I went and did it: I upgraded to HD service on D*, so I've gotten their new HR21 DVR. I'm keeping the UTV active for backup and resolving tuner conflicts. Another user
gave a review of his unit, but I figured I'd give the folks here another review to consider. So, here we go:The Installation and Setup:
In advance, I ran two additional lines into my apartment since I'm prefectly capable of doing so. Since I've run wiring for several major TV networks (everything from BNC over coax to fiber), I figured I'd probably do just as well or better than the installer running simple coax. I pretty much wanted the guy in and out as fast as possible and I've had my share of bad terminations by installers.
The guy showed up and worked on the dish while I hooked up the receiver. I connected both lines, the HDMI output to my TV, the ethernet to my router and the phone line. The installer provided a multi-tap for the phone line.
Items in the box included: the receiver, remote and batteries, (1) 6' HDMI cable, (1) set component cables, a quick start guide and a full manual.
Once the dish was hooked up, activation was a breeze and I was up and running quickly. I soon discovered the HDMI cable I had purchased and conencted to the TV in advance (in case one was not provided) was causing handshaking issues with my TV. I replaced it with the one included with the DVR and all was well. It appears the included cable is perfectly fine.
I set the box to output all resolutions natively and for 4:3 content to have pillar bars. You can choose the color of the pillar bars: black, dark grey or grey. I chose black since I find lighter bars distracting. I tried zooming "Supernatural", since I can't record it in HD and the SD feed is letterboxed 4:3. It looked decent, but once the OTA tuner comes out for the HR21 I'll want to record it in HD.
I set the guide to come up with the guide when I press the guide button. I believe the default is a favorites menu and hitting guide a second time brings up the guide. The display menu offers the chance to reverse the two. I use a custom guide display that gets rid of any channels I don't watch or receive.Using the Unit:Menus and Operation:
The menus really need work in this thing. There's too much jumping around and interfaces don't "wrap" around. Here are some examples:
- The side bar menus: with most interfaces, when you're on the top item, you can hit the up arrow to "wrap around" to the bottom item for side bars. This is not the case. Hitting the up arrow places you on the video window. Worse, the curser is always at the top and the "done" or "exit" button is always at the bottom.
- In the "To-Do" list, you can't view a description of the show just by highlighting it. You have to actually select it and bring up its own screen. That's a real pain when you're trying to prune out episodes from a marithon. There is also no way to delete multiple items at once.
- There are certain menus you can't get to from certain areas. I find I sometimes have to jump out of one menu in order to get the option to bring up another.
While the search function is quicker than the UTV, it's useless for setting up future recordings beyond the guide data available. If it's not in the guide, the search brings nothing up. If it brings nothing up, you can't schedule a recording. This means you can't schedule a title-based recording of a show that will be airing months later. That's a huge oversight.
Like I mentioned above, the side bar menus don't wrap around, so the keyboard is awkward to use. To go from a letter at the end of one row to the first letter in the next row requires hitting the down arrow, then the left arrow until you get all the way to the beginning of the next row. The backspace, clear and space buttons are equally awkward because you have to go all the way to the bottom for the grid for them. I'm tempted to try hooking a keyboard to the front USB port to see what happens.
The "To Do" list is very slow to populate. Even after a show hits the guide, it take a day or two for it to be added to the list. For example, episode 2 of "Mad Men" did not initially show up. It wasn't until a day later it populated itself there. It got there well in advance of the air date, but it's still worrisome to allow it to take that long.
The guide data is sparse compared to the UTV. This needs a lot of improvement.
The Prioritzer is a shining beacon in the mix, though. I love that you can give priority to the shows you want to record. This means shows that aren't "must see" events or shows that have multiple airings get get pushed down the list in case of a tuner conflict. I love that feature. For example, Supernatural and Lost on Thursdays will take priority over well-aged CSI.
I wish there was a setting to pad shows automatically whenever possible. Right now, you have to manually pad shows if you want it. It's nice that you can pad the beginning and the end by a lot of time if you wish, but I really wish it did the +1 to start and +5 to end automatically when a tuner is available. You can't change the padding options for a single show, either, on a series. You have to change the whole thing.
You can't change series options if there isn't a show set to record. I should be able to do this through the prioritizer, but there's little in the way of thing syou can do with that menu other than move them up or down.
The "broken aspect ratio" bug is still there, but the HR21 is also a bit further behind on upgrades.
The To Do list notifies you of conflicts, but the system doesn't understand what channels you get. The only way to avoid recording on a channel you don't receive is to delete it from the guide.The Summary:
Some things I really like:
- You can control the volume of the notification sounds. Nice touch.
- I like that this unit has the video window in the upper corner when your in menus, including the search.
- The RF capable remote which is pretty well laid out.
- The 30 Second Slip function, which will soon support a 30 second skip.
- The menus are very easy to read.
- You can set recordings the same way as the UTV: hit once for a single recording, hit twice for a series and three times to cancel. Doing the same thing on a live show eventually brings up the option to stop and save, stop and delete or continue recording.
- All outputs are active and there are plenty of them. With 2 composte (one includes S-Video), component and HDMI along with analog and both digital connection types, you can send video and audio to multiple places in your home. There is no coax out, though.
Things I really do not like:
- When you stop recorded shop from playing, the unit displays the last channel you were tuned to. Annoying. I'd rather a blank slate with the option to go to live TV. The "My Shows" channel on UTV is a much better setup.
- The Search: I really hate that I can't set up title searches for shows that may crop up months from now. It means no setting up in advanced for Fall/Spring schedules, no automatic searches for future movies and no programming shows in hiatus. That really blows.
- While the custom guides are nice, there needs to be an option to have new channels be automatically added - especially since HD versions of ABC Family, ESPNews, Disney, additional premium channels and several others are coming in the next few months.
- I don't like the ring of blue fire on the front, but I hate the idea of turning it off completely. I'd really rather it fade to almost nothing after a certain period of not using the remote (say 20 or 30 seconds). The dim controls don't dim it enough.
- The "broken aspect ratio" bug is still there, but it's really only an issue in SD when using a non-standard mode.
- The hard drive needs to be bigger - like double for recording HD. I know I can connect an eSATA drive, but it's a bit lame a brand new model has such a small drive (I believe it's only 250GB). Large drives are dirt cheap now - especially internal models. Of course, I also hate that external drives replace the internal drive rather than suppliment it. What would have been really nice is if the unit had an externally accessable swappable drive bay that you use to add to the internal storage. That's wishful thinking, though.