I have been waiting in expectation for some time now for the new HD channels to be added by DirecTV. I have been a subscriber since the service began in the last century. While they were one of the first satellite providers with high-definition channels, it had seemed that they were lagging behind DISH Network for the past year or so. DirecTV started lagging about the same time that the two satellite companies began migrating to MPEG4 from MPEG2. DirecTV is only now catching up.
Now, I waited until DirecTV officially began transmitting the new channels such as SciFi, A&E, USA and others in MPEG4 before I changed my equipment. To change, you need new set-top boxes and a 5-LNB dish so that you can properly receive broadcasts from various satellites. And, for the past few years, all DirecTV STBs came from DirecTV only. Previously, the major CE brands like RCA manufactured their own STBs. Some of these were quite sophisticated especially from companies like LG, who had their own R & D center in Korea for over-the-air HD and satellite HD tuners. LG's R & D center was an outgrowth of Zenith's high-definition research, who was one of the founders of the ATSC HD standard in the U. S. Other companies that produced quality set-top boxes were RCA and Samsung.
With my DirecTV upgrade, the last of my LG and Zenith HD STBs were placed in the dust bin as they only included MPEG2 decoders. And, sadly, I also had to retire my TiVo HD DVR from DirecTV. While initially I had issues with the DirecTV TiVo HD DVR because of audio problems, they were overcome as I migrated to HDMI completely for both audio and video signals. The TiVo HD DVR did not like optical audio output for whatever reason.
While I am happy to receiving additional HD programming, I am concerned about the quality and reliability of the new DirecTV STBs. When CE manufacturers were producing individual STBs with their own unique features, each company tried to maintain a high standard of reliability. Sadly, I can report that those days are over. I didn't have the DirecTV HD DVR " model HR20 for only a few weeks as it proved unreliable and had to be replaced. The box would get hung-up and need to be re-set constantly. While I had initially hoped to get their new HR21 HD DVR, it is still not shipping according to DirecTV customer service. Although, at C.E.D.I.A., I was told that the HR21 was available. It's a case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. In any case, the new DirecTV HD STBs are really stripped down version of boxes that came before from the CE manufacturers as key features have been eliminated in favor of keeping costs down.
On the other hand, I also have the new DISH STB ViP722 that increases recording time over the previous model and has added some new features such as Ethernet connectivity and the capability to download previously recorded material to hand-held portable devices. I am working on a full-blown review for publication later this month. While they don't have SciFi and some of the other HD channels that DirecTV has added yet. I suspect that they will be made available to viewers in the near future. DISH has had more HD programming than DirecTV for quite awhile including CineMax and STARZ, and, I suspect, that they will continue to do so in the coming months. I can also say that the DISH STBs are much easier to use, and don't have the technical issues that can be found on DirecTV.
So, stay tuned!