HD DVRs: What are my options? (re: cablecard, comcast, etc)

sofakng

Senior member
Jul 19, 2004
212
0
71
I won't get into all of the reasons, but Comcast offered me an excellent TV package for about 1/4th the price of my current Dish Network subscription so I'm pretty sure I'll be switching.

However, unlike satellite providers, I actually have DVR options for cable.

Here's what I've found for options:

1) Comcast DVR. They recently upgraded the guide on their Scientific Atlanta boxes so I've been told it's actually not that bad right now. However, they still charge $17/month for each HD DVR.

2) TiVo. These are very popular and I actually purchased one as a trial (to use with OTA) and it's decent. I have the TiVo Premiere and the HD UI really is unusable plus 75% of the screens are still in SD. Also, the channel guide is HORRIBLE looking unless I'm missing something. Scrolling through the guide quickly causes lots of black (blank) listings that only appear after a second or two of lag, etc. Also, these cost $20/month per box (that's half the price of my cable service!!) or I could find a used box with a lifetime subscription for around $400.

3) Ceton InfiniTV4 (ie. Windows Media Center). I don't mind the $400 price tag (because there are no monthly fees PLUS you get four tuners!), but you need to use Windows Media Center to watch and record DRM content (ie. HBO, some other programs, etc). This wouldn't even be that big of a problem, but you need to use Media Center Extenders to watch live TV (for DRM programs, etc). The X-Box 360 really does have a lot of lag when acting as a media extender and I don't think it would pass the wife test.

4) Moxi. I don't know a ton about them but they don't really stand out or anything. I know that you CAN'T transfer recordings to a PC (like TiVo) which is a bit of disappointment.

Are there any other options? What do most of you folks use? (for cablecard/comcast cable)
 

queequeg99

Senior member
Oct 17, 2001
571
5
81
Depending on how patient you are, you may want to see what happens over the next few weeks with Silicon Dust's HD Prime tuner. It finally got cablecard certification and should be released imminently. Their other products work very well with SageTV (which you can get to your TV either through an HTPC or a SageTV extender). I use Silicon Dust's HD Homerun dual tuner with SageTV (and an HD200 extender) and couldn't be happier.
 

Ross Ridge

Senior member
Dec 21, 2009
830
0
0
One nice thing about the Scientific Atlanta option that may or may not be true of the other options is that it records programs without recompressing the digital bitstream received over the cable. What you see on your TV when you play back a recording is exactly what you would've seen on your TV if you had watched it live.
 

sofakng

Senior member
Jul 19, 2004
212
0
71
Does SageTV have any built-in DRM? I thought Windows Media Center was the only option for PlayReady DRM. Because of that, I think Windows Media Center will always be the only option for recording copy protected (ie. DRM/CCI flag) content?

As for the Scientific Atlanta option, I am very curious about your comment regarding re-encoding. I know that satellite uses MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 so the DVR is just saving the raw MPEG stream. I thought cable would do the same but why would it be different for TiVo (or any other cable card option?)
 

MustISO

Lifer
Oct 9, 1999
11,928
12
81
We have two Comcast DVR's. Motorolla boxes around here and they're fine for what we need. We used to have Tivo but never upgraded when Comcast went all digital. The only issue with the cable cards is they don't support On Demand which is important for some people.
 

notposting

Diamond Member
Jul 22, 2005
3,485
28
91
3) Ceton InfiniTV4 (ie. Windows Media Center). I don't mind the $400 price tag (because there are no monthly fees PLUS you get four tuners!), but you need to use Windows Media Center to watch and record DRM content (ie. HBO, some other programs, etc). This wouldn't even be that big of a problem, but you need to use Media Center Extenders to watch live TV (for DRM programs, etc). The X-Box 360 really does have a lot of lag when acting as a media extender and I don't think it would pass the wife test.

You can watch live tv on the htpc itself of course as well*. I have no experience with cable card setup, but if the Silicondust setup works as well as their HDHomerun, I think that would be a sweet setup. Unfortunately the extender experience is a bit rough and expensive with that setup. We have a couple Linksys extenders which work okay for bedroom setup.

The Windows setup will require a bit more maintenance of course than a relatively inert STB.

* of course, if you don't have a machine as a dedicated htpc then it gets even more expensive.
 

frowertr

Golden Member
Apr 17, 2010
1,371
41
91
Does SageTV have any built-in DRM? I thought Windows Media Center was the only option for PlayReady DRM. Because of that, I think Windows Media Center will always be the only option for recording copy protected (ie. DRM/CCI flag) content?

No. Sage has no DRM support of any kind and probably never will. However, there are people using the Ceton tuner with Sage but only with hacks; nothing official. The people doing this are primarily doing it on Verizon FIOS as FIOS doesn't have the copy protected bit set of much of anything (other than on demand stuff).

The problem is if the provider (Verizon in this example) ever changes the copy protection bit, you are pretty much screwed as you will not be able to play your recordings on anything other than the computer that recorded it. So if you are using any kind of HTPC server setup (like me as I have 3 HD-300 I stream to my TV's in my house) then it would be useless to me as you would have to watch the recording on the server.

DRM sucks. It isn't good for the consumer at all.
 

dclive

Elite Member
Oct 23, 2003
5,626
2
81
I have a W7 Media Center running as a virtual machine on a VMWare ESXi whitebox, which is a cheapy Dell quad-core Q6600 CPU-based machine.

Aside from poor antenna reception (I'm in the boonies) I love it. I find the XBOX360s and Linksys MCEs to be both very fast (although the MCE takes forever to boot up, its' only flaw). Whether using Wireless N or Ethernet the experience is wonderful.

I even have commercial cleaning software that runs every night and rips out all the commercials. First the software converts the W7 format into the old .dvr-ms format, then the commercial ripper rips it out. Runs every night at 2am or so and it's wonderful.

I like this setup because I don't need a dedicated machine for it - I have lots of other virtual machines on the one Dell physical machine - and so the net impact to my setup is almost zero.