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The unit videophile DVR owners have been waiting for. New details, including price and release date.
by Matt Casamassina

January 5, 2006 - Hardcore videophiles may have already invested in TiVo's high-definition DirecTV tuner, which enables all the functionality of a traditional DVR and added HD support. But most early adopters paid for the device knowing that it'd be obsolete in less than a year. That's because DirecTV has not only ended its exclusive license with TiVo, but has set out to make an HD DVR unit of its own - one that takes advantage of emerging new broadcast signals.

DirecTV's DVR, called the HR20 (or "DirecTV Plus HD DVR"), basically uses the original TiVo unit as a base and adds a couple of impressive new features. The box was showcased for the first time at CES 2006 in Las Vegas and we were on hand for an up-close look. Here's what we've been able to find out.

The HR20 displays both MPEG-2 and the recently launched MPEG-4 signals, which makes it immediately more attractive than the TiVo box. MPEG-2 is an inferior compression codec than MPEG-4 and as a result signals beamed in the former are larger, requiring more hard drive space to store. DirecTV would not divulge the size of the HR20's hard drive, but it is likely to be comparable to the already-released TiVo HD DVR. The HR20 is able to record about 30 hours of MPEG-2 streamed HD content. However, it is able to store more than 50 hours of MPEG-4 HD broadcasts, according to DirecTV. It can, meanwhile, store some 200 hours of standard definition content. The device is able to display images in 480i, 480p, 720p, and 1080i, but it will not be compatible with the emerging 1080p HD format.

Owners of the TiVo HD DVR have been forced to give up many of the added features of TiVo Series 2 units. The HR20, in contrast, promises to deliver many of the special extras of today's updated DVRs. The device features two DirecTV inputs, two ATSC tuners, one satellite in, an HDMI input, a component input, a composite input, and a digital/coaxial out. Interestingly, the HR20 also includes not one, but two Ethernet ports - we asked why, and a rep on hand said we would have to wait and see. It also boasts two USB 2.0 ports for future connectivity. The box enables users to record two sources from either DirecTV or ATSC - even at the same time.

That's all good and fine, but when does the HR20 finally come out and how much is it going to cost? DirecTV would not give us a firm date, but it did state that the unit will definitely be available in Q2 2006. "Really Q2, we swear," a spokesperson told us. Meanwhile, we're able to report some fantastic news for early adopters who picked up a DirecTV TiVo HD DVR. DirecTV reps confirmed to us today that the HR20 will be made available "completely free of charge" to select HD TiVo owners as soon as the former becomes available. By select, the company means owners who live in the PST or MT areas of the United States, as these regions will be the first to make the switch to MPEG-4 broadcasts. HD TiVo owners who live in other parts of the US can either wait a little longer for the same deal or purchase the HR20 for only $99 smackers. Brand new customers will pay approximately $200 for the device and will get a significant mail-in rebate, according to DirecTV.

We've snapped a batch of photos showing off the redesigned HR20 as it was showcased at CES 2006. Check them all out in our media section below.

http://gear.ign.com/articles/679/679224p1.html
 

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I noticed that the back of the model is not labeled and they are NOT using the HDMI connector!

And as noted, it will not be able to do the 1080p format that all of the new flat panel HD TV are starting to support.

Oh the pain of buying into HD so early.
 

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The details on PST/MST are incorrect, since they've already started rolling MPEG4 receivers out to people in the top 12 markets. I believe this includes NY, CA and MI for starters and only one of those is in PST or MST :)

Sucks that they didn't upgrade the hard drive capacity.

Are those 2 HDMI ports on the back (on the right side)?
 

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RightHere said:
The details on PST/MST are incorrect, since they've already started rolling MPEG4 receivers out to people in the top 12 markets. I believe this includes NY, CA and MI for starters and only one of those is in PST or MST :)

Sucks that they didn't upgrade the hard drive capacity.

Are those 2 HDMI ports on the back (on the right side)?
No there is a single HDMI to the left of those connectors, its the thin single one at the bottom with a connector that looks like it has a small raise lip on each end.
 

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I'll go out on a limb here and bet that the HDMI port will work on this one before it ships. I guess Q2 this year it will be time to upgrade both my old series two units to HD.
 

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lee espinoza said:
By select, the company means owners who live in the PST or MT areas of the United States, as these regions will be the first to make the switch to MPEG-4 broadcasts. HD TiVo owners who live in other parts of the US can either wait a little longer for the same deal or purchase the HR20 for only $99 smackers.
http://gear.ign.com/articles/679/679224p1.html
Huh? MPEG 4 is already being tested in the midwest and east and D* previously said it would roll it out in the top 12 DMAs first. Most of those aren't in PST and certainly not MT. This sounds patently false...
 

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HiDefGator said:
I'll go out on a limb here and bet that the HDMI port will work on this one before it ships. I guess Q2 this year it will be time to upgrade both my old series two units to HD.
Do you have one of the new sets that use 1080p?
 

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No. I have a Samsung 50" DLP and a 32" LCD. And I can't see my wife letting me buy another HD TV just to get 1080p. But of course I will ask :)
 

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Kevdog said:
Huh? MPEG 4 is already being tested in the midwest and east and D* previously said it would roll it out in the top 12 DMAs first. Most of those aren't in PST and certainly not MT. This sounds patently false...
Hey they can promise anything on the floor at CES, just as long as it isn't announced by DirecTV in an offical announcement, most of those floor promises have turned out to be VAPORWARE.
 

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$99 for those with the HD TiVo in the somewhat East (and that makes no sense whatsoever), or $200 for "new" customers?

I assume that is supposed to mean $99 for us late adopters, really? If I had no been on this merry-go-round before, I would not think that was so bad.
 

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I was going to buy a hr10-250 but I will now wait. Only $200 to buy, count me in ASAP! Would be nice to get it before March Maddness......
 

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i'm not holding my breath... and let someone else pick up the first units late 2006 and have them work out the kinks. i'm sure i have till mid 07 before i MUST trade in my 10-250. and hopefully by than there will be hacks available too to increase the storage space :)
 

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flmgrip said:
i'm not holding my breath... and let someone else pick up the first units late 2006 and have them work out the kinks. i'm sure i have till mid 07 before i MUST trade in my 10-250. and hopefully by than there will be hacks available too to increase the storage space :)
At this point, hacks appear to be highly unlikely for the DirecTV DVRs. DirecTV is more worried about DRM than giving you something you can expand, so I would say be happy with the capacity they give you or don't buy a HR20.
 

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tbeckner said:
No there is a single HDMI to the left of those connectors, its the thin single one at the bottom with a connector that looks like it has a small raise lip on each end.
Look at this picture. The one on the top also looks like it could be an HDMI connector. Hard to tell really. Someone get this guy a tripod!! :)
 

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RightHere said:
Look at this picture. The one on the top also looks like it could be an HDMI connector. Hard to tell really. Someone get this guy a tripod!! :)
Actually the top one looks like another USB because it doesn't have the HDMI curled lips, like the one at the bottom, which is a HDMI.

The one at the bottom has the Ethernet and USB connector to the right and a S-Video to the left. There is NO doubt that it is the HDMI because of the raised lips on the bottom left and right. There is NO dount that the one on the top above and slightly to the right is not a HDMI connector, even with it being blurred.
 

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Yes, there is doubt. :)

To me it looks like the connector on the top could have the same shape as an HDMI connector (except compared to the other one, it's upside down).

But I think you might be right, since there are supposed to be two USB ports on the thing "for future expansion".

I'm sure they'll change the layout of the box before it ships, but hopefully someone can snap a better pic of the back of this thing to clear up the confusion.
 

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RightHere said:
Yes, there is doubt. :)

To me it looks like the connector on the top could have the same shape as an HDMI connector (except compared to the other one, it's upside down).

But I think you might be right, since there are supposed to be two USB ports on the thing "for future expansion".

I'm sure they'll change the layout of the box before it ships, but hopefully someone can snap a better pic of the back of this thing to clear up the confusion.
Actually it is not a HDMI, but is likely an eSATA connector. There is ZERO need for a second HDMI connector on any DVR, but there is a need for an eSATA connector, since the "HR20" will not have expandable recording/storage capacity without an eSATA connector. And the Series 3 SA TiVo has a Ethernet Connector, 2 USB Connectors, and an eSATA Connector for recording/storage capacity expansion. (eSATA is the external flavor of SATA (Serial ATA), which Seagate announced a 500GB (1/2 Terabyte) eSATA drive at CES.)
 

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tbeckner said:
And as noted, it will not be able to do the 1080p format that all of the new flat panel HD TV are starting to support.

Oh the pain of buying into HD so early.
As it's not likely that 1080p will make it to broadcast or sat for a very long time, if ever, does this really matter?
 

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Jolly1 said:
As it's not likely that 1080p will make it to broadcast or sat for a very long time, if ever, does this really matter?
Actually my real point of contention is that as soon as you buy into HD, they turn around and make what you have second best. I doubt that either of us have the real information on when 1080p will actually become a standard. Even though we are at the start of the MPEG4 era, I wonder how log it will be before MPEG4 is replaced, agreed that DirecTV will NOT likely dump their MPEG4 satellites anytime soon, just like they will not likely dump their MPEG2(not full MPEG2) satellites anytime soon either. But in a digital world, the 1080p standard will not take long to replace 1080i as a standard. Currently there is very little HD equipment that has been sold, although in the next few years that will likely change as the prices of LCD TV's should drop almost in half this next year and the Plasma TV's that people bought three years ago will start dying, but as a standard 1080p will replace 1080i very quickly and will be adopted in the broadcast standard just as fast. Take note, look at the specifications next Christmas and I doubt that you will find very many TV's that will not be able to support 1080p and broadcasters will be upgrading to meet that level of performance.

So, oh the pain of buying into HD early in the development cycle.
 
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