or Connect
AVS › AVS Forum › Gaming & Content Streaming › Microsoft UltimateTV PVR › UTV to HR21 Review
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

UTV to HR21 Review

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
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.
post #2 of 7
Quote:
Originally Posted by NetworkTV View Post

I went and did it: I upgraded to HD service on D*, so I've gotten their new HR21 DVR.

Welcome to the dark side, NetworkTV. Thanks for sharing your views on the HR21. I have some info to add, but before that I wanted to make some general comments:
  • Just like this forum is the end-all-be-all for UTV information, the source for information on the HR20, HR21, and other DTV receivers is dbstalk.
  • DTV releases test/beta software quite regularly for several boxes, including the HR20 and HR21. If you want to participate in that process, checkout the Cutting Edge (CE) area of dbstalk.
Note that I've been running CE software for some time, so I get confused about what is in the current National Release vs. what is in test. Also, I have HR20 receivers where as you reported on the HR21. They are close to each other in functionality, but not exactly so. With those caveats in mind, let me add the following:

Quote:
Originally Posted by NetworkTV View Post

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.

The latest CE software adds an new "As Broadcast" option. This allows your TV or scaler to do the resizing of 4:3 SD shows onto a 16:9 HD set.
Quote:
Originally Posted by NetworkTV View Post

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.

Right now you can only have 2 custom guides (a negative).
Quote:
Originally Posted by NetworkTV View Post

The menus really need work in this thing. There's too much jumping around and interfaces don't "wrap" around.

A major revamping of the menus is underway, and can be previewed with the latest CE software. Regarding this "wrap" issue ... it is one of the most requested items on the "wish list" of desired changes. In the meantime, CH-DOWN will take you to the last item in a menu list, while CH-UP will take you to the first. Pressing the left arrow (BACK) will usually take you back to the previous screen/menu (like an "exit" button).
Quote:
Originally Posted by NetworkTV View Post

In the "To-Do" list, you can't view a description of the show just by highlighting it. [...] There is also no way to delete multiple items at once.

I agree that the first is an annoyance. This feature is also on the "wish list". Many areas (PlayList, Recent Searches) do have a Mark-and-Delete option, but not the upcoming "To Do" list.
Quote:
Originally Posted by NetworkTV View Post

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.

You can setup an AutoRecord based on a Keyword search (and probably a Person search too), even if there are no matches at the time you search. You do not have this option with Title search however. Now, there are all sorts of issues with AutoRecord -- it basically doesn't work because it will record channels you don't get. But adding a AutoRecord or just keeping the Keyword search is a trick I use a lot to remind me to add a show that isn't yet in the guide. (Also, your last 25 searches are accessible via the Recent Searches option, whereas the UTV remembers only 6.)
Quote:
Originally Posted by NetworkTV View Post

Like I mentioned above, the side bar menus don't wrap around, so the keyboard is awkward to use.

I agree, but the onscreen keyboard for the UTV has similar limitations.
Quote:
Originally Posted by NetworkTV View Post

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.

It seems like you have to put the receiver into "standby" mode (turn off) to let it build the "To Do" list. If I setup a new Series Record and I'm worried about a show in the next day or two, I'll just click on it as a single record. When the "To Do" list gets built, that single record is replaced with a Series Record.
Quote:
Originally Posted by NetworkTV View Post

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 setup default recording options to always pad new recordings by default (also used to set the default "keep" option). However, like you said, there is no "soft padding" -- adding time before/after based on tuner availability. This is also on the "wish list".
Quote:
Originally Posted by NetworkTV View Post

You can't change the padding options for a single show, either, on a series. You have to change the whole thing.

Actually, you can change padding for a single show. Just select the specific episode and update the recording options.
Quote:
Originally Posted by NetworkTV View Post

You can't change series options if there isn't a show set to record.

This is fixed in the CE software. A major item from the "wish list" that was finally addressed.
Quote:
Originally Posted by NetworkTV View Post

The only way to avoid recording on a channel you don't receive is to delete it from the guide.

Even then, you will see channels you don't get in search results, and if you have someone in the house who isn't familar with the DTV channel setup it is easy for them to record shows you won't be able to watch. This is called the "Channels I Receive" (CIR) bug and is being addressed by DTV, albeit too slowly for my taste.
Quote:
Originally Posted by NetworkTV View Post

The 30 Second Slip function, which will soon support a 30 second skip.

Already available in the CE release. You can switch back and forth (via a kludge bogus search).
Quote:
Originally Posted by NetworkTV View Post

When you stop recorded shop from playing, the unit displays the last channel you were tuned to. Annoying.

A common complaint. I really miss "My Shows" as a "home base". I leave my box on one of the XM music channels for this reason. Then it is only an issue when both tuners are active. You have to get good at tapping "mute" just before you end the recording playback, to minimize "spoilers".
Quote:
Originally Posted by NetworkTV View Post

I don't like the ring of blue fire on the front, but I hate the idea of turning it off completely.

I turned mine off -- have no need for it and don't miss it. Since the lights come on after a reboot, this helps make it a nice "early warning system" to let me know when there is a new National Release of software, or my receiver rebooted for an unknown reason.

There are also a few other things I'd add to your "some things I really like" list:
  • High Definition recordings.
  • DirecTV On Demand (DOD) -- aka Video On Demand (VOD). Download shows via the internet. Still in Beta Test, but the list of available shows is growing.
  • High Definition recordings.
  • A very active software development team and the "wish list". On the HR20, there have been CE updates almost weekly for the last 4+ months. And new National Release about every 5-10 CE releases. It is great to have a "living" platform, and it is really nice to know that if we users complain about something or ask for something, a lot of the time is gets changed/added.
  • Remote Scheduling. Just now rolling out. Allows you to setup recordings on your receivers via the DTV website -- and soon even via a mobile browser.
  • High Definition recordings.
post #3 of 7
Well, it looks like there may be an upgrade path in the future.

On the 30sec skip, can you repeat it by holding down the key? Is it instant? Do you get a piece of the sound at each additional skip? Esentially, how does it feel compared to the UTV? Is the replay a 7.5 second back?

Does the remote have an ir function as well, since my one for all does the rf for me.

Looks like we still need a few things, like a parking location (i.e. myshows). That's likely my last showstopper if the 30sec skip truely works like a utv.

How does it show the amount buffered (with the hack I got here, that's one of my favorite utv features now, to see how much of a buffer I have).

I didn't quite get the external hard drive issue, does this mean you can replace the internal with a usb 2.0 external, or something else. And how many hours of HD can you get with 250gb. Also, what do SD recordings look like.

And, with an ethernet, can you transfer shows to your PC?

good reviews guys!
post #4 of 7
That's great Rocket. I'll try to answer some of your questions, but I'm doing this from work, and from memory -- so I reserve the right to be wrong and update later.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rocket View Post

On the 30sec skip, can you repeat it by holding down the key? Is it instant? Do you get a piece of the sound at each additional skip? Esentially, how does it feel compared to the UTV? Is the replay a 7.5 second back?

I use a MX-500 remote that doesn't have key-repeat, so I have to press the Slip/Skip button repeatedly. I don't know if key-repeat works on the regular remote. It is close to instant, but there is something like a 1/4-1/2 second delay (my guess - could be less). I feels slightly slower than the UTV skip, but that might be partially a leftover feeling from when it was first introduced, and was significantly slower. They have improved it in recent releases. I don't think there is an associated sound ...yet, but this has been requested by several people. (Note with Slip, you get a progress bar and you can "stack" multiple Slips, up to 20. A counter at the far right of the progress bar tells you how many are "stacked". With Skip there is no progress bar, so you have to keep track on your own. To me it seems just like what I did with UTV.) Replay (Jump Back) is supposed to be 7 seconds. But it seems to be more like 6 seconds with MPEG4 (HD) recordings, and 7 seconds with MPEG2 (SD) recordings. (Slips are also a little off from the ideal 30 seconds. Both of these measures get tested and reported with each release -- it really annoys some people. )

Quote:
Originally Posted by rocket View Post

Does the remote have an ir function as well, since my one for all does the rf for me.

The default remote option is IR. I don't have the RF remote, but I know it is an option on the HR20. I think with the HR21 it may come with the unit by default, but still has to be "selected". (Note there is only a 30% chance I know what I'm talking about on this one).

Quote:
Originally Posted by rocket View Post

How does it show the amount buffered (with the hack I got here, that's one of my favorite utv features now, to see how much of a buffer I have).

The progress bar shows you where you are in the recording and how much is buffered. It is also color coded -- green means buffered, red means recorded. You can press Record to convert anything in the buffer to a recording. Note that the progress bar only shows you the current show. If you are buffering, you can Rewind past the beginning of that show and the progress bar will switch to the previous show, while updating the buffer indicator.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rocket View Post

I didn't quite get the external hard drive issue, does this mean you can replace the internal with a usb 2.0 external, or something else. And how many hours of HD can you get with 250gb. Also, what do SD recordings look like.

You can hook up an external eSATA drive via a SATA connector (not USB). My understanding is the operating system is always on the internal drive. If you hook up an eSATA all your recordings will go to/from that external drive -- and you can't see the recordings on the internal drive. Unplus the eSATA drive and you can access those internal recordings. (I don't have one of these ... yet.) I have never measured the time I can record on the stock 250GB disk, and I always have a mix of SD and HD shows. But I'd guess I can record at least 20 hours of just HD, since I've often had 3 4-hour football games recorded, and when I delete those I get around 1/2 my disk space back. (BTW, the available space indicator is very good.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by rocket View Post

And, with an ethernet, can you transfer shows to your PC?

Not yet, but apparently that is in the works. Take a look at these "MediaShare" brochures that someone picked up from CES: http://www.dbstalk.com/showthread.php?t=116739 . Note that this 2-way MediaShare is associated with the rumored Multi-Room Video (MRV).

And let me add to the benefits list -- things you can do with the HR2x DVRs:
post #5 of 7
Thanks for all the info.
post #6 of 7
Thread Starter 
TexasJames answered a few of these, but maybe I can add to what he said.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rocket View Post

Well, it looks like there may be an upgrade path in the future.

On the 30sec skip, can you repeat it by holding down the key? Is it instant? Do you get a piece of the sound at each additional skip? Esentially, how does it feel compared to the UTV? Is the replay a 7.5 second back?

No. Pressing and holding the skip/slip forward button jumps you to the end of the record or live TV if you are delayed. Each time you press the button adds another skip/slip forward. You can tee up 20 skips/slips at once by pressing the skip/slip button.

Quote:


Does the remote have an ir function as well, since my one for all does the rf for me.

Both IR and RF are options on the HR21. You can choose either one in the menu. It comes set to IR by default.

Quote:


Looks like we still need a few things, like a parking location (i.e. myshows). That's likely my last showstopper if the 30sec skip truely works like a utv.

The 30 second skip is currently only on the HR20-700. It will eventually make its way to the other models as the latest software rolls out. Right now, it's a 30 second slip, which is a quick fast forward.

Quote:


How does it show the amount buffered (with the hack I got here, that's one of my favorite utv features now, to see how much of a buffer I have).

As noted above, the progress bar shows you where you are in relation to live TV.

Quote:


I didn't quite get the external hard drive issue, does this mean you can replace the internal with a usb 2.0 external, or something else. And how many hours of HD can you get with 250gb. Also, what do SD recordings look like.

As noted, the external drives can only be eSATA drives. There is a port on the back for one. It replaces the internal drive for recording shows. I believe the internal drive is 250GB, which holds around 50 hours of HD or up to 200 hours of SD.

Quote:


And, with an ethernet, can you transfer shows to your PC?

No. Ethernet is an alternative to the phone line, a way to access the upcoming video on demand and to eventually access content on your computer, such as photos, music, etc. It may or may not eventually allow transferring shows to your computer. D* never enabled TiVo To Go on their DVRs, so I'll take any reports of sending shows to a computer with a grain of salt.

Quote:


good reviews guys!

I know people have been wondering how the units compared, so I thought I'd give some in-the-field results.

It's no UTV, but it looks like improvements are coming down the pike.


BTW: some additional info: I tried hooking up a USB keyboard and got no response from the DVR. So, it looks like the on-screen keyboard is the only option for searches and such.
post #7 of 7
Nice work thx for the info. keep updating
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Microsoft UltimateTV PVR
AVS › AVS Forum › Gaming & Content Streaming › Microsoft UltimateTV PVR › UTV to HR21 Review