I opted for DISH Network to feed the HDTV. Why? It pretty much came down to three factors.
1. The DVR/Tuner is the superior unit on the market today, with regard to DVR storage space and HD quality.
2. The one DVR is accessible via two rooms.
3. They offer a lot of HD channels with their intermediate (America’s Top 200) package.
Now let’s break it down.
1. The DVR that comes with the package [currently] is the ViP722, which also serves as the satellite tuner. (Link to the full PDF is here: http://www.dishnetwork.com/content/our_products/dvr_receivers/index.shtml ).
a. PRO: It stores up to 350 hours of Standard Definition and 55 hours of HD content.
b. PRO: It can be made to be shared between two TV’s. I have used this feature and it works great.
c. PRO: Does have the ability to archive to external hard drive via USB. I have not played with this yet, although I may plop in my 4GB USB flash drive and see if that would work (for a small show, of course).
d. PRO: Can record two shows simultaneously. In such a case both TV’s would be locked into either watching the show, being recorded [on the associated tuner that the TV is using], or watching DVR content. Or they could go read a book or watch a DVD. J
e. CON: Cannot store shows into custom categories, which is something I have done for over four years on my ReplayTV DVR.
f. CON: No apparent way to access the device via the home LAN, to copy shows to PC’s. However, my need to do this, now that I have a DVR of such high storage capacity, is drastically reduced from my old ReplayTV days.
g. CON: No apparent Internet access to schedule shows remotely.
h. CON: Clunky channel guide that really should allow one to categorize or at least search for channels. I find myself having to go to the laminated hard copy channel listing to find channels, which is not fun if the lights are off. Perhaps I’ll get used to it.
2. The one unit can be shared, by two TV’s, in this fashion: TV1 is physically connected to the 722 via a cable (in my case it’s via HDMI to my HDTV). TV2 is connected, via the home coaxial network. Said coax was re-routed, by the installation guy, such that only the TV hanging on the other end, of that cable (via routing) can access the tuner’s coax output. TV2 then has an RF (radio) remote control that reaches out, to the tuner, and orders up the feeds. Note that no other TV in the house is on the same coax network any more, due to the point-to-point cabling change the installer made.
a. PRO: Sharing DVR content between two rooms is easy. I’ve started watching a show, on TV1, moved to TV2 and resumed from my previous stop-point, then moved back to TV1.
b. PRO: Sharing “live” TV between two rooms is simple. There’s a dual-mode, allowing the dual-tuner 722 to serve up two different live shows simultaneously, to two rooms. There is a single mode that allows TV1 to have picture-in-picture (and thus TV2 would “slave” off the 2nd tuner’s signal, simply acting as a remote monitor to whatever TV1 is watching on the 2nd tuner). It’s pretty easy to grasp the logic if one plays with it a while.
c. CON: What is not immediately apparent, when ordering the package online, is that the unit can only serve ONE HDTV and one Standard TV – not two HDTV’s. That is to say, the “Standard TV” could be an HDTV, but it would only receive a Standard TV signal.
d. CON: Although I pay $5 extra, per month, for my local channels, these channels are not the High Def versions of the channels. Buyer beware! DISH Network does not currently offer HD local channels, but I hear they are working on that. [I had to jury rig an antenna, which is another story….]
e. CON: Over-the-air tuned channels are only accessible via TV1; they are not passed through to TV2. This is a very minor ‘CON’ though, since the only possible over-the-air channels to tune are HD channels, and there is no need to pass HD versions of local channels through, to a Standard TV (TV2), via coax, when that TV is already receiving the Standard versions of those channels.
3. My ‘America’s Top 200’ package has a lot of HD sports channels, but many are devoted to sports that may not be playing at the time one goes browsing. Still, there’s enough there to hold my interest.
a. PRO: I have one HBO HD and one Cinemax HD channel free for three months. I may become addicted, which of course is their whole point in giving me free months free (an old drug dealer trick). Several other movie channels are included in the 200 package, such as Universal HD, TNT, and a few others.
Overall, I am pleased with the service. I still have to work out a few bugs:
· My HDMI connection to the TV keeps flickering. The unit only transmits in 1080i, and my TV has up to 1080p capabilities. This should not be a problem; the TV properly detects the signal as being 1080i and makes the adjustment. I’ll trouble-shoot it by dumbing my upconvert DVD player down to 1080i and see if I get a flicker there. Then I’ll swap the two HDMI cables and try it all over again. Then I’ll call DISH, who will probably refer me to my TV’s manual (okay, I’m mildly cynical). Until then, I’ll watch my TV with <gasp> component (RGB) video cables.
· I have to figure out a better HD antenna. The one I bought at Menards is horrible. The one I made out of a white-rubber coated speaker wire and a coax antenna adaptor works great, but the wife doesn’t like it hanging on the wall. Wives…. Yep, you guys know what I’m talkin’ about.
· When setting a recording of a show, I cannot figure out how to force the future recording to use a specific tuner. Why would I want to? Well, let’s say I want to record a show that is on during the time that my family all gathers to watch a specific show, on TV1. If Tuner1 is busy recording a show, TV1 cannot watch a live show on another channel. How to specify a tuner – or how automatic tuner selection, for recordings, works – may well be in the manual or available online, but I’ve not yet had time to look. I will though.