"DirecTV made a horrible mistake in divorcing Tivo!"1.5 starson by breckenb
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.