Home Entertainment and Technology

About 11 years ago, fresh out of school, I set up my first entertainment center, and at the core of it was a ReplayTV, which let me record and time shift my programming around.  I originally liked it better than Tivo, because it gave me a slick Digital TV style grid (like DirecTV/Dish), despite recording off the mediocre digital cable system we had…  Over time, I saw the beauty in Tivo’s Now Playing (now My Shows) system, and switched to a DirecTV/Tivo combination, and excitedly upgraded to HD Tivo when it came out after several years of watching live programming in HD and everything else in SD.

Fast forward to today, my wife is annoyed that we no longer have simple “universal” remotes…  the companies that made them stopped selling easy to program ones to the public.  Everything seems off, and our monthly bill for this stuff is huge…  add to the mix a few children, and we simply don’t watch that much television, we watch the regular network stuff, and a couple of random things.

Combine that with a total mess of devices… DirecTV DVRs that don’t talk (my account wasn’t eligible for Whole House without them coming in and redoing my wiring, having run 3 coax to each room, 2x DTV + 1x Ant for DirecTivoHD), the 1 coax/location didn’t matter, and I was souring on DirecTV after their Fox debacle…  I almost never schedule recordings at home, I do it remotely, and their system never picked up my OTA channels, so some of my Fox shows were sometimes lost on DTV 7HD instead of OTA 7-1HD, which came in fine, others that I set up at home were fine, I was fed up.

So where are we today:

  • AppleTV – Awesome interface, odd sized little box, love Airplay for the iPod/iPad/iPhone system, Netflix app was great, sold the AppleTV2 to upgrade to AppleTV3 (people are buying them to jailbreak, why deny hobbyists), but slow to bring out content HuluPlus FINALLY launched, lacks a reasonable OTA DVR solution to tie in
  • Tivo Premier – What Tivo does well, it does well, but the box is “odd…”  Certain menus switch back to SD, which is strange, and the integration with Netflix/Hulu+ is “off” — I love Universal Search, find a show, grab it everywhere, but I’m not sure why my Hulu Queue won’t slide into My Shows (formerly Now Playing), same with Netflix.  I can search them when finding a show, but I have to load up their slow loading App with it’s own interface… why…
  • Roku – Looks like the coolest in terms of ability to add content, but the interface looks kludgy, no OTA DVR that I can find…  but Simple.tv promises to change that

It’s sad/frustrating.  My BluRay Players both have all the streaming apps included, but the interface is AWFUL, I never want to launch them.  AppleTV has the best interface, but their content restrictions are frustrating.  Roku shows promise.

Tivo has been the most disappointing.  After a few years with the DirecTV DVRs being so inferior, I was looking forward to the new Series 4 since I had heard good things with the Series 3 and was disappointed in DirecTV limiting the Series 2 toys…  We’ll see what the next few weeks shows, but I’m guessing that this is a stop gap on the way to better system.

I don’t mind paying for Content I want, I just want it on my terms.  What I really want would be a box with a nice interface (Tivo or AppleTV) that lets me aggregate content from my various sources and few it.  It’s REALLY cool that Tivo lets me search for a show, and it let’s me pick from Netflix Streaming, Amazon Downloads, and Hulu+, that’s freaking awesome, plus keep my OTA, but they are slow to add Content.  AOL On is coming out for the “new players” first, and WatchESPN.com can be connected to everyone else, but not Tivo.

All the devices are comparable ($100 for a Tivo on Clearance, $150 for a bigger one, the other devices are $50-$100)… the fee for Tivo ($15/mo on first device, $13/mo on additional devices) seems “reasonable” for the amount of content it makes easily available… compared to Netflix/HULU+ streaming @ $8/each.  But their being slow is just unacceptable.

They are the closest, but they aren’t “right.”  If I’m stuck with bad UIs, then I’d like as much content as possible.  Switching devices is annoying, not a deal breaker, just annoying.  I switch for BluRay/DVD disks, I even popped a VHS tape in a few weeks ago, but if I just want to watch TV for 45 minutes, I want to look at what’s available, not search it out…  We shall see…

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