Pros The best GUI ever designed, two tuners, it's not an R15.
Cons Large form factor, personal sorrow that DirecTV divorced Tivo.
Summary 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.
To begin this R10 review, 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. The Tivo interface is THAT good.
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 TIVO technology is always great. Integrated with Directv
Cons Picture froze often.
Summary The R10 model i had was awful compared to my Hughes. I bought it because it was "free". It had a glich in the system that caused the pix to freeze every 10 minutes. After calling Directv they were able to supply me with a remanufactured Phillips at no cost. The Phillips model and the Hughes models are way better quality than the R10
Pros DVR with TiVo (TiVo being phased out by DirecTV); Dual tuners are a must.
Cons No component outputs.
Summary Equipment I Have
2 DirecTV R10 Receivers - Both purchased from WeaKnees.com (lower price than DirecTV at the time of this writing)
DirecTV HR10-250 HD Receiver
Sony RDR HX715 DVD Recorder
Terk 3-LNB HD Satellite Dish
Sony KD-34XBR960N 34” Widescreen HDTV
Sony 27” Standard Definition TV (R10 connected)
Sony 13” Standard Definition TV (2nd R10 connected)
DirecTV R10 is a standard-definition receiver for DirecTV customers only. It also has a DVR with TiVo. With DirecTV, the DVR/TiVo service is only $4.99 per month. If you have up to four other DVR receivers in your home, you only have to pay the $4.99 one time per month.
80GB Hard Drive.
Approx. 70 hours of recording space.
The last DirecTV receiver that will have the TiVo system (most likely). Hopefully other manufacturers will continue to make a quality receiver like this for DirecTV users who enjoy using TiVo. Many retailers seem to be taking it out of their stock. It is currently not available from Crutchfield, Circuit City, Best Buy, or Amazon. There are some retailers on the web who still have it. WeaKnees.com has it, and they also have R10s with larger hard drives. They also do upgrades for many DirecTV receivers. I would recommend an authorized DirecTV retailer, either in person or on the web.
Or you can get it directly from DirecTV. Caution: When I tried to order 2 R10s from DirecTV, I was also having an HD dish installed. The customer service rep said that they could not guarantee what receivers the installation people would bring. They would be either the R10s or two R15s. This was my rationale for buying the R10s from WeaKnees.com.
The bottom line is: I would never want to watch TV without it.
High-quality picture and sound, even for standard definition.
Better choice than the DirecTV R15 (no TiVo).
Record one program while watching another program with dual tuners (twin incoming cables). Or you can record from two channels at the same time, while you watch something that you previously recorded. You would need three VCRs to do this with VHS.
A great feature. Save Wishlists for your favorite films, actors, or directors. Examples in my Wishlist: Stanley Kubrick, The Godfather, Stephen King, Gone with the Wind, Roots. You can have programs in your Wishlist automatically recorded.
An exclusive feature of the TiVo system (as far as I know). Since the fast forward and fast backward speeds are so fast, you may go slightly beyond the desired point in the program. The jump-back feature compensates for this by jumping either forward or back slightly. When you skip through commercials, you can usually hit the exact spot right before the program returns.
Recording a Program
When you press the Record button, the DVR does not start the recording from when you pressed the record button. It takes the entire program from the latest saved half-hour block of programming. If you change to a certain channel, then press Record before the end of a half hour, the DVR will save the entire half hour of programming to your hard drive.
Even though it is a standard-definition receiver, component outputs would be appreciated.
Additional outputs would be better, especially S-VHS and audio.
A stop button on the remote would be nice.
A delete button on the remote would also be nice, since all deletions are verified before they’re executed.
A 10-second advance button would be good. Sometimes it would be nice to skip ahead by 8 or 10 seconds without having to use the forward button. An advance button that skips ahead 30 seconds would not be needed. I wouldn’t use it to skip through commercials, unless there was only one commercial. I use the forward button on the 3rd speed to skip commercials.
Back and Forward
Skipping back or forward through a program that is being temporarily recorded is pretty fast. When you are watching something that you previously recorded, or watching something that you are currently recording, you can use the forward and back buttons with the advance button and instantly go to the tick marks (the small white lines) in the status bar. You cannot do this while temporarily recording though. An even faster way to go back and forth would be great.
The ‘Mix Channels’ feature is about the only feature on the DirecTV R15 that is really worthwhile, and would have been great on the R10. I would like to see an expanded version of this feature. Imagine having a mix channel feature to view all of your ‘Channels You Receive’ and/or your ‘Favorite Channels’. Hopefully other manufacturers will take a cue and include a feature like this in their future receivers for DirecTV.
Get rid of the Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down buttons. There is really no such thing as a “similar type of program” for most programs. In most cases a Tivo suggestion for a certain program is really nothing like the program that was given a Thumbs Up. For example, what similar program can you compare The West Wing to?
Skip Through Commercials
For those who did not realize this after using the DVR on the first day: Instead of watching a live TV program from the very beginning, start watching it 10 or 15 minutes after it begins. Make sure you’re set to the correct channel for the program that you want to temporarily save. Since the DVR is temporarily recording the program for you, just use the back button in the 3rd speed to scan back to the beginning of the program. Then when the commercials come along, you can use the forward button to skip through them. Eventually you may catch up to the live broadcast (depending on the length of the program), but usually you may be able to see the entire program without any commercials.
TiVo Menu Sound
I was a little tired of the TiVo sound effects after the first few hours of using the receiver. It wasn’t until the next day when I found the volume setting for the sound effects. DirecTV Button -- Messages & Setup -- Settings -- Audio -- Sound Effects Volume. You can select Off, Low, Medium, or Loud.
If you don’t want to use the guide and set up the DVR to record the same program every day or every week, use the Season Pass feature. Set a Season Pass for a program and the DVR will record it every time it’s on for up to 28 days. You can even specify the DVR to record First Run episodes and Repeats, or only First Runs.
Pros Tivo interface, dual tuners, Dobly Digital output
Cons No HD support, no component outputs, small hard drive space
Summary This was my first jump at Tivo and at an all in one receiver for my DirecTV service. I initially was hesitant at purchasing any device that had "Tivo" on it because of my concerns with privacy issues.
After my VCR broke down I finally caved in and wow am I glad I did. This is a great unit to start off with. It has dual tuners which buffer two shows at once and you can easily and quickly switch between to recording shows at once with a click of one button on the remote.
The dual tuner is a must and from what I have read with DirecTV's R15, this feature alone with switching between to live recordings is either impossible or not easy to do.
I have also tested this out on Comcast's 8300HD receiver and again you can't seem to do what this Tivo enabled unit can do. The only negative comments I have to say about this device is that it does not support HD recordings (which is understandable for the price) but it would've been nice for it to at least have component outputs.
Also the hard drive is a bit small, but it does record tons of shows/programs. Overall you can't go wrong with the price with this unit! Pick up while it last since it's being phased out. This is the last unit with the Tivo interface for DirecTV.
Pros So easy to use even my wife can use it perfectly!
Cons Cannot Record to DVD
Summary This unit has allowed us to more fully utilize our DirecTv. It was always such a nuisance for so many reason to record using a VCR. This couldn't be easier. Skips through commercials in about than 5 seconds or so. Perfect picture and sound.
However, there is no way that I know of to backup to a DVD recorder! It has a built in function to "record to VCR." How '90's! Not having made the leap to HDTV this is, by far, it's greatest negative factor. (We wonder if Hollywood lawyers had anything to do with this missing feature.) We also miss seeing a small picture of the current channel while browsing the on screen guide. It is very obscured behind the guide and is essentially impossible to view. This is a function of the DirecTV built in tuner. They should have done better.
Since we have the top tier of DirecTV programming even the modest five dollar monthly fee is waved!