Thought that I should post an update about my RCA DTA880.
First up is something that has been mentioned several times in recent reviews for this product: The life of the coin cell battery for the remote control. Yes, the factory supplied coin cell eventually died on me a few weeks ago with an average life of 3 months. At first the remote would not respond after several hours of not being used, which began about a month after I bought it. When I moved the battery tray around while it was still installed, the remote would start to operate again. At first this appeared to be a bad battery connection, so I tried several things to help improve electrical contact. Cleaning the battery and remote contacts with rubbing alcohol seem to help for a few days, but then it started acting up again. I disassembled the remote, bent forward the spring loaded positive contact and sanded down the end to make better contact with the battery. No improvement. I applied a piece of adhesive felt on the battery to keep it from moving around inside the remote, No improvement. I was running out of ideas until one day the remote was completely unresponsive. I used the camera on my laptop to see if the remote was outputting an IR signal, and that's when I noticed that the output was weak. I checked the battery with a multi-meter and got ~2.7 volts, which should have been good enough. Placed an LED on the battery and it's brightness was really dim. Went out and bought a new name brand battery and the remote has been working great since then!
I did a few mods to the DTA880 which involves removing the front fascia and using some matte finish scotch tape. First was to make some defusers for the power/record indicators as it was hard to see the small LED's at any angle. All I did was pull off a few inches of tape and folded it in half, then cut them to size and taped them down inside the fascia in front of the openings. Now I can see the lights much better now, even at night with the lights off. The other mod with the scotch tape involves placing a piece over the IR receiver. Again, peeling off a good amount of tape, folding it half and attaching it to the IR receiver. The result is a much better receiving angle while using the remote, about 40 degrees depending on where I sit. Goodbye to that lousy 10 degree angle!
As for my overload issues on certain stations, I installed a 3rd splitter on the cable going directly to the DVR. This seemed to have removed the breakups completely from all the affected stations for the most part. Once in a while I see a brief line of corrupt artifacts in a recording, but if I rewind the recording and play it back, it doesn't reappear. My guess is that the hard drive couldn't access the recording fast enough for some reason. Not a huge issue, but better then the constant breakups caused by the overload.
DVR time recording has been (mostly) flawless for my recorded shows, including one that airs weekly in the morning hours. I've learned not to turn off the DVR using the power button on the front as this causes the DVR to turn on but not record. Setting the DVR to a station that always has the correct date & time before turning it off is ideal successful recordings, but I also learned to immediately check the time settings when DST takes effect as the DVR will not update itself and will record 1 hour ahead/behind the scheduled program. Another issue with the time recording is the schedule itself. If the PSIP label for a station changes before it's scheduled recording, or if the DVR randomly reprograms a station upon tuning to, any scheduled recordings associated with that station will be deleted. This is annoying issue since I have one station that for no reason likes to randomly change it's label every few months for several hours, wiping out a scheduled recording. The random reprogramming strangely appears to happen on the two PBS stations in my area. The one PBS station did it once (have a scheduled program on that) and the other one does it all the time. (No scheduled programs on that due to iffy reception). Other than that, mostly successful.
The DVR has locked up on me a few times and powered off as I probably tried to do too many things too quickly. This apparently hasn't happen since the battery for the remote was replaced, so maybe a corrupt command was sent?
So after getting the hang of things and working out the bugs and issues, the RCA DTA880 is starting to become a good DVR for the money. Hopefully a firmware update will surface that will address the time record and scheduling bugs.
Newer is not always better.