Direct TV and the HD DVR

Direct TV and the HD DVR

With the inclusion of free or price-reduced TiVo-powered DVRs (digital video recorders), the benefits of DIRECTV have become so much greater. Particularly compelling is the high definition DVR combo that new DIRECTV subscribers can currently receive at a fair price. Of course the question to be asked is: If I can receive a free DVR with my DIRECTV subscription, why dish out the extra cash for the upgrade? There are quite a few reasons. How compelling they are will depend on you and your family's television viewing habits, but in short, if you own more than one TV in a household of more than one DIRECTV viewer, this piece of equipment offers several features whose advantages you will seriously want to consider.

The HD DVR is the very first DIRECTV receiver capable of digital video recording and high definition reception, and that is in addition to its ability to function in more than one room. What this means is that it is not only possible to connect two or more televisions to a high definition DIRECTV signal and record the programming received, you also no longer need separate boxes for high definition and DIRECTV. Furthermore, unlike other high definition DIRECTV receivers, this particular unit is also capable of receiving a standard definition signal, eliminating the need to keep that standard definition antenna/receiver around. This is just the beginning.

In terms of features and design, the HD DVR offers various recording and viewing possibilities that are almost too numerous to list. Both televisions connected to this box can be set to manual/auto timers and may also do quick records. Furthermore, while a "live" program is being recorded it is possible to watch another program already recorded from DIRECTV onto the hard drive. There are fifty such automatic/manual timers. This presents one with many options. The DIRECTV receiver can be set to tune to your favorite sitcom on one station, while recording that documentary on another station that you want to watch later. You can be watching one station while recording two different standard definition movies or television shows. Or, one high definition channel can be recorded at the same time as another channel in standard definition.

Since the DIRECTV recording capabilities of this box are so sophisticated, the engineers who put it together were thoughtful enough to include a user friendly Electronic Program Guide (EPG). Using the cursor, all one need do is navigate to the desired program and press the "select" button on the remote control. For those who have used TiVo, this will already be familiar, as will the options to record the program once, weekly, Monday through Friday, etc. This user friendly and streamlined interface is made even better by the fact that the EPG lists nine full days worth of programming, and this list is stored Directly on the HD DVR 's hard drive. This puts the information literally at your fingertips. The EPG becomes even better by a handy "search" function, which makes locating your favorite programs a breeze.

What's really great about the HD DVR is that with it you have two high definition receivers in one box. This feature makes it possible to watch DIRECTV in two locations in your home, and to have a different program on either TV. Even better, this receiver comes with two remote controls - one for each television connected to the DIRECTV signal. The remotes themselves are extremely handy creatures, each one capable of working up to one-hundred feet and through walls. In addition to the DIRECTV receiver they are capable of controlling the television, VCR, or DVD player.

Other features of the HD DVR include parental control locks (so two DIRECTV connected TVs need not mean a loss of oversight), as well as a wealth of program information on the EPG, including theme lists, favorites, and one-touch channel return. There is also closed-caption and alternate audio support. For those concerned about inputs and outputs, the has them in plenty, one HDMI, one component video out, one A/V out, and a digital optical out. In addition to the DIRECTV antenna input, there is an antenna RF input for receiving and recording local high definition channels. There is also a twin satellite input on the back panel, the in-jack for the second television, a phone jack, an accessory jack for a VCR signal blaster, and a mysterious though implicitly exciting USB port for an as of yet unspecified future use.

Thanks to the professional installation technician sent to my house by Dish Network, installation of the DIRECTV and HD DVR was a snap. Once up and running, it took little time to get a feel for the EPG and how to navigate it using the arrow keys on the remote. While surfing the EPG, the channel currently being watched converts to a picture-in-picture (PIP) box in the upper right-hand of the screen so that nothing is missed. Accessing recorded shows is also as simple as touching the obviously placed button labeled "DVR". In no time whatsoever I had programmed the recording of several upcoming programs that a few late nights at work would otherwise have caused me to miss.

In converging the best aspects of two great products into one even greater product, high definition DIRECTV and digital video recording powered by TiVo, the HD DVR creates the dual effect of exponentially increasing your entertainment options while making home entertainment more simple and flexible than ever. This is an excellent DIRECTV receiver for not one, but two televisions; this fact alone makes the model ideal, especially for those of us with families of broad and oftentimes conflicting tastes. However, the designers of this DIRECTV receiver did not stop there when contemplating the unit. In functionality and design, the HD DVR 's multiplicity of options and its user-friendly interface are without parallel.

By David Johnson

David Johnson is an editor and consultant for several Satellite TV websites. Visit this DIRECTV website for more information on Direct TV's Service and equipment.

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