One Unhappy Return

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On Thursday I returned the Comcast HD DVR that I picked up last month.  Here’s why:

  1. The box is noisy.  The fan is always going and there seems to be hard disk activity even when the machine isn’t being used.  Since the room it’s in doubles as a guest room, this matters.  I’ve already had one guest ask to unplug it at night.
  2. I still prefer the feature set of my ReplayTV 5160 – 30-second forward-skip button on the remote, automatic commercial skip, and network support, to name a few.  (Of course I don’t get the HDTV, dual-tuner support and integrated premium cable access with ReplayTV.)  I find the ReplayTV UX slicker and easier to navigate; this may be in part to having 4 years of experience with ReplayTV versus a couple of weeks with the new one.
  3. My HD-capable projector requires a special-order cable (component video to HD15 RGB) to get anything higher than 480i and may require some additional configuration by a professional installer.  So I haven’t even seen the HD image quality yet.
  4. My projector happens to be in a room where we mostly watch movies, not broadcast TV, and frankly the amount of HD-specific content is still pretty small.  So the benefits of having the DVR there are limited except for a handful of sporting events, unless I could use video-on-demand to replace my Netflix subscription (and I haven’t investigated whether the on-demand selection is comparable).

In summary, the main issues are the noise and the lack of compelling HD content for me.  If I already had an HD-capable TV in my family room (where the noise issue isn’t significant), I’d probably keep the box and use it there side-by-side with my ReplayTV to get a good apples-to-apples comparison.  I suspect I’d really miss the 30-second forward skip feature and lack of networking.  Perhaps these will get addressed in V2 or V3.  Or maybe someone will come out with a cable-capable HDTV tuner card for a Windows Media Center PC.

I’ve toyed with the idea of swapping the box for a plain HDTV cable box, since that presumably addresses the noise issue, but because of the hassle involved (see #3) I’ll probably hold off on there’s enough HD content to make it worth the cost and effort.

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