The standard Uverse package includes up to 3 receivers one of which is a DVR. That is a pretty sweet deal. Throw in a DVR as part of the package. Don't charge anything additional for the DVR! Excellent!
Or is it?
I am a TiVo evangelist. I absolutely believe that TiVo is the best DVR bar none. I know, MythTV has the same functionality and it is free. Well, almost free. You have to supply your own hardware, OS (Linux easy), MythTV application (relatively easy), a video tuner card (more money), subscribe to a TV listing service (easy and money) and make it all work in a box that the significant other will allow in the family room (hard).
MythTV is great but I just don't have time to fiddle with it. As I have aged (gracefully, I tell myself all the time) I have found that there are some things worth doing on your own only until something hits the market that is as good or better. An example, before America's microbrew industry got into full swing, I brewed my own beer. By the mid-90's, there were just too many good microbrews out there to justify my spending time brewing and bottling.
For me, TiVo is the Arrogant Bastard of DVRs. The interface is intuitive. Response time quick. Programming is easy. It just works and I just happen to be worthy enough to enjoy my TiVo.
When we got Uverse, I decided to keep TiVo around to help the family transition to the Uverse DVR (Motorola box). Three months later, TiVo is still hooked up and is by far the primary DVR used. This, inspite of the fact we can not record in HD on TiVo.
Why are we still using this old Standard Definition TiVo recorder for Uverse content?
To schedule a recording with Uverse you have several options. You can use the
The "Guide", is a 12 day listing of programming for all channels. Moving from today ahead 7 days, requires you to scroll throw the Guide at 30 minute intervals. A bit tedious and really only useful if you want to record a show that is going to start within an hour or two.
Favorites - same as the "Guide" but only shows those channels you have set up as "Favorites".
Search - Type the name or title and up will pop those shows that have that name or title. You can not search by genre, actor, or anything else. Compare that to TiVo and you'll get the feeling that this thing was designed as a High School project!
With TiVo, you can search by Title, Time, Channel, Actor, Category, Keyword and Swivel. That last one reminds me of those sticks you use to mix your drink. Only, in TiVo's case you get to mix up whatever word, keyword, concept, date and/or time you want to find a show. Swivel is like having a built in Google engine for video programming.
The interface on TiVo blows away AT&T's. When I searched for "Top Gear" on Uverse, it showed me a list of 3 to 4 upcoming broadcasts. But on TiVo, I get a list of 8 shows on one page and am told that there are 20 upcoming episodes. Uverse doesn't give me that sort of information.
Finding a Recorded Show
Uverse - By selecting "Browse Recordings", I can review my recorded shows by date or title. I only see 5 shows at a time but Uverse does tell me how many shows I have. That's not too bad. But TiVo stomps all over Uverse with greater flexibility.
I select "Now Playing" from the TiVo main menu and all of my shows are presented on a scrolling page. One screenful of shows gives me access to 8 programs. Series show up as folders with the number of recordings displayed next to the folder.
Watching a Recorded Show
Once I have selected a show on Uverse, the all important stop, pause, fast forward and rewind comes into play. These functions are probably the most used and sadly, Uverse does one of the worst jobs I have ever seen on a DVR. The response of these functions is just a little better then ... I can't think of anything... Let me give you an example.
Say I'm watching the latest episode of Lost and one of those marketing techniques developed in the 1950's interrupts my viewing experience. I think some people call these interruptions "commercials". Anyway, on TiVo, I can forward through the interruption at 3 different speeds stopping when I see the show start up. TiVo, automagically backs up to within a few frames of when I hit the Play button. Uverse should do the same right? Nope. It misses the mark by between 5 - 7 seconds. Not frames! Seconds! It is almost as if, Uverse was trying to force you to watch the last 5 seconds of the commercial interruption. If you try to forward through those 5 seconds, you'll be brought forward in time by about 9 seconds. The resolution on forward and reverse is thick. There is absolutely no excuse for this lack of functionality. This one issue has my family cursing Uverse and insisting on recording most shows with TiVo.
Once you have watched the show you want to delete it right? Uverse actually got this one right. Just select "Erase". What they messed up on is what happens if you want to save the recording so someone else could watch it later? You have to back out of the current menu, select Show Recordings, find the show you just watched and then select "Save Until I Erase". Can someone tell me what brilliant user interface designer decided this was a good idea? Oh, Motorola doesn't have user interface designers you say? Ah, AT&T never tested the box on anyone that has used a DVR? I see. Everything is so clear now.
On TiVo, the Save option is presented on the same screen as the Erase option. TiVo once again rocks. TiVo understands user interface design. TiVo actually tried their products on humans. I am convinced there wasn't anyone at AT&T that actually tried any competitor product. Shame on you AT&T. Your DVR functionality smacks of amateurish interface design.
Uverse HD recorded shows look better then TiVo recorded SD shows. Umm, I'm not sure that is a fair comparison and I'd be a bit perplexed if it worked any other way.
So there you have it. If you have a TiVo and you are considering using Uverse, my recommendation would be to think again. Go with either DirecTV or Cable. If you go with Cable, then make sure you get a TiVo.
One more thing - you may wonder how I hooked TiVo up to Uverse. You'd think that it would be very simple. Well, sadly, AT&T has locked down their Motorola boxes so it is not as easy as it should be. On the Motorola box, you can only have one video connection live at any one time. So, if I try feeding the Component Video to the TiVo and HDMI to my Monitor, one of those signals will be turned off. TiVo (though this is just SD) keeps all of their video outputs alive. I understand (though disagree with) the idea that HDMI has to be copy protected, but why shouldn't the S-Video and HDMI or Component signals be alive at the same time? I have a right to record the programming as I am paying for this. No where does AT&T say that video output is limited to feeding only one device at a time.
My workaround was to take that third Motorola box and dedicate it to TiVo. This presented one other problem. I can have up to 2 TiVo units in my family room. Each unit controlled by their own remote. Amazingly, AT&T and Motorola didn't think about the potential of having more then one set top box in the same room as there is no way to dedicate one remote to one box. If you place 2 set top boxes in the same room, the remote will not be able to distinguish between the two boxes and all commands sent to one box will be captured and understood by the second box. TiVo thought this one through and allows you to flip a switch on the remote indicating which TiVo you want to control.
I took care of this problem by placing a blanket over the Motorola box that was connected to the TiVo and then using TiVo's IR blaster to send the signal to that box. It works as long as no one decides they need a blanket.
There is one other thing that I don't like about Uverse. I can not watch Uverse recorded shows anywhere except in the room where the Uverse DVR sits. One would think that the other set top boxes would be able to use their network connection to pull video from the DVR. That function has been promised since last year but is nowhere in site. At least not in my neighborhood. TiVo lets you share video recordings between units and even with your computer. With multiple live video outputs I can send the signal to other rooms with relative ease.
So there you have it. The more I use Uverse the more I am convinced I made a mistake ditching DirecTV. TiVo is still the most flexible, functional and user friendly DVR on the market. If only my Apple TV would let me record shows from Satellite or Cable. I'd ditch Uverse, get HD DirecTV and use the Apple TV to record my T.V.
Until next time
e tutto per oggi!