Comcast High Definition Digital Video Recorder

I just wanted to mention that I now have DVR service from Comcast. Overall I've been pretty happy with it and I would definitely recommend it to a friend. That certainly doesn't mean that its perfect, and I can't comment on it in comparison to TiVo, but my needs are met.

The box is by Motorola and its rented from Comcast. Because I already had a high definition cable box the price increase is only about $8/month. Not only is TiVo an extra $13 more a month, but I'd have to buy their high-def DVR (rather than renting), and from what I last heard the price was hovering around the $1000 range. I don't have that kind of spare cash to lay down in one shot.

Again, it does what I want it to do. I have basic needs. Plain and simple, I just wanted a way to record high-definition programming. Comcast provides a pretty easy to use interface, though its not laid out in the best possible way. You can pause live TV, do the instant replay, the whole bit.

There are a few drawbacks. For one thing, when you set up a recurring recording it doesn't understand when things get pre-empted. I had set it up to record Pardon the Interruption on ESPN HD every weekday at 5:30 p.m. Too bad the next day ESPN nixed PTI for a round of golf. What happens to the DVR? I get the entire 4 hours of golf recorded for me. Great!

Also, there no dual tuner, so you can't record one thing and watch another or record two things at once. I'm told that TiVo can do this. On the flip-side, at least you can record something and watch something else off your DVR. Or, something that I do frequently, record something and start tuning in before its over. All you have to do is start viewing the program from the beginning while it finishes recording it. This can really cut down on the time spent on a program, too, since you can fast forward through the commercials and watch an hour program in 45 minutes.

There's four speeds of fast forwarding, which is very nice. At first I thought it was irritating, but then I realized the benefit of the slow fast forward (oxymoron?). For instance, I watched the entire Patriots game on Sunday in about 45 minutes. I had a great system. FF when the Patriots are on offense; FF2 when the Pats are playing D; FF4 through commercials, halftime, possession changes, etc., etc., and so on.

Again, its flaws are minor and don't make much of a difference. The only real complaint that I have is space. You can only record about 9 1/2 hours of HD programming (as opposed to about 100 hours of regular def). This is a severe limitation. I've already run into issues where I want to record a movie and I have to clean house on my hard drive. Its a pain and highlights the need for a standard HD DVD format to be brought to market at a reasonable price. DVR is your short-term memory and DVD is for the long haul.

The true test of the DVR, though, like anything, is how Darrell reacts to it. Let's just say that it was love at first sight. He was ready to get on the phone and order his own after one quick demo.

Anyway, I have Gattaca in beautiful widescreen HD sitting on my DVR box right now. I'll save it on there for when Joshua and Angie come out. There's nothing like seeing extreme close-ups of body matter falling to the ground in glorious 1080i.


Joshua Provost said...

Why is it that I always seem to be recommending, explaining, and helping people set up their high-end home theater equipment, but I don't actually own any of the good stuff. What good is it to know the difference between composite and component, SDTV and HDTV, 480i, 480p, 720p, and 1080i, when I don't get to enjoy them?

Anyway, it sounds cool. We've been enjoying our Tivo very much. Tivo certainly has the best interface and features in a DVR, hands down. My 40-hour SDTV version cost $99 at Fry's Electronics, and service is $13/month.

I, too, watched the Pats game on DVR. Took about an hour for me, since I watched the Pats offense in real time. I've watched a number of games this way, and I enjoy it quite a bit. All of he action, none of the down time.

Slowly, my Tivo is learning what I like. There's always something new for me to watch, I have Scientific American Frontiers and Nova on Season Pass, and it's uncanny that every time I turn on the TV, it's already on a show I'd like to watch, either recording it, or having recently recorded something else on the same channel.

I'm not sure how good Gataca could look, since it's probably not available from a 1080i source. It's probably uprezed from 480p DVD. Not that I've even had the pleasure of seeing it that good!

Gabe said...

I'm currently looking into a DVR. Some guy at work was telling me about one he bought. I can't remember the name. I emailed him to give me the info. Apparently it's configurable over the Internet, in case you forgot to set it and you're on vacation.

I've also wondered about those movies presented in HD, as to what the source is. Most likely they are upconverted. They do look pretty sharp, though.

Jeremy said...

The only thing that you have to be careful of with these DVRs is that you can quickly find yourself watching a whole lot more TV then you're used to. They just make it so easy to record all this stuff and then you feel obliged to watch it.

I'm not sure about the source of Gattaca, but I have noticed that movies broadcast on HD look infinitely superior to the DVD version. This seems to apply in all cases. Maybe I just don't have a good DVD player.

Joshua Provost said...

Jer, you're DVD player is a piece of crap. Does it do Progressive scan? And do you have it hooked up through component cables? You need the component to get the HD signal.

Jeremy said...

Nope ... no progressive scan here. I have an explanation for that, though. See I didn't want to run out and buy a progressive scan DVD player because I knew that DVD-R was just around the corner. And now that DVD-R's are beginning to have reasonable prices I'm telling myself that I don't want to buy one because I know that HD-DVD-R will be out in no time. Its a vicious cycle.

However, I'm not a complete idiot. I bought component cables the day I hooked up my HDTV. I've component from the cable box to the HDTV and from the HDTV to the DVD player. All set with that.

Gabe said...

And don't forget about DVI/HDMI cables (HDMI to be the standard). DVD players just started coming out this year with that connector. All digital, no compression. Component is still analog.

The format war has gotten ugly among HD DVD. They better choose one quick.

Jeremy said...

This is why I hate technology. Stuff changes too quickly. We're all just chasing our tails.