Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The DirecTV Genie

I went back to work this week after three weeks of paternity leave. During those three weeks, we had a lot of time to watch TV, to the point where the DVR was mostly empty by the end. (Except for some lower priority shows that we didn't really care too much about. The priority shows were all done.)

A couple months ago, I came across a DirecTV offer: "Upgrade to our latest DVR system, 'The Genie', for free!" (Provided you agree to a two-year commitment.) Our current "Whole Home DVR" system that we've been using for the past three-plus years, while perfectly functional, is pretty slow, and so I've wanted to upgrade for a while now. But the problem with upgrading a DVR is, when you turn in your old DVR, you lose everything that you recorded on it*. But now that we've had time to watch most everything, the timing is right.

(* - Why don't these things come with detachable storage, so that when you upgrade DVRs, or when the DVR fails, you can keep all of your shows?)

Our old system was basically two HD DVRs - better than one because it gave us twice the storage, and allowed us to record four programs at once instead of two. And, we could watch anything from either DVR on either TV. But, communication between DVRs was slow (in terms of watching shows stored in the other room) or non-existent (in that we had to program each DVR separately, and couldn't see a list of future recordings from one DVR on the other DVR). And, the DVRs were just older and slower in general. Pressing a button on the remote didn't always result in an immediate response. These DVRs must have been pretty outdated, because when we got the new one, DirecTV told us not to send the old ones back.

So, DirecTV sent us the main "Genie" unit, plus a "Mini-Genie" which basically piggy-backs off of the main unit. The Genie can record 5 things at once (although watching something on the Mini-Genie counts as one of the "recordings"), and you can program the main unit from the Mini-Genie and see all future recordings from either unit. So, they behave like they're both the same unit, which is nice. And they respond faster, too! (The Mini-Genie is slower than the main unit, but it's still faster than our old DVRs.)

The Genie has twice the disk space of an older HD DVR (1 TB, which comes out to 200 hours of HD programming), but since we had two HD DVRs previously, we actually have the same amount of space as we had before, except that it's all in one place instead of split between two devices. (That amount of space has always been more than sufficient for our needs, so no need for more.)

The new DVRs are also a lot smaller than the old HD DVRs. Compare the old HD DVR with the new "Mini-Genie":

(The main unit is also a bit smaller than the old HD DVR, but not that much smaller.)

The Genie has a feature where it will automatically record shows that it thinks you might enjoy based on your viewing habits. I keep that turned off, if nothing else because given all of the "Peppa Pig" and "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse" recordings we have on the DVR, I'm afraid that Marla's viewing habits would result in automatic recordings of a bunch of other children's cartoons that we want to avoid (read: "Dora the Explorer").

And, the Genie supports picture-in-picture. Sweet! Comes in handy for football. I've always thought, if the DVR can record two things at once, why can't you also watch two things at once? Well, now we can.

(I think I like the side-by-side option better than true picture-in-picture.)

I don't know for sure how the Genie compares to the DVR offerings from other cable and satellite providers, but from what I've read, it actually falls a bit short of Dish's "Hopper". The Hopper offers the same whole-home and PiP capability as the Genie, but can record 8 things at once and has a 2 TB hard drive, compared to the Genie's 5 simultaneous recordings and 1 TB hard drive. But I'm pretty sure the Genie is still better than anything Time Warner Cable offers. Just a hunch.


Walter Kolczynski said...

I also have liked my upgrade to the Genie for the same reasons. Also, in case you didn't know, you can copy all of your settings (including favorite channels) to the Mini.

My complaint with the PiP is that in PiP mode the PiP is way too big (¼ of the screen) and covers up a lot of the main channel, and in side-by-side there is a lot of wasted screen space. What I really want is the ability to quad box (there are five receivers, so why not), so that all of the channels can be at the correct aspect ratio and also not waste any space.

Chris Kessler said...

My problem is pip side by side doesnt fill the sides. I have a small box on each side. What a waste.