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Comcast Does Digital Video Recording

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Anonymous
March 22, 2005 12:41:35 AM

Archived from groups: alt.video.ptv.replaytv,alt.video.ptv.tivo (More info?)

< ReplayTV by comparison is standing still falling behind in
the brand race. >

Comcast Does Digital Video Recording

Cable company offers a TiVo alternative--but can this device compete?

Liane Cassavoy, PC World
Friday, March 18, 2005

If you can't stand to leave home knowing you might miss an episode of
Lost or 24, you need a digital video recorder. Gone are the days of
the VCR--today's DVRs let you schedule recordings of your favorite
shows and replay them at your convenience. And you don't have to shell
out big bucks to get one.

Several big-name cable companies, including Comcast, are offering DVRs
to subscribers for a monthly fee. So how do these "rental" DVRs stack
up to ReplayTV and TiVo? I put Comcast's DVR to the test and found
that, while the price may be right, the device is certainly not
perfect.

Comcast began offering DVR rentals to subscribers in select cities
late last year; the service is now available in all of the company's
markets. For $10 a month (on top of your cable bill), you get a
80GB-capacity box that holds about 40 hours of standard-definition
programming, according to Comcast representatives. In comparison, a
TiVo Series 2 box that stores 40 hours of programming lists for $100
on TiVo.com--and that price is after a $100 mail-in rebate. TiVo also
charges $13 per month (or $299 for the lifetime of the product) for
using the TiVo service.

For now, you still have to choose between a Comcast DVR and one from
TiVo, but that will change. This week the two companies announced that
they will partner on DVRs in the future. Beginning in "mid-to-late
2006," according to a statement released by TiVo on Tuesday, Comcast
customers will have access to a Comcast DVR that features TiVo
software. Pricing has not yet been announced.

Beats TiVo Here

Other than its low price, the Comcast DVR's best feature is its
dual-tuner capability. That means you can record one show while
watching another or, if you're away from the TV, record two programs
at the same time. Most TiVo boxes allow you to watch and record only
one show at a time, though TiVo boxes with DirectTV feature the
dual-tuner capability. If you live in a household like mine, where two
people often have opposing views on what to watch, this dual-tuner
feature comes in very handy, and it's something that's sadly lacking
from TiVo.

However, in most other aspects--especially ease of use--the Comcast
DVR lags behind TiVo. This is where Comcast customers will really
benefit from the new deal with TiVo, getting Comcast's DVR box with
TiVo's excellent software. The current Comcast software lacks TiVo's
friendly "TiVo Central" screen, which features clearly marked links to
your saved recordings and lets you pick programs to record. On the
Comcast DVR, the main screen is more muddled, with graphic icons
instead of text explanations. You have to highlight each icon with the
remote to see which function it serves, such as searching for programs
to record or viewing scheduled recordings.

But once your programs have been recorded, they are easy to find, play
back, pause, and delete.

In two months of testing my Comcast box, manufactured by Motorola, I
had minor problems with the DVR's pause capability. On two occasions I
paused a program only to find I was unable to resume playing it. One
time it froze completely, and I was unable to view the program until I
changed the channel and then changed it back--which meant that all of
the content I had saved by pausing the TV was gone. On another
occasion, I was able to resume playing, but the playback was garbled.
The picture went in and out, and there was no audio. Again, I had to
change the channel to resume viewing normal content.

In three years of ownership, I once had a similar problem with my
TiVo. It froze while fast-forwarding through paused TV. To fix it, I
had to unplug the TiVo and plug it back in. Once it booted back up, it
played fine.

Time-Consuming

My other quibbles with the Comcast DVR are minor. Entering the title
of a program to record is more time-consuming than it should be, for
example. Instead of presenting you with an on-screen keyboard of
sorts, like TiVo, the Comcast DVR forces you to scroll through letters
of the alphabet to spell out the title. It also lacks a feature to
rival TiVo's WishLists, which let you record all programs featuring a
certain actor or centered on a certain topic.

Ninety percent of Comcast subscribers who sign up for the DVR service
will receive a Motorola box, while 10 percent will receive a box
manufactured by Scientific Atlanta, Comcast representatives say.

Depending on where you live, Comcast may charge an installation fee,
which can range from $15 to $40, Comcast says. And despite the fact
that Comcast says the service should cost only $9.95 per month, my
cable bill actually showed a charge of $15. That charge was broken
down as $9.95 for the DVR service, $0.30 for the remote, and $4.75 for
an "HD box". I contacted Comcast about the disparity in price and was
told that the $4.75 was an equipment charge for the box, which varies
from market to market.

So would I opt for a Comcast DVR? Its attractive price and dual-tuning
capability make it a viable alternative to TiVo and ReplayTV,
especially if you've never used a DVR before or are interested in
testing out the technology. As for this self-confessed TiVo addict,
there's room for only one DVR in my heart--but next year, when TiVo
and Comcast join forces, I will likely make room for another.

http://www.pcworld.com/news/article/0,aid,120090,tk,dn0...


===
"It made us feel good about our relationship again."
-- Jessica Simpson on the Christmas Special with her & Nick.
Anonymous
March 22, 2005 4:50:09 PM

Archived from groups: alt.video.ptv.tivo (More info?)

> Other than its low price, the Comcast DVR's best feature is its
> dual-tuner capability. That means you can record one show while
> watching another or, if you're away from the TV, record two programs
> at the same time. Most TiVo boxes allow you to watch and record only
> one show at a time, though TiVo boxes with DirectTV feature the
> dual-tuner capability. If you live in a household like mine, where two
> people often have opposing views on what to watch, this dual-tuner
> feature comes in very handy, and it's something that's sadly lacking
> from TiVo.

Part of that's dependent on the style of tuner needed to pickup the signal.
If it's digital cable there's no way for anything other than a cable box to
get it. If and when the cable companies get off their ass and actually
implement CableCard anyone using it is stuck with the box forced on them.

I've a DirecTivo and concur, it's great. Not only for maintain 'marital
bliss' but for avoiding almost all "which one to record" debates.

> On the Comcast DVR, the main screen is more muddled,

Pfft, muddled doesn't even being to describe the pain in the ass interface.

> On two occasions I
> paused a program only to find I was unable to resume playing it. One
> time it froze completely, and I was unable to view the program until I
> changed the channel and then changed it back--which meant that all of
> the content I had saved by pausing the TV was gone.

So basically pause on a Moto DVR means take a gamble and throw away anything
I've been watching? Considering how frequently I use pause on my DirecTivo
I'd be infuriated by that sort of bug. I've never seen anything like that
on a DirecTivo, not once. The only thing that happens, and it's rare, is
the audio gets slightly out of sync. Pausing the playback instantly syncs
it back up again. It doesn't affect the recording; those are fine and
playback quite perfectly.

> On another
> occasion, I was able to resume playing, but the playback was garbled.
> The picture went in and out, and there was no audio.

Heh, sounds like classic Cable TV signal drop-outs.

> My other quibbles with the Comcast DVR are minor. Entering the title
> of a program to record is more time-consuming than it should be, for
> example. Instead of presenting you with an on-screen keyboard of
> sorts, like TiVo, the Comcast DVR forces you to scroll through letters
> of the alphabet to spell out the title. It also lacks a feature to
> rival TiVo's WishLists, which let you record all programs featuring a
> certain actor or centered on a certain topic.

Without Wishlists or the smart keyboard one might as well just go back to
using a VCR and those gawd-awful VCR+ codes from the newspaper.

> Ninety percent of Comcast subscribers who sign up for the DVR service
> will receive a Motorola box, while 10 percent will receive a box
> manufactured by Scientific Atlanta, Comcast representatives say.

So you're screwed either way?

> Depending on where you live, Comcast may charge an installation fee,

More like depending on the phase of the moon, the tides and whether or not
they just feel like screwing you that day. They're STILL gouging people for
renting a remote? Yeeesh, the device isn't even capable of being USED
without the remote and they're trying to bill it as an option? The
bastards, but hey, that's cable.

> So would I opt for a Comcast DVR?

I'd sooner sell small children into slavery.
!