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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Comcast HD DVR vs TIVO


Comcast HD DVR vs TIVO
I’m a big fan of TIVO, but when HD Tivo’s are going for $800, I naturally had to take a look at the Comcast HD DVR. I wasn’t thrilled that I had to do this, but $800? I’ve been using Comcast’s On Demand service for years now, but wasn’t thrilled with the speed and the functionality of the service. I naturally thought that the DVR would be similar, so I’ve stayed away. OK, I was wrong. Read on.

TIVO has been a part of our lives for over 3 years now (since my daughter was born). We knew that time would be limited for watching TV, so we thought it would be smart to watch the shows we like when we want to watch them. It has been an invaluable gadget for us…even my daughter understands that we can rewind a show, that the Wiggles record every day, and that we can zip forward through commercials. (Sorry advertisers.) :-) That said, I really didn’t want to spend $800 on an HD TIVO. So I called Comcast. On one Saturday, I picked up the new DVR, pulled out one of my TIVO Series 2 DVR’s, and started testing out the Comcast DVR. We’ve been using the Comcast DVR in our family room for a few months now and my findings are below:

What I like about the Comcast HD DVR:

Seamless Integration with the Comcast Cable Box:
Tivo was relatively big, a second box that needed space, and was slow to react…more about the reaction time soon. With the Comcast DVR, you only need space for the cable box, which made my wife extremely happy! It’s also darn fast, which TIVO wasn’t. There was always a lag between changing stations with TIVO and it’s communication with the cable box. In addition, there were times that TIVO thought the channel had changed, but it didn’t. Then it would record a show we didn’t want thinking it was recording the correct selection… This annoyed the heck out of us, but didn’t happen often, probably twice per month on average.

Cost:
At $10/month for the Comcast DVR, there’s not a big investment and it’s covered by Comcast (if something goes wrong, you can call the cable company to come fix it or replace it). Compare this to TIVO HD at $800 and if it breaks, good luck. I’m sure you could call TIVO and have someone repair it (maybe), but knowing Comcast is right around the corner is nice.

HD Anyone?
Yes, TIVO has an HD box, but the Comcast DVR is less expensive, easy to integrate, and I was recording and watching HD footage the same day I picked up the DVR. On a somewhat related note, who else can’t wait for all stations to be broadcast in HD?? It’s hard to look at standard definition when you turn the station from HD. Am I wrong? :-)

Dual Tuners, Recording 1 Show and Watching Another:
This bothered us greatly with our TIVO Series 2 DVR’s. I love being able to watch one show and record another. It makes sense, right? Let’s say I’m watching the US Open and Tiger is on a tear. If the Yankee game comes on, why do I have to change the station? This is what happened with our TIVO… This feature with the Comcast DVR is really nice. It would be hard to revert back…

What I don’t like about the Comcast HD DVR:

TIVO software is better:
You have more functionality with TIVO, and sometimes it’s the little things that you miss. For example, I cannot jump forward in 15 minute increments like I could with TIVO. So, if you recorded an hour long show and you want to hop to the last 15 minutes, good luck. You might actually have a seizure watching the footage zip by at full fast forward speed (which is still a minute per 1 or 2 seconds.) I also liked the ability to watch something in slow motion. This isn’t available on the Comcast DVR. There is a series pass, like the season’s pass on TIVO, so that essential bit of functionality is there. I do believe Comcast will keep enhancing their software, so this might not be much of an issue down the line. Right now, however, TIVO wins the software battle.

Weird Audio Problems:
At first I thought it was my TV, but doing some Google searches revealed many other people having weird audio problems and freezing issues with their Comcast DVR. For us, the annoying little problem is that the audio goes out and you cannot get it back without switching sources or turning off the TV and then turning it back on. So, I switch from HDMI to AVI and then back and the audio comes back on. Yes, this is annoying and I hope Comcast figures it out…

Limited Space for Shows:
At 100% capacity, our Comcast DVR is holding about 40 hours of footage (mixed between HD and standard definition). It’s ok, but we would obviously like more space. It hasn’t been a big problem yet, but I can see it becoming a problem down the line if the space issue isn’t addressed. We don’t watch a huge amount of TV, but we like to record our favorite shows, which are mostly in HD. Then we have our daughter’s shows, mostly in standard definition. My son isn’t old enough yet for TV, but when he gets involved, we will definitely need more space. I’m assuming that Comcast will keep increasing the space as their service becomes more robust, but it’s worth noting now.

Dare I say…
In closing, as a TIVO fan, dare I say that my experience with our Comcast HD DVR has been…pretty darn good?? Well, it has and I need to call it like I see it! There has been a lot of talk over the past few years about TIVO’s lifespan (or lack thereof). I’m not exactly sure what the company has planned and which areas they will focus on in the future, but I can tell you that if I switched to the Comcast DVR, many others are going to do the same. I’ve told countless people over the past 3 years about TIVO (with my very own mini Word of Mouth Marketing campaign), but I feel much less connected with the TIVO brand right now… I’ve still got a TIVO Series 2 in another room in my house, but it’s been getting less and less attention. Do you think it knows that Buzz Lightyear is downstairs recording some HD right now? ;-)

GG

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13 Comments:

  • At 9:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I too am a long time TIVO user. I still have my original TIVO Series 1 box and it's still going strong (with a lifetime subscription I might add). I too longed for the HD TIVO box but succumbed to financial reality and went with the Comcast/Motorola DVR. All in all I'm happy with the box. I love the duel tuners and I can 'live' with the software limitaions and clunkiness. Especially knowing that at some date Comcast is going to install the TIVO OS onto the box (I can hardly wait). I have had a couple of crashes/lockups with the box so far in my first two months of usage which is actually better than I was expecting but so far I'm not gotten too overly frustrated with it (I just keep chanting to myself TIVO OS is coming, TIVO OS is coming...

    J.T.

     
  • At 3:31 PM, Blogger Glenn Gabe said…

    Hi J.T.

    Thanks for stopping by and it sounds like you were in a similar situation as I was.

    Is the Comcast/Tivo deal ever going to yield a dvr with the Tivo software? That sounds incredible, but that rumor has been going around for quite some time. Like you, I really hope that happens.

    Like I told Tivo, if their HD Tivo box was under $400, I think it would have been an easy decision...but at $800, I had to look at an alternative.

    Thanks again.

    GG

     
  • At 12:51 PM, Anonymous Henry said…

    Glenn, what city are you located in? I live in San Francisco and just ordered the HD/DVR and am wondering if Comcast is rolling out the same box nationally.

    Thanks

     
  • At 7:06 PM, Blogger Glenn Gabe said…

    Hi Henry.

    I live right outside Princeton, NJ. Did they just roll out the HD DVR's in your area?

    I'm going to update this post soon, since I have some new stories to tell about its performance (or lack of performance) in some areas...

    Definitely come back and let me know how it works out for you. I'd be very interested in hearing your opinion.

    Thanks.

    Glenn

     
  • At 2:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I have a scientific atlantica HD DVR box from Comcast (Howard County, Maryland). The biggest complaint is the software is even worse then the motorola box. I have a series 2 TIVO and pray they are close to pushing the functionality to everyone soon. I don't have season pass capability and when looking at the channel guide I can't type in another channel and just the guide change (it changes the actual channel). TIVO just released its new HD DVR for about $300, but I'm gonna be poor for a while due to auto problems. Oh well

    John

     
  • At 7:44 AM, Blogger Glenn Gabe said…

    Hello everyone. Someone posted an anonymous comment at 3PM yesterday 10/31, supporting the Comcast DVR, along with providing some tips. For whoever posted that comment, please post it again and let us know who you are. I apologize, but I'm instituting a new policy of keeping anonymous comments off of my blog (especially when they relate to specific products or brands).

    I love bold comments, but let’s keep the playing field fair. :) Looking forward to your new post. And by the way, I support the Comcast DVR…not sure if you understood that after reading my posts about TIVO and DVR’s. :-)

    So, anyone posting a comment here, please don't do so anonymously. It won't make it on the blog.

    GG

     
  • At 9:44 AM, Anonymous Ed said…

    I've read several blogs and many of you say this is a $10 box. Here in Michigan they tell me it is $14/mo but you also need to pay the $7/mo HD fee, so it looks like $21/mo to me.

    Would you still use it at $21/mo?

     
  • At 9:31 AM, Blogger Glenn Gabe said…

    Hi Ed.

    Good question. The total pricing for your HD Service plus DVR actually depends on the digital package you order. For example, the Digital Premiere service (top package) is $80, HD is $6 and the DVR is now quoted as $14. There are other levels of digital service starting at $40/month and the DVR is $10 if you have one of the basic digital packages.

    HD is a must (at least for me) so that wasn't even a choice. The DVR at $14 is still a good decision. I have 2 different models from Comcast and there are some minor issues that pop up now and then, but I think for the money, it's still a good way to go. When you take into account support, upgrades, etc., going with the Comcast HD DVR is a good choice.

    Be careful with ordering HD, though (if you are on the fence)...once you start viewing High Definition, it's hard to go back to Standard Definition. :)

     
  • At 2:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I got 3 months free service on buying my TiVo HD DVR system......!

     
  • At 12:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Nice review, thanks. FYI - You can watch in slow motion by pressing pause first, then either fast forward or reverse, depending on which direction you want to watch in slow motion - even better than Tivo!

     
  • At 7:20 PM, Blogger yl said…

    When comparing the cost, don't forget the extra money, either per month or lifetime, you need to pay for the Tivo service after whatever the purchase price of the DVR is.

    Without any kind of subscription, your (newer series) TiVo box becomes a brick after one week of "trial usage". You can't even use it as a simple manual recorder (which was all I wanted when I bought the TiVo HD for $299 last year. Thank god for Circuit City's 30 days return policy).

    Plus if you want to record HD contents from the non-basic channels (read, encrypted), you'll need to get CableCard(s), and pay the associated extra fees to your cable company on top of what you have to pay Tivo, not to mention the potential headache you need to go through with your cable company for the CORRECT installation of the cableCard.

     
  • At 12:29 AM, Anonymous Bob said…

    I really need more than 40 hours of DVR space. I'm considering hooking up a TIVO series 2 as a backup for non-HD programming. Has anyone tried this? Comments?

     
  • At 11:33 PM, Anonymous Dan said…

    TiVo fully integrates w/ Comcast w/the instillation of a cable card. You then don't need any of the crappy Comcast equipment, even those demon possessed remotes. In the long run TiVo will SAVE me money in my Comcast market near Philly.
    I just bought a refurbished, fully warranted HD TiVo for $199 and a $399 DVR lifetime service contract, but now will save $16/mo by not having to RENT the VASTLY inferior Comcast Motorola DVR.
    It will take 3 yr 2 months to break even, however, after that I'll save $16/mo, I will be able to program the TiVo from any computer, connect the TiVo via my wireless router to broadband, Stream music from my Rhapsody account, Purchase content from Amazon and Netflix, access YouTube, download content to a Laptop, expand the capacity w/an external WD-TiVo hard drive, and have a better user interface - NONE of which the Motorola DVR can do. Full TV programming will certainly be available from the internet in the future, which will make the TiVo saving even more dramatic, allowing me to drop Comcast cable bill altogether.
    Perhaps not the least of my joy is derived from Not paying the extortionist Comcast this money.

     

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