In Valid Logic

Endlessly expanding technology

Moved to DirecTV

As I've mentioned before, I've been a huge fan of Windows Media Center Edition. MCE, in my opinion, is just about the golden grail in terms of DVR experiences. The UI is very rich and responsible, very extensible platform, and quite feature-full.

However, recently I made the decision to move away from cable towards DirecTV. There are a couple of motivators:

First, the coming analog switch next year means my current tuners would be obsolete and I'd need to buy newer Digital Cable Tuners for the box, including paying fees for the CableCARD to power them. However, did I really want to stay with Comcast? I mean, with my own system, I couldn't leverage their on demand without paying for a normal receiver to accompany my MCE box. Was wondering, did I want to put more money into it?

Secondly, in keeping with my new years resolutions to simplify my life, going to DirecTV made sense. With MCE, it was my box, and my problem when it didn't work right. I was having issues with OTA HDTV and had been dragging my feet on buying a new, better antenna. Dragging them for like 9 months. I only ever thought of getting a new one at night when the thing was acting up, and that was never the time I wanted to research antennas and order one. By moving to DirecTV, if it doesn't work, its their problem. Call them, come out, fix the dish, replace the tuner, etc. They own the hardware. One less thing that would rest on me or I'd be a bottleneck on.

Why DirecTV vs Comcast Digital Cable? Well, several. The internet is littered with poor opinion over the Comcast DVRs. And I wanted a good DVR. I was dead set on a dual HD DVR. Didn't want one everyone thought sucked. DirecTV is more vested in their own DVRs as well. My dad has the same DVR package I got and likes his a lot, and I've liked it and the service when at their house. They put out regular updates, look for customer feedback, and even allow customers to use beta releases through their own online support forums. Never heard of that with Comcast. And the whole recent rave of commercials that Comcast has more HD channels than DirecTV? Don't think so. I counted them. Comcast: 28, DirecTV: 45. Sure, the important ones are likely on both. But really, cable advertising has always bothered me. Speaking of advertising, Comcast seems to also like littering their interface with ads. Bleh.

So what about DirecTV vs MCE? There are a few pluses and a few minuses. The interface is much more fluid and responsive in MCE. DirecTV does have a delay between pressing a button and getting a response. But its quality is great. Some things I really like, such as if you watch 20 minutes of a show and then decide to record it, it will save the 20 mins you've already watched. MCE didn't do that.

One thing I did find an issue with is DirecTV's support for pre/post recording. Normally, I like to record 2-3 minutes before and after a program, since some tend to run over a bit (FOX/American Idol). With MCE, it supported that and it would know the core minutes (ie, 8:00-8:59) were required, and the padding was optional. DirecTV's DVR doesn't see that... it requires all of it. To put it into perspective, take this scenario. You have two tuners. You record one show from 8:00-10:00 on FOX and with padding, it is 7:55-10:05. Then you want to record something on NBC from 8:00-9:00, so it marks it as 7:55-9:05. Then you want to record another show on CBS from 9:00-10:00, but the DVR won't let you, because the tuner is still busy from 9:00-9:05. It won't let you. With MCE, it would recognize that the padding is optional and it needs the tuner for something else. So it would have recorded NBC from 7:55-9:00 and CBS from 9:00-10:05, since that made sense. DirecTV doesn't recognize that. Because of this, their pre/post recording is essentially useless. Hopefully I can send some feedback and this maybe makes it into a future update.

There are some pluses one thing DirecTV does that MCE didn't is if you watch 20 mins of an hour long show, then don't have time to finish it, hit record and it captures the entire show, not just from then on. MCE didn't do that.

Additionally, with an update last week, I now have the DirecTV On Demand beta accessible on my box, and it is pretty nice. Doesn't yet have a full wealth of shows available, though they have a good list of channels signed on, and I like the interface and way it is set up. You can browse a global directory, or narrow it down to a specific channel, such as view the On Demand page for Discovery or TLC.

Overall, I am impressed and glad I made the switch.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

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