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Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Microsoft / Comcast DVR First Looks

First impressions are coming in of the new Comcast/Microsoft cable box / digital video recorder, which MS employees are test driving (can I get one?).

The positives:
  • Two tuners, so you can record and watch at the same time.
  • It can record in high definition, and it looks like the picture quality doesn't degrade at all. Scoble says it's 30% sharper than Tivo.
  • It has several USB ports, an ethernet port, and a smartcard reader, although it isn't clear how to take advantage of those features.
  • Automatically changes recording times if a show changes time slots.
  • Caches what you're watching up to 90 minutes.
  • Has a cool mini guide so you can keep watching it in almost the whole screen while you search through it.
  • Has video-on-demand and games (so far simple stuff like Blackjack and Solitaire) and plans to introduce live gaming (like XBox live.
  • You can punch up a page with the top news headlines in various categories.
The negatives:
  • Some of the menus are confusing, and are missing proper navigation.
  • It can't understand the difference between new episodes and reruns.
  • The picture sometimes stutters.
  • You may need assistance to fix some messy settings.
  • High-def TV takes up most of the disk space real fast.
  • You may play back a show you recorded, only to discover there's no sound.
  • Universal remote controls only three devices.
  • No 30-second skip button (although Tivo is about to break its 30-sec button anyway).
      You can see a video of it in action here. From Lost Remote:
      The DVR service runs $9.95 extra a month. HDTV, $4.95. Hess says he's not worried about whether there will be enough demand in the marketplace. "My concern is having enough DVRs." Comcast says they'll roll out the same software and set-tops to other markets across the country -- if the Seattle test goes well -- starting in the second quarter of next year.
      (via Seattle PI, John Montgomery, Jeff Sandquist, Tivo Tracker, Findory)

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