Hughes HR10-DVR250 DirecTV HD Receiver with TiVoMay 5, 2004
TiVo goes HDTV
I'm not going to explain what a TiVo is (you can read my 3-year old review of the DirecTV TiVo here and my even older review of the stand-alone TiVo here). This review is all about the new stuff that makes this model unique. I have been a TiVo customer since 1999, when 14 hour models cost over $500. I am still a huge fan.
This supports HDTV, aka Hi-Def, aka the best picture you can get. Right now in the USA there are three ways you can get a broadcast HD picture: you can get your local channels in HD over-the-air (OTA) via an antenna, you can get some satellite channels in HD on various providers, and some cable companies are now offering both locals and other channels in HD too. This box supports HD from OTA and DirecTV. It actually has four tuners, two for OTA and two for satellite, but the box makes two virtual tuners of these, so if you only have one satellite input connected, you'll only get one OTA tuner. This makes sense as it keeps the UI simple as well as the TiVo software. Also it comes with the largest TiVo hard drive yet: a whopping 250 gigabytes, which is good for 25 hours of HD or 250 hours of non-HD recordings.
ConnectionsInputs are pretty much like most other devices of this ilk: power, phone line, dual satellite inputs, and a single antenna input (which gets split internally for the two tuners).
Outputs are a bit special: you get the usual analog stereo audio (only one set though), composite video, s-video, digital audio out, but best of all are the HD outputs: you get component video, and HDMI/DVI output at 480p, 720p and 1080i. Only one HD output type works at once (the act of plugging something into the HDMI/DVI socket disables the component outputs) and while either of the HD outs are in use, neither composite or s-video emit anything.
For future use there are two USB ports (doesn't say if they are USB 1.1. or 2.0), IR and Serial.
SetupI ignored all instructions and just wired it up as I figured it should be, using the component video outputs to connect to my plasma TV (as it doesnt have the newer HDMI/DVI inputs) and the analog audio outputs. I applied power and right away my plasma said it was a 1080i signal, I didnt have to set anything. Initial boot took a while, then it started configuring itself. My only problem was that 1-800-DIRECTV didn't work that night, I think due to the fact that ever other HR10-250 owner was calling in to activate their boxes too! I called the number on my DTV bill and got the box activated quickly and without issue.
I already had a configured three-LNB oval dish (which is required for HD satellite reception) and antenna, so set the machine up by following the menus. I also told it to ignore the local channels from the satellite and instead use the digital OTA channels. Note that if your OTA channels are still analog (shame on them), this box can't see them, as it does not have an MPEG2 encoder. You can tell the box which HD modes your TV supports. Although mine supports all of them, I set it to just do 480i and 1080i. In 720p the TiVo text looked grainy, as the vertical resolution of my plasma is 1080 it perfectly matches the 1080i option and looks a lot nicer. You can also tell it if your TV is widescreen or old-fashioned 4:3, and whether you want any added bars to be black or grey.
HDTVSomething that this box can't help you much with is finding HD content worth watching. However even non-HD stuff looks a lot better than with a non-HD receiver as the box does a great job of up-converting the signal to the mode your TV prefers (1080i for me). DirecTV offer an HD package that includes HDNet and HDNet Movies, but we don't take it. The only satellite HD we get is HBO HD, and they have a reasonable range of movies and programs. There is also an HD PPV channel, and Showtime HD for subscribers to that. The bulk of HD material is from your OTA channels, though right now the only favorite of mine in OTA HD is Star Trek: Enterprise.
I've said this before but its worth saying again - the peanut TiVo remote is simply terrific. The box comes with a larger-than-usual one with a few more buttons to confuse long-time users like us. Sadly the remote is unable to be programmed to our plasma TV, but for more mainstream TVs it can be used to control the power and volume on your TV too. New features for the remote include the ability to switch video output modes as you like, as well as a Ratio button to change how a picture that doesn't match your TV's aspect ratio is shown.
Software is not Series 2This is a big disappointment to me. With the USB ports, the large hard drive, and newer filesystem only previously seen on the DVD-recorder TiVo, I was expecting Series2 software, but no. The version is listed as 3.1.5 which isn't far off the 3.1 that my old DSR6000 has, which is a Series1. Given that this can record 250 hours of non-HD content, I really am going to miss the new Folders scheme that Series2 boxes have.
The only real new feature over a Series1 is the ability to add an HDTV qualifier to Season Passes, and to show an HD icon in the DirecTV Guide. Sadly I still use the original TiVo Guide, and it doesn't show the HD icon, which is going to get annoying. If you select Info on the program you will see HDTV in the description, which is something.
Another omission is the Home Media Option, which allows Series2 TiVos to also access your photo and music collection via your home network. This isn't even available on non-HD DirecTV TiVos for some bizarre reason. With the HD output it would be a perfect addition to this one, but no, at least not right now. Here's hoping they upgrade the software to fix both of these issues, soon.
Additional InfoTiVo's official site
I can't find this on Hughes's own site, or DirecTVs right now. Slackers.
Comments?Please put any comments in my blog.
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