A while back, I told you guys about the release of DirecTV’s top-of-the-line HD DVR, the Genie. Shortly after that announcement, I got my hands on one of the boxes, and have been using it as my main DVR for the last 6 months or so. I figured now that I’ve been using it for a while, I’d share some of my experiences.
I’ll start out by saying that I’ve been a DirecTV subscriber for over 10 years now, so I’m pretty familiar with all of the receivers and DVRs they’ve offered over the years. I have to say that their hardware and software has truly come a long way in that time.
The Genie itself is a fairly non-descript black box, with touch-sensitive blue backlit controls on front. But under the hood, it’s a real powerhorse. This single box is capable of recording not one or two shows at the same time, but five. This means it’s almost impossible that a conflict will ever prevent you from missing a show. If you want to take advantage of the whole-home capability of the Genie, there’s a small network adapter box called a DECA that sits on top of the Genie, which basically creates a LAN over satellite wiring so it can stream content to other locations in your home.
On the back of the Genie, you’ll find a single satellite Coax connector, an Ethernet port, HDMI, S-Video, Composite and Component outputs, as well as a coax digital audio output. There’s also an SATA port for adding more hard drive space, a USB port (for future use), and a phone jack (which isn’t really necessary if you have it hooked up to the Internet). It’s also got an IR port so you can add an IR receiver inside of a media cabinet, though the remote supports RF mode, so this isn’t really needed.
Thanks to its generous 1TB hard drive, you’re able to record up to 200 hours of HD programming or 800 hours of SD. I’m an avid TV and movie watcher, and so far, I’ve yet to fill up more than 20% of the Genie. Despite recording dozens of HD programs each week, most of the time, I’m only using about 15 to 18% most of the time. I’ve even saved some movies and programs from many months ago that I haven’t gotten around to, since I never have to worry about running out of space. And the live TV buffer is great, constantly recording up to 90 minutes of programming, so you can even record a program which started as much as an hour and a half ago – assuming you were tuned to that channel.
The HD DVR capability is as good as I’ve experienced on any box, with fast, responsive play, pause, fast-forward and rewind controls with four selectable speeds. There’s also the ability to jump in 15 minute increments if you want to quickly jump ahead. It’s also smart enough to jump back a second or so when you resume playing from fast-forwarding, accounting for your reaction time. It also supports frame-by-frame, slow-motion playback, a 30-second skip and a 6-second replay capability.
Searching for programming on the Genie is fast and easy, with an interface DirecTV calls “Smart Search.” This allows you to alphabetically search for programming based on program name, actors and even directors in one unified view. The interface is even smart enough to sort the results based on popularity. For instance – keying in a “W” brings up “The Walking Dead” right at the top of the list.
You can record individual programs, set up a series pass, and decide whether or not you want to record new episodes, repeats or both. There’s also the ability to record extra time at the beginning or end of a program in case you’re recording a show which might be delayed by a sporting event – as happens with The Amazing Race virtually every week.
To Record a program directly from live TV or the program guide, simply press the orange “R” button on the remote, and to record the entire series, press it a second time.
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