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Product Review - Sony SAT-T60 Satellite Receiver with Built-In Tivo Service - February, 2002

Michael James


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Specifications:

Tapeless Digital Recording with the TiVo service
Receives programming from all DIRECTV satellites
Records up to 35 hours
High Speed picture Search at 3X, 18X, and 60X Normal Speed
Advanced Program Guide Displays up to 14 Days
Dolby Digital Pass-Through via an Optical Digital Output
Audio Output: 2 L/R RCA Jacks
Video Output: 2 - Composite 1 - S-Video
Telephone Interface RJ-11C Modular Jack
Weight:10 Pounds
Size :15” x 3” x 11"
MSRP: $449.99
TiVo Service: $9.95/Month or $249 Lifetime Subscription

 

Sony Electronics: http://www.sel.sony.com/SEL/consumer/ss5/office/digitalsatellitereceiversandrecorders/digitalvideorecorders/sat-t60.shtml

Tivo: http://www.tivo.com/home.asp

Introduction

Since I was knee-high to a grasshopper, I can always remember being a passionate television enthusiast. Ne-Hi, wasn’t that the grape soft drink Radar loved so much on M*A*S*H? Sorry, useless television trivia is easily stimulated in my brain. TiVo enters the field of play with a very bold sales proclamation:  "It will change the way you watch television". Change the way I watch television? An old boob tube veteran like myself, set in his ways . . . change? Well, suffice it to say that this old TV soldier met that comment with a healthy dose of skepticism. The VCR made somewhat similar claims when it first came on the scene. But that process never seemed to fully work out, at least not in my home. I always seemed to have a huge stockpile of old episodes and not near enough available viewing time. When tape space became a premium, watching endless hours of marathon episodes, or worse, viewing out of order storylines was never a great pleasure. Now a new kid on the block is making similar bold claims. The question is, will TiVo have enough technology muscle to back up these statements?

Connection & Remote

The Sony SAT-T60 is actually smaller than my original 1997 Sony SAT-A2 DirecTV satellite receiver. This was a bit surprising, considering all the extra internal hardware included within this unit. You would think that hard drive space, a fan, and a more elaborate modem would take up a bit more space. Maybe it was more to the fact that the old satellite units just allocated more space than was necessary.

The SAT-T60 comes in a handsome silver and gray enclosure that sets it apart from the other items on the typical audio rack. The sleek futuristic front panel includes a few control buttons that you will probably never utilize in place of the remote. A look at the back panel reveals improvements over past satellite technology. The first thing that catches your eye, upon inspection, is that this unit now includes inputs for two satellite input feeds, which enables dual tuner recording capabilities. This is a crucial feature that levels the playing field for competition against Microsoft’s Ultimate TV. Another upgrade from my 1997 satellite receiver is the addition of an optical digital audio output. Also included are the obligatory two sets of analog audio outputs with two composite video-outs. Still again, however, Sony provides you with only one S-Video output. This Sony receiver makes archival to a Sony brand VCR an easier procedural process. But, by including only one S-Video output, this limits archival tapes to a lower resolution than the original digital broadcast. Telephone line connection to this receiver carries more importance than past pay-per-view ordering and system messages of the old basic DSS system. In order to download software upgrades and up-to-date two-week schedule grid information, your receiver will make local daily calls (usually in the wee hours of the morning) to the Tivo info site.



The TiVo universal remote control seems to be set up more like a DVD remote than past model satellite remotes. I do enjoy the feel of the new ergonomic shape. Considering that you will have this remote in your hand for greater lengths of time, its comfort is an added bonus. The remote includes a number of TiVo exclusive buttons that will soon become familiar to the user. The button positioning becomes quite second nature with continued use of the receiver, particularly because of their distinguishable size. So there really is no need to have these buttons illuminated.



If you plan on utilizing the old DirecTV receiver in another room, a device called a multiswitch is necessary for proper connection. A second receiver in another room, say the bedroom for example, seems cost effective. The DirecTV receiver mirroring programming package price is $4.99/month per extra receiver. You then will have the ability to watch two different channels viewed on two different televisions with these two receivers. This is opposed to one receiver sharing a connection with two televisions. The shared connection means that both televisions will only be able to show the same channel at the same time. With all the available satellite accessories, do not confuse the multiswitch device with a diplexer. Satellite diplexers are used to split Digital Satellite System (DSS) signals and CATV/UHF signals from the same coaxial cable. Diplexers are only used when CATV/UHF signals have been inserted onto the same coax as satellite signals. A multiswitch device is used to distribute a satellite feed to multiple satellite receivers. This device is required whenever you connect more than two DSS receivers to a single dual Low Noise Block (LNB) amplifier. Multiswitches are designated in terms of signal input by signal output. The designation 2x4 means that there are two signal inputs and the possibility of up to four signal outputs.

These switches are also available in configurations of 3x4, 4x4, or 5x8. Beyond the input and output designations, you will find multiswitches as either powered or non-powered. Non-powered multiswitches have a switching mechanism that is controlled by the power coming off of the DirecTV receiver. Depending on which transponder group it wants to view, the DirecTV receiver changes voltages on the line. The non-powered multiswitch uses the voltage from the receiver to move the switch. Powered Multiswitches use the voltage changes from the DirecTV receiver to determine what to view, but uses its own external power to control the switch. Multiwsitches can also be either mechanical or solid state. As the name implies, solid-state switches utilize no moving parts to perform their function. They are significantly more expensive than those with a mechanical switching instrument. The diagram above shows the multiswitch connections for either the single dual LNB round dish or two dual LNBs with the oval dish system. A single dual LNB only receives signals from the 101-degree positioned satellite. The two dual LNBs coming from the oval dish can receive signals from both the 101 and 119-degree positioned satellites. I would recommend getting a 4X4 Multiswitch in either case. This way you are set for your present round dish and also prepared if you want to upgrade to the oval dish with two sets of dual LNBs. You avoid having to go out and re-buy another multiswitch. The 4x4 multiswitch will allow for connections of up to four satellite receivers. The connection possibilities include four individual satellite receivers with no TiVo service, or one receiver with TiVo dual tuner service and two without, or two receivers both with TiVo service and dual tuner capability.

Click Here To Go To Part 2 - Set-Up

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