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G4 Tech TV Reviews Three New HDTV DVRs 107

Thomas Hawk writes "G4techTV does a review of three of the new HDTV recorders. Noticeably absent is Microsoft's Media Center 2005. The Hughes HD 10-250 gets the highest marks and is the 'G4tech TV Lab Pick.' Although I haven't used the other two HDTV recorders I have to say I would concur on their opinion of TiVo's DirecTV box."
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G4 Tech TV Reviews Three New HDTV DVRs

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  • MCE 2005 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Joffrey ( 242525 ) on Saturday October 23, 2004 @11:01PM (#10612157)
    As far as I knew, Media Center Edition doesn't have HD support. Not therefore surprising that they wouldn't include it in their roundup.

    (perhaps the author meant that MCE was noticeably absent as an HD-DVR?)

    • Re:MCE 2005 (Score:2, Informative)

      by generic-man ( 33649 )
      As far as I searched [], Media Center 2005 does support HDTV [].
      • Sure, maybe in theory, but I've got MCE 2005 installed (with an Hauppauge Nova-T DVB-T card) including that hotfix you mentioned, and it doesn't support HDTV (at least in my part of the world, Australia). The HDTV transmissions come through as very jerky with no sound. Third party apps using the BDA drivers (eg ShowShifter) display the HDTV transmissions fine. So either it's due to excessive overhead with the MCE aplication, or it's just not implemented properly - I don't know.

        For what it's worth, I hav
    • Re:MCE 2005 (Score:5, Informative)

      by doormat ( 63648 ) on Saturday October 23, 2004 @11:21PM (#10612243) Homepage Journal
      MCE 2k5 can support 3 tuners, including HD tuners. The problem is that the only tuners out there are ones that get the signals over-the-air. IE not your HD digital cable or satellite box (and no it doesnt support 5c/hdcp over firewire, but there are ways to set that up with WinXP and some third party software). ?i =2240&p=9
      • Re:MCE 2005 (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Joffrey ( 242525 ) on Sunday October 24, 2004 @12:46AM (#10612558)
        Dammit. I hate it when I'm wrong. The last time I investigated MCE 2005, they hadn't announced HDTV support. Thanks for the clarification.
      • Actually - there is no way at all to set up 5c/hdcp firewire recording on a PC. You can record over firewire for non-5c encrypted signals (depends on the market as to whether or not they have started using 5c yet) - using a variety of non-trivial-to-configure pieces of software.

        The problem is that the firewire port on a PC simply does not support 5c and I don't think that anyone will be allowed to get the license to add such a port without going through great measures to prove that all the content will re
  • Well... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by BrianGa ( 536442 )
    I don't know. Think about this. PVR's piss off hollywood because you FF through commercials. But, even though you WILL FF through commercials on this also, the commercials will be permantntly burned into a DVD. What sales company wouldn't like the idea of permanent commercials on a DVD?
    • I'm sure someone will eventually figure out a way to transfer the video from the PVR to one's computer. Then just edit out the commercials and burn to DVD.
    • "What sales company wouldn't like the idea of permanent commercials on a DVD?"

      Heh probably the companies worried about customers avoiding DVDs with commercials in them. But, that's not really what I wanted to reply to. Right now, there's a business model in place where you pay more to have your commercials shown at a certain time. If they lost time slot value, they could stand to lose money.

      Now, whether or not this would actually happen is up in the air, if you ask me. I can't tell you what would in
  • G4 Tech TV (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pipingguy ( 566974 ) on Saturday October 23, 2004 @11:07PM (#10612188)

    Call for Help with Leo (now broadcast out of Toronto) and Screen Savers (AKA what happened on slashdot today) and maybe that Martin guy is all I watch on the channel.

    It's fairly good but the billions of videogame-related shows are essentially useless.
    • Re:G4 Tech TV (Score:1, Offtopic)

      by MBCook ( 132727 )
      I loved TechTV/ZDTV. Then they merged. I still watch the channel (in that I have my TiVo record shows from it).

      That said, I have complaints. I was worried when it was announced, and it turned out OK, but there are still problems. Lets start with series. When will new episodes of Invent This! and Fresh Gear start?

      Let's go to the G4 content that I now get. Some shows (say Icons) can be interesting. Filter can be interesting, but the budget is low, and the host is annoying as hell (as is the style). I wouldn

    • Re:G4 Tech TV (Score:5, Insightful)

      by LostCluster ( 625375 ) * on Saturday October 23, 2004 @11:23PM (#10612255)
      Call for Help with Leo (now broadcast out of Toronto) and Screen Savers (AKA what happened on slashdot today) and maybe that Martin guy is all I watch on the channel.

      One thing that should be noted is that Leo Laporte's Call For Help show got continued by G4TechTV Canada in a primetime slot... but the show is nowhere to be found on the USA version of the channel. Odd for a show to get upgraded and canceled at the same time by two networks that share the same name.
      • Re:G4 Tech TV (Score:3, Informative)

        by Jardine ( 398197 )
        One thing that should be noted is that Leo Laporte's Call For Help show got continued by G4TechTV Canada in a primetime slot... but the show is nowhere to be found on the USA version of the channel. Odd for a show to get upgraded and canceled at the same time by two networks that share the same name.

        There are a few reasons Call For Help got picked up by G4TechTV Canada. From what I've heard, quite a few Canadians wrote in to complain about it being pulled.

        Also, there are special rules in Canada about Can
      • Re:G4 Tech TV (Score:1, Flamebait)

        by pipingguy ( 566974 )

        One thing that should be noted is that Leo Laporte's Call For Help show got continued by G4TechTV Canada in a primetime slot... but the show is nowhere to be found on the USA version of the channel. Odd for a show to get upgraded and canceled at the same time by two networks that share the same name.

        Leo speaks his mind and if that means that he "disses" some company I could see why advertisers might be upset.

        The new version of the show is a bit glitchy (what would you expect - it's Canadian) but since
        • So Leo's probably making only 60% of what he could but at least he gets free health care in case Basil zooms in too close and breaks his ankle.

          For those who haven't seen the new version of CFH, Basil is the cameraman who Leo has to pass by on his way to his station to take calls. He says hi to Basil pretty much every time he walks past him.

          Something I also noticed in a few episodes is that Leo has a hatrack with quite a few different hats on it (cowboy hat, chaffeur hat, etc). I don't know about other pe

          • If you bring up references to The Friendly Giant I'm going to go get my son's old Barney plush toy and hug it.

            I don't know why Leo was laid-off in the first place, we're really happy to have him up here. Neener-neener Americans.
      • Wait wait wait, Call for Help is still going on in Canada?

        I liked that show better than most of the garbage G4 brought, but I'm not moving to Canada to see it. Why can't they just replace one of the crappy G4 shows with it down here in the US?

      • Not odd when you look at how the hosts have been shifting in the last 6 months. Going to the young hip hosts and casting aside the older more informative less reactionary hosts. :/
    • The station is a joke. 80% of the content is console crap, any of the shows worth watching are either cut into by fake hockey clips, or are so short for time that the content is way to compressed.

      • The station is a joke. 80% of the content is console crap, any of the shows worth watching are either cut into by fake hockey clips, or are so short for time that the content is way to compressed.

        Canada must have stricter regulations on advertising time for a program slot because we get homegrown productions of mini computer howtos. You can also see this type of thing on Space, where the average program ends about 10 minutes (for a one-hour show) ahead of time.

        Funny that you should mention compression
  • Just wait... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by zerdood ( 824300 ) <> on Saturday October 23, 2004 @11:08PM (#10612194)
    Next week on /. we will see the story: "Major HDTV broadcasters sue HD DVR manufacturers"
    • by DigiShaman ( 671371 ) on Sunday October 24, 2004 @01:11AM (#10612627) Homepage
      Hah, that will be the day. Now, would someone please explain how they would sue when Time Warner offers the HD DVR service to it's customers? Here in Austin, we provide both the Scientific Atlanta 8000 and 8300 HiDef DVR units.

      Talk about shooting yourself in the foot. Broadcasters WANT ratings. And pissing off Time Warner and Cox cable is not a wise move.
  • by manyoso ( 260664 ) on Saturday October 23, 2004 @11:08PM (#10612195) Homepage
    The folks over at [] are now taking orders for the new HD-3000 *linux only* HDTV video capture card. []

    And yes, they are working on QAM digital cable support for this new card. Here is a nice FAQ [] about what is new in this card.
  • by ergo98 ( 9391 ) on Saturday October 23, 2004 @11:08PM (#10612197) Homepage Journal
    In my neck of the woods there are few HDTV providers - Cogeco (a cable system), and Bell Canada ExpressVu (a satellite system). Both of them use entirely different hardware, and thus my choice of PVR box is dictated by my choice of provider (in my case it would have to be a Motorola DCT6208 or a Bell 6120..whatever manufacturer that is), and if I ponied up the $800CDN or so with one and became disatisfied with the service, I'd have to toss the box in the garbage.

    Which is why I chose to rent the box for $20 a month - when the two-tuner version comes out (within the year) I'll do a swap. The point of all of this? I guess that ultimately I am choosing provider and the PVR comes along for the ride.
  • Hughes (Score:5, Informative)

    by apoplectic ( 711437 ) on Saturday October 23, 2004 @11:08PM (#10612199)
    I've owned one of these for the past two months, and I have to say that I love the box. Video from the HDMI port is impeccable. The Tivo friendliness factor is high as usual. I've not blinked over the high cost of the unit since I fired it up.

    Only complaint? The usual slow Guide rendering.
    • Re:Hughes (Score:2, Informative)

      by Thomas Hawk ( 796343 )
      There are two ways you can use the guide. One is direct from the satellite (very slow) and another setting that is a much faster guide. Play around with it and you'll find a much faster guide.
    • Re:Hughes (Score:5, Informative)

      by rufo ( 126104 ) <rufo@rufosan c h e z . c om> on Sunday October 24, 2004 @12:00AM (#10612395)
      The guide is set in Grid mode by default, which is horrifically slow. Bring up the guide and press the Enter key on the remote to bring up the Guide options, and set it from Grid mode to whatever the other option is - this is what standalone TiVos default to and it is light-years faster. It may take a little getting used to but most TiVo owners tend to prefer the TiVo style as opposed to the grid (I know I do).
    • They sell the regular TiVo for $49. You add a 250GB drive and a couple tuners and that makes it $999? Talk about a ripoff. Next year this stuff will cost $199.
  • As an owner... (Score:2, Informative)

    by comwiz56 ( 447651 )
    I can say the hughes box is very nice. Two tuners, standard direct tv interface, and everything you'd expect from a TiVo. My only complaint is the lack of caller id that some direct tv boxes carry now.

    oh... and yeah... $1000
  • Who knew! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 23, 2004 @11:21PM (#10612244)
    Wow... people still watch Tech TV since the G4 buyout? I never seen the flagship show for a network (TSS) get mutilated like that before, not to mention I could literally feel my brain cells being killed with each promo they showed... felt like I was watching Nickelodeon or something.
    • I don't watch it anymore. A week or so ago some woman called in asking if the NFL sunday ticket was a good deal...Whoever allowed that call to get thru needs bitch slapped with a rock.
      • I'm still watching, but I have a feeling that my days of viwership are severely numbered. And this saddens me deeply, because I have been watching TSS quite literally since episode 1. When I purchased my PVR a year ago, an entry for TSS was the very first recording I scheduled.

        The triggering event is one of this week's episodes where they rated TV dinners. If I want to see stories about food, I'll watch the fschking Food Network. I don't see Emeril doing stories on how to wire your kitchen with 802.11,
        • My sentiments exactly. Each episode draws from a limited set of topics
          1. A joke involving Kevin & Sarah's relationship
          2. A hollywood pitch
          3. How they don't make enough money
          4. Kazaa
          5. Piracy

          I find the eye-candy [] particularly OT and I like women. Hot women are great, but having them on a tech show when they know nothing about--or have nothing to do with--tech is just an obvious play for the male audience. How about Kim Polese [] or Ellen Poon [] for a change.

          I didn't find the drink review too bad--Jolt, Code Re

        • One of my biggest problems is the fact they let one of the co-hosts sell out to Dell. oh..and he's an idiot...
  • by RedX ( 71326 ) <redx.wideopenwest@com> on Saturday October 23, 2004 @11:25PM (#10612261)
    The reviewer mentioned the $10.99 fee for DirecTV's HD package but didn't mention that this box is also fully capable of recording OTA HD programs with no monthly charge. I've had this box since the week it was released and only carried the HD package for about a week but still have plenty of HD recordings each week via OTA channels that I don't pay a dime for.
  • Its odd (Score:3, Informative)

    by doormat ( 63648 ) on Saturday October 23, 2004 @11:26PM (#10612267) Homepage Journal
    One of the cons for the Echostar unit is that it can only record 25 hrs of HD content, but that problem isnt mentioned anywhere on the HD DirecTV/Tivo box, even though its got the same sized hard drive. The only difference is that you can go to weaknees [] and upgrade your HD DirecTV/Tivo and get 70+ hours of HD recording.
  • Future Channels? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SurfTheWorld ( 162247 ) on Saturday October 23, 2004 @11:41PM (#10612320) Homepage Journal
    I think equally important in the discussion is the number of channels that will realisticly be offered in the near future.

    While I'm not OTA, cable, or dish network expert (neither am I a DirecTV expert!), I do know that the launch of DirecTV 7S earlier this year represented a monumental leap forward in bandwidth capability. It's my understanding that the purpose of 7S is to relieve the other birds from their coast-to-coast broacasts (using it's spot-beam technology), thereby freeing up the frequencies for HD content.

    From what I read (sorry I can't provide links), the amount of bandwidth 7S brings to the skies above us is enormous, and the intended purpose of the bandwidth is the carrying of HD content.

    DirecTV knows that Cable is ramping up HD offerings. Not wanting to fall behind, I'm sure DirecTV will offer more HD channels in the future.

    Personally, I'll hold off until 7S starts broadcasting, and wait for DirecTV to offer ESPN, CNN, FOX, etc in HD before I actually sink my credits into a HDTV. Hopefully by that time, prices of HD-TiVO's will have come down (hopefully to $500).

    But, I think that contemplating what future offerings will be provided is certainly relevant when discussing which company to go with. ... especially when you're talking about $1000 for the PVR!

    Hope this info helps.

    • You're confusing 7S (which is going to be used for spotbeam SD locals) with the Spaceway satellites, which are going to be used for HD. Once all four Spaceway satellites are launched (2 in 2005 and 2 in 2007), DirecTV will have the capability to deliver every local channel in the country in HD, along with 200 national HD channels. This is all in addition to their current line-up.
      • Actually there are only three Spaceway sats planned for right now. Spaceway 1 and 2 will be launched next year with the third being built as a replacement stored on the ground until they need it.
  • by Radak ( 126696 ) on Saturday October 23, 2004 @11:42PM (#10612323) Journal
    The reviewer is wrong. The Hughes HR10-250 most certainly can output to non-HDCP-compliant sets. In fact, it even comes with a HDMI-to-DVI cable in the box. Just last night I was watching HD stuff on my 20" Dell LCD, using the (non-HDCP) DVI input.

    However, if the broadcast flag is ever flipped on (no one's done it yet), then those people using non-HDCP sets will get downres output on DVI.
  • Bah! (Score:2, Offtopic)

    by Devil ( 16134 )
    Perhaps I'll be a little more open to listening to what G4 has to say when their channel ups its contrast. I mean, I've got a couple hundred channels on my digital cable and G4TechTV is the ONLY ONE whose contrast is low.
  • Service Fees (Score:5, Informative)

    by tji ( 74570 ) on Sunday October 24, 2004 @01:31AM (#10612681)
    The DirecTV service fees listed in the article are a bit misleading..

    The $10.99/month is for a package of HDTV channels (ESPN-HD, Discovery-HD, HDNet, HDNet Movies, Bravo-HD.) You are not required to purchase this package.

    For no additional charge, you can record all of your local off-the-air channels (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, PBS, etc.). And, if you have HBO or Showtime, those you automatically get their HD channels as part of your existing package.
  • What about Scientific America's HD cable dvr? Or Motorola's 6208, or Sony's new DHG-HDD500 and 250?
    • Didja mean Scientific Atlanta?

      To the point. FWIW, /. had a story-about-a-story on one of these a bit ago: 25 9

      The person wasn't all that happy with their hddvr. I think that there will be more and better options coming for those of us who don't wanna shell out the Early Adopters Premium$.. ;-)

  • Roll Your Own (Score:4, Informative)

    by tji ( 74570 ) on Sunday October 24, 2004 @01:49AM (#10612723)
    One option that is important to the Slashdot crowd, but is not listed in the article is creating your own DVR. There are several HDTV PCI cards available that can be used to build your own HD recorder. I have used one for the last two years to record all kinds of OTA HD material for free.

    Some of the options:

    - HD-2000 / HD-3000 cards + MythTV, on Linux. This option has a ton of potential. But, from what I hear, there are still some fairly major kinks to be worked out. I am hoping this improves, as I would love to switch to a Linux solution.

    - MyHD MDP-120. HD tuner card with hardware MPEG2 decoder (so, system requirements are very low). Probably the best of the group of similar cards with hardware tuner. Software is reliable for basic recording and playback. Can't do full PVR functionality, like pausing live TV or playing a saved file while recording another. (Some of the similar cards are: AccessHDTV, HiPix, OnAir DTV Pro, etc)

    - Dvico FusionHDTV. HD Tuner card, MPEG decoding done in software.. simpler hardware means it's cheaper. Software has been unstable in the past, but seems to be improving. Reportedly making BDA drivers for use with Windows Media Center 2005.

    - ATI HDTV Wonder. Fairly new. Software based MPEG decoding. Is supposed to have good MS Media Center 2005 integration.

    - ElGato EyeTV 500. MacOS X HDTV solution. Firewire based device, uses software MPEG decoding.

    - Sasem OnAir USB HDTV. supported on Windows only, connects via USB 2.0 port.
    • I like the look of the HD-3000 but the lack of a wey to hook up to satellite is a problem. A DVI in would be nice. Wouldn't let us select via the guide, but it would give a digital copy. For those in Canada near the major border points, it could be an interesting card. Price is attractive as well.

      • The thing that makes HDTV PVR's relatively easy is that HDTV signals are sent as 20Mbps MPEG2 Transport Streams.. So, they are already compressed, and the computer only needs to write the stream to disk.

        To compress HDTV video output (DVI, RGB, or Component) would require compression chips capable of handling 1920x1080 in real time. These are prohibitively expensive, and are currently only used by TV broadcasters in equipment costing tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

        To further complicate matters
  • A tear comes to my eye when I think about what they did to that network. In my mind, TechTV was a very fine balance of tech shows. You had Call For Help, TSS, Fresh Gear, XPlay (love it or hate it,) etc etc. Now there's games, games, games, games, games, Screen Savers, games, games, games, games, Unscrewed with Martin Sargent, games games, ad infinitum. Those two girls on G4 Live are seriously the dumbest women alive.
  • I realize that christmas is coming and so the marketing machines are getting into some high RPMs at this point, but really!
  • People are still watching TV? I'm not even sure why I pay for my cable anymore..

  • I see the future of a HDTV / PVR combination as being the first good reason to use a PC to record television.

    PC's are already capable of recording in HD. Cheap storage and easy upgrading allow people to record more shows. There are up-to-the second accurate guides avalaible on the internet that could easily be transformed into "guide" content. It's easier to hack a PC to do exactly what you want then it is to modify a HD-PVR to do what you want.
  • I can't see the point of this review. The first DVR is for Dish Network's service. The second DVR is for DirecTV's service and the third one is for OTA (over the air) recordings. It can't even record satellite or cable broadcast HD. How can you compare products that aren't designed to be used in the same arena? The only thing the article will tell you is which service provider to choose (if any) based on the features of the DVR.

    Quite frankly I'm not surprised by the lack of third party HD recorders in
  • Dish Network Fee (Score:4, Informative)

    by GweeDo ( 127172 ) on Sunday October 24, 2004 @10:11AM (#10613844) Homepage
    While they mentioned the $4.99 a month DVR fee from DirecTV, they failed to mention the $4.98 fee from DishNetwork/EchoStar. If you have a DVR with any hard drive > 80GB you get hit with their Video On Demand service fee for $4.98 a month (I get tagged with that on my 522 [] for its 120GB hd). You can however get this fee waived if you signup for the America's Everything Package [] which is 180 channels + locals (if your market is supported) + all the premium content channels for $77.99 a month. If you are the AT60 [],120 [], or 180 [] you have to pay the $4.98 though.

    Just offering that heads up :)
  • I've been looking around for a good review of the HDTVs themselves...something unbiased that will compare rear, lcd rear, dlp, plasma, etc and perhaps recommend a few.
  • Sloppy and Incomplete reporting. The "Lab" uses no test equipment when evaluating video equipment and no test patterns"The 921's high-def 1080i output via DVI and component output looked the best to my eye with great contrast and smooth clarity" Who cares about your eye? I have an eye, I have two, I want actual facts from you. They use no standard methodologies or even common criteria when they evaluate gear so no apples to apples comparison is ever possible. In this case they mistakenly report that the TIV

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