In case you are wondering, "D" is my husband -- Dave Liu! As you've probably noticed, I don't update this blog often but I may post more as I've linked this to my Google+ account.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Comcast Dual Tuner HD DVR

I am so excited! Comcast has come out with a dual tuner HD DVR in the Bay Area. They really need to improve their marketeting: I only found out about it from reading the company's earnings transcript, of all places. If I were them, I would be blasting it from the rooftops and promoting this service from every available advertising outlet. If they managed to miss me, a self-admitted TV freak who was actively looking for this service, I don't know how they're going to reach more casual TV viewers. VOD (Video on Demand) is supposed to available as well, but only in selected parts of the Bay Area. I specifically called customer service about it, and they confirmed it hadn't rolled out in my neck of the woods yet.

I had to do quite the sell job to convince him we should get the Comcast PVR. In case you also need to sway your loved one, here are the three things you should emphasize:

  1. Dual tuner: With this device, you can record two channels simultaneously while watching a pre-recorded show. Alternatively, you can record one channel while watching another *live* channel. This functionality is not yet available with regular standalone TiVo boxes.
  2. HD Tuner: We've had a HD-ready TV for a while, but are still watching standard definition TV on it because we didn't want to spend $300 on an HD tuner. Plus, even with the HD tuner, we wouldn't be able to record anything in HD without buying a ~$1,000 HD TiVo.
  3. No upfront costs: It's only $10/month and you don't have to buy the box.

Now that we have it, D is super happy that we can watch shows in high def, especially sports! The negatives are that we both abhor the interface, and the unit itself is kinda buggy, but the ability to get HD + dual tuner for the bargain price of $10/month almost makes up for it. More importantly, we are keeping our existing TiVo unit because we already have a lifetime subscription.

The pros & cons of HDTV 6412 vs. TiVo is well documented at PVRblog. This comprehensive site is where I discovered how to program one of the remote buttons to advance 30 seconds (skip commercials). BTW, DO NOT reprogram your mute button for this purpose, even if you have a separate surround system! I discovered this the hard way. Due to a bug in the PVR, the "mute" function turned itself on somehow. Fortunately, this problem was discussed on PVRblog so I was able to fix it.

In case you don't want to read through PVRblog, here are the instructions on how to program a button to advance 30 seconds:

  1. Press the "Cable" button at the top of the remote to put it into Cable Box control mode.
  2. Press and hold the "Setup" button until the "Cable" button blinks twice.
  3. Type in the code 994. The "Cable" button will blink twice
  4. Press (do not hold) the "Setup" button
  5. Type in the code 00173 (for 30 second Skip) or 00236 (for Swap).
  6. Press whatever button you want to map the skip or swap function to.

As you may have guessed, the same process can be used for programming other functions. For additional information and problem solving tips, visit the dvrchatter forum.

As a consumer, I'm delighted that Comcast and TiVo recently announced a strategic partnership (emphasis on "consumer" since I'm staying out of the heated discussions amongst investors and technologists etc.) As a final note, you may be interested in reading Comcast CEO Brian Robert's perspective on the deal.

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