Editors' note: The good/bad/bottom line and introduction (above) of this review have been updated to reflect this discontinued product's competitive position in the DVR marketplace as of September 2006.On the surface, you wouldn't know the HD TiVo is any different from DirecTV's other (non-HD) TiVo tuners, such as the SD-DVR40. Instead of silver, the HD TiVo is champagne/bronze-colored (yuck), and it has a small set of indicator lights that shows current output resolution: 480i, 480p, 720p, or 1080i. Compared to its behemoth crosstown rival, the Dish DVR 921, the 3.5-by-15-by-12-inch (HWD) HD TiVo is sized much more like a standard video component and will fit easily into any standard home entertainment system.
The sparse front panel has a handful of function and navigation buttons, but you'll want to use the included remote, which is nearly identical to the one that ships with standard TiVos. It's one of our favorites, and it's equally adept at controlling DVR functions and navigating the hundreds of channels in the electronic program guide (EPG) menus. It can also be programmed to control the basic functions of nearly any brand of television (and power and volume functions on a receiver), thus eliminating one or two more remotes from the coffee table.
The TiVo service is completely and seamlessly integrated into the satellite tuner. You can choose to use DirecTV's standard grid EPG, but we preferred the attractive, streamlined TiVo interface and EPG. It remains the best graphical user interface we've seen to date.The HR10-250 has all the great features of the standard "DirecTiVo" satellite tuner/DVRs, with a few enhancements thrown in to maximize its HDTV capabilities. You can pause and rewind live TV; store any combination of 30 hours of high-def and 200 hours of standard-def programming; search program listings and create Wish Lists by actor, director, genre, and other keywords; and use the Season Pass option to automatically record your favorite shows whenever they air.
The HD TiVo covers all the bases we'd expect from a state-of-the-art high-definition box. It boasts four tuners--two satellite, two over-the-air (the latter requiring just a single antenna connection). With any two tuners operational, you can record two programs--high-def or standard--and play back a third previously recorded program, all simultaneously. (The onscreen programming guide won't work for the over-the-air feeds, however.) On the connectivity front, the back panel runs the gamut from basic (composite, S-Video, and analog audio outputs) to advanced (HD-capable component and HDMI). An optical digital audio output enables a single-wire surround-sound connection to your A/V receiver.
We were disappointed to find that DirecTV still won't upgrade its firmware to activate the cool Home Media features--streaming digital music and photos from networked PCs, program sharing among TiVo boxes within the same household, remote programming, and TiVo To Go--that are available to owners of all standard TiVos. The HD TiVo has the USB ports to handle the necessary networking features, but given the chilly relations between TiVo and DirecTV of late--the satcaster has announced plans to launch its own, non-TiVo (and non-HD) DVRs later in 2005--it's a smart bet that corporate politics and other factors will keep the networking features from ever seeing the light of day.