One of the advantages to Arris' Moxi HD DVRs is the availability of the Moxi Mate. Connect one or more of these little black boxes to other TVs in the house--and provide them with an Ethernet connection--and you can access recorded programming and live TV from the main Moxi unit. You also get access to a number of Web services, such as Rhapsody, Netflix, and Amazon on Demand.
However, the Moxi Mate is not as flexible as a full-on cable box or the sort of multiroom DVR system available on Fios, which uses the home's existing cable wiring to stream recorded programs from the main DVR to auxiliary cable boxes throughout the house. The Moxi Mate's advantage is that you're paying a one-time fee for the device, not the monthly charge you'd pay for an extra cable box. It's up to you to determine if that up-front cost is ultimately a savings versus the monthly box rental from your cable company.
The caveats: Before you consider a Moxi Mate
Before we delve into the details of the Moxi Mate, prospective buyers need to know the following:
Requires a Moxi HD DVR:Full use of the the Moxi Mate is possible only with one or more of the company's two- and three-tuner HD DVRs. Without one, you basically have an overpriced media extender.
No built-in Wi-Fi option: Yes, it's true; like the TiVo and Moxi DVRs, the Moxi Mate does not offer built-in Wi-Fi. It's an increasingly annoying omission in networked home video products, especially when small companies like Roku manage to incorporate dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi into set-top boxes that cost less than $130.
Requires a wired Ethernet Internet connection or MoCA adapters for the DVR and Mate for full functionality: In order for the Mate to talk to your DVR they must both be connected to the Internet. As mentioned above, Wi-Fi is not an option, so you need to go wired. Throughout the Mate's user guide and online FAQ, Arris claims you can use direct broadband Ethernet connections, power line adapters, or MoCA adapters. Power line adapters use your electrical wiring for transmission, whereas MoCA adapters use your coaxial cabling. However, power line adapters did not provide us with enough bandwidth to do much more than update the electronic program guide (this was confirmed by Arris tech support). We've never had problems using a power line adapter for other HD-streaming devices, but the Mate immediately choked when accessing the Moxi DVR, which caused it to lock up and force a reset. Thus, you'll need to get a wired connection to one or both devices or use MoCA adapters. We tested with sets from Actiontec and D-Link and they worked flawlessly. Plus, if you have Verizon Fios as your Internet provider, its Actiontec modem/routers have MoCA baked in so you have the option to use fewer adapters. The adapters are not cheap: they currently run between $170 and $200 a pair (so, if you need them in your setup, you'll have to add them into your total cost).
Key online media features require a networked Windows PC to be up and running: The Moxi Mate can be used to access a wide variety of online programming from Netflix (with subscription), YouTube, and Hulu. However, to access these services, you need to be running the PlayOn software on a Windows PC that acts as a home server with which the Moxi interfaces. Switch the PC off or shut down the PlayOn software, and you lose access to those online media sources. It's also worth mentioning that when you're streaming content using the PlayOn software, it tends to slow down the PC considerably.
Buying a Moxi HD DVR and Moxi Mate bundle means betting on the products'--and the company's--viability: If you lease a DVR from your cable company, you can swap it in for a replacement unit at any time (if either an upgrade becomes available, or if the unit malfunctions). And--in the unlikely event that your local cable company goes out of business--you'd only be losing out on a month's worth of expenses. Conversely, buying a Moxi (as with TiVo, and any other service-dependent product) means betting that the company will stay in business until you've recouped your investment.
If any of those are deal-killers, then you'll want to look elsewhere for a home TV-viewing solution.
The Moxi Mate ($300) enables multiroom viewing--the capability to stream already-recorded shows from the household's main Moxi DVR to other rooms in the house (so you could, for instance, start watching a movie or TV show in the living room, then finish it in the bedroom) as well as view live TV. Currently, Arris offers a couple different bundle options: $800 for a three-tuner DVR plus one Moxi Mate, or $1,000 for the three-tuner Moxi plus two Moxi Mates.
Though the prices may sound high, it's important to note that with a DVR and two Mates you can essentially watch live TV in three places with only one cable connection. More significantly, unlike with TiVo, Moxi charges no baseline monthly or annual fees. (You still, of course, need to pay your monthly bills to third-party content providers--your cable company, Rhapsody, Netflix, and so forth--but that's true of any DVR or set-top box that accesses those pay services.)
At its core, the Moxi Mate is a network media extender that offers a good array of Internet content options. Its basic features are as follows:
Access to live TV and recordings: Once equipped with a multistream CableCard supplied by your cable company, a Moxi HD DVR can record any of the digital channels (standard or high-definition) offered by your cable company. Slide the Mate into your lineup and you can access and control any of the available tuners as well as view any recorded programming on the DVR. On a two-tuner Moxi DVR (now discontinued), that means--for instance--that one viewer can watch live TV in the living room, while a second viewer using the Mate in a bedroom can watch a second live TV channel. A three-tuner Moxi adds even more flexibility.
Pause and rewind live TV: Since the Moxi HD DVR is always buffering live TV you can pause and rewind anything you're watching. The same can be done with the Mate.
30-second skip: The 30-second skip function--convenient for blasting through commercial breaks on recorded programs--is a default option on the Moxi. (You can change it to 3, 5, or 15 minute skips in the setup menu if you prefer.) TiVo offers a similar 30-second fast-scan and a remote hack for a full 30-second skip, but you won't find the feature on many--if any--cable company DVRs. There's also a 5-second jumpback button, so you can correct any overshoots with a couple of key presses. But there's a catch with the Mate: since it is streaming content from the DVR there is a delay with everything you do.
HD EPG: All digital cable and satellite boxes and DVRs offer an onscreen electronic programming guide, but Moxi's is distinct from most you've probably seen. It's oriented vertically (channels on the left, which break out to current and upcoming programs on the right). It takes some getting used to (you can toggle to the more familiar programming grid by hitting a button on the remote), and some users just don't seem to want to make the jump. Plus, if the Mate is destined for a guest room, it's not a setup that's easily explained. That said, we liked the fact that it's rendered in high-def, and that it uses all of the real estate available on a 16:9 wide-screen display. Also, it's the same whether you're on the DVR or a Mate, so you have to adjust to only the one layout.
In addition to those highlights, all of the standard features you'd expect on a modern DVR are present: series recording, conflict resolution, genre filters, and programming search.
Beyond those, Moxi's got a decent array of Internet and online features that you won't find on many of the default DVRs offered by your local cable provider.
Online scheduling: Make recording changes on the fly from any Web browser via moxi.com. Changes are made in real-time, so you can adjust for any potential conflicts. This is important because one thing you can't do through the Mate is schedule a recording on the DVR. You either have to go online or head back to the DVR to record something.