Comcast DVR w/ Tivo -- any good, in 2008?
April 30, 2008 1:56 PM   Subscribe

Are the Comcast DVR woes over? Would anyone, today, say that the Comcast DVR with Tivo service works well? I'm moving house and want to set up a new TV and internet package with a Tivo-based DVR. Should I keep what I have or go with something new? Boston area in case it matters to the service.

It seems that when Comcast rolled out their DVR service many bloggers and other commentators complained about how bad it was. The residue of that is all over the internet, but most of the complaints come from 2007, and it's hard to see if people would consider this, today in mid 2008, something worth having.

I'm moving house soon. I currently run a Series 2 Tivo with the wireless network adapter off a standard Comcast digital cable box. I have a subscription on the Tivo until December 2008. Right now, things are good. I can use Tivo DecodeManager to download and transcode shows on to my computer over 801.11g wifi (thanks to the Tivo Wifi adapter). And the Tivo works nicely, but I would certainly like to be able to watch live TV while something else is being recorded, and my Series 2 is a single-tuner variant. All in all, it's perfect as it stands except for my dual tuner desires.

I've seen that Comcast offer a DVR with Tivo service now for essentially the same monthly cost as a Tivo contract. I'm sure it's got more disk space (nice) and can do HD (not a big deal for me) and probably has two tuners. But if the unit is as broken as early adopters found it to be, I think I'd rather stick with what I have.

And the killer would be if I could no longer DL shows to my computer.

Should I in fact be looking at a Series 2 DT instead?

Many thanks to anyone who entertains my rather trivial request.
posted by galaksit to Technology (13 answers total)
My mom lives in Belmont and has it. It works fine. I don't know about the downloading though.

The one thing that's annoying is the search for shows is limited compared to what Tivo has. You can only sort by the first letter.
posted by miss tea at 2:01 PM on April 30, 2008

Best answer: The Comcast TiVo doesn't have MRV and may (depending on which hardware you get) have a smaller hard drive than the TiVo HD. Additionally, the hard drive can't be upgraded.

You should be buying a TiVo HD, ($200-$250) IMO. You don't have to put CableCARDs in it unless you want to record digital cable channels. Of course, with Comcast in most areas, the first card is free with digital cable (same as a regular box), so with a TiVo HD that supports MCards, which are capable of working for more than one tuner at once, the CableCARD is free anyway.

Alternatively, you could buy another TiVo S2, or wire up your TV so it can tune channels independently of the TiVo.
posted by wierdo at 2:19 PM on April 30, 2008

May I suggest you a Media Center Desktop PC. Its more expensive, but doesn't have the recurrent cost of Tivo.

If you are looking for a cheaper alternative you could build your own PVR.
posted by WizKid at 2:45 PM on April 30, 2008

Best answer: I would also recommend a TivoHD. With two single stream cablecards (or one multi stream) you will be able to record two programs on two separate channels at the same time (a definite revelation if you are coming from a series 2 like I did).

Without cablecards, the TivoHD will only record analog cable channels (most likely anything with two digits on a Comcast system). The TivoHD will NOT work with a cable box. (The other major benefit of this is no more IR blasters!)

A series 2 DT will only control one cable box, so the second tuner will only record analog cable channels.

A TivoHD will work fine with standard definition TVs - just make sure that you have an s-video or component input available, and set it to always output a 480i signal (if you use s-video I think that's automatic). I don't think it has a composite out.

Your wireless adapter will work fine, as well. TivoHD also has wired ethernet built in, so if that is an option, you can just plug the Cat5 right into the back of the TivoHD (no dongle required).

Finally (sorry so long), since you already have a tivo, you can get a new TivoHD with lifetime service for ~$700. Pretty steep, but perhaps still cheaper than a Media Center PC.
posted by dforemsky at 3:02 PM on April 30, 2008

Best answer: I have a Comcast DVR that I started using a year ago when my Series 2 TiVo couldn't handle my shiny new HDTV. At first... I really missed TiVo. The interface on the Comcast DVR isn't as nice, the FF/REW on the Comcast DVR sucks and is choppy, and I really miss the auto-backup when you stop fast forwarding. I don't think you can download stuff to your computer with the Comcast box, but I admittedly haven't tried and haven't cared to try.

With all that said, it's a serviceable DVR. If I really hated it I'd be the owner of a HD TiVo right now. I got used to it not being as good as a TiVo, but I don't watch a lot of TV and only need really basic stuff out of a DVR.
posted by PFL at 3:03 PM on April 30, 2008

dforemsky: Just a minor nit, the TiVo HD does indeed have a composite output in addition to component (which is what I'm using with my SDTV, FWIW), s-video, and HDMI..I just looked. ;) (I have both a THD and a Series 3)

The Series 3 adds an extra set of composite/rca stereo outputs.
posted by wierdo at 4:03 PM on April 30, 2008

People have been able to extract Comcast DVR files from older Motorola set-top boxes over firewire, but I don't know if that is still possible with the current generation.

What level of Comcast service do you have? I know that in my area (Seattle/Redmond), Comcast won't even let you rent a DVR unless you pony up for their higher digital tiers and one subscription service like HBO. On top of that, Comcast wanted more money for the Tivo service, so I ditched all that and went with the TivoHD with a multi-stream Cablecard. This, along with canceling my HBO subscription and dropping to the digital basic tier actually saved me money monthly.
posted by curse at 4:39 PM on April 30, 2008

Can you use OnDemand with Tivo HD and a CableCard?
posted by MegoSteve at 8:21 PM on April 30, 2008

MegoSteve: No, no OnDemand.

Of course, there's not much point in VOD when you have everything you want to watch already recorded on your hard drive. (that may just be my 1TB of storage talking)
posted by wierdo at 8:45 PM on April 30, 2008

I had a Comcast TiVo in January, it failed in February, and the replacements also didn't work. The Comcast guy told me that they were failing at an incredibly high rate, and he had switched at least one other person back to the Comcast old DVRs that day (he switched me back as well). I don't know if they are better now...
posted by blahblahblah at 10:15 PM on April 30, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks folks. I think I'll have to check out CableCards to understand all my options here. As for the question about what level Comcast will let you rent a DVR at, well, I wasn't looking for the maximum channel service, but I do want to get the cheap sports pack on top of the basic digital, because I watch a lot of Fox Soccer Channel.
posted by galaksit at 6:55 AM on May 1, 2008

Response by poster: What I did: TivoHD with CableCard.
posted by galaksit at 12:42 PM on July 16, 2008

Thanks for this thread, it's helped me out on my decision making. I'm on my way to the US for a couple of years, and friends recommend Comcast for bundling broadband / cable TV (phone?).

I have a hacked Series 1 TiVo at home in Oz, working as an OzTiVo, and am sold on the interface. Twin tuner HD action is something I'd be happy to have for a couple of years, even though I can't take it home and have it work.

So, anyone got anything further to say on the combination of:
1. Comcast
2. Bought TiVoHD
3. Twin CableCards?

My only real question is, if I have 2+3, can I use any US cable provider instead of Comcast?
posted by Cods at 5:49 PM on August 11, 2008

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