Philips DSR6000 DirecTV Receiver with TiVo
(aka DirecTiVo)Aug 4, 2001
Oct 18, 2001 : Updated for 2.5 Two Tuners
What Is It
Its a special version of a Tivo that includes a satellite receiver. For general TiVo information see the review of the stand-alone TiVo. This review covers the differences between the DirecTiVo (as these integrated units are commonly known) and the original. For details of the TiVo features and why is such a life changing experience, please see the original review.
This TiVo is designed specifically for DirecTV reception, which means it cannot record programs from cable TV or from an antenna. This significantly reduces the cost as an MPEG2 encoder is not required. It also somewhat simplifies the software, as the program guide data is much easier to setup (it doesn't have to cope with the myriads of different cable and off-air systems) and allows DirecTV-specific features (e.g. recordings of Pay Per View programming).
Another difference is recording capacity - the DSR6000 claims 35 hours of recording (though this depends on the quality that each program is transmitted in), which is substantially more than the 8 hours I could realistically get on my old "14 hour" TiVo.
The final difference is that it has two tuners - this lets you record two things at once, while watching a third recording if you want.
SetupIt is as easy (or difficult) to setup as any other DirecTV satellite receiver. It needs a connection to the satallite dish (or two connections - more on that later), power, a phone line, and the usual audio/video outputs. Unlike the stand-alone TiVo, it has no a/v inputs so you cannot record cable or antenna signals.
Hardware setup took me about 15 minutes, and I didn't need to consult the manual.
Once the box was powered up, it told me to call DirecTV and get my account set up. Unfortunately this mandatory step was by far the most painful - the DirecTV phone system sucks: if I went through the very confusing menu system, it eventually dumped me at a busy tone. After retrying this a few times, I ignored the menu system and waited for an operator, which took about 20 minutes. Once I got through it was easy to add another receiver to my existing DirecTV account ($5 a month) and sign up for the TiVo service (this is done via DirecTV and not Tivo). For the TiVo service itself you can pay $10/month, $99/year or $249 for lifetime service - I chose the yearly rate.
I decided to run my stand-alone TiVo side-by-side with the new one for a few days, until I was sure I had the new one setup just right. I had to re-program the remotes so they did not interfere with each other, and this is easy to do.
I've said this before but its worth saying again - the Philips TiVo remote is simply terrific. I did have one problem with the new remote: pressing the Right side of the joystick control often failed miserably to go right, instead it would send a Down command to the box. As I was very used to the way my existing TiVo remotes worked, this drove me nuts for a while. However now it has been used for several weeks, it seems to have broken itself in and works more reliably.
Once I had been through the pain of a DirecTV phone call to enable my access card and TiVo account, I started setting up my preferences. Sadly there seems no way to copy the Season Passes and all the Thumbs Up/Down information from one TiVo to another, so I spent a while copying down my 20 or so Season Passes from the old TiVo then re-entering them on the new one. This was made a little harder as the DirecTiVo gets its program guide data from the satellite instead of the phone line, which means it takes several days to fill the guide up. I had to wait until all my programs finally showed up before I could complete the configuration of my Season Passes. Over the last two years the old TiVo had learnt quite a bit about our viewing habits and its Suggestions were often pretty good, but as there is no way to copy these to a new machine, the Suggestions on the new box were pretty poor for the first few weeks, until it began to learn more about our preferences.
If you wish to use the two tuner feature then you'll need to connect a second cable from the box to your dish, and have a suitable dish. I already had an two dual-LNB oval dish which came with a 4 way multiswitch, so I just had to run an additional cable from the satellite to the receiver. I saved myself some work by re-using my cable TV connection from just outside the house - I'll never be needing that again.
Software DifferencesI soon noticed some annoying differences in the software between the new box and my old one (such as pressing the TiVo button twice to get to the Now Showing page) which were starting to drive me mad. I also noticed some bugs, such as recording Suggestions from channels that I don't subscribe to, and some display glitches. It turns out the box ships with version 2.0 of the software on it, which has some problems. After a day the TiVo upgraded itself automatically to 2.01 software, which fixed all of the problems I had, and was much more consistent with the 2.01 software I was used to on the stand-alone box.
The remaining confusion I have with the new software is the Settings menus - various settings are now spread seemingly randomly between the "Messages & Setup" menu and the "DirecTV" menu. I always go to the wrong one when I want to change something, but after the first week or so of getting the Favorite channels set up just right, I seldom need to mess with them anyway now.
One option that is now missing is the Quality setting - with a DirecTiVo, all recording is done by saving the exact MPEG2 compressed data as transmitted by DirecTV. This means it always records at exactly the video quality the program was transmitted in. This results in better quality than my old TiVo could record on the Medium setting, which I especially appreciate when wathing recordings on the big screen TV.
The 2.5 upgrade enables the two tuner support and has very little else in the way of new features, which is fine by me. They have added a way of jumping ahead 15 minutes at a time, which is occasionally useful. There is a new minor bug in 2.5 though - if you Pause something that was previously recorderd, then select something else to watch, when you go back to the original program, it sometimes forgets where you were. It knows you had been watching it previously as it says "Resume Watching" but then starts from the beginning. Annoying, but as this is the only real bug I ever see I can forgive them.
Hardware DifferencesThe DirecTiVo remote one is almost identical to the original, except it has two additional small buttons - Menu and Display. As neither is required for anything that cannot be done another way, I assume they had to be included for licencing reasons. (I assume this is also the reason why the box itself has a minimal set of buttons on the front of it).
The new box is appreciably smaller than the old one, and still looks very nice in black. It does now sport a Toslink digital audio socket, as the box can now record Dolby Digital sound (assuming you have a suitable receiver to decode it). As my TiVo output is transmitted around the house in analog, I did not connect this, and disabled the option to record digital sounds in the Settings menu (which I assume saves me a small percentage of disk space). In addition there seem to often be problems with DirecTVs Dolby Digital signal and drop-outs seem to be pretty common on the HBO channels by all accounts, so maybe its just as well I'm not using this option (until DirecTV and/or HBO fix it).
Two TunersThe DirecTiVo has two satellite inputs, so if you have a suitable dish configuration you can connect a second cable to the device. Around September 2001 a software upgrade automatically downloaded to enable this great new feature. This lets you record two different channels at the same time, so clashing programs are much less likely, or you can auto-extend e.g. every HBO program by 5 minutes without fear of the overlap cancelling the second recording. (HBO, despite having no live content or ads almost always runs 2-3 minutes late). It also lets you pause Live TV on two channels at once - you switch between the two tuners by pressing Down on the joystick. This is the only time you have to know you have a second tuner - everything else is handled automatically for you.
Differences from Stand-Alone TiVo
Additional InfoTiVo's official site
Philips USA page - wait while it slowly draws then go to "Personal Video Recorders"
Sony Eletronics page - Sony also do a DirecTiVo box but their web site is even slower than the Philips site and hard to navigate. As of this writing it is under Satellite / Satellite Receivers and not Satellite / Digital Video Recorders as you might expect.
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