1TB DVR+ Impressions from an ex-TivoHD owner
Just bought the 1TB DVR+ a week ago. Previously owned a TivoHD w/ Lifetime until it broke down (had a nice 8 year run) Here were some of my impressions, and some questions...
FORM FACTOR AND NOISE
Unboxed the DVR+. Loved the size of this thing. It was small enough that it can go on top of my credenza where the TV sits, instead of inside taking up a slot, and just blend right in. My old TivoHD must have been 12 times the size of this thing. It's also noticeably quieter than my now defunct TivoHD. The hard drive spins down eventually when not in use, unlike the TivoHD which was always on.
Powered it on, updated to latest firmware (132B) and scanned the channels. Right off the bat, the device tells me that it detected a drive fault, and that DVR functionality would be disabled. Formatting the drive fixed it and drive check cleared, but I'm not sure if the drive just came unformatted or if there really is a drive issue. The User Guide never mentioned the need to format the drive first. I'll wait and see if my unit is defective, but a little concerning.
Unlike many people here, I had no problems with the tuner. I got 99 channels detected and only 1 channel with 4 subchannels got pixelation. I've yet to see a single pixelation on the channels I care about (ABC, CBS, NBC, CW, FOX, PBS SoCal). It seems to do just as well if not better than my Panasonic Plasma TV, and definitely better than my TivoHD which had a weaker tuner than my TV. The HD pictures were perfect, and the sound came through as Dolby Digital, as expected with no stutters. Note that I'm about 60 miles from the broadcast towers, using the Wineguard amplified indoor antenna (Costco) with the amplifier unplugged inside my house.
(As a side note, I did have to replace some of my Costco LED bulbs in my recess lighting fixtures when I realized they interfered with my TV signal. Once replaced, the lights being on no longer affected my signal and I'm a happy camper.)
I tried pressing LIVE, and noticed something I was interested in. So I paused it, did some stuff and came back, but then because I accidentally changed channels, I lost the ability to catch up. The TivoHD was smarter in that it would switch to the other tuner in this scenario so that you can switch between the two tuners and keep a live buffer for both. I guess this is just a situation where I need a different habit, which is to record something if I'm remotely interested in it.
It came with the Enhanced Remote, but the instructions were very light. I wanted to set it up for my Marantz sound system for volume and tried the instructions on how to set it up automatically where you hold the SELECT button until the sound system turned off. Well, it turned off immediately, but this is where it's a fail for the remote design and instructions. At this point, the DVR+ is on and the Sound system is off. When I pressed OFF side of the power button (which is another questionable design in itself, combining both the ON and OFF into a single button), the DVR+ turned off, but my sound system turned on. The volume button doesn't work. So I tried following the manual set up method, but the Marantz isn't in the list of codes, which is just a dozen numbers. The instructions said to go to their support site for the full user guide with exhaustive remote numbers, which I did, but the instructions were for the old remote and the codes were a different number of digits. There is nothing on their site that gave codes for the new remote, so I'm out of luck here. If anyone has ideas on how to get those codes, please let me know.
The first one-hour show it recorded showed a record time of 165:11:04 (165 hours). Other shows seem to have the correct length, but having the first show recorded with a jumbled time doesn't inspire confidence.
The other thing that is annoying coming from TivoHD was the fact that the Guide is very skim. I've been out of the TivoHD for half a year, so I've missed a bunch of episodes from this season and would like to catch up on the re-runs. Unfortunately the DVR+ only keeps the name of the show and a description. If you drill in on the page where you can rename the show, the description doesn't even display completely. I was hoping to be able to scroll down and see some additional guide info, but the detailed view is even worse in that you only see 3 lines and everything else is cut off with no way to scroll. The TivoHD had the name of the episode as well as the Season and Episode number, which makes it a lot easier to watch them in order and to figure out which ones were not from this season and can be deleted. I try not to look at the description which sometimes gives away too much, so I end up having to see when it was recorded, look it up on tvtango.com (titantv doesn't have enough history), then cross-reference it with something like imdb.com because sometimes there are no episode numbers. Seems like a lot of work until I catch up. For those of you who use the DVR+ often, how do you deal with this?
SLING TV APP
Signed up for SlingTV just to try it out, and unfortunately I signed up on their web site, so I only got a 7-day trial. I had no idea that you get 14 days trial if you signed up from DVR+, so for those of you who haven't tried it yet, make sure you sign up from the machine. The quality of the video seemed pretty good but there's no 5.1 Surround Audio which is a bummer. Since the trial period is free, I added most of the packages including HBO, and watched a movie, but I noticed the audio and the video sync were a little off. It was maybe quarter of a second, but enough to bug me. Also, there's no video recording, and while there are some videos on demand, they're fairly selective and they don't always work, and the biggest con of all: you can't fast forward some of them. The video plays as if it's a live stream. It's a painful experience. It's almost anti-DVR where you're forced to watch live TV and all commercials, and buy packages just like Dish but at a lesser price. This is opposite of where I want to be, which is all video-on-demand with Netflix/Amazon Prime prices supplemented by pre-recorded prime-time TV. This seems to be a SlingTV issue because even on my tablet, clicking the 30 second skip did nothing during a commercial, so the experience is pretty poor in my mind.
Another thing that happened was Closed Caption seemed broken when I was playing the movie in Sling TV. It would cycle through 2-3 blocks of text in a span of 0.2 seconds. A reboot by holding down the power button on the actual unit for 5 seconds seemed to have fixed it, but I'm not confident that this won't just randomly happen again, except when it does, I might be recording something and am not in a situation where I can reboot so easily.
I really want to love this unit because of the size and how quiet it is, and the tuner seems to work pretty well with my antenna. However, I'm uncertain the hard drive won't break down in 2 months, and the lack of episode names and numbers might lead me to return it. I still have 3 more weeks of return period, so I will give this device a little more chance first.