Sunday, July 1, 2007

Box #1: Day to day operations (returned on 5/18/07)

  • Please note all these are based on my experience as an end-user. I am not running repeated tests or using any test equipment!
  • If this is your first visit, please read the First Impressions post first... If you are switching from a Motorola DVR, please check the Swithcing from Motorola 341x/641x post

  • This box was returned on Day #9 because of the daily crashes (see Problem #5)
  • Added Crashes #6 and #7
  • Added Crash #5, Problem #5
  • Added Crash #4, more on Problem #3
  • TV Guide is 11 days long (eg goes 11 days into the future)
  • Added Crash #3
  • Updated Problem #3 with more details as it is now reproduceable.

    Usage and Performance
  • Fast-forward at full speed seems to be more energetic than the Motorolas. Maybe it's because the hard disk is almost empty. However there are issues with most of the ADS channels. See Problem #3 below for details.
  • Has not crashed on its own yet. The Motorolas occasionally had some freezing issues overnight. However it crashed daily during operation. Maybe it didn't like me :-(
  • Similar in usability to the Motorolas, but not exactly the same.
  • The front-panel LCD (or LED) screen is cool, you can tell which tuner(s) is/are recording as REC1 and REC2 light up. It also graphically shows some other operations such as playback (with green arrow), message in inbox (green envelope), and remote signal being receiving. The POWER letters are blue when the device is running, and red when it is rebooting or otherwise unavailable but powered on... However, it does not show the time or the channel number, even though that option is available in the Setup Menu. You can see some of them in the picture below:

  • When everything else is quiet (eg middle of the night) there is a hard-disk-spinning noise at times. It's not loud and not annoying, but you can hear it.
  • For those switching from the Motorolas, the user interface is exactly the same. You may even forget you got a different box.

    Individual Tests
  • On-Demand worked right away the first time I tried it with this box. In the past, I had some glitches with On-Demand when I was switching to a new box.
  • I have recorded programs on DVD-R and DVD-RW(Video mode) discs using a Panasonic DVD recorder connected to the S-Video output of the Pace box without any problems.
  • TV Guide is 11 days long (eg goes 11 days into the future)
  • Firmware version is 9.18

    Problems and Solutions?
  • It's bound to have some problems!
  • Problem #1: After activation, channels 2-99 (standard cable) were missing from the TV Guide and could not be tuned in manually. The channels were there on the RF cable (eg could tune in with a TV or VCR). Solution: I called Comcast and the CSR send a signal to the box and the problem was solved.
  • Problem #2: I noticed some slowness/non-responsiveness of the remote. The CSR told me to take out and re-insert the batteries and make sure they are all the way in... So far it has been responsive after re-inserting the batteries... I will be monitoring this closely and will post updates...
  • Reproducable Problem #3: When using FF/BF on "analog" (2-99) channels (I didn't try them all, but I tried both "A" and "B" analogs), the "tape position" and the "counter" move but the picture remains frozen. The only issue is that the picture is frozen during FF/BF. When I press PLAY again, the picture jumps to the new position and continues playback. This happens on both tuners. It happens on programs in the live buffer and recorded on the hard disk. So far I have not seen this happen in any of the digital channels (100+)... It's obviously an issue when you are trying to locate something specific in a program. For example if you record a 3-hour show to watch an interview with a specific guest or a musical performance or something like that. A combination of the Skip button/macros can help, but given the $1/mo price I can't complain :-) Solution:: I don't think there is one! Also see Crash #2... Update: I found one ADS channel (2-99 that fast-forwards without this problem: Comedy Central.
  • Problem #4: The front display does not show the time or the channel number, even though that option is available in the Setup Menu. Clearly the display does not have the capability to do that, but the Comcast software does not realize it. Solution: I don't think there is one.
  • Problem #5: Crashes/Freezes almost daily during DVR operations. This happens with user-initiated actions. So far this is the only scenario that caused a crash. It has not crashed while being "on its own". Solution: None so far.

    Crash Log
  • Crash #1: On Day 2, I don't remember the details
  • Crash #2: On Day 2, I noticed Problem #3 on a program I was watching. At some point, I pressed the Exit button to exit the watched program and return to the live tuner. The DVR froze before returning to the live tuner, and a blue half-screen window came up telling me to call Comcast with error code "ACC". A reset by the Comcast CSR solved the problem.
  • Crash #3, on Day 4. I was recording a 30min digital cable program via the TV Guide with an additional 1-hour added. At around the 65-minute mark I tried to manually end the recording by pressing the Channel+ button and then selecting "Stop recording" from the menu. At this point the recording stopped by the DVR froze. After waiting for a few minutes to give it a chance to recover (it didn't), I unplugged it. The program with the crash had some strange behavior, the skip forward/backward buttons always took it to the beginning of the program. However I was able to watch it and FF/BF through it. I assume this behavior was because of the crash because I had not seen this type of thing before.
  • Crash #4, on Day 6. I was watching a live tuner, then pressed SWAP to go to the other tuner which was recording an ADS program (channel 2-99). Then I pressed SWAP to return to the other tuner, but the screen frozen before swapping, and an error message window came up with error code ACC... After I unplugged/replugged it, the program did not continue recording.
  • Crash #5, on Day 7. I was casually using the DVR, with the live tuner being on an ADS channel (2-99) when it crashed/froze while in-between operations.
  • Crash #6, on Day 8. Crashed while performing typical DVR operations. This time it happened at tne end of a program I was watching. The program was previously recorded.
  • Crash #7, on Day 9. Having while doing typical DVR operations

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