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Thread: Time Warner DVR vs. DirectTV DVR

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    Time Warner DVR vs. DirectTV DVR

    In some analysis of how to save some money, we're looking at the possibility of moving from DirecTV to TimeWarner cable. We can get a good bundled deal of internet (which we already have from them) and cable TV from TW.

    Looking at the lineups, it looks like the channel selection is pretty comparable. But my biggest concern is the DVRs. We're very pleased with the DirectTV HD DVRs, and everyone in the house (me, wife, daughters) can use it without problem.

    How different is the DVR for TW? Capabilities, ease of use, etc?

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    I don't know what the capabilities of the directtv DVR are, but the Time Warner DVR is horrible. The thing regresses constantly. They keep chipping away features and coming out with new revs of software that add some pointless new feature at the cost of things that used to work well now being flaky. I lack the words to articulate the rage I feel against Time Warner for their sorry excuse of a DVR but trust me, it's abysmal.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kraaze View Post
    I don't know what the capabilities of the directtv DVR are, but the Time Warner DVR is horrible. The thing regresses constantly. They keep chipping away features and coming out with new revs of software that add some pointless new feature at the cost of things that used to work well now being flaky. I lack the words to articulate the rage I feel against Time Warner for their sorry excuse of a DVR but trust me, it's abysmal.
    Thanks. Thats enough to make me stay with DirecTV. The only reason we would switch is to save a few bucks - we've been DTV subscribers since 1995 and happy with it for the most part. And we watch at least 70% of our TV viewing via the DVR, so a poor DVR is unacceptable to us.

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    What Kraaze said. I don't know what the DirectTV DVR is like (is it a Tivo?), but the SA unit that Time Warner uses sucks. Big time. It lacks many basic features that one might expect on a DVR (like searching), and it is extremely flaky. I still can't get it to season pass Good Eats, no matter what I do. It always seems like it's done it, but as soon as a new episode comes on, it forgets to record it, and then (apparently out of embarrassment) erases the season pass. It sometimes randomly misses the first few minutes of a recording, and you can't tell it to start recording early or to stop late (which sucks for shows like Heroes, which usually runs long). It also doesn't know to avoid recording multiple copies of the same episode of a show, so if you record anything that runs in multiple time slots, it will generally record all of them. Erasing stuff from the recorded list is a chore (three button presses, scroll down a list, then two more button presses, just to erase one show... rinse and repeat for each additional thing you want to erase).

    If you like the DVR that you have, then stick with it. You won't like this one.

  5. #5
    Neo Acoustic Gedd's Avatar
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    I've never used DirecTV, but I've had a TWC for a year now. The box as a whole was pretty terrible when we first got it and we'd end up resetting it multiple times a week. As a contrasting opinion, I think the DVR software has gotten better, and we haven't had to reset it in quite a while.

    A lot of people were pretty upset when they moved from the older software (I forget the name) to Passport, which we've had the whole time so we can't really compare. I think Passport has gotten better in recent months though.

    It lacks many basic features that one might expect on a DVR (like searching)
    What do you mean by this? I'm able to search for programs by title. I've also never had issues setting up a series to be recorded. We have had issues in the past with audio dropouts during recorded programs, but 99% of the time it was fixable by restarting the show. There was a period where CBS would frequently have audio dropouts whether record or live, but we haven't seen it since they switched to SDV in our area.

    I don't want to come across like I'm completely happy with TWC's service though. We've considered switching to DirecTV a number of times since we signed up with TWC.

  6. #6
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    Yeah Time Warner's DVRs seem to vary greatly depending upon where you live and what version of the software you have. I currently have AT&T U-Verse but back when I was on TWC we had 8300HD DVRs with Passport that had fairly basic non-sexy UIs but I never had problems like Ben's other than the issue with it re-recording the same program over and over... it couldn't detect duplicates at all, your only options were record new only, or record all and record all would tend to store a lot of dupes on shows that repeat a lot like Colbert Report, Daily Show, South Park, etc.

    My TWC DVR absolutely let me adjust the recording time for shows to be under/over both in the beginning and the end, it did have search though it was implemented very klunkily, and it never spontaneously decided to delete my series recording settings or recorded shows.

    YMMV.

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    I had Tivo's until DirecTV decided to go with their own systems. I prefer the Tivo, but once you get over the differences, the capabilities are pretty much the same. Search capability is fine (e.g., if I want to search for movies that are dramas with Jimmy Cagney, no problem,) season passes work fine, lost of flexibility in recording options, and everything is easy enough my technophobe wife can use it with no problem.

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    The Motorolla DVR I had with Time Warner was seriously one of the worst pieces of electronics I've ever owned. After having several shows just inexplicably cancel their scheduled recordings on us, we called customer service and demanded they send us a new box. Well, they did, but it was just another Motorolla and sucked in pretty much exactly the same way.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gedd View Post
    What do you mean by this? I'm able to search for programs by title.
    Do you have the SA 8300HD? Mine has no such capability. In the Guide, I have three options--browse by channel, browse by title, and browse by theme. There is no true search function, and even the browsing functionality is a pale shadow of what you get with Tivo (particularly since the SA DVR doesn't cache program schedules as far in advance as Tivo does).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ben Sones View Post
    Do you have the SA 8300HD? Mine has no such capability. In the Guide, I have three options--browse by channel, browse by title, and browse by theme. There is no true search function, and even the browsing functionality is a pale shadow of what you get with Tivo (particularly since the SA DVR doesn't cache program schedules as far in advance as Tivo does).
    I have that same DVR, and there is a title search screen. Go to the guide, browse by title, and the red remote button will then give you a lame ass keyword search. It's really just a string match against the titles to allow you to browse to the right title in a long list, not a true search. For example, if I search for NFL it will find "NFL football". If I just search for "football" it won't find it.

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    Just checked, and mine does not have that. If you hit the red button while browsing the title list, it just returns you to the "select by letter category" list. If you are already there, pressing the red button does nothing at all.

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    Neo Acoustic Gedd's Avatar
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    I think I have the 8300HDC. On mine, I think when you pull up the guide, you can press the blue (I think B?) button, and then the blue button again and it will let you type in a title.

    Here's a link to the instructions on TWC's website.

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    Gad. Reading the exchange between TW DVR owners, I think I will go home and hug my DirecTV HR-20...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gedd View Post
    I think I have the 8300HDC. On mine, I think when you pull up the guide, you can press the blue (I think B?) button, and then the blue button again and it will let you type in a title.
    The HDC is just a CableCard version of the HD. The version of the UI software you're running is what makes the TWC cable boxes act differently (in some cases, remarkably so), not really the hardware model. As I mentioned before, the version of Passport they used here in San Diego was perfectly usable and stable but YMMV greatly depending upon where you are and what version of the software they give you.

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    That blue button thing doesn't work for me, and the instructions that you linked to are not for the Time Warner DVR, in any event (they are for the regular, non-DVR digital cable box). On my DVR, the blue button opens a list that lets you change the date that you are browsing, in all three of the browse modes. Pressing it again does nothing.

    That does highlight another absurdity of the browse-by-title functionality (and its related search feature, for those that have it)--the DVR only lets you browse titles for a single day at a time. So by default, that title list only includes programs that are airing today, and you can set it to instead view titles that are airing tomorrow, or next Tuesday or whatever, but you can never list more than one day's worth of titles at a time. Which makes the whole feature utterly useless, because I don't really need a search function--or even an advanced browse function, above and beyond the basic channel browser--to find programs that are going to air today. And I likewise do not need one that lets me search for stuff in the future, but only if I already know specifically what day the show will be airing. Tivo never requires that you know when a show is going to be on to schedule a recording. Hell, it doesn't even need the show to be listed. I can tell it to record, say, all episodes Max Headroom, even though the show hasn't been on television in over twenty years, and if it ever does come back, the Tivo will record it.

    Or I could, if I had one. Anyway, comparing the Tivo to the TW DVR is like comparing a sophisticated fly-by-wire modern jetfighter to a rock.

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    The DirecTV DVR has really grown on me. I was a big fan of the DirecTV/Tivo combo machine but have gotten used to their own box and they have really stabilized it with all their bug fixes.

    I used to have the Comcast DVR (made by Motorola) and it was a horror show like everybody else is saying.

    You should consider bundling phone and internet to at least get some savings... either from TW or your local AT&T spinoff...

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    Neo Acoustic Gedd's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Coca Cola Zero View Post
    The HDC is just a CableCard version of the HD. The version of the UI software you're running is what makes the TWC cable boxes act differently (in some cases, remarkably so), not really the hardware model.
    Right. I actually had to double-check that I hadn't made a comment to that effect because I meant to...

    As I mentioned before, the version of Passport they used here in San Diego was perfectly usable and stable but YMMV greatly depending upon where you are and what version of the software they give you.
    Also correct, and I actually made a mistake in my original post. The old software that people seemed to really like was Passport, but I had Navigator out of the box, and I thought from what I'd read over at AVS that TWC has been moving everyone to (the same version of) Navigator to make support easier for them.

    the instructions that you linked to are not for the Time Warner DVR, in any event (they are for the regular, non-DVR digital cable box)
    Sorry it didn't work for you, but the link was for Navigator, which is supposed to be on both the DVR and non-DVR boxes.

    I'm completely baffled by what you're describing in the rest of your post, as I've never experienced anything like it on my box. The search function I've described lets me look at everything that's currently available in the guide, which is a week's content I think?

    I pulled up an old PDF for the 8300 and it sounds oddly like what you're experiencing. So maybe you're just on a much older version of the software for some reason.

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    I have personally had both. In fact, I just made this very switch last summer because in my new home I cannot get a view of the southern sky. I would LOVE to go back to DTV. It is FAR superior to Time Warner. Unless the money is critical for you, I'd stick. That said, the DVR is not THAT bad. It's doable. You have to adjust a bit to the different features, but it's not awful. DTV was better though. Time Warner does have on demand, and it's adding HD channels, but still doesn't have as many as DTv.

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    They are actually doing pretty good with HD channels in my area. There are only two channels that we watch that aren't in HD at this point--Sci-Fi and Comedy Central--and apparently they are going to be adding those sometime this year. After that, we'll be all HD, all the time.

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    I have sci-fi HD already, yes.

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    Neo Acoustic Gedd's Avatar
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    Yeah, I was really disappointed in our HD lineup for a while, especially compared to DTV. But since them implemented switched digital video in our area they've added probably a dozen or more HD channels in the last few months.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Sharp View Post
    I have sci-fi HD already, yes.
    Actually, they just added it here as well (along with USA, Bravo, and the CNN Business network). So now the only channel we watch that isn't in HD is Comedy Central.

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    So there was a new episode of Good Eats last night, and the DVR actually recorded... the first sixteen minutes of it. Seriously, it just stopped recording halfway through, for no apparent reason. Shows up in the list as Good Eats: 16 min. long.

    At this point, I'm fairly certain that it's just mocking me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ben Sones View Post
    So there was a new episode of Good Eats last night, and the DVR actually recorded... the first sixteen minutes of it. Seriously, it just stopped recording halfway through, for no apparent reason. Shows up in the list as Good Eats: 16 min. long.

    At this point, I'm fairly certain that it's just mocking me.
    You sure my mother-in-law wasn't at your house? She lives with us and that's her specialty, turning the channel in the middle of a recording (and yes, even with 2 tuners she manages to do this).

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    If it's a Scientific Atlanta box, you should just expect it to be horrible. Seriously. Before I finally got around to rolling my own, I was routinely derided by my friends and acquaintances for the horrible performance of that buggering device. The advantage to having cable, of course, is that you CAN roll your own DVR for a little bit cheaper than with DirectTV, but if you're dedicated to paying for a DVR, there's no competition between the two devices. DirectTV's model is a well-trained show dog and anything from Scientific Atlanta (literally anything - I cannot express the amount of contempt that I hold for their hardware, software...pretty much everything) is the mechanical equivalent of the sickly mutt that pisses on your floor every time you leave the house just because he knows it bothers you.

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    Neo Acoustic Gedd's Avatar
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    We had our first issue in a while with the box. Last week, I'm guessing around Thursday, the box just lost the programming guide. Of course the DVR works off the programming guide, so nothing recorded. We didn't notice until Sunday when I went to flip through the guide and it kept telling us the guide wasn't available. Fortunately I think all we missed were CSI and some kids shows.

    I did a restart on the box and 5 minutes later (that's how long it takes to restart) it had the guide and everything's been working fine since. Just annoying that it happened and we had no idea for several days.

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    SciAtlantas will do that sometimes. They do a guide request exactly once if they're up 24x7 every day and if that fails, they don't seem to want to try again. And if you download a totally empty guide, the scheduler still runs again and then proceeds to wipe all of your scheduled items because one part of the programming was too damn stupid to tell the other part that it had a whoopsie and maybe you shouldn't trust the data. One solution is to power down and back up again on a regular basis and try to open the guide. I had it do that to me on a few occasions - sometimes it would get the guide back myself and I would just lose a bunch of DVR recordings and sometimes I would have to get all up in its business and give it what for.

    Specific problems that all Scientific Atlantas seem to have revolve around quickly powering down and back up again - if you get brown outs or short outages where you live, it might be wise to invest in a UPS to plug the bastarding thing into. I've also had caps (and this is still a problem, since I'm operating off the analog loophole) that failed because I was sitting at a black screen on account of it fell over and couldn't get up until I forcibly cycled the power (by jerking the plug) and made it do a hard reboot.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gedd View Post
    I did a restart on the box and 5 minutes later (that's how long it takes to restart)
    I love the extensive feedback during the reboot process, too. If you haven't done it before, you might think that something is wrong, or even that your DVR is broken. Basically, you'll get a single message on the DVR's LED display ("boot"), and a splash screen on your TV that says that the DVR is powering up. And then both disappear--the DVR goes totally dark and silent, and the TV loses it's signal, and both remain that way for a really long time (as you said, 4-5 minutes, generally). But don't touch it! It's still booting, and if you interrupt the process, you'll just have to start all over. The only indication that it's done is that the clock appears again on the DVR's LED display. No message telling you that its done, and you won't get a signal on your TV screen until you power the DVR back on by manually pressing the power button (but don't do this before you see the clock!).

    It's a masterpiece of terrible design.

  29. #29
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    So DirecTV came out to the new house to install us yesterday. The contractor they sent installed everything and decided, on his own, that the HD DVR should go upstairs in the bedroom while the regular one should go in the TV room downstairs. Didn't ask, just did it. We want it the other way around.

    So the regional manager stopped by the house to check up on things (he was in the area, apparently) and when he found out what happened, he apologized and gave us his personal number. On Sat, once we're moved in, he wants us to call him and he'll send someone ASAP to make it all right and install everything for us.

    So, it was a fuck up but also a potentially spectacular recovery!

  30. #30
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    Is there any reason why you can't just move the two boxes around yourself? I assume they're operating off the same dish, so you should just be receiving from a coaxial cable running into the back of the receiver with each box receiving the same gross data feed, from which it selects either the standard or high definition content with its internal programming.

    Or is this running off two different dishes/receivers?

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