My Personal Tivo DeathWatch Ends Today

On Friday, I will be leaving the comfortable confines of my DirecTivo for the modern unknown that is the Comcast-orola-soft 6412 High Definition PVR. I fully expect a crystal-clear high-definition 16:9 viewing experience with a woefully disappointing interface. Whether or not it becomes more or less frustrating over time is the only question mark. I think I am even losing the 30-second commercial skip function. Damn!

Oh well. Sorry DirecTV and Tivo. You guys have been great, but there’s only so long I can hold out for HD.

Has anybody tried this thing out yet? Any tips?

Keep the door open for me Tivo. I may be back…

20 comments on “My Personal Tivo DeathWatch Ends Today”. Leave your own?
  1. I have that Comcast box. Definitely no 30-second commercial skip. I hadn’t used anything like Tivo before I got it, so it was a wonderful upgrade for me; from VCR to DVR. It sounds like it will probably be a small step down for you, as the Comcast box is pretty basic on features. And don’t be fooled by that panel of ports (USB) in the front… they are currently just for show and considered a “future feature”.

  2. Lynda says:

    We had the Tivo and when we got the Comcast box we more or less abandoned it for the sake of clarity and high definition. The interface really isn’t THAT bad at all. It’s more or less like Tivo. Some things I don’t like about it besides the 30 second skip – is there’s no 15 minute interval skip either, so if you have to fast forward three quarters of the way through an hour long show it’s going to take you a while, even on the highest FFW option. The “season pass” manager also leaves a lot to be desired. We’ll tell it to record only first runs and it STILL records everything anyway. This is annoying for shows we like to watch such as Reno 911 and Stargate SG-1 because they come on ALL the time. When you’re fast forwarding in Tivo and hit play again, it’ll skip back a little bit (since you probably went a little into the program anywa). The Comcast model doesn’t do this, so we’ve found it best to hit the “instant replay” button to get back to the show after fast forwarding through commercials. It works just as well.

    All in all, just minor annoyances for the ability to record shows in high definition! The dual tuner is awesome since you can record two shows at once, record a show while watching another or watch two shows at once by flipping back and forth. The buffer for HD shows is only like, 10-15 minutes, but the buffer for analog channels is a big longer than Tivo’s at 45 minutes +.

    I hope you enjoy your new ‘toy’!

  3. Tom Clancy says:

    It’s not so awful. Two tuners and the ability to tape HD make up for a lot of usability issues (I used to have a ReplayTV though, not a Tivo). Good news: there’s a 30-second skip, you just have to program it in. I collected a bunch of links about the Comcast DVR here.

  4. Dave says:

    Having had the old comcast box with the old menu (the one with text that sometimes ran off the buttons) it’s a great upgrade. but i’m sure the tivo was more robust.
    the menu is a bit convoluted and isn’t the most intuitive, but i’m getting used to it.
    but HD is definitely worth the switch.
    by far my favorite HD show has always been ESPN sunday night football. it’s either the lights or some diffferent type of camera.

    enjoy your HD!

  5. Mike –

    Are you trying to copy me? C’mon.

    Here in the heartland, if you make a decent living, you can throw caution to the wind and choose both digital cable and DirecTv. That’s what I’ve done.

    I love the TiVo. It is certainly the greatest invention ever for the home. No doubt about it. That is, of course, determined by my wife. If she says, “This is pretty cool” …. that’s translated to “WOW!” in geek terms. With the TiVo she says “What would we do without this?”. That says it all.

    With the Comcast HD DVR, the only thing that remotely excites her is the dual-tuner aspect. To me, that brings it one step closer to the DirecTivo, but the interface is horrid. Plus, the storage is quite inadequate for HD recordings (read: the thing fills up fast).

    I just bought two hacked DirecTivos from eBay – hacked so I can use Multi-Room viewing. Unbelievable. Works like a champ.

    If you are interested, I’m sure I could find you some cheap real estate in Kansas City so you too could enjoy the best of both worlds. Let me know :)

    BTW, here is a flickr gallery with some shots of my home theater setup.

  6. Casey Kelley says:

    Hello there Mike. I’ve been using the 6412 for months now, it’s a great box, but it’s definitely not as user friendly as Tivo. It also has some bugs, but nothing worth mentioning. Hopefully with the talks between TiVo and Comcast, we’ll get a really nice box out of it.

    Anyways, one of the best parts about this box I love the most is that I can record shows back onto my Mac, in pure HD, straight from the Firewire cable on the back. I can then compress it down to DVD. Looks great. Definitely takes some CPU power, my PowerBook @ 1.5GHz couldn’t take it, but my new Dual 2.0 handles with ease.

    This article from MacTeens is a great start. You can download the latest FireWire SDK Tools (20c, newer than the SDK 18 mentioned in the article) by clicking here.

    Also, check out the BroadbandReports Comcast Cable Forums if you have any questions.

  7. you know that DirecTV offers an HD Tivo, right? they retail for the unholy sum of $800+, but can be had on eBay for $400-600.

  8. I use it. I cherish it. I love it. Well, the HD anyways. Interface is alright. Sometimes it gets extremely laggy and if you hit the remote buttons 100 times like I do in these types of situations, you’ll get an insanely crazy cable box. On-Demand isn’t working for me on this box yet though it worked on another box in the home. Supposedly I need to install some type of device on my box to allow On-Demand to work properly.

    I really like the fact you can record two shows at the same time (Everybody Loves Raymond galore) or watch live TV on a different channel while another show records. I also like the huge amount of space it has. I was out of town for a week and a half and there was still a bit of free space left with all my recordings. Though I do miss the pretty TiVo interface (which did lag as well, just not as much), I think the Comcast DVR is worth it for a very cheap and simple solution to HD+DVR.

    Good luck, and enjoy it. :)

  9. Mike D. says:

    Lynda: No fast-forward snapback feature? That is disappointing indeed. Crap, I really think I’m going to hate this thing, being such an interface snob.

    Tom: I read that the 30-second skip was only for the non-Microsoft version of the box. I think everyone in Seattle gets the Microsoft version. Go figure.

    Casey: Cool, I hope the Mac Firewire trick works with my version of the box. There is no indication that it doesn’t, as far as I can tell.

    Stephen: Yeah, I’ve been waiting for decent DirecTV HD Tivo service for the last couple of years ago. It’s just not worth it though. My monthly DirecTV bill is already about $65 total, including HBO and Tivo. HD would add on another $10.99 and it wouldn’t even give me all my locals in HD!!! Totally unacceptable! Plus, I’m out $800 or so for an HD box that is already a few months ago from complete obsolescence. The Comcast deal gave me all of that, with MUCH less hardware, for $39.95 a month for the first year. Gotta switch with those numbers.

  10. Marty Stake says:

    lots of remote hacky stuff including:

    How To Add 30-Second Skip

    Press and hold the “Setup” button until the “Cable” button blinks twice.
    Type in the code 994. The “Cable” button will blink twice.
    Press (do not hold) the “Setup” button.
    Type in the code 00173.
    Press whatever button you want to map the 30-second skip command to.

  11. JY says:

    The interface is atrocious once you’ve lived with TiVo for a while. Finding out what’s playing when is incredibly tedious. It sits on a Microsoft OS and the interface apparently uses the same thread as the tuner controller, so while it’s starting or stopping a recording your interface will hang for anywhere from 5 to 60 seconds. Oh, it’ll buffer all of your button presses though, so once it comes back you’ll watch 20 random presses and have no idea what you just did.

    Dual tuners make up for a lot of grief, but I’m desperately hoping the talks between TiVo and Comcast come to something.

  12. Nice thing about this box is the DVI output. It may not make a difference to some but I like to hook up all 3 different video outputs (SVideo, Component and DVI) into my Mitsubishi 52inch DLP just to see the difference.

    Programming for Comcast seems to be vary from place to place. My friends have Discovery and TNT and I don’t. Instead I get INHD which seems to switch between their own programming and which ever baseball game they feel like playing (RedSox or Yankees).

    One thing, sometimes Comcast tries to charge you 10$ a month for HDTV access. I never told them I wanted HD and I get all the channels I pay for in HD (Starz, Showtime, HBO, Skinimax and ESPN) without paying the extra 10$. I do have the PVR so not sure if this makes a difference.

  13. JT Diver says:

    I switched from Tivo to Comcast recently and besides other mentions above one thing I find particularly annoying is how I can’t watch the screen in slowmo, frame-by-frame without the time bar appearing. I record almost every PGA Tour event and often watch the player swings in slow motion… however the damn time bar is in the way layering over where the club strikes the ball. Likewise trying to go frame-by-frame during a pitch in MLB games – ie the Boston Red Sox NESN games on the INHD channel – doesn’t work as well as on Tivo. And with no 15-minute skip for 4 hour programs and the fact the only PGA event ever broadcast in HD was one tournament – The Masters in High Definition (NBC) – hasn’t improved my golf recording experience. But overall watching “regular” shows like 24, Entourage, SportsCenter, etc. in HD is worth it. Hopefully Comcast will figure these things out in time.

  14. Sarah says:

    I’m a nerd at this technical stuff. How do I tape 2 shows while watching another channel..Everytime I tape something and go to change it tells me I have to delete. HELP PLEASE

  15. Jim Motter says:

    Have you found any information on how to wire an HD setup to utilize both an existing Tivo Series 2 box and the Comcast HD dvr at the same time?

  16. Mike D. says:

    Jim: Nope, but I did just buy a Series 3 Tivo. Bye bye Comcast DVR. :)

  17. Jim Motter says:

    Thanks for your quick reply. Tivo will still honor the $200 lifetime service switchover as long as you complete the transfer by the end of January. They do not require the unit to be purchased from Tivo, so any lower priced source (eBay or Dell) could work.

    Have you found any REALLY low-priced sources for the Series 3?

  18. Mike D. says:

    Nope, I paid full price. $799, and worth every penny.

  19. Rob H says:

    I have it now and did exactly what you did. I have the dtc 3416 and it works fine. The Tivo interface is better but the one for Comcast is not that bad. It does the job, I have HD on any shows that can get it and it looks great.

    I actually have my Tivo and Comcast box both hooked up and even the digital channels look better on the Comcast box than Tivo box.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love Tivo. I will take the download to the Comcast box as soon as it’s available but for now it’s fine and I have perfect HD viewing and recordings.

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