When TiVo came out a few years ago, the
product (called PVRs - Personal Video Recorders, or DVRs - Digital Video
Recorders) revolutionized the way we watch TV. It allowed us to pause TV
programs, rewind and replay TV programs, and record them when we were away
from the TV. They contained a hard drive instead of tape, for storing
programs. The early ones did not have much room to store programs (about 20
hours of NTSC programs), but the current ones have drives in the hundreds of
gigabytes capacity, and will store hundreds of hours of NTSC. More
importantly, they can store High Definition programs, which take up a lot of
I bought one for the upstairs kitchen, and a
second unit for downstairs in the home theater. This thing was simply
indispensable, as many of the TV programs that I like to watch are shown late
in the evening or in the middle of the night.
At that point, there was only one tuner in
the TiVo box, and it had to be linked to my DirecTV satellite box with a
cable that told the DirecTV tuner what to do. The TiVo service was
$9.95/month, and I was glad to pay it, as it doubled my program watching
When High Definition came along, I bought a
digital projector for the home theater and an LCD panel display for the
kitchen, along with two HD satellite boxes. I could no longer use the TiVo box because it would not record High
Definition programs. So, I was without a DVR and feeling the pain. That was
nearly two years ago.
DirecTV HR-10 250
Recently, High Definition satellite boxes
with the DVR capability built-in hit the market. DirecTV's model HR10-250 is
an early salvo. It has a DirecTV HD tuner (two tuners, for watching one
channel while recording another) and a TiVo DVR which can record 30
hours of HD programming or 200 hours of NTSC programming. Everything is in
one chassis, so you don't need to connect two boxes together or use two
My goal here is not to review all the
features of TiVo, since they have been around for quite some time, but to
talk about how well the tuner and TiVo units are integrated and whether or
not the box works well as an HD tuner and HD recorder.
The front panel has the access card slot,
indicator for resolution being output (you can select 480i, 480p, 720p, or
1080i by pressing the Format button on the front panel, or using the remote), and some of the buttons that are also
on the remote control (you can click on the photo in the upper left hand
corner to see a large photo of the front panel).
The rear panel has two satellite inputs and
one RF input for an over-the-air antenna. Outputs include HDMI (HDCP
compatible), component video, S-Video, and composite video. If you use HDMI,
audio is carried with the video, but if you need to have analog audio, as
you would with the other video outputs, there is a pair of analog stereo
outputs as well as a Toslink optical digital audio output. There are USB
ports and a serial port for "future use."
If you want to use both satellite tuners -
and of course everyone would want to - you need to have two satellite cable
feeds from the dish, which are connected to the two satellite input jacks.
Since you are unlikely to have had two lines fed in to your previous
satellite box, it takes a visit from the installer to do this. And here is a
bit of confusion. The installer simply tapped a second cable from the first
one instead of using a splitter. If that is the case, why not just tap off
the main cable inside the satellite box chassis, with one feed going to one
tuner and a second feed going to the second tuner, or put a splitter in the
chassis if one is required? This would be a simple and inexpensive addition
that would make things a lot easier for consumers. Perhaps if the signal is
weak, tapping the line or using a splitter without a signal amplifier won't
work, but most situations deliver adequate signal strength.
Once everything is connected - in my case I
used the HDMI output to feed the DVI input on the LCD display, with the
included HDMI-DVI adapter cable - you go through the setup procedure
on-screen. A phone line connection is necessary. It takes about 30 minutes
to go through the entire procedure, with 15 minutes of that to download the
TV programming. You also have to call DirecTV and activate the new satellite
box. Make a point of mentioning the fact there is a DVR in the box, because
that is not automatically activated. The cost of the TiVo service is
$4.95/month. Before you call them, write down the model # of the satellite
box, serial # of the box, the access card number, and the receiver ID #. All
of these numbers are printed on the side of the shipping box. You will need
them when you speak to the representative.
When I first turned on the system, the
image was jumping around. It turned out that the 480i output setting on the
box was not compatible through the HDMI jack. So, I set the satellite box to
output 1080i, and it worked fine.
There is only one remote control supplied
with the box, and that is all you need. The basic TiVo remote has not
changed over the years, except for the addition of an aspect ratio button.
Click on photo above to see
a larger version.
You can set up the program guide to be the
TiVo version or the DirecTV version. Both program guides load very slow, but
the DirecTV guide is the slowest. When scrolling down the list of channels,
it takes several seconds for the guide to be refreshed. This is something
that definitely needs to be addressed in future versions as it is very
The default setting of the satellite box
records programs without your having to tell it to do so. The recordings are
based on what you tend to watch. You press the DirecTV button at the top of
the remote to see a list of what has been recorded. I turned that feature
off as I don't want the box to start filling up the hard drive with programs
that I did not select for recording.
The volume and mute buttons do not work
automatically, because they are tailored for use with your particular
display. So, you have to choose the code number for your display from a list
in the menu, and punch it into the remote control before those buttons will
The TiVo unit works beautifully with HD
programming. Pause, rewind, slow motion, and the other basic features that
one has on a VCR, all function perfectly with HD as well as NTSC programs.
However, the two tuner concept needs a bit
of work from TiVo. Depending on how you set up the recording of one channel,
trying to view another channel at the same time occasionally produces a
message that says the recording will have to be terminated if you want to
watch the other channel simultaneously. This does not appear to be dependent
on whether the two programs are HD or NTSC. That needs to be corrected by TiVo so that you can always view one channel while a second one is being
recorded, or record two channels at the same time, without worrying if a
recording will be shut down on one channel. Perhaps this is something that
can be downloaded as an updated operating system.
In any case, the picture quality of NTSC
and HD is excellent with this satellite box. Also, I really like HDMI. There
is no need to concern yourself with the exact type of DVI cable, since DVI
has numerous variations. HDMI is one plug and one jack. One cable fits all.
I was pleased that going from an HDMI output to a DVI input worked as
If you upgraded to HDTV and have been
without a DVR for awhile, the wait is over. Notwithstanding a few bugs, the
DirecTV HD DVR does the job for tuning and recording HD programming. It may
seem a bit pricey, but you are getting both an HD tuner (with two tuners)
and a DVR, all in the same chassis.
- John E. Johnson,