DirecTV Genie entire-residence DVR evaluate
We’re very joyful that 2012 ended up being the yr of entire-house DVRs. We reviewed Dish Community’s Hopper earlier this yr and now we have spent some high quality time with DirecTV’s Genie — cannot say we anticipated the lovable names. Able to serving as much as eight rooms in your home (however solely 4 directly), the Genie system works with quite a lot of setups, together with being constructed into some newer Samsung TVs. Solely obtainable as a part of DirecTV service, the Genie may be had free of charge by some new DirecTV clients who’re prepared to signal a time period settlement and choose the proper package deal, and obtainable to present clients as an improve for $300 relying on the circumstances. If DirecTV did not already have you ever at 5 tuners, 1TB and as much as eight rooms, then click on by means of for a full rundown on the newest the unique direct satellite tv for pc broadcast TV supplier has to supply.
Normal DVR disclaimer
Any time we write a DVR assessment we have now to remind ourselves that the world we stay in does not afford most individuals the posh of selecting a DVR. What we imply is that often DVRs and their software program are tied to particular suppliers, and thus aren’t out there to everybody. So our questions in a DVR evaluate are two-fold: would we change to a supplier who provided this DVR? And the way does it examine to third-social gathering choices like Home windows Media Middle or TiVo?Hardware
The middle of the entire-house Genie DVR is the HR34, a field that has already been obtainable for a yr. Able to recording 5 exhibits directly to its 1TB arduous drive, the HR34 will sometimes hook up with the primary TV in your home. If you wish to join different units, you will both want an RVU-succesful Samsung HDTV or have a C31 Genie Mini Shopper hooked up. At three.25 x 15.seventy five x eleven.eighty five inches, the HR34 is not small, however it does match proper in with different house theater gear. The design is usually plastic, with a shiny entrance panel sporting the important controls and blue LED lights. The lights are fairly shiny out of the field, however all — apart from the report indicator LED — could be dimmed or disabled by urgent each the correct and left course buttons on the field. Between the lights and the shiny black face, the HR34 is a looker.
The lights are fairly shiny out of the field, however may be dimmed or disabled
On both aspect of the entrance major panel is a door, with the appropriate aspect revealing the conditional entry card, and the left hiding a USB port. Whereas most customers will solely connect a regular two-prong energy connector, HDMI and a coax operating to the satellite tv for pc, there are a selection of different connectors out again. Along with the element, composite, S-Video and coaxial digital discovered on most set-prime bins, there’s additionally an eSATA port for exterior storage, USB for equipment, IR enter and a telephone jack. You may miss the shortage of a Toslink choice for optical digital audio — and there is additionally no ATSC tuner, which may come in useful if DirecTV does not supply each native channel in your market by way of satellite tv for pc. Nonetheless, there’s an non-compulsory AM21n that may be had for $50 to fill that void.
An entire-house DVR isn’t an island unto itself; it leverages the RVU protocol to increase its service into the opposite rooms of your home. Whereas RVU is now a part of DLNA, there is not a lot suitable hardware available on the market. DirecTV included a couple of Genie Mini Shoppers (C31) for us to evaluate, however as talked about earlier, there are additionally a number of suitable Samsung TVs (2011’s D6000 and most 2012 fashions).
Though it might be very best to haven’t any field in any respect in your wall-mounted TVs, the Mini Shopper is a reasonably respectable compromise, at lower than 100 dollars. Whereas not as tiny as some trendy media extenders, the C31 continues to be fairly small. We want a mount was included to make it simpler to cover, particularly since there appear to be holes on the underside to facilitate one. Up entrance is a single energy button, a blue community standing LED and a hidden IR sensor. On the again you will discover a coax enter, HDMI, USB, coaxial digital output, energy connector and a multi-AV output that can be utilized with the elective element and composite dongle — there isn’t any community interface because it makes use of DECA to hook up with the HR34 by way of coax. Talking of energy, it’s of the in-line brick (versus the wall-wart) selection, and apparently, has holes to make it simply wall-mountable.
Just like the HR34, the Mini is usually provided totally free to new clients who’re prepared to signal time period agreements and subscribe to the proper package deal, however present clients who need to increase the system they have already got can purchase it for $ninety nine. (DirecTV does not truly promote its hardware, so we are saying purchase as a result of it is technically a lease.)Distant
The distant is a sticking level in almost all of our residence theater evaluations, and whereas the DirecTV controller will not win any innovation awards, it is acquainted in all the best methods. The directional pads and navigation shortcuts are conveniently situated within the middle of the distant, with the transport controls on the prime and the quantity keys on the backside. Nearly each button is strictly the place you’d anticipate, excluding the discrete on and off instructions on the prime. Sometimes, separate buttons for on and off rub us the incorrect means, however on this case they’re helpful. If you press on, for instance, it turns each your TV and the DirecTV set-prime field on — this may be troublesome to do with an influence toggle button, as the 2 units may discover themselves in reverse states, which might be very irritating. Up prime is a format button for simply controlling how the field outputs commonplace-definition video on an HDTV, in addition to a TV enter button that allows you to tune the TV to the right enter for DirecTV with out looking for one other distant.
DirecTV remotes can be found with RF for an additional $20, which, along with making it simpler to program by way of on-display menus, additionally make sure the distant can management with out having a line of sight to the field. Our DirecTV installer offered one RF distant for the primary room and IR-solely remotes for the 2 Genie Minis.
The included distant is not the one technique for controlling the DirecTV expertise. Along with the cellular apps (extra on these later), the primary HR34 options multiple option to work together with different methods, together with House Automation. Probably the most helpful is the IP interface that may present two-means management with suggestions and might be important when you have excessive-finish House Automation. There are different apps that may reap the benefits of this or you possibly can sort in rigorously artful URLs into your favourite browser to work together with the HR34. In case your management system cannot leverage IP management, you even have the choice to make use of a USB to RS-232 adapter. The dangerous information is that neither RS-232 nor IP management are choices on the Genie Mini, however we definitely hope they’re coming.Consumer interface
Though many people have been having fun with excessive-definition tv for greater than 10 years, a great deal of set-prime bins nonetheless do not function HD consumer interfaces. DirecTV began upgrading its UI to HD a few yr in the past and introduced it to the HR34 (and its shoppers) extra just lately. The interface is predominately blue and black, and is heavy on cowl artwork. The primary menu is damaged up into 5 foremost sections: My DirecTV, Search & Browse, Recordings, Extras and Settings & Assist. My DirecTV offers a fast look of what’s on tonight in addition to the newest suggestions from Genie by way of eight field artwork icons. Search & Browse offers a single search interface that may return outcomes from future packages, on-demand and even YouTube.
Unsure what to seek for? Simply use the browse function to simply discover films, on-demand content material and TV exhibits. The Recordings part offers precisely what you’d anticipate — the power to observe recorded programming — however that is additionally the place you possibly can handle recordings by checking your To Do Listing, Collection Supervisor and Historical past. It is also the place you possibly can verify on the Queue (for downloads) and Purchases, plus your recording defaults (extra on that later). The Extras part is filled with, nicely, extras. There are messages from DirecTV (all we noticed have been advertisements), a shortcut to the Lively Channel, video games, TV apps (Fb, Flicker, Twitter, and so forth.), YouTube, Pandora, Music & Photographs (DLNA shopper to simply take heed to music and consider pictures in your pc or DLNA server), Caller ID (the rationale for that telephone port out again) and eventually Showroom.
The final part accessible by way of the primary menu is Settings & Assist, which is damaged down into 4 essential areas: Settings, Parental Controls, Favourite Channels and Assist. The settings are huge, so we’ll simply concentrate on a couple of right here. It is easy to pick the resolutions that your TV helps and both set the DVR to transform all of the content material to your most popular format, or natively move by means of the supply content material, unaltered. Normal-def four:three content material may be displayed in its unique facet ratio with black or grey bars or stretched or cropped — you should use the format button on the distant to shortly select an choice with out digging via the setting.
We discovered it odd that Dolby Digital output was disabled by default, however we suspect that’s as a result of the field is not able to inserting consumer interface sound results when Dolby Digital is enabled. The opposite notable setting in at the moment’s day and age is energy save mode, which turns the HR34 off after 4 hours of inactivity. There are additionally in depth parental controls, and in addition to supplying you with the apparent capacity to dam content material over a sure score, it lets you block all of the grownup channels, block any channel, net movies, set spending limits and even set viewing hours. Lastly, you possibly can set customized favourite channel lists — we’ll talk about this in additional element within the information part — or see an inventory of channels you subscribe to.
General, navigating the interface feels snappy, however we did discover lag on occasion, akin to when the system was downloading content material and made us wait. The overall navigation makes use of the left button to return (versus a devoted again button) and the channel up and down buttons double as web page up and down. On the prime-left nook of just about each display is a video preview window that we unaffectionately seek advice from because the Spoiler Window, as it will possibly’t be stopped with the cease or pause button on the distant whereas within the menu. Actually, to keep away from a spoiler that could be proven within the video preview, you need to exit the menu, press pause or change the channel, then return to the place you have been within the menus.Information
The basic grid information has been a staple for TV viewers since earlier than the distant management, and the DirecTV Genie information ought to really feel fairly acquainted to most customers. The grid shows what’s on six channels for the subsequent hour and a half. The date and time are displayed on the prime proper, and the highest left is house to the video preview window. Up prime and within the center you will discover details about the presently chosen present. Along with the complete-display information, there’s a mini-information that may be summoned by urgent the blue button whereas watching TV. It additionally solely exhibits what’s on for the subsequent hour and half, and solely on a single channel.
The directional pad buttons are key to navigating round, with the channel up and down buttons appearing as web page up and down. You should use the quick-ahead or rewind buttons to skip 12 hours at a time and, oddly, the pink and inexperienced buttons do the identical factor, whereas there isn’t any obvious strategy to simply skip three hours. It isn’t an enormous deal, although, because the “Leap to a date and time” choice can get you precisely the place you need, in a short time. Talking of effectivity, we discovered the information fairly fast, general, nevertheless it did lag on occasion, and it can’t sustain when you try and quickly web page up and down.
Our favourite factor concerning the information is the best way DirecTV handles channel numbers, particularly HD channels. Whereas most suppliers put the HD channels in a separate part, reserving the acquainted numbers for the SD channels, DirecTV places them proper the place they belong. So ESPN SD and ESPN HD are each channel 206, with the duplicate SD simulcast hidden by default. Even higher, the networks which are additionally broadcast over-the-air are of their right channel task — NewsChannel eight is simply eight, and never 508. Add to this the power to simply filter out all however your favourite exhibits, and you’ve got a mixture that each single DVR ought to supply, however does not. Our solely minor grievance is that it ought to be simpler to shortly see the subsequent eight exhibits that might be airing subsequent on a sure channel. Choosing the channel within the information and hitting information is not very intuitive.Scheduling and managing recordings
Very first thing’s first: you need to truly schedule one thing to document, as we suspect you will not need to rely solely on the Genie suggestions. In the event you discover one thing within the information you’d wish to document, merely hitting the report button as soon as is sufficient to make it occur. Double-urgent it is going to mechanically configure a collection recording utilizing the configurable collection setting defaults — the default of each setting is configurable. If you wish to schedule a collection recording with a non-default setting, you’ll be able to hit information after which select collection as an alternative. We suspect you will not have many recording conflicts because of the HR34’s 5 tuners, however for those who do, you will be introduced with an inventory of recordings so to select which will not be recorded.
In fact there are different methods to seek out exhibits to report in addition to shopping the information; one other favourite is search. We coated looking extra extensively within the consumer interface part, however primarily you entry search by way of the primary menu and as soon as you discover one thing to document, you possibly can schedule a recording or create a collection recording — this sometimes labored as anticipated, however in a single case a present we later discovered within the information did not flip up in a search. When you seek for a key phrase that both does not return any outcomes, or returns multiple present, you’ve the choice to create a key phrase collection recording to mechanically document any future present with that key phrase — there’s the choice to filter these outcomes by class, so simply films with the phrase “Eastwood,” for instance.
After you’ve got scheduled a couple of recordings, you may choose to allow Genie recommends, which can in flip routinely document different exhibits you may like. The suggestions are displayed in each the recorded TV listing and in My DirecTV, accessible by way of the primary menu. We did not give the Genie a lot time to determine what we like, however we did schedule 22 collection recordings and examine again every week later to seek out 12 suggestions, two of which we opted to observe.Watching TV
The first consumer interface parts displayed over the video are the data banner and the scrub bar. The knowledge banner takes up virtually all the prime half of the display and supplies fast entry to the present program’s description and different particulars. The Information button on the distant brings it ahead everytime you need, and an abridged model of it’s displayed each time you modify the channel. Present channel info plus date and time are additionally proven within the banner, together with fast entry to the final 4 channels you’ve got watched, your favorites channel lists, closed caption settings, audio and video particulars, parental controls and the power to allow image-in-image.
The scrub bar is routinely proven each time you hit any of the transport management buttons, except the replay button. This makes good sense too, as you sometimes hit stated button if you need to shortly watch the final eight seconds of programming once more, and never masking up any a part of the motion for 4 seconds is one thing each DVR ought to do. We additionally respect that the play button brings up the scrub bar, even when one thing is already enjoying. This makes it very straightforward to reference the present time of this system, the identify of the present, how massive your buffer is and the way a lot time is left — good for these late nights if you need to examine the time and decide whether it is too late to complete what you’ve got began.
You’ll be able to, in fact, pause reside TV and skip round, however the scrub bar additionally exhibits up if you’re watching recorded packages. Recordings are most simply accessed by hitting the Record button on the distant, however can be accessed by way of the Recordings choice on the primary menu. By default, the record is displayed in alphabetical order — though exhibits that begin with “The” are incorrectly listed with the Ts — however it’s also possible to reverse that order, or type by date (latest to oldest, or oldest to latest). An alternative choice is to type by class, which incorporates style. That is particularly useful when you realize you’re within the temper for a film — maybe a comedy — and need to begin from there.
Past the usual scrub bar and information banner, the Genie has a couple of distinctive options, the primary of which is known as DoublePlay and might be solely similar to TiVo’s twin reside buffers. To make use of it, you merely hit the down button on the distant twice whereas watching reside TV, and from that time ahead the DVR will buffer reside TV on two channels as an alternative of 1. (The function turns itself off after two hours.) We notably like the power to pause one channel, change to the opposite and discover the video mechanically resuming from the place we left off.
The subsequent function that enhances our stay TV expertise is QuickTune. Primarily, it really works by choosing your favourite 9 channels. Then whereas watching stay TV, you hit the up arrow and may shortly tune to a type of channels by choosing the corresponding emblem. The QuickTune listing is about per TV, so the primary settings do not routinely copy over to every Genie Mini.
DirecTV caters to sports activities followers greater than most suppliers on the market. The DoubleDown function and the shortage of scrub bar throughout replays are useful, and there are additionally sports activities combine channels that primarily allow you to watch eight channels directly and choose which one to take heed to. One other good function for sports activities followers: the ScoreGuide pops up whenever you press the pink button whereas watching stay TV. That is extra of a rating board than a information, and it shows scores from all current American sports activities occasions. It additionally presents a Watch Now choice to shortly flip to the video games at present in progress.
Till lately, having a number of DVRs in home meant managing duplicate collection recording lists and strolling into totally different rooms to resolve conflicts
Whereas the last word leisure dream is to have the ability to watch no matter we would like, wherever we would like and on any system we would like, for now we’ll accept a terrific in-house expertise. Reside TV anyplace in the home has develop into extra attainable, however up till lately, having a number of DVRs in home meant managing duplicate collection recording lists and strolling into totally different rooms to resolve conflicts. An entire-residence DVR fixes that by centralizing the recording on one field and through the use of inexpensive extenders at every TV. And whereas this does imply you could have a single level of failure, we expect that is a small worth to pay for a extra elegant answer. The great thing about an ideal entire-residence DVR expertise just isn’t having to consider which room you are in, as a result of each single TV in the home behaves the identical approach.
DirecTV almost beat its largest competitor to market with an entire-residence DVR, however in contrast to the Hopper and its Joey, the Genie can handle its magic with none set-prime field in any respect — offered you’ve gotten a suitable Samsung HDTV, that’s — however with RVU lately added to DLNA, we might be stunned if the variety of units that embrace the know-how does not develop.
For many who do not want to purchase a brand new TV, there’s the Genie Mini Shopper (C31). Except for a slight degradation in UI responsiveness, the expertise is equivalent to that of the TV that has the HR34 related to it. The shoppers hook up with the Genie by way of a coax cable and may share the identical stay TV buffer and tuner, so if everyone seems to be watching the identical soccer recreation, the opposite tuners can be found to document.
Talking of watching the identical factor on totally different TVs on the similar time: in contrast to separate receivers, the streams won’t be in sync. So in case you are in a single room and may hear the TV tuned to the identical channel in one other room, you’ll hear an echo — not sometimes an enormous deal, however in the event you wish to host Tremendous Bowl events, this may be a dealbreaker. The Genie can help as much as eight TVs, however solely 4 may be in use on the similar time (the TV the HR34 is related to plus three shoppers). In case you might take or depart the entire-residence expertise, the HR34 may also stream to different DirecTV DVRs in addition to non-DVR set-prime bins just like the H25.Net, smartphone and pill apps
For those who nonetheless have a TV supplier with no cellular companion app or an internet site for streaming and managing your service, then, nicely, you is perhaps a laggard. DirecTV has offered a website to help you in making modifications to your invoice for longer than we will keep in mind, and it could possibly remotely schedule recordings and allow you to watch stay programming anyplace. Nevertheless, the web site does not let you verify your to-do record remotely or resolve any recording conflicts (the smartphone and pill app additionally don’t do that). You can also’t stream recorded TV out of your DVR by way of the web site. This doesn’t suggest there is not loads of TV obtainable to observe anyplace, however you do not have the identical actual choice that you’ve at house. DirecTV does supply a tool referred to as the Nomad, which lets you switch recordings to your smartphone, however it wasn’t offered to us to be included on this evaluation.
DirecTV additionally takes its smartphone app very significantly, and whereas we solely examined the iPhone app, there are variations obtainable for each widespread platform. General we discovered the iPhone app very snappy and filled with helpful choices. The consumer interface seems very polished, and the app makes it straightforward to schedule recordings and even watch a mixture of stay and on-demand content material on the go. The plethora of filters makes it straightforward to shortly discover one thing to observe, and there are in depth parental controls for adjusting settings remotely.
The smartphone app additionally is not constructed as a second-display app, so you possibly can’t use it as a distant management or get further details about this system you’re presently watching like you’ll be able to on the pill app. Nevertheless, you do have the power to authorize pay-per-view content material, which is for many who do not have their DirecTV set-prime field related to the mothership by way of the web or a telephone line.
DVR companion apps for tablets are a dime a dozen today, however the DirecTV App for iPad stands out as notably helpful. In contrast to the telephone app, the pill app is just obtainable for iPad — we reached out to a DirecTV consultant relating to a timeline for launch on different platforms, however have but to listen to again. The primary part consists of columns, with the leftmost displaying details about what you’re presently watching. The subsequent module is What’s Scorching, an inventory of the highest 10 exhibits on DirecTV. There are a complete of thirteen modules to select from, with choices like Information Channels, QuickTune, Reside TV Streaming and Social TV. The Social module ties into all the favored networks together with Fb, Twitter, GetGlue and Miso. The modules are displayed when the primary part is chosen on the backside, however there are additionally 5 others, like Playlist, Information, Films, Sports activities and Watch on iPad. Nearly all of these are self-explanatory with probably the most distinctive being sports activities. That is primarily a information for sporting occasions, with non-compulsory scores and quick access to observe an occasion with out ever figuring out what channel it is on.
The DirecTV App for iPad stands out as notably helpful
The pill app has a distant that may overlay any of those sections and supply a lot of the identical performance because the bodily controller, minus the power to regulate the facility and quantity in your TV. There are a number of additional shortcuts that are not on the actual distant, like skip to start out, sluggish, skip 2.5 minutes and skip to finish. As talked about earlier, we want that streaming recordings from the DVR was a function, however we do recognize that a lot reside and on-demand content material is out there.
We suspect many skipping straight to this part need to understand how this DVR compares to the one their supplier provides, and whereas it is inconceivable to spend significant time with all of the variations provided by cable corporations nationwide, the Genie simply distinguishes itself from all those we have tried. For starters, an entire-house DVR will all the time win our hearts over the choice — assuming you’ve got multiple TV, in fact. Add in distinctive options like DoublePlay and QuickTune and mix them with the most effective iPad companion apps we have used, and we might should say the Genie virtually outshines each supplier DVR we have ever used. The one exception can be the Hopper, which provides many killer distinctive options, together with PrimeTime Anytime and absolutely built-in Slingbox capabilities. Deciding between the Genie and the Hopper wouldn’t be straightforward. So with Microsoft all however abandoning Home windows Media Middle and TiVo not but releasing its entire-house DVR shoppers, the most effective entire-residence DVR within the US actually does come right down to the 2 satellite tv for pc suppliers.
The DirecTV Genie delivers in all the fitting methods, a lot in order that it supplies a purpose to modify suppliers. In fact, consumer expertise is not every little thing and there are lots of different causes to decide on a supplier; worth, native availability, service, help and movie high quality to call a couple of. So whereas all these elements can range significantly from market to market, the gratifying consumer interface in each room of your home, full-featured information and nice companion apps ought to have you ever contemplating a change. As a result of in any case, life is just too brief to observe TV with a subpar DVR.