Saturday, January 19, 2008

Comcast and Tivo

Comcast has been talking about offering Tivo service on their DVR boxes for couple years. As I understand there were some issues to work through but in late 2007 they started rolling the new service out in a few states. It was supposed to be offered my state so I was pretty excited to get it but when I called Comcast early this year they told me it was not available yet in my town.
I did find a Comcast webpage where you can enter your zip code and it will tell you if it is available in your town, if it is not available in your town you can enter your email address and they will email you when it is available. You can get to the webpage through the link below.

So a few weeks ago when it became available Comcast emailed me and I called and made an appointment to have it installed. I was under the impression that the Tivo software could just be uploaded to our existing box with no need for a tech to come out to our house. The rep told me that since I had an older box I would need a new one. The charge for Tivo is an additional $3/month on top of the charge for the old DVR service.

I was not home when the tech came to do the install but it seems that the install was not that easy. It was the first time this tech was installing the new Tivo box and he was at my house for a couple hours. As I understand he was downstairs for a while doing something, not sure exactly what though. Some friends that have had recent installed have had similar experiences. I guess that is the price you pay for being an early adopter.

So now that we have had the box for a week and have had a chance to use it for a bit I have to say that I am pretty impressed. My biggest complaint with the old DVR box was the intermittent lockups that would happen when changing channels. I am glad to say that I haven't seen this happen with the new box. The new Tivo interface is nice, much easier to navigate than the old box. The Season Pass is also a great feature on the Tivo box that didn't really work well on the old DVR box. You also get a new remote with the Tivo box. It is smaller than the old remote but is taking us a little bit to get used to.

There are few minor annoyances that I have noticed:

  1. If you tell the box to make suggestions based on your recordings sometimes when you are watching a show it will pop up a box asking to change the channel to record a suggestion. If your turn suggestions off for your recordings this won't happen so that is a sufficient work-around for us.

  2. If you are watching a show and you go into the guide to get info about another program it automatically changes the channel from the program you were watching to the show you are getting info on. The old box allowed you get info on other programs without changing channels. There may be a work-around for this as well I just haven't figured it out yet.

  3. We have a High Definition TV but we bought it in 2002 so it is not a wide screen format. When we watch non HD shows they take up the whole screen, HD shows have black bars on the top and bottom. The front of the new Tivo box has a button to switch modes from 480i, 480p, 720p or 1080i. When the rep set up the box he just left it at the default 480i. I didn't notice it until we were watching the football game in HD and the pic looked like crap. That is when I noticed the button, switched it to 1080i and the picture looked great. The issue is when I watch non HD shows in 1080i mode I can no longer watch them full screen, I get black bars all around the picture. It is pretty easy to just push the button to switch it back but it is pretty annoying since I didn't have to do this with the old box.

Overall I am pretty happy with the service. I haven't used at much as I would like to given the writers strike and not too many new shows worth recording. But with Lost and Jericho starting soon I will have more of an opportunity to use it more.


Brookotter said...

Glad you're having a good experience, wish I could say the same. Love my Series 2, and really wanted the Comcast Tivo for HD. Was "first in town" according to the installer. Took him two different boxes to get one that could actually download the software. From the get-go, it was flaky. Made "bad tivo" sounds when navigating the Guide, lost recordings, and froze up. After a second hard restart (unplug), and an hour on support w/Comcast, they replaced the box. This new one seems just as flaky after four days, and the last thing the tech said as he left was, "that should work for about two weeks." This really does not seem ready for market.

Anonymous said...

I got two MOT boxes from Comcast when Tivo became available in Boston. While the Tivo interface is much better than the standard Comcast DVR was, it is still a sub-par experience, particularly for those of you used to native Tivo.
The main problem is the incredibly painful latency - my guess would be the Tivo software runs on top of the terrible Comcast software, and this creates what at times can be a multi-second gap between button pushed and results. Absolutely painful when FF through commercials - esp if you're used to native Tivo accuracy.
They also (of course) had to mess with the simple Tivo remote, adding "On Demand" buttons everywhere, one of which is right below the main "Select" button making for some more pain when hit accidentally.
My DirecTivo (Sony) from 2002 was infinitely better, and those boxes had a horrible reputation (but at least it was native Tivo.)
Just be aware of these issues if you're thinking of switching from a two-box set-up on cable.

Geo said...

Sounds like there are some improvements, but I'm glad I ditched the Comcast DVR for a Tivo HD.

The previous poster who mentioned the latency...that was my #1 complaint with the Motorola box.

The worst thing is that it would queue remote button presses. This is an -horrible- interface error. Remote control commands should execute immediately or be dropped, since human impulse is to tap the button repeatedly in case line of sight is the problem.

There's really nothing like having your box execute umpteen queued commands at once, cancel your currently recording show, delete it for you, etc.

The Comcast Tivo pause would drive me nuts, but tell me they at least fixed the stupid queuing?

Anonymous said...

I'll second the latency complaint.

Before i had the Tivo installed, I hated the comcast motorola box because of the latency.

Unfortunately, the tivo upgrade has made it significantly worse. I press the guide button, and it takes up to 10 seconds for the guide to actually appear on the screen. And if I want to select a show in the guide in order to record it, well, I better be prepared to wait a full minute while request is processed.

To think they're charging EXTRA for this. I'd pay extra to have my box put back the way it was. As it is, I'm going to call comcast and demand a refund and also refund all charges related to this crap "upgrade".