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Television Media Hardware Technology

Dish Network DVR-921 HD DVR Reviewed 109

Posted by timothy
from the more-dots-to-stare-at dept.
cblount writes "The Dish Network DVR-921 is the first home satellite receiver capable of recording and time shifting HDTV signals both from satellite and local Over-The-Air broadcasts. The first comprehensive review has been posted at DBSTalk.Com."
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Dish Network DVR-921 HD DVR Reviewed

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  • Tivo (Score:4, Insightful)

    by drivelikejehu (601752) on Wednesday December 24, 2003 @03:12PM (#7803833)
    There was an article in the local paper this morning about the troubles tivo has been having, what with all the cable & dish companies offering PVR's... I wonder how long it'll be til my lifetime tivo service is worthless :(
    • Re:Tivo (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jeffkjo1 (663413)
      But TiVO has teamed up with DirecTV, so I don't know how true that really is.
    • don't worry, I am sure that if Tivo goes out of business, some one some where will figure out a way to hack the system in order to direct it to a free listing service. hell, maybe Tivo will be nice enough to do so when tehy go under rather than leaving its customer's high and dry.
  • two comments (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by pair-a-noyd (594371)
    and they are already suffering the /. effect?

  • Best of show (Score:4, Informative)

    by cdrudge (68377) on Wednesday December 24, 2003 @03:13PM (#7803840) Homepage
    The DVR-921 won CES (Consumer Electronics Show) Best of Innovations for 2003 [cesweb.org]. Of course, it should have won it for 2004 since that is when they will actually be available.
  • I so so have been wanting and waiting for this unit...

    (so hoping it has all the features I heard about, including support for DVI)

    =)

    Going to read review now...
    • It does have DVI. It should also be available with the Dish Network "HD In a Box" promo when available. Currently that promo gives you a 34 or 40 inch HD TV with a 811 receiver (HD, no DVR, single tuner) for $999. Not a bad price, the TV is pretty sweet.

  • Bye-bye, Dish. (Score:1, Informative)

    I don't own a television set, so I had to ask one of my close personal friends to write a review of this device. Here it is.

    As you all know, High Definition Television represents a clear and present danger to customers' right to time shift. The so-called "broadcast flag" prevents casual users from exercising their Fair Use rights.

    Nevertheless, I watch a lot of television thanks to my TiVo. TiVo lets me skip the commercials, which makes me a "thief" but lets me enjoy the entertainment I deserve. Let's
    • Re:Bye-bye, Dish. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Kagato (116051)
      Do a little more research Seth. While Tivo does have better software (i.e. Season Pass), there a lot of things the DirecTV version of Tivo does not have.

      HMO is NOT an option for any DirecTV based Tivo. It says so right in Tivo's FAQ.

      The 921 DOES run on Linux you idiot. In fact the baby brother PVR, the 721 also runs on Linux. Dish network serves the Linux PVR GNU codebase off an internet attached DVR 721. It's even got the lame X Window screen savers and 6 or so GNU games.

      The DVR-921 has "Dishwire"
      • > there a lot of things the DirecTV version of Tivo does not have

        And even more that Dush lacks

        > HMO is NOT an option for any DirecTV based Tivo

        Nor is it an option for ANY Dish PVR, HD or otherwise.

        > The 921 DOES run on Linux you idiot.

        Ah name calling in all its beauty.

        How's Dish PVR hacking going? Adding HD's and things like that? Ethernet ports? Simply basing your product on Linux doesn't make it golden.

        Dish's PVR's are shit. I just wasted 15 minutes trying to get my Dish PVR to display a l
        • Yeah, Dishplayer (Software by Microsoft) was subpar. The 500 series PVR's is pretty much OpenTV on Dish. That is to say other than some look and feel stuff it operates on the same software many cable company STBs/PVRs do. However, judging from your comments you've never used the 721 (which is linux based).

          It's ships with a 120 GB hard drive, has two tuners, Picture in Picture, is actually pretty fast and has a 10+ day guide. And has similar stability to Tivo 1-2 year after introduction.

          Hacking on the
  • by jdreed1024 (443938) on Wednesday December 24, 2003 @03:17PM (#7803871)
    Well, the article is dead with only 8 comments, so I can't RTFA (not that anyone does), but what I want to know is what about the broadcast flag? Will this still timeshift programs that have the "this is not the program you want to record" flag set?

    IIRC, the flag also tells you how long recorded copies can exist for - will this pay attention to that field? Will I be able to time-shift a show, but only by 60 or 90 minutes?

    • by Stigmata669 (517894) on Wednesday December 24, 2003 @03:35PM (#7803979)
      That's why you should buy a HDTV pci card now. I have an MIT MyHD MDP-120 [digitalconnection.com] which displays and records beautiful full rez HDTV. The drivers are a little sketchy (no linux support :( ) but it has none of these silly broadcast flag limitations.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        No, buy this card [pchdtv.com]. Linux support!! And MythTV [mythtv.org] is adding support.
      • Of course, if you wanted to record HDTV off a satellite or cable TV, you're screwed. From the website FAQ:

        Q. Can I record cable or satellite HD programs?
        A. No. All HDTV card "stores" high-def signals in their raw data form and decodes the signal during playback. Since Cable and Satellite services do not use 8VSB modulation, their signals require dedicated tuners, and once decoded, cannot be routed to the input of the HDTV PC cards.

        D'oh.
        • That may be true with the linux hd-2000. I don't get any HD channels on my cable, but the MyHD card decodes analog cable, and has no trouble recording from the Comcast digital cable box. If the Direct TV HD box can get digital out of a tuner box, you can probably do it too with a little effort.
      • Still looking for one for Digital Cable. Any ideas on THAT?
    • <hand_wave><Force>These are not the programs you're looking for.</Force></hand_wave>

      "These are not the programs we're looking for."
  • Link to product line (Score:4, Informative)

    by Bram Stolk (24781) on Wednesday December 24, 2003 @03:18PM (#7803883) Homepage
    The review site is unreachable, but the
    Dish Network DVR product line is here:
    http://www.dishnetwork.com/content/products /receiv ers/dvr/index.shtml
  • Time Warner (Score:3, Interesting)

    by NetJunkie (56134) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `hsan.nosaj'> on Wednesday December 24, 2003 @03:24PM (#7803910)
    Time Warner will start deploying the Scientific Atlanta HD PVR soon as well. I can't wait. Right now I have a TiVo for normal TV that I can't use when I watch an HD feed. That's really cut in to my TiVo use as I normally use it to rewind and pause sports, which are commonly in HD now.
  • Sounds great (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Can you skip commericials with this model?
  • by XenonOfArcticus (53312) on Wednesday December 24, 2003 @03:33PM (#7803967) Homepage
    I have the (Linux-based!) 721 dual-stream receiver/PVR. It is pretty good, with the latest software. It has had some flaky bugs, but it's still the best PVR I've ever used.

    I'm sure the 921 will have some quirks too, but if it runs the same core PVR application, it should be pretty good.

    I'm not planning on getting a 921 as I already watch too much TV as it is, and there's not enough HD stuff being broadcast yet to warrant the expensive display I'd need.
    • there's not enough HD stuff being broadcast yet to warrant the expensive display I'd need.

      This is exactly the kind of attitude that holds back technological progress in HDTV. I mean, without an audience, how can we expect broadcasters to pony up the dough required to send HDTV signals. The advertisers won't want to pay the premiums for HDTV slots that nobody watches!

      It's up to the general public to adopt technology, or important innovations (like wasting time with TV) will never happen!!!

      (tongue f

      • The satellite and cable providers don't have the bandwidth to send much more HD content down.

        They can up-sample any content to HD res, but without the bandwidth to make it look nice it will look horrible.

        What we will have when HD is mandated in 2006 or whenever is a whole bunch of pixellated high resolution channels.

        The whole thing is a complete waste of time before the carriers are ready.
    • I got my 721 last week, and while my wife had some doubts about it initially (the cost), at the end of one day's use, we are both convinced that this is definitely the best thing since sliced stupid people on toast.
    • I have the 721. It's a good PVR, but the SD DirecTivo is better. Name based timers really make it all work.

      That being said, the 921 will have firewire to archive HD material to DVHS, HD DirecTivo will not. Which pulls dish ahead IMHO.
      ---

      www.hometheaterescapes.com
  • by NitroWolf (72977) on Wednesday December 24, 2003 @03:49PM (#7804045) Homepage
    The 921 is based on the 721 software...

    If any of you have ever used the 721, or really any Dish PVR... you'll know how pathetic and bug ridden dish PVRs.

    One of the biggest issues with the 721 and 921 is the fact that they totally and utterly lack any sort of Name based recording. Every other PVR on the market, Tivo, Replay, UltimateTV, etc... all have name based recording, but Dish saw fit to leave this critical feature off.

    This makes the 721 and 921 nothing more than a glorified VCR. The whole point of a PVR is to make recording easier and to handle the mundane, day to day tasks so you don't have to. Leaving off name based recording makes you search through the guide on a daily basis, hoping to find the programs that you want to record, instead of telling your unit to "Record anything with XXXXX in the title/description"

    I switched to Dishnetwork from my UltimateTV and Tivo boxes, and was never sorrier I took the plunge. I always liked Dish over DTV, due to the superior customer service, but after this fiasco with these jokes of a PVR (which I paid far more than a Tivo with lifetime for) and it's just a VCR with a hard drive, I want to cancle my Dish service just out of spite. Unfortunately, I'm under a contract, and I hate DTV more than I hate Dish, so I'm pretty much stuck with Dish for the time being. As soon as Voom comes out with an HD PVR, I will be signing up for Voom.

    As far as the 921 goes, I suspect it's going to suffer from many of the same bugs as the 721 does. Such as random reboots, crashing to the X desktop (requiring reboot), misfiring timers, timers recording until the HD fills up for no explicable reason, unit not responding to the remote, etc... I could go on and on with the problems on the 721 (and by extension, probably the 921) that are never addressed by the Dish developers... problems I never had with Tivo or UTV. They are very easy to fix some of these problems, but they just won't do it, because it would cut into their profit.

    I never realized how much I relied on my UTV box to "do the right thing" until I got my 721, which was suppose to be superior. Now I come home at night and wonder if my programs will still be on my PVR after some wierd crash... I watch shows when I really don't want to, because I'm afraid that if I don't, I'll lose them. These are things that I never even thought of with my Tivo or UTV box.

    Dish is also charging an outrageous and ridiculous price for the unit... $1000? Come on, you are gouging people because it's the only HD PVR on the market, plain and simple. I guess you gotta charge it while you can.

    The bottom line is, if you've ever used another PVR, you'll hate the 921 (and the 721) because of all the bugs and total lack of features and brain dead UI. If all you've ever had is a VCR, then you'll like the 7 and 921's, because they ARE better than a VCR... but when compared to the PVR competition, the Dish PVRs are an utter and lasting joke... a travesty to the PVR buying public.

    Realisitcally, if Dish would just add NBR, I would be less critical of the other flaws, but since that one glaring deficiency is being refused by dish to impliment, I have no sympathy for the company. NBR is the defining feature of a PVR, and Dish DOES NOT HAVE IT. All they have are glorified VCRs with a misleading lable.

    Dish still has the best pricing plans for satellite service though, so it's a big plus in their favor.
    • I have a Dish 510 and it works great. No name based recording, but it's been 100% reliable, costs under $500 (so I'm told, I received a free upgrade), and does not suffer any of the problems that I've read (in this forum) the 721 does. My only gripe is that all the Dish Networks units use the same frequency and codes for their UHF remotes. We have 2 of three receivers (including the 510) that are UHF capable and they tend to interfere with each other (I'll change the channel in the bedroom and my wife can b
      • $500? That's _great_...

        DTivo is under $200, why would anyone go with Dish?
      • My only gripe is that all the Dish Networks units use the same frequency and codes for their UHF remotes. We have 2 of three receivers (including the 510) that are UHF capable and they tend to interfere with each other (I'll change the channel in the bedroom and my wife can be heard screaming from the living room!).

        Actually, you can change the UHF frequency used by each receiver. I don't remember the exact number, but there are at least 12 channels available so that conflicts as you describe can be avoid

  • I have an older Dish Network DVR Receiver (model unknown, it doesn't say on the front and I'm, not going to disrupt my video distribution system to find out) that has the worst firmware I have ever encountered in a consumer device. After replacing it three times, I concluded that it was firmware rather than hardware.

    I can crash it, requiring a power up, just by hitting things too fast on the remote control. Whenever it decides to reload the program guide, it loses the ability to schedule a recording by hit
    • I think I have a rebadged one of these (Bell ExpressVU Model 5100 - I think they are made by EchoStar) and agree the software quality is bad. It has gotten better, but still has a few quirks.

      Mine would have trouble playing back recorded video as if the MPEG was badly corrupted. It took 2 calls to Bell and reseting the smartcard to fix that one.

      Even with that fixed I still sometimes get corrupt screen displays and guide entries.

    • I have a Dish PVR 510 and I can confirm mesocyclone's story: I can make exactly the same thing happen. Not that I try to.

      There are a few other bugs in the system as well, but not many. In damn near every case, I get perfectly recorded shows.

      Considering the price of the 510, particularly compared to the other models and TiVo, I am quite happy with it. Like a lot of other Dish Network customers, it was free for me. Well, okay, I pay $5 more a month, but I'm pretty sure that's for the enhanced program l
  • by The Lynxpro (657990) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `orpxnyl'> on Wednesday December 24, 2003 @04:01PM (#7804102)
    DirecTV will be showing their HD-based TiVo DVR at January's CES. Pictures have already been leaked over the net, but I don't have the exact link. So that rather dampens the newsworthiness of Dish Network's wanna-be TiVo.

    With Rupert Murdoch taking control of DirecTV shortly, expect a price war against both Dish Network AND the cable companies. I believe there was a speculative article linked to Drudge the other day about that.

    I myself am tired of Comcast. Here in Sacramento, they are raising our rates again, with the pathetic excuse for them to recupe their investment in expanding pay-per-view. I don't use PPV and I believe it would've been a wiser investment to offer set-top boxes with TiVo built in. Now if DirecTV would offer a decent broadband service using leased space over the cable lines, that would be the winning choice...

  • I'm getting the Motorola DCT-6208 HDPVR in about 2 weeks for $3.95/month. It's not even close to a Tivo and only has 1 tuner, but the cost is next to nothing. I'd probably have to pay $500+ for a DirecTV HD Tivo. I am an ex-D* customer and would still be one if my current house wasn't in such a poor spot to receive local OTA HD channels. What is really needed is for Tivo to make a deal with Motorola to supply PVR software on their boxes, or for cable companies to bypass the horrible Moto boxes in favor
  • by Anonymous Coward
    This looks great. I'm not ready to go to HDTV yet, so I was wondering about a cheaper model. Since i'm not in a major local area, so no locals over the dish.

    Are there any Dish DVR which can also record over the air broadcasts other than this one? (Non-HDTV)

  • (a little off topic)
    There is a chance they could try to take away our fare use...

    The argument of timeshifting would have been answered... even if we couldn't extract the video for archiving...

    • by Anonymous Coward
      They can't take away what you dont have! Read the law! The law states that you can copy for personal use... blah blah blah... it doesn't say that you have to be able to! If they make it so that you can't copy the signal... thats NOT Ilegall. Vote with your paycheck... don't buy stuff with retarted copy protection.
  • It has Firewire & USB connections on it, & it runs a variation of Linux. I think that the broadcast standard is MPEG-2, & that a later variation of this will burn DVDs.

    I want one... It's important to archive The Daily Show for posterity.
  • Dish PVRs Suck (Score:4, Informative)

    by wonderdog (80639) on Wednesday December 24, 2003 @05:12PM (#7804532)
    Been a DishNetwork sub for 8 years now, and a Dish PVR user for a little over a year. I also have a TiVo (2 yrs old). There simply is no comparison. Going from the TiVO to Dish's PVR is like going from XP/OSX back to Windows 1.0. The interface is so horrible in comparison. It just plain sucks. AND the damn thing's buggy (I have to cold reboot it once every coupla weeks). AND it does weird things (stops buffering the current show if you play a recorded event, eg). And you can't easily add HD space.

    I was all set to switch to DTV when their HD TiVo combo comes out... Problem is DirectTV may be owned by Rupert soon. Yech! Hate the idea of feeding money to that monster. Support The Evil Empire, or buy (vastly) inferior tech. Arg.

    If only Dish would use TiVo instead of torturing their customers with their horribly inadequate PVR skillz.
  • Still no 1080p... which if i'm gonna blow $5k+++ for a TV and new VCR (try $9,999 for a 720p unit at best buy, yea right), it better support 1080p without any DRM.

    Oh, and it better be under $500 if they expect Joe Public to buy it.
  • While the technical achievement itself is impressive, what has been ignored in this review is the total amount of disk storage that is required to store JUST ONE HOUR of high-def 1080i video uncompressed DTV signal (you got it, uncompressed, they cant mpeg encode on the fly with these things yet, its too processor intensive and the specialized hardware is expensive) is 35 GIGABYTES.

    So in other words, you need basically an ENTIRE STANDARD TIVO's worth of storage allocated for just one hour. So if you want t
    • Here are the specs on the unit:

      http://www.vssll.com/pvr921.html

      It uses a 250 gig drive to store up to 25 hours of HDTV. However I beleive this is 25 hours of 720p or 480p, not 1080i.

      The 35 gig per 1 hour of uncompressed 1080i figure I got from somone at SONY who's been working on similar technology.

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