Pros Pause live TV, record 2 shows at once, record PPVs b4 you buy them
Cons Slow response time, recording errors, poorly designed remote
Summary OMG. I can't believe how bad this DVR is! If it weren't free from DirecTV (with programming commitment and rebate) I would NEVER have bought OR kept it. To be fair, the R15 has gotten SLIGHTLY better with a couple firmware upgrades, but overall, it's a disgusting excuse for a DVR. Picture a TiVo mating with a toaster oven and begetting this hunk of crud.
Ok, so it does what it says: It records live TV, lets you rewind or pause what's onscreen and you can record two shows at once (so long as you're watching one of them or a pre-recorded show). Other than that, the R15 is AWFUL! The remote is the clunkiest most un-ergonomic thing ever. It has WAY too many buttons, most of which are in bad locations or could have been eliminated altogether by giving double-duty to other buttons. For example, when pressing the numbers keys to change the channel, the 'enter' button used to confirm your channel choice is a small unmarked button in the farthest bottom right corner of the remote beneath the number pads, which is nearly impossible for a right-handed person to reach. However, the large, bright-yellow 'select' button is right in the middle and easy to get to, but it won't confirm your channel choice - only 'enter' will! That's just the tip of the iceberg for how badly designed the remote is...
The remote will perform reasonably well as a universal remote for DVD players, stereos, TVs, etc, but the switch used to change between each 'mode' is nearly impossible to use. No matter how hard I try, I can't get it to stop in the correct detent for whichever component I'm trying to control. Also, whenever you change the 'mode' switch, instead of simply controlling the device you've chosen, the first single out of the remote goes EXCLUSIVELY to the R15 INSTEAD of the component you want to control and pops up a message that reads "The remote is in AV1 mode." I KNOW THAT!!! I CHANGED IT ON PURPOSE TO TURN ON MY STEREO!!! Why DirecTV did this is beyond me. If I'm watching TV and want to turn on the stereo, I have to CAREFULLY change the switch on the remote to AV1, then cover the IR transmitter on the front with my hand and push 'power' once (to avoid the annoying message from popping onscreen) and then point it at the stereo and push 'power' again. All this just to turn on the stereo without interrupting the program... it sounds like I'm being OCD here, but the pop-up message stays on the bottom 1/4 of the screen PERMANENTLY until you switch the remote back to DVR mode and then press 'exit.' With a remote so BADLY designed, I'm starting to eye something like the Harmony 880 from Logitech which should help with some of my complaints, but why couldn't DirecTV just make a better remote in the first place?
The actual tuner and menus in the R15 are HORRIBLY slow. No matter what button you push on the remote, there can be anywhere from a 3 to 8 second delay before the DVR responds. Most times you won't know if the unit received the command or not and end up pushing the button again only to get some undesired result 15 seconds later. The program guide is terribly slow and difficult to navigate. Plus, instead of the 'guide' button on the remote going straight to the program guide, it first takes you to a sub-menu asking to filter your guide (which can already be pre-filtered to your favorite channels with other setup options) by categories like All, Movies, News, etc. This is the worst feature ever! When I press 'guide' on my remote I just want to see the program guide, not a 'filter by' menu!!!
Lastly, the actual recorder is spotty at best. I've set it to record an entire season of a show only to find a handful of episodes were 'blank' when I went to play them back... the R15 recorded 30 minutes of black screen with no sound. I was so MAD when this happened the three times I called DirecTV to complain but all they could do was apologize. Rewinding live TV (to replay a goal being scored or someone getting punched in the face) RARELY works... that is, I'll press the 'rewind' button to go back 10 or so seconds while watching live TV and then press 'play' hoping to relive that great moment for all my friends and pets to see only to have the R15 stop altogether, think for a few seconds, then jump right back to 'realtime' - completely ignoring the fact I wanted to rewind 15 seconds. This happens EVERY time!!! The only thing I've found that works for rewinding live TV is rewinding the R15 a MINIMUM of 30 seconds before you try and press play. Any shorter period of rewind time and the R15 will simply skip back to where you were last watching.
To be fair, I have to list some good qualities... It IS free. That's good. Umm... the R15 lets you record DirecTV pay-per-views and only pay for them if you decide to watch them later. The video can be sent to a TV with an S-Video connection for higher clarity over RCA, while audio can be sent to a stereo over Digital fiber-optic (TOSLINK). There have been some upgrades to the firmware (automatically sent over the satellite feed) in the last six months that have improved some of the problems I originally had. One nice feature that DirecTV added was a 'skip 30 seconds ahead' button that helps skip quickly through commercial breaks during playback. There are two USB ports on the R15 which are non-functional (but do provide 5 volts DC current!), and I can only hope that sometime in the future, DirecTV activates them to allow you to move your favorite shows to some other medium or share them over a home network. I'm sure this will cost another $8 a month and require a 5-year programming commitment, but why not? It's only money!!!
In a note about the firmware, DirecTV seems to have gone to great lengths to prevent their R15's from getting hacked, going so far as to have the software written in Israel (not joking - I did research). This means owners cannot activate the USB ports to transfer recordings nor can they upgrade their R15 with a larger HDD. While this secretive nature protects DirecTV's profits, it makes it nearly impossible to give them suggestions on the R15. I've called DirecTV's customer line several times with what I think would be helpful changes to the interface, but none of the operators had any idea how to get comments to anyone in charge of the R15's development. I write software for a living and cannot believe how poorly built the GUI is for this DVR or that DirecTV is completely unprepared/unwilling to take customer suggestions on making it better.
Overall... it's free. It records your favorite shows (most of the time) and performs basically well. But it's NOT a TiVo. It doesn't always record scheduled shows, it has a terribly slow response time and the remote and user interface are some of the worst designs I've ever seen in my life. DirecTV may be canceling their contract with TiVo in a couple years, but trust me - you're better off paying a little for a real TiVo until then.Updated
After a year with the R15 I got for free from DirecTV, I have to say it's gotten significantly better. DOZENS of firmware updates have added some good features (like an 8 second "quick replay" button and slow-motion by holding down the play button for several seconds). Most noticeable improvements are the quicker response times of the channel guide and recorded show list.
DirecTV still hasn't given the USB port any usability (it appears as "locked" by any USB interfaces or programs) which just seems dumb... maybe it's licensing problems, but they could easily sell proprietary HDDs to connect to your R15 and move recorded shows around. In some forums I've read trying to hack into this DVR, it seems that DirecTV used some little-know Israeli firm to write the software, and focused very hard on some serious encryption. Maybe that was another problem early on, too much focus on security. It hasn't been hacked so-far, so it seems to have worked for them.
Programs seem to record without fail now. I can't remember the last time a recorded show played back as 30 minutes of blank screen.
Again, it's still not a TiVo, but it functions like it's supposed to and has a decent HDD and good basic functions.Updated
This is probably the most positive thing I have ever had to say about the R15... replacing my HDD was a snap.
The original HDD in my R15 started to fail (bad sectors according to Seatools), so I replaced it with a new one. After plugging the power cord back in with a new, unformatted 160 gb Seagate installed (a 7200rpm, 2mb cache model #ST3160212A was $35 on ebay), I formatted the drive by holding "Rec + Down Arrow" during boot-up and the thing worked perfect! Every function I lost before with a failing HDD was back (live buffer, pause/rewind, scheduled recording - everything).
I bought my R15 in Jan '06 when the firmware was horrible and I hated everything about it, but now I have to admit that I'm pretty impressed I was able to install a blank hard drive so easily. If you've lost record buffer, test your HDD on a PC with a Seatools bootable CD. If it's failing, replace it with a similar 160 gb drive. This may not work for everyone, but I fixed my R15 for $35. If you lease your R15 or it's under warranty, of course try to get it replaced through DirecTV first. And as always, unplug the R15's power before opening it.
Pros Two tuners; 100-hour recording time; Caller ID; slim form factor; multiple favorites lists
Cons A GUI so horrible that it renders those "pros" I just listed moot.
Summary NOTE: This review is a comparison of DirecTV's "old" DVR, the collaboration-with-Tivo R10 vs. the new DirecTV-designed R15.
Very rarely am I compelled to write reviews of products, but in this case I'll make an exception. Last week I switched our family to DirecTV from cable to get the NFL Sunday Ticket, little knowing that I was about to become the most unpopular member of my household. The installer brought a sleek new "R15" DVR and explained it's 100-hour recording time, on-screen Caller-ID function, multiple favorite channel lists, being able to watch TV in a little box in the corner while you futz around with DVR menus, etc. Note that these listed features are NOT in the R10 feature set.
Let's just say that it took us 15 minutes to realize that DirecTV's new Tivo-free offering, the R15, is a DOG. Bigtime lag between remote control button push and stuff happening on-screen. Horrible, horrible GUI; perhaps they were concerned about too-closely mirroring the Tivo GUI that they went polar-opposite. The TIVO-"Season Pass"-equivalent feature is darn near impossible to get to without wading through myriad menus. There is no fast-forward overshoot correction (where Tivo would restart your program a couple seconds "back" from where you stopped fast-forwarding through commercials), etc. The R15 has great technical specs, but it is AWFUL to use. Some message board folk are convinced that DirecTV will be pushing out upgrades that will make the R15 more user-friendly.
My family tried to use the R15 over a day or two, stealing wistful glances at the old single-tuner Tivo sitting forlornly in the corner, waiting to be sold. The level of discontent in the household reaching critical levels, I belatedly began to read A/V forums online. It seemed that everyone was POed that the R15 was a complete clunker to use despite excellent technical specs. Many mentioned that they were sorry that they had "upgraded" from their R10s.
So I called DirecTV and asked them if it would be possible to swap out my R15 for an R10. "Nope," they said, "try Ebay." So I hit craigslist and found an R10 for 50 bucks. It took a reprogramming of my access card to get it to work, but my family is now enjoying the bliss of an easy-to-use, two-tuner Tivo GUI-based DVR.
The R10 has the smooth, quick-to-navigate, so intuitive-it-knows-what-I-want-for-dinner GUI. I cannot begin to tell you what a stark contrast there is between the use of the R15 and R10. The R10 only has 70 hours of recording time vs. the R15's 100 hours. The R15 has Caller-ID (where you can see who's calling your home line on screen). The R15 allows you to watch TV in a little box in the corner while you futz with the DVR functions. The R15 allows multiple favorites lists vs. the R10's single favorites list. I also seemed to detect a slightly crisper picture with the R15 vs. the R10. AND YET, the R10 is the superior product. It's all about usability.
DirecTV's software engineers had better be hard at work, and they'd better hire some focus group folk/testers this time. My R15 is kept in reserve here, awaiting the "all-clear" of a massive software upgrade.
Pros On screen caller ID
Cons Slow response time to commands from the remote, very hard to edit and setup Season Passes plus many more.
Summary I've had Directv Tivo boxes for the past 5 years with varying harddrive sizes. I upgraded our living room box to an R10 almost 2 years ago and really liked what it did. Last year I decided to also upgrade the bedroom one from the 30 hour Sony box we had there. I went to Circuitcity and asked for a Directv Tivo box. So the woman goes and brings out the R15 Directvplus box. I decided well I will give it a try and see since it does have 100 hour record time. About 5 minutes after powering it up and activating my Directv service my wife said she hated it. After about 3 days I felt the same. This box that Directv is passing off as just like Tivo is anything but. It takes forever to go anywhere in the menu after pressing the remote. Trying to make Season passes is atrocious. Unlike Tivo as you add new programs they go to the bottom of your priority list, the R15 puts them at the top and changing the priority list takes at least 20-30 minutes of scrolling things up and down while a Tivo box takes about 5-10 minutes to do the actual moving of shows on your list. The Tivo box does take a fair amount of time to update once your done. Trying to edit season passes is almost impossible. So is finding the shows you want to setup for your season passes. The Tivo box lets you spell out the show, actor, theme etc of what your looking for, you can then setup how you want the show to be recorded and those settings are saved. I've sent my 1st R15 back to Directv because it would pixelate during just about every show we recorded. Then it would actually not record shows that were setup for season passes. They replaced my R15 500 with an R15 300 but still getting the same result and problems. I'm now looking to find an R10 to replace this piece of junk. DirecTV did make a huge mistake in putting thsese units out. Before testing their features against Tivo's better streamlined and easy to use menus and features. One other thing that might just be my little peev, but where is the slowmotion feature for the remote?
Bottom Line search Ebay or even your local elec stores for a Tivo (look for the character on the box) R10 if you want a good DirecTv DVR expereience.
Pros Excellent potential features and capabilities.
Cons Glitches, glitches, glitches. Flat-out doesn't work.
Summary DirecTV really dropped the ball on this one. I'm not sure why they released the product, but it appears they did so way too soon.
I received my 1st R15 on 8/2/06.
I was impressed on the size of the item being it was so much smaller than my DirecTV TiVo. Very lightweight and easily moved from room-to-room. It has neat lighting displays on the front as well. The lights are in a circle and will spin forward if you're skipping ahead and backwards when rewinding. Nice visual effect.
The Search feature works well and seems to pull your requested information quickly.
Also, it has a meter that lets you know what percentage of space you have left on your hard drive. A very simple, yet important feature. Basically, an hour represents one percent.
Whenever you're in the Menu, you'll always have Live TV or a recorded show in a small window in the upper right hand corner, so you never have to be without your shows even when setting up Series Links (or Season Passes for you TiVo fans).
The interactive TV is pretty nice. Being able to go to the Active Channel and view local weather, horoscopes, lottery numbers, etc. are just a sign of good things to come. They also have previews of certain must-see shows.
Hmmm, where do I start? Uh, it doesn't work? The first R15 I received seemed to perform well for the first few hours. After that, it froze on a music station. The music still played, but I couldn't change the channel or even go back to the menu.
I noticed a red Reset button on the right side of the console. Little did I know that I would use that button probably (and I kid you not) around 25 to 30 times before sending the receiver back to DirecTV on 8/25.
I hit Reset and it took about five to eight minutes, but the system started back up again good as new.
My second problem was the receiver powering off whenever it felt like it. It would not only turn itself off, it would not allow me to turn it back on without unplugging the device. And of course, it doesn't record anything when it powers down on its own.
Third problem, say you have something scheduled in the To Do List for 8 PM. You come home and realize your R15 has powered down and you unplug it and plug it back up at 810 PM.
Guess what? Your show will not start recording in progress. Once the start time passes, you can hang that program up. It'll never record.
Fourth problem is there are going to be times when you record a show, start watching it and the video will disappear. You'll have audio, but not video.
Fifth problem is when you Autorecord a show, you run into a problem. Example, I set my R15 to Autorecord all NFL Preseason games. The problem I ran into is that it tried to record games on channels that I didn't have. How stupid is that?
The result is me going into a program and getting a blank screen. Regardless if you set up all of your receivable channels in Setup, your R15 will try to record/search for channels in which do not even subscribe. Even after setting preferences.
Problem number six: the remote control is the biggest remote I've ever seen in my life. You should be able to control traffic with that thing it's so big. It's not user friendly and requires both hands to perform a lot of tasks.
Number seven is sometimes when you try to change the channel, the channel banner will change, but the actual channel will not.
Hmmmm, what's next? Oh, the DirecTV customer service will drive you crazy telling you that they've sent an update for your receiver to download and that it will fix all of your problems. Well, I've been told that by at least 10 different representatives and it hasn't happened yet. They always want me to wait for tomorrow and "give it a chance". Three weeks is way too long to me.
But, I gave in, sent that one back and received R15 number two. As soon as I went through the setup, the video went out on it and the screen started flickering. It was pathetic. I knew I had a piece of junk when I tried to hook up my audio input cables and the hole I tried to put it into wasn't even big enough to fit.
Are you kidding me? The plug isn't even a standard size for me to hook up audio cables. Did a baby make this product?
Needless to say, it was only out of the box five minutes before I packed it back up and called DirecTV to let them know I was shipping it back.
Now, for those who just think I'm a disgruntled, non-electronic saavy customer, don't be mistakened. I've dealt with DVR's since the days of UltimateTV. I've been with DirecTV since 1994 and I love their service. I really think the R15 has potential to be a very powerful machine, but I'm very disappointed that they released this device so soon.
A representative told me that the device was tested thoroughly, but "unfortunately, they can't find every error".
That may be true, but if you missed any of the simple things I listed in "The Bad" section, then you're falling asleep during testing.
There are some other things I'm sure I'm forgetting, but you have the gist of it now.
This, one day, could be a superior product, but for now, stick with the TiVo!
I realize the rating is as low as it can get, but believe me, this device is 60% complete at best. It never should've been released and the problems they are having are probably the same issues that have kept the HD R20 from being released.
It was due out this summer and now appears to be hard-pressed to be out before Thanksgiving.
Again, this product can be great one day, but as of now, I only give it a one because I can't go any lower. Why rate something higher than a one if it flat-out doesn't work?
"DirecTV is AWFUL"on by rwflick
Pros NFL Package and that's it
Cons Everything else is terrible
Summary DirecTV absolutely sucks. I have been a customer now for over 10 years and the only reason I even have the service is because of its exclusive deal with the NFL (and I am a huge NFL fan). However, after the events of the last few months, I am absolutely going to cancel my service when my "commitment" expires and I am going to just go to a bar on Sundays to watch football rather than deal with the nightmare that is DirecTV customer service.
My problem started when I installed two insanely expensive entertainment systems in my house, one in the home office and the other in the living room. I went to Costco to buy the HD-DVRs for $500 each. What I found out after I bought them was that I actually leased the devices and, after paying $500, I have to pay a monthly lease fee to use them. Then, a couple of months after installing the DVR in my home office, it stoped making the daily phone calls and I got an error message on my screen. Knowing that the NFL package requires that the DVR make the daily call, I tried contacting DirecTV to solve the problem. First, you are confronted with one of those terrible voice activated systems that makes you go through a whole series of troubleshooting before you can get to a live person (even if you are calling for the 10th time). Then, I was on hold a sum total of over 3 hours spread out over a number of different phone calls. I was given all kinds of misinformation about the problem and transferred to about 15 different customer service representatives some of whom promised to call me back if the fixes they suggested didn't work and, of course, they never called back. Then, I was finally told that the modem in my device wasn't working and that it would have to be replaced...with a RECONDITIONED device. So, after paying $500, plus $4.99 a month to lease a device, they now send me someone else's broken equipment. Further, since I have my DVR incorporated into a $10,000 entertaiment system with a RF remote control, I cannot have just any technician come out to fix the problem (it took me an hour or so of pleading, begging, yelling, being elevated to managers, etc. to get them to commit to sending out an experienced technician). Not trusting them, I invested even MORE TIME into reading all of my manuals and just installed it myself. Then, I call to activate on a Saturday at 4:00 p.m. and I am told that the DirecTV computers are "being updated" and that they have no access to my account in order to activate my new device. Their solution: take down my information and receive a call back within 24 hours!!!!! So, that would mean I would lose a day of football! On top of all of that, I got a service rep named "Arianna" who was the most snotty, ******, unhelpful, condescending sorry excuse for a customer service rep that I had spoken to so far (most of the folks that answer the phone are very nice and do not appear to be from India but are largely powerless or totally misinformed, but Arianna literally blamed me for calling at the "wrong time"!!!!!!). After being transferred to yet another manager, I was told that my only option to the 24 hour call back (which, having experienced DirecTVs broken promises to call me back before, I had absolutely no faith in whatsoever) was to just keep calling and hope that their system would be working when I called.
I was a huge fan of DirecTV until about 6 months ago. In my MBA class, I think I actually sold about 10 units just in our class case study of TiVo. However, I am going to cancel my service as soon as my commitment period is over and switch to cable. I can only hope that the NFL does not renew the exclusive deal that they have with DirecTV or I will seriously just go to a bar on Sundays to watch the Bears play rather than put up with these idiots (expensive idiots at that) any longer. It really is amazing that they can continue in business like they have and be so absolutely horrible in their business practices and customer service.
Thanks for letting me vent.