After 5 years as a loyal DirecTV subscriber, I’m canceling my account and switching to TiVo HDs using *gasp* an over-the-air antenna! I never would have guessed I’d be doing this; I remember when I was a kid in rural Kentucky and all we received were 4 grainy stations out of Louisville. Cable TV, and later Satellite, made the poor reception and selection a thing of the past. But several things have changed since then and digital makes all the difference. Here’s why I’m switching and my thoughts on my new TiVo HD.
This year, I noticed how high the quality of prime time network television is. Nicole and I barely left the house due to our new addition to the family, so we set one of our TiVos to record every single season premier on the fall schedule. Without exception, every one of the prime time network premiers were pretty good and every non-prime time premier was somewhere between uninteresting and unwatchable. That’ s when it dawned on me: about 90% of the shows we record to our HR10-250 satellite receivers are over-the-air local stations. The antenna in our attic was more valuable than the satellite dish on our house. So why pay DirecTV $70/month for free programming?
If you have strong reception, the HD signals from an over-the-air antenna are the highest quality available. Both satellite and cable compress all of the high definition channels they transmit/repeat, even the local networks. The local networks do not compress their broadcast signal. It’s the original, highest-quality source you can get. And because it’s digital, the snowy, washed-out signal is a thing of the past.
New TiVo Hardware and Software
The incentives that made the switch decision final were new features from TiVo. They launched the lower-priced TiVo HD, they enabled Multi-Room Viewing and TiVoToGo features for moving shows around, and they re-offered Lifetime subscriptions for the TiVo service.
I must say, it feels nice to have a TiVo that supports so many features, and feels like it’s supported in general. There is no technical reason the DirecTV HR10-250 TiVo couldn’t implement every feature the TiVo HD does; DirecTV just decided they didn’t want to give customers those features. In the evolving world of technology, this is never a wise decision. Since DirecTV launched the HR10-250, the only new feature that has been offered is folders for grouping shows. That’s it.
What’s Great About the TiVo HD:
- Improved Interface: A faster User Interface with updated graphics with crisp edges and pleasing gradients throughout; makes the DirecTV TiVo look and feel “1999” by comparison.
- Built-in Ethernet network port: no phone line required for activation or daily calls. I never again have to see this message I’ve seen every day for the past few years:
- Native resolution pass-through: the TiVo HD outputs the recorded show in its native resolution; this eliminates any image quality issues due to upscaling or down-converting or interlacing.
- eSATA expansion for additional Hard Disk Drive: Upgrading the recording space has been the most beneficial enhancement for a TiVo With an external port, this process is much easier. Easy enough for any non-technical user to do; minimal instructions required.
- Download free programs from the Internet: TiVoCast allows automatic downloading of a bunch of partner content. If you run the PyTiVo server program on a network computer, you can access every movie and videocast your hard drive can hold (PyTiVo transcodes them and sends them to the TiVo HD.)
- Rent movies: With the Amazon Unbox feature, you can find, purchase, download, and start watching about any movie you could want.
- No monthly fees: Not to DirecTV. Not to TiVo. (Thanks to TiVo for offering the lifetime service transfer; I wouldn’t have gone for the deal otherwise)
- Digital Cable Option: I can switch to any of the local cable services and use a cable card with my existing hardware (if for some reason I decide more channels.)
- Software Updates: I’m positive TiVo will continue to release new software updates with great new features.
What I’ll miss about DirecTV:
- The Discovery Channel
- Food Network
- HBO: Inside the NFL and Entourage
My TiVo HD Wishlist:
As great as the TiVo HD is, there are still a couple of things it could do better. Here’s my wishlist:
- Series Premier/Series Finale Data in Program Guide: DirecTV offered this as part of their guide data. This made it very easy to find and record all of the new shows each season. The program data on the TiVo (from TV Guide) does not have this extra information. Shame on you for being 1-upped by DirecTV. The online fall TV guide is not adequate compensation.
- Automatic e-mail or SMS message if there are recording conflicts: If a show is not going to record, I’d like to know about it. I never look through the TiVo menu for conflicts and often have to do a CSI-style reconstruction to figure out why a show is missing. Please TiVo, just send me a weekly e-mail listing the conflicts.
- Multi-room coordination of recording conflicts: if you have 2 TiVos and one TiVo is unable to record a program, I would like to see it hand-off the recording responsibility to the other TiVo.
- Add Video Podcasts by RSS URL: To allow the downloading of online videos that are not currently indexed by the TiVo service
- TiVo Desktop replication of the TiVo User Interface: When creating a bunch of season passes, it sure would be a lot faster doing that through TiVo Desktop on your computer. I would like to see portions of the TiVo UI replicated in TiVo Desktop, giving easier data entry and searching via the keyboard and mouse.
- Backup Season Pass List: If your TiVo crashes, it is a pain to recreate all of your Season Passes. I would like my season pass list to be automatically backed-up to the TiVo server every month or so. Or at least give an option to create and print a list of season passes through TiVo Desktop. (Note: there is a partial implementation of this feature if you activate the TiVo KidZone feature on a Series2 or Series3 non-DirecTV TiVo.)
- Automatically scan the Unencrypted QAM channels: Cable companies seem to want to charge for cable cards. They use random channels for local HD, such as ABC 6-1 showing up 116-1 one week, 97-2 the next. I’d like TiVo to scan those station and use the PSIP information to identify channels.
- Automatic padding: if there isn’t a show on after the one being recording, record an extra few minutes just in case the show runs a bit long. You can currently specify end padding, but that can cause a recording conflict if there is another recording immediately afterwards.
- Unlabeled lights on the front panel: There are green, red, amber, and blue lights on the front panel. I have no idea what they mean. It looks like amber is remote control signal acknowledgment. I’m assuming red means there is a recording. But it would be nice to have some silk-screened labels on the front to clarify this.
Do you have some suggestions as to how TiVo can improve their service? Let them know!