I'm a Comcast customer is looking to expand my TV horizons.
January 5, 2009 10:27 AM   Subscribe

I'm a Comcast customer is looking to expand my TV horizons.

The wife and I are looking into DVR options. We currently use Comcast (Seattle, WA) w/HD channels and, due to our apartment complex, do not have the option of Dish/DirecTV.

I would prefer a TiVo HD recorder due to TiVo's position in the market ad an industry leader. What successes/failures/thoughts do you have on TiVos current DVR technology

Is Comcast's DVR technology worth it? Obviously, the month-to-month payment is more wallet-friendly than the investment of a TiVo, though I didn't know if the end result was any better.

posted by bamassippi to Technology (10 answers total)
I have tivo and I hear everything else is paltry in comparison. But that's just what I've heard, a dvr is a dvr if you ask me. That said, I've been pretty happy with mine so far.
posted by Hands of Manos at 10:35 AM on January 5, 2009

I used to not mind Comcast's DVR too terribly much, then I went to my inlaws' house and used their TiVo and now I hate my Comcast DVR with a burning, fiery passion. Comcast's user interface is not particularly user-friendly, the response time of the box is slow (for menu navigation and commands, not for recording), the menus are clunky, and there are a lot of times when I'll be in the menu somewhere and it'll just "freeze up", and 45 seconds later it will spool through the 9 commands I entered on the remote while I was determining if the menu was stuck or not.

The Comcast categories (on the main menu where you can search for programs by category) are, shall we say, less than useful - I've stopped using them entirely because, for instance during baseball season, if you dive into the "sports" category, then into "baseball", you'll get a list of games that might include games on today, but might start sometime in the next 24 hours EVEN THOUGH YOU KNOW FOR A FACT THERE IS A GAME ON RIGHT NOW BUT DO NOT KNOW THE CHANNEL WHERE IT IS BROADCAST. It's a tremendously unhelpful thing.

Comcast's search interface was just "improved", but it's still a really elaborate, non-robust, ineffective joke. In all honesty, if TiVo is an option for you, go that way - it costs more up front but it's a much better technology and will make you happier in the long run.
posted by pdb at 11:10 AM on January 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you use the Tivo-brand box you'll lose PPV and Comcast On Demand -- Tivo as yet has no way to send signal upstream to Comcast to pass along your selections for those services.

Even with that, I switched from the Comcast to the TiVO box a couple of years ago and I would not go back. But I also have a PC hooked up to my TV to watch BT stuff so the On Demand isn't as much of an issue. And I never used PPV.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 11:21 AM on January 5, 2009

TiVo - IMHO - has the best interface that you can get. The Comcast DVR, which is most likely the Motorola DVR has an inferior interface - but essentially it does the same thing (records, pauses, etc).

The downfall to using a TiVO with your cable service is that, unless you get the HD TiVo with the dual cable cards - it won't work that well with the cable system. Unfortunately the Series 2 TiVo which has the dual coax tuner built in does not work at all with most of today's digital cable systems that use digital signals instead of analog signals to give you a majority of their line up, including all HD channels.

If you do end up going with the TiVo DVR, that is equipment that you own and you have to maintain - it's very expensive and if it fails, then it's yours to fix. If you rent one from Comcast, you are paying every month - but, if it breaks, it's theirs to replace and (unless you spilled water all over it) there is most likely no cost to you.

So, if money isn't that much of a factor - get the Dual Cable Card HD TiVo and connect it to your LAN. It accesses guide information more frequently, you can schedule recordings over the internet while you are not home, and the interface will serve you much better.

If money is an issue, I would go with the Comcast DVR as there is not big financial investment and no fear of repair or replacement costs. It is designed to work with the cable system well, and you should have no problem recording any programming on any channel.

The DVR is one of the best inventions in the past decade. I don't watch a lot of TV, but what I do watch - I don't have to watch commercials and I watch it when I want to. Best of all - no channel surfing, I only watch what I want to watch. I am sure, which ever way you choose, you will love it.
posted by Brettus at 11:27 AM on January 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

I guess the interface is nicer, but if you're just looking to record stuff and play it back on your TV, TiVo doesn't do much that Comcast DVRs can't.

I've set up and used the TiVo Series 3 and thought it was pretty nice. It's very expensive though, which turns me off. You use cable cards with that box, and in my experience they have been rather difficult to get up and running. It's a good idea in theory, but several Comcast trips to switch out bunk cards will get annoying. Not sure if that has changed in the past year or so...

I currently use the Comcast 3416 box, and I think the menu structure leaves something to be desired as far as managing recordings and scheduling. And if you're recording HD content the hard drive fills up pretty quick. Other than that, it performs as advertised (i.e. doesn't have any more weirdness than any other set top box on the market).
posted by Ultra Laser at 11:29 AM on January 5, 2009

If you subscribe to Netflix (and have a broadband internet connection), you can use your TiVo to watch selections from Netflix's instant viewing library on your TV. You can also use TiVo desktop software to shift your recordings from your TiVo to your computer and/or iPod/iPhone/Zune to watch away from your TV>

The downside of the TiVo is that you will not be able to use On-Demand from your cable company (unless you also hook up a cable box to your TV).
posted by andrewraff at 11:56 AM on January 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

Tivo is the greatest thing ever. (WAY better than generic DVRs)

If you do get it, don't do what I did and cheap out on a series 2 - get the HD or series 3. That way you can stream movies directly from Netflix.
posted by CunningLinguist at 12:06 PM on January 5, 2009

The Comcast DVR is the most disgusting, vile, pile-of-crapola you will ever use. And I'm being kind. Seriously, the people who designed this thing must have asked themselves, "How can we make our TV watching experience as bad as possible for our customers?"

I moved from Brooklyn (Time Warner) to New Jersey (Comcast) and suffered 3 months of Comcast DVR hell before I broke down and bought a Tivo Series 3 HD. The difference in quality and usability was amazing. And Comcast's makes Time-Warner's DVR look awesome (it's quite tolerable).

I experienced this same thing when my apartment building finally got Verizon FIOS capability and I told Comcast to go take a flying leap. Comcast has been slowly degrading the quality of their HD signals over the years because their network is nearing capacity. This is because they did not invest the billions in laying fiber like Verizon did and now they have to cram millions of users onto an antiquated non-fiber network that was not designed to handle such capacity. This is also why they have implemented a 250GB cap on their broadband users and are using network traffic shaping tactics (like resetting P2P packets, killing the connection).

The quality of FIOS over Comcast is truly amazing.

Anyway, if you can avoid it then skip using the Comcast DVR. It's a pile of crap that they're foisting onto their customers who do not know any better. Get the Tivo, even though it's more expensive. I got the 3-year subscription service which works out to be about $8/mo. After three years I'll likely upgrade the account to lifetime or extend it another 3 years.

The only caveat with Tivo is you may go through some trouble getting a Comcast technician who knows what they are doing with Tivo and the cablecard(s) you'll need to rent from Comcast. I think they charge like $3/mo for each one. Read up on the Tivo forums ahead of time so you can help the tech troubleshoot when he's there doing the install.

An alternate option, which takes a lot more work, is to dump Comcast cable altogether and simply download the shows you want to watch. Such shows can be converted to MP4 format and played directly through an AppleTV. There's also a way to convert such downloaded shows and movies to a format that a Tivo can play. I've been tempted many times to go this approach but I find that FIOS offers a *lot* of HD channels with shows I'd never get to experience if I did not get the channels. But this is definitely the route I am going with movies after my 3-month movie package promotion ends in February. An upgraded AppleTV can hold about 400 movies, managed through iTunes.
posted by camworld at 12:43 PM on January 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

Do you like punching yourself in the face? That's what using the Comcast DVR is like.

Do you wish you had a personal assistant who'd record what you wanted...and would even find other stuff that you like? That's what Tivo is like.

And I'm not kidding.
posted by filmgeek at 8:35 PM on January 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

In the process of getting an HDTV this summer and upgrading my TiVo I briefly had a Comcast DVR -- they said hey, give it a try. I didn't hate it with a fiery passion, but I was also pretty meh about it. I returned it for a dual tuner card once my TiVoHD arrived. (stupidsexyFlanders is correct; no OnDemand if you go to a tuner card, and OnDemand is the one area Comcast has been expanding even as they've been slow to add HD channels.)

Yeah, Comcast's HD is pretty compressed. Here in Seattle, though, they promise the forthcoming digital switch (which is NOT the HDTV switch, but moving the "expanded" cable tier, 31-98, to digital) will undo some of that compression, and it should allow them to raise the broadband caps as well.

A friend of mine dumped DirecTV and is now watching all his TV using AppleTV, Hulu, and a couple other websites (and, um, possibly some sharing software). He's very happy about it.
posted by dw at 7:42 AM on January 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

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