Upgrades and problems with Comcast's Motorola HD-PVR
When we brought HD (High Definition) TV into the house, we wanted to keep it simple. Sure, there's DirectTV HD and there's over-the-air HD and the Windows Media Center, but the absolute simplest thing we could get was HD through our local Comcast cable.
Our requirements were simple. We want HD and we want a DVR/PVR (Digital Video Recorder.) We just can't live without "Tivo"-like functionality. We don't want too much TV now, and we hate the idea of "appointment TV." I don't know when Will and Grace is on, and I don't care. We watch TV when we want to, not when it's on.
That said, the Motorola single box solution offered by Comcast served all my purposes and we've been happy with it for the last few months. It's not as shiny as my 2 Replay TVs, or my Media Center PC, but it has dual tuners and it does HDTV. Sold.
So, anyway, it started stuttering last week and that wife wasn't having that. I called Comcast and they send a fellow over and he replaced it.
The model he brought LOOKED identical on the outside and the software UI is identical as well. However, the BACK of the device is totally different. TOTALLY.
- There's no DVI connector anymore. The guy was flummoxed and I was a little frustrated. He said, oh, well no one uses DVI, forgetting for a moment that I, the fellow whose house he was in, did in fact, not only use DVI but wasn't interested in changing. :) This box supports only HDMI or Component. I have HDMI input in my Sharp LCD, but the Harmony 880 Remote and everything else is entirely set up expecting the HD feed to come form DVI and I wasn't interested in re-programming. He didn't have an HDMI cable anyway. So, off to Magnolia Hi-Fi to buy a $25 female DVI to male HDMI adapter. If you upgrade, be aware.
- The software interface continues to look like crap in HD. I output at 720p and the interface is clearly rendered internally at some non-720p resolution and the resultant anti-aliasing and kerning leaves much to be desired. My wife can't see it, but it bugs me.
- More and more - I'm not sure if this is a result of the upgrade - I see the MPEG artifacts in HD feeds. I'm particularly put off my NBC's Winter Olympics feed. It is just me or is this thing compressed all to heck?
- The new box includes an SATA adapter which makes me wonder if it'd pick external storage. Since it only supports 17 hours of HD, I may try it. It also has 2 Firewire points, one USB and an Ethernet. I'm going to poke around and see if they are turned on.
- It adds an RF out that the previous model didn't have. Not useful for me, but would be useful if one were to chain a VCR in and wanted to avoid a Coax Y-Adapter.
- There's also a slot called TV Pass Card whose function is unclear to me. Anyone?
All in all, this box is a little faster, snappier, than the previous one. This might be due to a lack of disk fragmentation and it might get arthritis later. We'll see. I know Omar hates his. I'm not too worried about it, but I do wish Portland's Comcast had CBS.
One other thing, has anyone else noticed that TNT's HD feed is just stretched 4:3? It's not 16:9 at all, they're applying some kind of fish-eye stretchy filter. It's hard to watch.
UPDATE: Interesting, according to the Wikipedia on the Motorola 6412, I've received a "6412 Phase III," the latest one. It has 12.x firmware, not the 9.x firmware and has better analog picture quality. I haven't noticed, as I don't watch analog, but I'll take a look, using Jon Stewart as my litmus test. Rumor is there's a 12.22 update coming out that fixes a number of issues.