per DTA after the first two. This offer may vary by region and if/when encryption of all channels is being implemented, so please check with your local Comcast office. You should also keep in mind that usually Comcast doesn't charge anything for the first full fledged digital set-top box if you subscribe to the Digital Starter or above package, further, Comcast now (as of early 2013) charges $1.99/month for any and all DTAs if customers are on Digital Starter or higher.
More information is available here: http://customer.comcast.com/help-and-support/cable-tv/limited-basic-encryption/
More about HD DTAs
In 2013 Comcast, in select markets, has begun to offer an HD capable version of a DTA for Limited Basic subscribers who would like access to the HD versions of their channels. It costs the same $1.99/month. Like the standard definition version, it is a simple small black box, in addition to an RF coaxial output (for legacy TVs), it features an HDMI connection. For Limited Basic users there are no other fees. For those on higher-up plans it will require the addition of the HD Technology fee ($9.95) if it is not already on your account.
On the HDMI setup menu, there is an aspect ratio option for 4:3, 16:9 & AUTO, there is also a setting for the standard output resolutions (480i/p, 720p, 1080i) plus an AUTO setting - which the DTA was defaulted to. The AUTO setting is for legacy users and compatibility sake, AUTO seems to downconvert every channel (HD included) to 4:3 and 480i. You must explicitly set it to 16:9 and an HD resolution to get an HD picture.
More information on the HD DTA can be found at the links below:
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With a Comcast STB/DVR, you receive all the SD and HD programming that you pay for, plus access to Comcast's On Demand and PPV services. Comcast is responsible for troubleshooting problems and replacing dead/defective equipment. Cost varies by market, typical rental fees are $8 per digital box. Renting a DVR adds another $16 on top of that. Contact your local office for more information.
By using the Comcast STB/DVR, you are limited to whatever software and hardware capabilities that Comcast offers in your area. In most markets, Comcast uses Motorola DVRs that do not currently support storage expansion beyond the built-in 20-30 HD hour capacity. In some markets, Comcast uses Scientific Atlanta DVRs that may support external expansion with eSATA drives.
CableCARD devices like the 3rd and 4th generation TiVo's and Windows Media Center have a program guide with 14-days of program information; they download this guide information from their own servers using a wired or wireless connection to your home network. Advantages include superior DVR functionality, usability (ex: no remote lag, improved commercial skipping), up to six times the capacity (157 HD hours), support for external hard drives (up to 300+ HD hours), remote scheduling, and PC/Mac integration. Other TiVo features include multi-room viewing and the ability to download some SD and HD recordings to your computer. However, CableCARD devices do not have access to OnDemand or PPV. This limitation is changing somewhat as TiVo has worked with Comcast to allow OnDemand access via an app for the TiVo Premiere hardware in select markets, see this TiVo website for more details.
However any other CableCARD devices such as the older TiVo HD series or Windows Media Center are still unable to use OnDemand.
CableCARDs are essentially access cards; they plug into the device and authorize all of the channels you pay for. The Tivo's and Windows Media Center add-in cards support multiple tuners with a single CableCARD (M-CARD). Comcast will provide one free CableCARD as part of digital service, but additional CableCARDs will cost $1.50-$2.50/ea. If you have another Comcast STB/DVR in your home, or buy a second TiVo, you may be assessed an additional "outlet fee."
You do not pay Comcast STB or DVR fees to use CableCARD devices. The purchase of a TiVo typically results in lower monthly fees, but it takes years for that savings to offset the purchase price. People who buy a TiVo typically do so because they want the improved DVR functionality, usability, and storage capacity. If you decide to buy a TiVo, do so with the knowledge that that Comcast is not responsible for replacing dead/defective equipment (with exception to the CableCARD).
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More likely than not digital cable boxes for sale on eBay or sites like Craigslist, and others, were stolen. Comcast will not activate boxes bought off the Internet.
If you have bought one, you should return it to the closest Comcast location and pick up a legal box from that center.
If you want digital cable service you should rent a cable box from Comcast or, if you'd like own your own equipment, you can purchase a TiVo HD or Premiere.
In order to receive digital cable from Comcast, it is recommended that you rent a cable box from Comcast. Comcast refers to cable boxes as "Digital converters".
If you wish to order HD service, please see this question.
For digital service in standard definition, you need to get one of the following cable boxes from Comcast. Note, you may also order DVR service. In that case, you may receive an HD DVR.
A somewhat complete (but not 100% up-to-date) list of current boxes can be found at the Comcast Cable Box Manuals site.
NOTE: List of boxes below is deprecated
In Motorola areas, you may get:
In Scientific Atlanta/Cisco areas, you may get:
-Explorer 8300 DVR
-Explorer 8240 DVR
-Explorer 8000 DVR
In certain systems, Pace set top boxes may also be available. Please inquire at your local office for the availability of the aforementioned cable boxes.
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-An HD capable television
-High Definition set-top box, from either Comcast or a 3rd party, or;
-CableCARD slot in television (extremely rare), or;
-QAM tuner in television.
In order to access all the HD channels on your service level, you must have a set top box or a cable card slot in your TV. A QAM tuner may only pick up your local channels in HD and nothing more. QAM tuning is not officially supported by Comcast and may be unavailable in your market, for more see the FAQ entry on QAM tuning.
A somewhat complete (but not 100% up-to-date) list of current cable boxes can be found at the Comcast Cable Box Manuals site.
You may also purchase a TiVO Series 3 or 4 or use a Windows Media Center PC with a CableCARD tuner for use on a Comcast system. These require a CableCARD from Comcast. For more on going this avenue see the separate FAQ on TiVo and CableCARDs.
NOTE: List below is deprecated.
In Motorola areas, the HD boxes that are offered are:
-PACE RNG110 (small black HD set top with no front clock display)
In Scientific Atlanta/Cisco areas, the HD boxes that are offered are:
-SA 8300HD (DVR)
-SA 8300HDC (DVR)
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