Monday, September 04, 2006

Digital Video Recorders Compared

In our humble home we have three different types of Digital Video Recorders (DVRs).
Below are some random comments on the tradeoffs with each:

Windows Media Center: Good user interface for selecting programs. Schedule information is free and the software is reliable. The software to burn a show to DVD is decent software, although clunky on the Sony using Click2DVD.
Fastforward is totally useless. I try to skip commercials, but once past them the WMC player doesn't stop for minutes, so I have to rewind, but have the same problem of overshooting on the other end. I don't use FF or RW anymore, although the pause/start button works superbly. Using WMC for watching TV concurrently with doing any actual work on the computer is frustratingly awkward due to cpu cycles being shared. Score: 2/5.

TimeWarner/Scientific Atlanta cable box: Good user interface for watching TV. I was immediately able to change channels. Watching the current channel in the corner is userful as I search for more fodder. That being said, the interface is horrible in every other respect. I could not learn how to record a series given a title. Selecting a known title to record in the future is incredibly tedious. I was looking for "Driving Through History", but the interface only offered to jump me to the "D"s. Do you know how many digital tv shows in the next two weeks start with "D". Lots.
I had to read the manual to program the remote to control the tv, took about 20 minutes (half a dozen codes were listed for my brand of tv)
If you ever wondered what an assmebly langauge programmer from the 1960's would produce for a user interface for watching tv, look no farther. The TimeWarner cable DVR is awful. Score: 1/5.

TiVo: Tivo is sweetness and light. From the first time I turned it on, TiVo has worked flawlessly. I was able to select my TV brand from an online list. Recording shows and series is effortless. The GUI just works like you think it should.
I love the "TiVo Recommends" section. I love being able to control TiVo recordings from anywhere in the world via the internet. I don't love the monthly fee, but I'd rather pay them than use the much cheaper TimeWarner box. Score: 5/5.

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