|DirecTV HR10-250 HD DVR|
|Home Theater Media Servers Satellite & Cable Receivers/PVRs/DVRs/TiVo|
|Written by Jerry Del Colliano|
|Monday, 01 November 2004|
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In a recent poll conducted as a part of an Audio Video Revolution sweepstakes, a question was asked to the nearly 20,000 respondents as to what AV product they are planning on buying next within the next six months. We asked a very similar question in 2003: for a resounding majority, the answer was an HDTV set. In 2004, the most likely purchase was an HD-DVR (or TiVo). This new AV component category led all others, including HD sets themselves, with 28 percent of our readers saying this would be their next purchase.
To say HD-DVR is a scorching hot new category of gear is to understate its importance. To not mention how bad and overpriced the category of HDTV tuners have been since the early adopters started dialing into HDTV would be to forget an important piece of recent AV history. Up until now, nearly every HDTV receiver has been practically pathetic in terms of ease of operation and ability to tune terrestrial stations, and this doesn’t even start to discuss the lack of ability to record HD programming.
The DirecTV HR10-250 is a $1,000 DVR (digital video recorder) that receives and records both terrestrial and satellite signals – specifically HDTV – and records it using the fantastic TiVo interface. It is not a standard size in terms of width, but it fits nicely into a double-sized opening in most racks. It can take multiple satellite inputs via coax connections, allowing the user to record more than one program at a time or to watch a program while recording another one. It is essential to have your satellite installer give you two satellite feeds and the 3 LMB DirecTV dish needed to perform such a feat. I had lived without the feature until I got a DirecTV HR10-250 and I discovered I had really been missing out. The DirecTV HR10-250 has room to connect your terrestrial antenna, which most people use for off-air HDTV broadcasts. DirecTV has some local HDTV programming, but not as much as what comes over the air. Less than one month ago, the satellite provider announced plans to launch a number of new satellites, which will allow it the bandwidth to start broadcasting local HDTV signals into major markets across the country in the next few years. For now, you still really need an antenna to go along with your satellite. Delivery of local HDTV channels is one of the advantages of many local cable systems. However, with a strong terrestrial antenna and a properly working dish, you should be able to get all of your channels in HD barring any radical topographical problems in your area, like mountains or tall trees in the way of your antennae.
The DirecTV HR10-250 has all of the video outputs you will want, including HDMI. HDMI is the latest approved encrypted digital video format that can also theoretically hold audio. If you have one of the latest HDTV sets, you may have an HDMI connection, which is the best way for you to connect your DirecTV HR10-250. I recommend Ultralink’s HDMI cable for a somewhat affordable connection via HDMI. The DirecTV HR10-250 also has component video output, which is also no slouch, especially when using Transparent cables for your connection. Since my digital projector is one of the first, it doesn’t have an HDMI or DVI input (you can supposedly convert HDMI to DVI with an adapter if you only have DVI for an input). I ran my DirecTV HR10-250 component out to my Meridian 861 preamp, then to my Faroudja video processor and then to my D-ILA projector. You can see how much simpler connecting one HDMI cable to your rear projection HDTV set would be.
Set-up and Configuration
The DirecTV HR10-250 is sold mostly through retailers and satellite installers, as opposed to being sold from DirecTV like they do with their cheapy DVR for $99. While it is possible to set up the unit yourself, it is going to take you a good 30 to 60 minutes, mainly because you are going to need to make a call into DirecTV. I wish I could report that DirecTV is good at customer service, but not only does it take forever to get a person on the phone – when you do, they know very little. They can activate your unit after you read them all sorts of numbers from you access card and the serial number of your unit. In the calls I have made to DirecTV, including the ones needed to make my DirecTV HR10-250 work properly, I have deduced that you are pretty much on your own for making your receiver and DVR work to its fullest potential.
The onscreen interface to set the unit up is very, very good. I would rate it a nine out of 10. However, you will need to make a call to DirecTV. In the event you feel compelled to install your antenna and dish yourself, you open yourself up to all sorts of other possible installation problems. The moral of the story is that it is likely that if you can afford $1,000 for an HDTV TiVo, your time is better spent doing something other than installing your dish, antenna and setting it up with DirecTV. I highly recommend that you use a professional. DirecTV will recommend one to you, but a simple flip through the Yellow Pages or a trip to Google will get you names of the installers you need.
The TiVo Service
It is the TiVo interface where the DirecTV HR10-250 really steps above the crowd. Any DVR can have enough hard drives to record HD (yet nearly all current ones don’t), but the TiVo interface in the DirecTV HR10-250 becomes the class leader. TiVo is the single best interface for an AV component that I have ever used. It makes recording TV truly simple. In fact, it takes what some critics call a “mindless media” in television and allows you to manage it so that you can extract just what you want from it. TiVo’s interface is so easy to use, it actually saves you time or at least respects the fact that your time is valuable. You can fast-forward through commercials with ease, making a 30-minute episode of (for example) “Essence of Emeril” on Food Network last just a shade over 20 minutes. You can record a Season Pass that captures all of the games of your favorite team or each episode of your favorite show each and every time it is on. In the unfortunate event that you are ever home sick one day, you will wonder how you ever lived without TiVo, considering that everything you could ever want to watch on TV is sitting there waiting for your attention.
Now, at long last, HDTV enthusiasts like myself can record the shows, movies and sporting events we want to watch in HDTV and have them waiting for us when we get home. Thank the TV gods.