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« My HDTV Adventure...Directv | Main | The week of April 9th in My Digital Life »

April 06, 2007

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Kelly Brownsberger

Hi Steve - you seem to be well versed in the DirecTV/DVR world. I was DirecTV subscriber per DVR boom with a standard DirecTV receiver feed into a first gen custom built Windows Media Center box. I've since been a cable subscriber with the standard flare (wife-friendly) Tivo. After a move, I'm now a DirecTV subscriber again with an old DirecTV HD receiver and an old, low capacity Tivo. I'm thinking hard about building another Media Center PC on Vista, but I think my HD receiver is about to kick the dirt. I read you're an HR20 owner. There seems to be a lot of bad review on the quality of this unit - thoughts? Any idea what happened to the agreement Bill Gates and DirecTV had? In 2006 it sounded like DirecTV was going to start shipping receiver component for the PC, etc. I haven't heard anything close to that recently. I'm not wild about a multi-component solution. If I'm going to have a dedicated receiver-only being feed into another component to handle the DVR duties, I would almost rather it be a PC. The HR20 sounds like what I want (HD receiver, DVR all in one box) and I'll just leave the PC in the den, but is it really junk? If you had to do all over again, what would you do?

Thanks in advance

-kelly

Stephen Skarlatos

For whatever reason the whole MS and Directv relationship has been lukewarm, I am not sure why. I remember seeing a demo at a TechEd or PDC of a PC with the Directv tuner card inside, but it never made it to market. That said it is clear that MS and Directv have worked together on the HR20-700 (I am not sure about other models). My Vista Ultimate server detects the HR20 as a media gateway (new since this post). I can view photos and listen to music stored on my Vista machine via the HR20. The missing link is being able to view videos stored on my Vista machine via the HR20, hopefully they will enable that in the future. To get around that my Vista machine is connected to my Sony LCD TV via an HDMI switcher.

To answer your main query; I love the HR20-700, it works great with the 1 Terabyte eSata external drive. We have used about 57% of the disk and we really don't manage what we record other than limiting series to 5 shows. Since April, the software updates have continually enhanced the unit’s functionality. Originally the fast forward/reverse was pretty awful, however now it is pretty close to the smoothness offered on a Tivo and the 30 second skip works great. The bottom line, I don’t think it is junk. Maybe Directv had issues with the original units, also there seems to be confusion between the HR20-100 and HR20-700. I would make sure to get an HR20-700. They may not even provide the 100 anymore. Through dbstalk.com, Directv has gone out of their way to monitor customer issues and I think has provided timely software updates. I am at point where I may ditch my old Tivo in our bedroom for an HR20, although that involves buying an HD panel…

Kelly Brownsberger

Thanks Stephen - that's very encouraging. I appreciate your time.

How hairy was it swapping hard drives on the unit?

Thanks again

-kelly

Stephen Skarlatos

The HR20-700 has an external eSATA connector on the back of the unit, so there is no need to open it up. You just need to purchase an external eSATA drive or build your own as I did. I used a Thecus eSata enclosure http://www.newegg.com/product/product.asp?item=N82E16822102002 and added 2 500GB Seagate 7200RPM drives. The enclosure supports RAID 0 providing me with a stripped 1 Terabyte array. All you need to do is plug the external drive array into the HR20, turn on the drive array, then the DVR. The HR20 will recognize and format the external array and use it as the primary drive.

Kelly Brownsberger

Stephen, I picked up an HR20-700 last weekend. I love it. This is a quality machine. I'm very impressed. Not sure what's up with all the bashers and bad reviews out there. I'm quite pleased.

Thanks,

-kelly

Mark

This also works with XP. I have it set up on an XP system and it works fine. What ever files are associated with Media Player can be shared. (Video not available yet) If your iTunes library isn't being seen it is because it hasn't been added to media player's library. You can add that folder under media player and it should be seen on your DVR after.

Cecil Meeker

Sorry Mark but the HR20-100 (refurbished units at that) are still given to Directv subscribers when upgrading to HD-DVR and Directv still tells subscribers that the 100 is a good reliable unit. I just upgraded in my master bedroom and my "refurbished" unit died within 4 hours so they still remain a total piece of junk....

Phil K

I have had an HR20-700, from DirecTV for about a year. It was working well until a couple of weeks ago. Now, whenever I rewind or pause live TV, or record anything new, the playback keeps getting stuck. It will play for a few seconds, then freeze (as if paused), and not respond to any commands from the remote for several minutes; then play for a few seconds, and freeze again. It has been getting progressively worse over the last week or so; and has made having a DVR virtually pointless. Anything that was recorded before the issue started still plays properly, but nothing new works.

My brother also has the same model (also with DirecTV), and only one of the satalite inputs works. His also worked for a little over a year before falling apart. His is out of warranty, and the only help DTV offers is to sell him a new one.

I'm not sure if mine is still under warranty or not; but would really like to keep a copy of the stuff I've already recorded, but not yet watched before calling them (in case they swap the unit & don't transfer it).

So, now that I've covered the background, I have 2 questions & 1 general comment:

Q1:
Since there is a "Warranty VOID...." sticker on the unit, is there a way to make an image of, or copy the data from the drive to a PC (or other device) without opening the box?

Q2:
Do you have any idea what causes this playback issue, and/or any potential solutions for it? If I find that the device is not under warranty, i intend to make an image of, attempt to defrag, and potentially replace the HDD and see what happens; but I would prefer to get it resolved via warranty service if possible instead.

General comment / observation:
This seems to be a very well designed device, with a lot of very nice features. However, I think the manufacturing process may leave a bit to be desired, since so many of them develop inexcusable problems so quickly. A device like this certainly should be dependable for far more than a year of service. If it's not, it's a piece of crap -- no matter how good a job the engineers did designing it; and any concerned / responsible company should take the time to investigate why they have such a high failure rate.

Thanks,

Phil

Stephen Skarlatos

On Q1 please see this thread http://www.dealdatabase.com/forum/showthread.php?t=57427 . I believe it should help. If you take out the drive, I would also recommend using a utility like like HDDRegen http://www.dposoft.net/, I used on an old Tivo drive and it recovered my drive.

On Q2, What version are you running (menu/setup/system setup/info & test)? The current national release is 0x254. This is the most stable OS I have used in terms of fwd and rwd, although right after the last 2 upgrades June and July I had many of the same issues you describe. Rebooting helped. The problem went away about 4 weeks after the upgrade. I am not sure why but my off the wall speculation is that the upgrades tweaked the file formats and maybe it takes the OS time to update all the programs especially since I have a Terabyte of external storage.

Good luck, I agree it is a well designed unit the OS has gotten better and better.

Nick

I have 2 HR20's (bedroom, living room). Is there anyway to share the shows I record between the 2?

sskarlatos

Currently there is not way to share content between two DTV HR20s that I know of, other than connecting the DVRs directly to the TVs via wireless adapters.

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