Prisoner of high-def

Sometimes I think that every TV provider–cable, satellite, whatever–should be required by law to provide a simple disclaimer:

“We offer high-definition TV, a DVR, and reliable service. You may choose any two of these three items for your home.”

DirecTV’s HR-20 HD DVR continues to disappoint. Yesterday it needed to be restarted twice in one morning, a new benchmark in overall unreliability! Even if it were reliable (a big if), its many little quirks are quickly going from charming to irksome.

So I’m giving cable a try, for the first time since we moved to this house in 2005. Comcast is trying to deliver a consistent high-quality cable signal to my house but some HD channels are a problem, with serious glitching and pausing in the video. It could be that my internal wiring is at least part of the problem, which would mean running a new cable to the house. (The people at Comcast have really been great at trying to work through these issues. They act like neighbors instead of the clone army of a distant corporation. It’s been a pleasant surprise.)

The two CableCARD tuners are now working, and when they’re good, they’re very very good. But when they’re not… Well, let’s just say that I understand why the CableCARD rollout has been so slow.

Meanwhile, my inexpensive Media Center PC in the living room just keeps chugging along, recording over-the-air HD and getting a surprisingly good SD picture from a DirecTV tuner via S-Video.

Sooner or later, I’ll have to choose one of these options and stick with it, but every single one is falling down in some key area. I’m still waiting for the winner to show itself.

11 thoughts on “Prisoner of high-def

  1. I like your disclaimer! It rings true.

    I own a Media Center PC with dual OCUR tuners that I use a server to four Xbox 360s. This works well (for me anyway), but has the disadvantage of being expensive if you aren’t getting four rooms of use out of it (as I am) and of having to futz with the PC every now and then.

    I haven’t used the Tivo HD, but it seems like a pretty for option for a single room HD PVR.

  2. Ever since we got the Tivo, we’re going 3-for-3. Of course, they would have had to add the disclaimer, “You will need to spend hours looking at Internet forums and educating cable installers on how to do their jobs, since you will know far more than they do.”

  3. I am long time Comcast customer in two locations. The video problem occurred for me and was totally solved by changing the line from the “box” to my house. The DVR has been great but it is one that we got when Time Warner was the provider. I hope your problem is as easily solved.

  4. Ed, are the CableCard tuners for use with Windows Media Center? And, if so, are you getting the help and support you need from the various and sundry vendors?

  5. My DirecTV DVR (low-def) just got a software upgrade that gave it a couple of new features, and my DirecTiVo is scheduled for an upgrade next month. Hopefully DirecTV will release an update for the HD DVR soon as well.

  6. Charlie, the CableCARD tuners are indeed for use with Media Center. I’ve been getting excellent assistance from Dell, but it’s been outside of normal support channels. I am reasonably confident the issue is with the Comcast signal, and I have them scheduled to visit today.

  7. Nope, not resolved yet. Comcast’s tests show that signal strength is fine, so they’re going to replace the CableCARD devices and see if that helps. I’m also escalating the support to some sources that are more knowledsgeable with this technology.

  8. Ed

    I ran into almost the same exact problem here. Mine started when they began upgrading the equipment in town. Comcast sent a tech out and he said the signal to the house was strong enough but the line in the house was causing the problem. I picked up a spool of quad shielded cable and ran a clean line direct to the DVR (from the garage, across the floor in the mud room, down the hall to the living room. My wife was laughing at the mess I was making, thank God!). I also disconnected the other TV sets. The picture did improve but it was not where it should be. I still had periodic loss of some signal on most channels and several channels were completely missing.

    The next day, I noted the Comcast truck at my next door neighbor’s house. He came home from a business trip and found problems with his HD reception. They told him the problem was the line in his house too.

    I spoke to other neighbors who do not have HD sets. They noted poor reception on their sets (particularly after it rained) but they never called Comcast to report the problem. Others started calling in with service complaints and, after a week of continual service calls to various neighbors, they solved the problem.

    If my neighbors didn’t start calling in reporting problems with their reception I don’t believe the problem would have been resolved. The problem was upstream from me and I guess they finally found the weak link.

    Right now, I’m back to using the existing coax in the house and I am not having problems. I am going to start running new lines through the house but at least now it’s not an imperative.

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