Previous setup: DirecTV satellite with 2 tivo DirecTV receivers, each capable of receiving and recording 2 channels at once. 3 televisions. BasementTV and BedroomTV had tivo units. 1stFloorTV was a mirror of the BedroomTV (we used a remote transmitter to control the BedroomTV tivo from the 1st floor).
New setup: 3 AT&T Uverse receivers (1 per TV) with one being a “total home DVR” receiver on 1stFloorTV.
The installation took several hours, in part because we were also getting phone and internet installed. Also, our house requires running wiring behind walls, through ceilings, etc. The tech was pleasant, friendly, and knowledgeable. He had no problems with the times where I just wanted to do something myself (e.g., set up our home wireless LAN) rather than be shown or given an install CD that had who-knows-what on it.
Pros of Uverse vs. DirecTV with Tivo:
- Access to OnDemand programming: Comcast subscribers in our area have had this for quite awhile. Being able to just pull up a random Discovery channel tidbit or a 20 minute comedy standup is great for moments when you just want something in the background. Comedy Central’s selection is great, with several South Park episodes and lots of standup. We also watched this week’s Survivor via OnDemand (since it was recorded on our now-disconnected Tivos), and it was great. You can still skip through commercials in OnDemand viewing, same as if you were watching a show you recorded yourself. But, the commercials tend to be rare anyways.
- Having 3 separate TVs of programming: As you saw in the setup descriptions, we really only had 2 TVs with unique programming. This meant that if Scott wanted to watch a football game on the first floor, I couldn’t go to the bedroom and put away laundry while watching Discovery channel. Also, we constantly had to remember which Tivo had what show…particularly in the new TV seasons where we were often recording 3-4 shows in the same timeslot. And that leads to…
- Being able to watch a recorded show on any floor: If we record MythBusters, we can watch it on any floor. No more having to decide where we’re going to want to watch the show in advance.
- Having an option to record shows at or around a certain timeslot only: Okay, this mainly helps with Daily Show, so I’m going to use that to illustrate. Daily Show is shown on Comedy Central about six times a day. Five of the shows are repeats, one showing is new. But, Daily show doesn’t mark any of its showings as “new” or “repeat” so there’s no way for DVRs to know which instance is the new showing versus a repeat. For tivo users, this generally means that you either record TDS based on time (every weekday at 10pm for a half hour) and occasionally miss a show because it’s special or moves for some reason, or you tell it to record all daily shows, and just accept that if you don’t watch it each day and/or clear out the crud each day, you’ll miss it (because it got overwritten by the 5 new instances the next day). Uverse lets me say “record Daily Show, and only record the instances that start around 10pm”…from what I’ve read, it will record instances +/- 1 hour of the selected time. This is a great way to work around the problem with Daily Show and other “dailies” like it.
- Pausing Live TV: We can only pause live TV on the 1stFloorTV (where the DVR is). We can’t pause TV in the basement or bedroom. This is a huge pain in the ass, and it’s made worse by the fact that there’s no reason that we *shouldn’t* be able to do this. All the receivers must have some kind of temporary hard drive to cache the recorded shows and OnDemand. Why can’t it be used to let you pause and resume live TV, even with a limited duration? TiVo lets you pause for 30 minutes.
- Recording TV can only be done from 1st Floor or Internet: If you want to record a show, say the cooking show that you’re watching right now, you better be on the 1st floor. You can’t just tell any TV to record a show and have it send the command to the DVR. Again, this is stupid, and they should be able to do this. The result of this is that we have to run to the first floor, interrupt the person who is watching TV there, and quickly go to guide, hit record, and then go back to what you were doing.
- Not enough options for how many instances of a show to keep/erasing schedule: So, in TiVo, I can tell it to keep only 2 episodes of Scrubs, no matter how many opportunities it has to record Scrubs. This is great for syndicated comedies. I can keep just a couple of episodes of Scrubs re-runs on hand at all times without filling up the DVR, since it’s on 24 hours a day these days. On AT&T’s Uverse, it won’t let me edit erasing schedule at a show level. I can set a particular episode to be kept forever versus deleted based on space, but that’s it. Seriously, that’s the only erasing option. That’s ridiculous. I have no idea how much disk space this thing has, either, so I don’t know how soon this is going to become a major problem for us. I can’t tell it that I really want it to keep Pushing Daisies new episodes at a higher priority than Mythbusters re-runs…as in, delete Mythbusters first. Maybe OnDemand will replace my need for a few random syndicated comedies, but right now, I can’t even risk setting any syndicated comedies to record.
We really like the Uverse setup, but the cons are HUGE problems for us. We were getting tired of DirecTV’s lack of reliability, hence the change. Still, I’m not sure this is going to work. Not being able to control when and how shows are deleted is a major problem. Not being able to pause live TV on every floor is a main problem. The sad part is, I think AT&T could fix all of these problems, but I don’t trust them to do it fast enough. We’re going to give it another week, and if we’re still unhappy, we’re switching back, probably…and who knows what penalty we’ll pay for that….