Still waiting on HD…

I've had an HD-ready TV for about 3 years now, but I have no HD sources.

Initially, it was because for DirecTV, you could either have an HD receiver or you could have a DirectTiVo, but not both, and TiVo was far more important to me...

Then, when the HD DirecTiVo came out, I thought about buying it, but it's pretty pricey (~~ $1000), and it was unclear what attitude DirecTV had towards HD, so I decided to wait it out a bit. After about 6 months, I was going to buy...

Then Comcast started adding HD local channels, and they started testing a HD DVR in my area (though not TiVo based), about the same time the DirecTV said that they were planning on doing their own HD DVR (due sometime this summer). This made things fairly equivalent in my book.

Then I read this today, which opens the possibility that I could get a Comcast TiVo (though the non-TiVo HD PVR box that they're testing around here has gotten decent reviews). That would give me the opportunity to consolidate off of satellite, assuming the SD quality on Comcast is acceptable (last time I looked at their digital cable, it was pretty bad. Worse than what DirecTV gives you on the less-popular channels, and that isn't great either).

So, once again, I'm in stasis, but with any luck, it may resolve by this summer (that's probably too soon to get a Comcast TiVo HD PVR, though it depends upon what mods are required to the DirecTV version - they do use two different formats for their data).

Comments (13)
  1. Cable card support (unconfirmed, I think) in the upcoming Windows XP MCE should give you what you want and can be done for way less than $1000. See

  2. Eric says:


    Unfortunately, I’m not sure that "cable card support" will translate to "having my cable system support such cards".

  3. Sorry to hear that you are having problems with your HD setup still.

    I didn’t mention this to you recently, but Time Warner cable has offered an HD compatable DVR box in my area. I was online at the cable company with my old box the day I found out, and I have to say, it is AMAZING!

    The UI for the cable box is very sleek, and very intuitive. I have all of my series set up to record automatically. It will record up to 90 hours of standard programming, 20 hours of HD programming, and it will record two shows at the same time.

    The box cost nothing to replace (HD boxes don’t cost extra over the regular digital cable boxes either). I only have to pay $6.95 a month for the DVR service. It seems a little shady, since there is nothing subscription-based about the service, it’s all on the box, but for such a small fee, it’s definitely worth it.

    Oh, I almost forgot to mention, the box is VERY smart. On the old HD box, I had one output for HD and one for regular TV, and I had to switch modes on my TV when I wanted to watch HD. With the new box, all the output is done through HD, and the box is smart enough to know what the aspect ratio of the signal being displayed is. So, if the signal is a regular broadcast, it will stretch it for me (you can have it stretch, zoom, sidebar, and that other kind of strange stretch/zoom setting). If it is a HD broadcast, it overrides the settings so that the picture comes out just fine. This is most obvious on TNT, where they show a movie, and it is in HD, but the commercials are standard broadcasts.

    I’ve actually considered getting a media center edition of XP in order to get shows off the box and into my computer, but I have to do more research.

    Hope all is well, keep in touch.

  4. I finally kicked my Dish for Comcast with the HD PVR. Definately worth it. Yes, the interface is klunky, but they offer my HD channels and the ability to PVR shows like 24 and American Chopper in HD is worth it. 😉

    Plus, I ended up saving like $20/mo. If you do it, make sure to take advantage of whatever special deals they have going on. I’ve seen some folks end up paying $10/mo for two years because of whatever special deal and the "dish buyback" program.

  5. Rod Trent says:

    Man — I’ve been using Direct TV with HDTV for about 2 years. Great stuff! If you’re worried about TV recording capability — check out DVD player that has recording capability. Great way to record your HDTV shows.

    Or — simply get a Windows XP Media Center setup.

  6. Adam says:

    The Comcast DVR they have in Dallas is remarkably bad compared to Tivo. Competing networks such as Dish and Time Warner have not-quite-Tivo but usable DVR boxes (HD or not), but the Comcast one is really, really bad.

    I switched to it on a whim because I wanted HDTV, then switched back in a week.

    1. The recording system is time-based and not programming-based. That means "record channel 7 every tuesday at 9" and not "record 24 every week". If your show moves time slots, you won’t record it.

    2. The interface for browsing your recorded shows is adequate, but it’s nothing compared to the version 4 of the Tivo software (grouping, etc).

    3. When replaying a recorded show, you don’t get a progress-bar. When you pause, fast forward, rewind you have no idea where you are in the show. There’s no timer display on the LCD display either. This one really irked me.

    4. If you have a 3 year old HD ready TV like me, you might be in the same boat as me: my HD inputs only accept an HD signal. I didn’t buy a cheap TV for sure, but it is a big limitation with the Comcast HD box since it won’t upconvert signals. The HD DirecTivo will upconvert SD signals to an HD signal to support TVs like mine.

    5. Comcast SD signal quality is still really bad. When I switched to DirecTV I was amazed at how much better SD signals looked on my television.

    6. DirecTV compresses their signal, the HD DirecTivo (and regular DirecTivo) store the compressed signal, allowing you to store more in less space. As such, there is no signal quality loss (compared to the standard non-integrated DVR scenerio: Digital box->Analog to Tivo->Digital storage->Analog to TV).

    There’s more, but I can’t bring them to my fingers for some reason. There’s price issues with Comcast compared to DirecTV, but those really aren’t a sticking point for me.

  7. Adam says:

    Downside of DirecTV + Tivo:

    DirecTV seems to have no real commitment to pushing new Tivo functionality. Perhaps the DirecTivo boxes are technically Series1 and can’t go beyond version 3.0.1 (which I would accept), however it just seems they’re not of the "let’s push new software because it’s better" mindset.

  8. James Curran says:


    I also just got Comcast DVR, but my experience is quite different in my area (Bloomfield, NJ)

    1)The recording system is programming-based.

    3) I do see a progress bar.

    I can’t comment on the others since I’ve never used a Tivo nor owned a HDTV.

    However, the one thing that drives me crazy about it, is that the DVR gets "rebooting" — Usually after about 30 seconds working from the menus (simple FF or Rewind doesn’t have a problem), the UI will freeze half redrawn. The TV image (in the corner) will also freeze although the audio will continue — for about 5 seconds. Then the DVR will shut off. About 5 seconds later, it will turn on again. IN the next 10 seconds it will freeze (image & sound) twice for about a second each (the second time the clock reset from 12:00 to the correct time. Not sure what happens during the first freeze).

    At this point, things are back to normal, except now it must redownload the TV schedule (oddly, it know when it’s going to record things that day, but it doesn’t know what they are).

  9. Adam says:

    Ah you’re lucky then. I wonder what regions got the crappy DVR and what regions got the good one.

  10. tina says:

  11. Yeah I’m resigned to waiting another 1-2 years before pulling the HD trigger. I have the set, and it’s great for movies, but I’m sticking with analog until I either win the lottery or HD goes more mainstream. Oh well.

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