Comcast DVR != TiVo 2007/07/09
Disclaimer: I am not planning on buying a TiVo Series 3 box.
I am now officially a discouraged Comcast HD DVR customer. This service and the hardware that provides it is absolutely terrible. I will cover the various deficiencies in its user interface in a moment, but today while watching the 3-hour recording of Stage 2 of the 2007 Tour de France (which was quite a stage, let me tell you) the sound would intermittently and inexplicably cut out. The silence would, as far as my patience let me go, continue indefinitely, but was always fixed by hitting the quick-back button (or certainly just by interrupting the recording in any way). How can playing back a recording be so difficult for a box Motorola built for this exact purpose?
So far this is the only functional issue I have had with the machine but that is not to say that it is without other flaws. The rest of this post will be an attempt to justify the $800 price tag of a TiVo Series 3. I of course have already spoiled the conclusion, but bear with me.
Having been spoiled for the past two years with a TiVo Series 2, I know that folders are a very convenient way to organize recorded programs. Motorola missed this memo and instead provide a flat list of recordings, ordered by date, channel or title. Combine this with the fact that the interface only fills the lower half of the screen and you get a very trying experience.
Not that keeping a long list of recordings is terribly easy. I have not yet decided if there are software bugs or if there are hidden limitations on the Season Pass equivalent but in either case, it is very difficult to setup repeated recordings of your favorite shows. When reordering series to record, no warning is given when conflicts (even with the dual-tuner) will alter the upcoming recording schedule. When setting up a series, it is not clear whether all channels are searched for upcoming titles.
And of course this uncertainty has other consequences. Whenever I browse through the program guide, I expect some indication of which programs are scheduled to be recorded. Sometimes there is. Other times there is not. And even two levels deep in menus I am sometimes unsure whether a program is set to record.
All of this, though, and I cannot justify $800. A damn shame.