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DirecTV HR10-250 HD DVR High Definition Satellite Box with Built-In TiVo HD Recorder

February, 2005

John E. Johnson, Jr.

 

Click the Photo Above to See a Larger Version.

Specifications:
  • High Definition Satellite Tuner for DirecTV
  • TiVO Service Built-In; Records 30 Hours of
        High Definition Programming or 200
        Hours of NTSC Programming (250 GB
        Hard Drive)
  • Inputs: Two Satellite Inputs, One RF Over-
       the-Air Antenna Input
  • Outputs: HDMI (HDCP Compatible),
        Component Video, S-Video, Composite
        Video, Stereo Analog Audio, Toslink
        Optical Digital Audio
  • Output Resolutions: 480i, 480p, 720p,
        1080i
  • Dimensions: 3" H x 15" W x 12" D
  • Weight: 5 Pounds
  • MSRP: $999 USA

DirecTV

www.directv.com

Introduction

When TiVo came out a few years ago, the product (called PVRs - Personal Video Recorders, or DVRs - Digital Video Recorders) revolutionized the way we watch TV. It allowed us to pause TV programs, rewind and replay TV programs, and record them when we were away from the TV. They contained a hard drive instead of tape, for storing programs. The early ones did not have much room to store programs (about 20 hours of NTSC programs), but the current ones have drives in the hundreds of gigabytes capacity, and will store hundreds of hours of NTSC. More importantly, they can store High Definition programs, which take up a lot of space.

I bought one for the upstairs kitchen, and a second unit for downstairs in the home theater. This thing was simply indispensable, as many of the TV programs that I like to watch are shown late in the evening or in the middle of the night.

At that point, there was only one tuner in the TiVo box, and it had to be linked to my DirecTV satellite box with a cable that told the DirecTV tuner what to do. The TiVo service was $9.95/month, and I was glad to pay it, as it doubled my program watching options.

When High Definition came along, I bought a digital projector for the home theater and an LCD panel display for the kitchen, along with two HD satellite boxes. I could no longer use the TiVo box because it would not record High Definition programs. So, I was without a DVR and feeling the pain. That was nearly two years ago.

DirecTV HR-10 250

Recently, High Definition satellite boxes with the DVR capability built-in hit the market. DirecTV's model HR10-250 is an early salvo. It has a DirecTV HD tuner (two tuners, for watching one channel while recording another) and a TiVo DVR which can record 30 hours of HD programming or 200 hours of NTSC programming. Everything is in one chassis, so you don't need to connect two boxes together or use two remote controls.

My goal here is not to review all the features of TiVo, since they have been around for quite some time, but to talk about how well the tuner and TiVo units are integrated and whether or not the box works well as an HD tuner and HD recorder.

The front panel has the access card slot, indicator for resolution being output (you can select 480i, 480p, 720p, or 1080i by pressing the Format button on the front panel, or using the remote), and some of the buttons that are also on the remote control (you can click on the photo in the upper left hand corner to see a large photo of the front panel).

The rear panel has two satellite inputs and one RF input for an over-the-air antenna. Outputs include HDMI (HDCP compatible), component video, S-Video, and composite video. If you use HDMI, audio is carried with the video, but if you need to have analog audio, as you would with the other video outputs, there is a pair of analog stereo outputs as well as a Toslink optical digital audio output. There are USB ports and a serial port for "future use."

Setup

If you want to use both satellite tuners - and of course everyone would want to - you need to have two satellite cable feeds from the dish, which are connected to the two satellite input jacks. Since you are unlikely to have had two lines fed in to your previous satellite box, it takes a visit from the installer to do this. And here is a bit of confusion. The installer simply tapped a second cable from the first one instead of using a splitter. If that is the case, why not just tap off the main cable inside the satellite box chassis, with one feed going to one tuner and a second feed going to the second tuner, or put a splitter in the chassis if one is required? This would be a simple and inexpensive addition that would make things a lot easier for consumers. Perhaps if the signal is weak, tapping the line or using a splitter without a signal amplifier won't work, but most situations deliver adequate signal strength.

Once everything is connected - in my case I used the HDMI output to feed the DVI input on the LCD display, with the included HDMI-DVI adapter cable - you go through the setup procedure on-screen. A phone line connection is necessary. It takes about 30 minutes to go through the entire procedure, with 15 minutes of that to download the TV programming. You also have to call DirecTV and activate the new satellite box. Make a point of mentioning the fact there is a DVR in the box, because that is not automatically activated. The cost of the TiVo service is $4.95/month. Before you call them, write down the model # of the satellite box, serial # of the box, the access card number, and the receiver ID #. All of these numbers are printed on the side of the shipping box. You will need them when you speak to the representative.

In Use

When I first turned on the system, the image was jumping around. It turned out that the 480i output setting on the box was not compatible through the HDMI jack. So, I set the satellite box to output 1080i, and it worked fine.

There is only one remote control supplied with the box, and that is all you need. The basic TiVo remote has not changed over the years, except for the addition of an aspect ratio button.

Click on photo above to see a larger version.

You can set up the program guide to be the TiVo version or the DirecTV version. Both program guides load very slow, but the DirecTV guide is the slowest. When scrolling down the list of channels, it takes several seconds for the guide to be refreshed. This is something that definitely needs to be addressed in future versions as it is very annoying.

The default setting of the satellite box records programs without your having to tell it to do so. The recordings are based on what you tend to watch. You press the DirecTV button at the top of the remote to see a list of what has been recorded. I turned that feature off as I don't want the box to start filling up the hard drive with programs that I did not select for recording.

The volume and mute buttons do not work automatically, because they are tailored for use with your particular display. So, you have to choose the code number for your display from a list in the menu, and punch it into the remote control before those buttons will work.

The TiVo unit works beautifully with HD programming. Pause, rewind, slow motion, and the other basic features that one has on a VCR, all function perfectly with HD as well as NTSC programs.

However, the two tuner concept needs a bit of work from TiVo. Depending on how you set up the recording of one channel, trying to view another channel at the same time occasionally produces a message that says the recording will have to be terminated if you want to watch the other channel simultaneously. This does not appear to be dependent on whether the two programs are HD or NTSC. That needs to be corrected by TiVo so that you can always view one channel while a second one is being recorded, or record two channels at the same time, without worrying if a recording will be shut down on one channel. Perhaps this is something that can be downloaded as an updated operating system.

In any case, the picture quality of NTSC and HD is excellent with this satellite box. Also, I really like HDMI. There is no need to concern yourself with the exact type of DVI cable, since DVI has numerous variations. HDMI is one plug and one jack. One cable fits all. I was pleased that going from an HDMI output to a DVI input worked as advertised.

Conclusions

If you upgraded to HDTV and have been without a DVR for awhile, the wait is over. Notwithstanding a few bugs, the DirecTV HD DVR does the job for tuning and recording HD programming. It may seem a bit pricey, but you are getting both an HD tuner (with two tuners) and a DVR, all in the same chassis.

 

- John E. Johnson, Jr. -

 

Copyright 2005 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelit

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