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The weaKnees R10 – R15 Comparison

At weaKnees, we’ve been getting endless questions about the new DIRECTV DVR Plus – the R15, and asking us to compare it to the TiVo-based DIRECTV DVR R10. The question generally boils down to: Which is better? In an attempt to give you the information necessary to answer that question yourself, we’ve written up a comparison of the units, with an emphasis on details of the new non-TiVo R15 since most of our readers and customers are somewhat (if not very) familiar with TiVo DVRs.

Read on for the full scoop, feature-by-feature comparisons, screenshots, physical comparisons, and our conclusions.


The R15 is DIRECTV’s newest DVR (they call it the DVR Plus) developed by a company called NDS. Previous DVRs that incorporate both DVR capabilities and the DIRECTV service ran on either the TiVo OS or the old UltimateTV OS (developed my Microsoft). UltimateTV units haven’t been made in years, and only two models were ever produced. There were about nine models of TiVo units produced for use with DIRECTV. The only DIRECTV DVR with TiVo that is currently in production is the high definition HR10-250. Of the remaining eight standard definition models, three were based on the first generation design, and five on the second generation platform, the latest being the R10, which, while reportedly out of production, is still available from some retailers. The DIRECTV DVR service, which is purchased through DIRECTV, continues to provide service to UltimateTV, TiVo and NDS-based DVRs.

NDS is a company partially owned by Rupert Murdoch (whose News Corp. purchased a controlling interest in DIRECTV). NDS is based in England (specifically Staines – Ali G’s home) and in Israel. NDS has made a few DVRs that are available abroad. Since Murdoch also owns much of DIRECTV, NDS started to develop DVRs for it. The R15 is the first NDS DVR to be available in the US. It is standard definition only, but rumors are swirling about an HR20-300, a high definition model.

The R15 is the successor to the R10 in DIRECTVs lineup. However it differs significantly, both physically and in its user-interface, from the R10. Since most of our customers and readers are very familiar with the TiVo interface, this review goes into a bit more detail on the R15 unit.

At WeaKnees, we are definitely TiVo OS partisans. While we continue to offer upgrades for UltimateTV, ReplayTV and Scientific Atlanta DVRs, we strongly feel that the TiVo platform is the best. So this review needs to be considered in that light.

We’ve covered a bunch of topics below, but omitted others. We’ll follow up to this review with more detail in a second piece on features like PayPerView and parental controls.

Interface

Menu Design

To TiVo users, the R10 and its TiVo brethren work in a very straightforward, top-down hierarchical manner. The top level is called “DIRECTV Central” (“TiVo Central” on standalone units without DIRECTV) and several categories appear below. These change occasionally with software updates, but the “Now Playing List” is always on top, and “Pick Programs to Record” and “Messages and Setup” are in there. The user can work their way down the levels by pressing select after highlighting a choice, and can move back up the hierarchy by using the left (or “back”) arrow.

The R15 interface strikes us as a bit more confusing. To begin with, the hierarchy isn’t clear. There are a few different top levels depending on what you are trying to accomplish. Moving down to specific functions is tedious. Often, you then need to navigate to the right side of the screen, then use the arrows to get to the tabs at the top, and highlight a different tab. The interface often moves you to a spot on the screen where it expects you want to be – probably the location of the next most likely action. But it’s inconsistent, and you can’t guess where you’ll be when you move between screens.

The interface on the R15 generally tries to show you what you are watching while you are using the menus, and it does this in one of two ways, depending on the complexity of the menus. If the menu is short, it will be overlaid on the lower-left portion of the program in progress. If the menu is more complex, then the current program zooms to the top-right corner and the menu fills the rest of the screen opaquely. So you can almost always continue watching the current program. The R10, by contrast, only overlays the guide and some current program information over the screen, and when you are looking at anything other than the on-screen guide, the R10 completely omits any outside video.

Live TV Buffer

All DIRECTV DVRs including the old UltimateTVs and the early TiVos have two inputs for satellite signal. They weren’t always usable on TiVos, but over the years through software downloads, DIRECTV has enabled them on all units. The R15 also has two inputs.

Dual inputs means that you can record two simultaneous shows at once, or that you can record one show and watch live TV on a different channel. Or that you can even record two shows, and watch a third, pre-recorded show at the same time.

Both the R10 and the R15 will automatically, constantly buffer live TV. So whatever you are watching will be kept by the DVR, enabling the user to rewind and pause live TV. The differences are that the R10 has a 30 minute buffer, while the R15 has a 90 minute buffer. Additionally, when you pause live TV on the R15, it will buffer for up to 4 hours while the R10 will still only buffer 30 minutes of video. But the other big difference swings in favor of the R10. If you switch tuners (more on this next) the TiVo will keep the 30 minute buffer of each tuner, where the R15 disposes of the buffer and starts a new one.

On the R10, you can pause a show on one tuner, press the Live TV button to switch to the other tuner, and watch there (and that show will have a 30 minute buffer). When you swap back, you’re first program is still paused, and has its buffer. Try that on the R15 and you’ll find it un-paused, and without a buffer. You can get around this on the R15 by recording the show before switching, but it’s an extra step, and then you’d need to delete it later.

DIRECTV is reportedly working on a software update that will enable the R15 to buffer on both tuners, but for now, this drawback persists in the R15.

List of Recordings: Now Playing and myVOD

Maybe not exactly a study in contrasts here, but these machines are pretty different in this regard. Both, of course, accomplish the task at hand: present a list of recorded shows and allow the user to watch. The R15 shows you a screen called ‘myVOD’ – for Video On Demand. It’s rich with detail and even has a small window showing the live program you were watching. The R10 calls its list ‘Now Playing’ and the screen is spare and large.

Here’s a screenshot of myVOD on the R15:

r15_myvod.jpg

It shows six recorded shows and/or folders of shows. It shows when they were recorded (time and date) and the channel (number and call letters). There is a key to the four colored, generic buttons on the remote (the uses change from screen to screen). The screen also shows the current time and date, access to Showcases, and, as mentioned before, a window onto the channel you were watching – in this case, a news mix. But the biggest departure from the R10 (and from any TiVo) is the ‘Disk Space’ bar showing space available. TiVo DVRs have never had this, and it’s a constant source of complaints and complicated (but reasonable) explanations about compression. Well, the R15 has it, but, due to the difficulties in making this an accurate expression of available space, the unit still only tells you how much space is available percentage-wise – it doesn’t commit to a number of hours that you could record. But it’s a step in the right direction.

Here’s the R10’s Now Playing List:

r10_now_playing.jpg

There’s simplicity and power here. First, since you’re here to see what’s recorded, you get it – eight shows appear here instead of six on the R15. You get the day and date of each recording (but not the time – we’re not sure we’ve ever missed that) and, not in this screenshot but generally, the channel logo. The icon to the left of the show name tells you if it’s a folder, or what its status is: saved forever, soon to be deleted, etc. Pressing ‘Select’ on the remote gives you the show detail that the R15 shows on this first screen, and you can then page down show to show to see the detail and take other actions.

The comparison of these two layouts is a pretty good example of the larger differences here in interface design. The R10 takes simplicity and usability as its lead, while the R15 uses information as its top priority. Do you need to be watching live TV in this list? That’s probably a personal preference – some might find it distracting and others appreciate the extra input. Of course, this is a DVR, so if you want to get back to live TV and find what you missed, it’ll be there.

The Guides

Pressing the ‘Guide’ button on the R10 remote brings up – surprise – a TV guide. But not on the R15. You get a categorical list of options, and you have to choose among those to get to the real guide. The resulting guide is a bit smaller than that on the R10. It shows six channels, and three half-hour segments of each. For the R10, this comparison will refer to the “Grid Style” guide which seems to be the most popular, but it should be noted that a “List Style” option exists also and some prefer it. The R10’s guide shows eight channels at once.

Navigating forward and back time-wise, and up and down channel-wise is fairly confusing on the R15. We seemed to often jump twelve hours instead of one screen-worth – or one and a half hours. And, since you get six channels, we found that we did more navigating than on the R10. The two extra lines may not seem like much, but they make for a third more information and, therefore, less scrolling.

Interestingly, this is one of the few screens where the R10 overlays the menu on the live video. For the R15, the live video zooms to the corner. Just as the R10 has its alternate guide style, the R15 has a ‘Mini Guide’ that overlays future programming information for one channel on the live TV screen.

Beyond the cosmetic differences, and the amount of information, the data is identical, since it all originates from the same satellite signal. The screenshots here (R10 first) show the same program selected so that you can get an idea of the differences in look and feel.

r10_guide.jpg

 

r15_guide.jpg

Recording All Episodes – Season Pass versus Series Link

What TiVo refers to as a Season Pass, DIRECTV now calls a Series Link. Options include recording and keeping multiple episodes, choosing to record first run and/or repeats, and overshooting the record start and stop times. When using the R15, you can easily choose to record a show you are watching, but Series Link options are only available from within the Guide. Conveniently, with the R15, you can select to record a single episode or all episodes with one or two presses of the record button, but again, only from within the Guide. The Series Link, in this case, is set to your default preferences for episodic recording. More options for recording upcoming episodes are available in the separate Series Link menu – but try to find it. It’s pretty well hidden. We can only assume this will change with a software update.

So pressing the Record button twice will set a Series Link for a show that is part of a series. What happens if you press twice on a movie or other one-time show? You cancel the recording. On an episodic show, you press three times to cancel (record, get a series link, cancel). Pretty confusing – especially given the minor feedback here. If you aren’t sure if you’ve pressed twice and you hit Record again to be sure – well, you’ve just cancelled even this episode.

The guide on the R15 will indicate when a show has been set with a Series Link – this seems like a nice feature, and it’s a feature that the R10 lacks, but we’re guessing that most people know when have a Season Pass on a TiVo, so this omission isn’t obvious on the R10. As far as digging deeper into the recording options on these DVRs to adjust what shows are recorded (number, repeats, etc.), the R10 is much more straightforward. This can be done while watching an episode of the show (live or recorded) or from the Season Pass Manager on the R10 – which is a blessing to use after working with the R15.

In general, the R15 provides a healthy number of options for recording, but programming the unit will seem cumbersome at first, especially if you are accustomed to programming a TiVo.

TiVo Suggestions – Thumbs Ratings

This is a feature that only exists on the R10. Many TiVo users turn the feature off and never use it; others find it vital. Essentially, by parsing your recording and viewing history and your thumbs-up and thumbs-down ratings, the TiVo will find similar programs that it determines you might like. You can view these as a list, or set them to auto-record. The R15 has no comparable feature.

R15 Advanced Features

So what does the R15 have that the R10 doesn’t? For one, information channels that display horoscopes, weather reports, and lottery numbers. Maybe useful, and maybe just a harbinger of more information to come, but for anyone with either a newspaper or an internet connection, pretty redundant. Still, features.

Horoscopes:

r15_horoscope.jpg

Mix Channels

But the real advanced feature that the R15 has that’s actually useful is the multichannel feature. DIRECTV broadcasts ‘mix’ channels which display six streams of the same theme on the screen at once, and allow the user to watch them all and select one to make it a full-size window. For a sports fan, or during a breaking news event, this can be a pretty handy feature – it’s like picture-in-picture, times three. There’s even a kids selection, which might be good for kids who are too young to read the guide.

r15_mix_kids.jpg

 

r15_mix_sports.jpg

Caller ID

Well, it’s finally here – but maybe it’s too late. Caller ID has been a feature that DVR users have been requesting for years. It makes good sense and it’s a perfect fit for a DVR. Here’s a computer connected to your phone line with a video display. Further, when the phone rings while you are watching – that’s exactly when you want on-screen Caller ID. And the R15 has it. The R10 doesn’t – older TiVos could be hacked to create this feature, but that’s a pretty large amount of work (and, if you are looking for a DVR for hacking, really neither of these machines is right – you’d be better off with an older DVR).

But this feature arrives in a time when people have multiple phone lines at home (the R15 will only connect to one) and cell phones are taking the lead – and the R15 won’t show the Caller ID from that either. Finally, as discussed below, you may not even choose to connect your R15 to a phone line. But, clearly, this is a feature which many will use and appreciate.

Playback Options

Navigating within a show is probably familiar to most users and is similar between units. To move forward or back, a timeline appears on the bottom of the screen and marks your current position.

The R15 allows for four speeds when scanning both forward and backward, but there’s no reaction time compensation (this is, on TiVo DVRs, how the unit will adjust for your reaction time when stopping a fast-forward or reverse – so if you are fast forwarding at high speed and then stop, the DVR will automatically begin playing a few seconds before the point where you stopped fast-forwarding to compensate).

You can move frame by frame while in pause mode (with the fast forward button), and holding down the ‘Play’ button switches playback to slow-motion. Also, the R15 has a ‘Bookmark’ feature. The R15 allows you to set tabs at favorite spots within a show for easy finding at a later point. If you want to refer to a funny scene in a movie or a clip of yourself in the stands at a sports event, you set a mark, and you can navigate back to it easily.

If you leave a show mid-way through playback, the unit will begin playback at that same location by default (as on every other DVR we’ve used). Instant replay is available with the touch of a button, but two key features are absent. Unlike the R10, the R15 doesn’t allow you to move through a recording quickly by jumping from predesignated tickmarks. The R15 also has no provision for skipping in 30-second increments. (We all know what that’s for.) It’s nice that they’ve made an innovation here, but the omissions will be more noticeable.

Most of these features are the same on the R10 (three forward and reverse speeds instead of four) but the R10 doesn’t have bookmarks. We’re not sure how useful that will prove to be – we think the skip-to-tick and 30 second skip will get more use on the R10. And, of course, the reaction time compensation is pretty elemental to any of these units – it may be that the engineers of the R15 didn’t want to be seen copying this feature from the TiVo world, or maybe they hadn’t used DVRs enough to understand its importance.

Remote

Remotes may be the most personal and psychologically important component of your entire audio/video system. They are your direct interface, and if they are designed well, they almost cease to exist because they are so effortless. And once you learn one remote well, it’s like learning to type on a QWERTY keyboard – you rarely even look at it or consider that there may be another way.

The TiVo remote has won awards for its innovative deisgn, and while there are some who disagree, most find it intuitive and easy to use. The New York Times even wrote an article on the remote specifically. It fits nicely in your hand, and the most-used buttons are in the easiest places to reach. It’s identifiable (called the “Peanut remote”) and even in its few revisions, the essentials don’t change. Even the universal remotes made for DVRs (we like the Harmony 880) echo the design of this remote.

By stark contrast, the DIRECTV RC23 (like the similar RC16 and RC24) is itself a universal remote meant to be backward compatible with literally all previous hardware that was ever sold or supported by DIRECTV. It’s a jack-of-all-trades remote – with the usual caveat: master of none. It weighs more, it’s less comfortable in the hand and – who thought of this? – it’s white. White? For something that hands touch constantly? We’ve never even seen a white remote before – it’s a major dirt collector.

But the real problem with this remote is that it’s not DVR specific – not even close. It has 45 buttons (compared to 34 on most TiVo Peanuts) and they’re small and cluttered, with larger open spaces making the layout generally inefficient. Included are four colored buttons which change function depending on the current menu. These are included to cover the bases when this remote is used with other equipment also. It’s a shame that DIRECTV didn’t make a specific remote for this unit.

Phone Line

If we had a nickel for every time someone asked if they could connect their DIRECTV TiVo over an internet connection . . . Sadly, neither the R10 nor the R15 will use a broadband connection still – even though both have USB ports. Both like the plain old phone line. But do they need it?

The R10 needs at least one dial-in to be able to work as a DVR. Until it dials-in, all DVR functions are disabled. But after the one dial in, the unit works fine, even if it is disconnected from the phone line. If the R10 has not dialed in for a month, it will remind you of that fact once a day, but that reminder is easily dismissed with one click on the remote. Many DIRECTV TiVo users haven’t had their units dial-in for years. So what don’t you get if you don’t dial in? You have a limit on how much PayPerView can be ordered through the unit (PPV can still be ordered from another unit on the account, or by phone, or online, and the unit in question will receive it). And OS updates won’t install without the occasional dial-in. But, otherwise, the unit will still operate and get guide data, and Season Passes and all normal functions will work.

The R15 claims in its promotional material to require a phone line also. But, in actuality, we didn’t need to dial ours in to set it up and begin recording. It was also able to download guide data and OS updates and install them – all without phone line access. It may be that after a certain amount of time, it requires a phone connection, but ours hasn’t and it has been up for almost a month.

System test – SAT test

Hands down, the winner here is the R15. The level and detail of the satellite testing is better, and instead of forcing the user to move through transponders (as the R10 and all DIRECTV TiVos do) the R15 tests them all and shows you the results on one screen.

The R10:

r10_sat.jpg

The R15:

r15_sat.jpg

 

r15_sat2.jpg

Of course, the R10 certainly conveys the core information: does each tuner work? If one of the satellite inputs is bad, it’s pretty obvious. But troubleshooting the rarer situations would be easier on the R15. Is there a splitter installed instead of a multiswitch? It should be obvious on the R15 test screen.

Upgradability

weaKnees is pretty focused on storage space, so we think it’s important to keep in mind that the R10 ships with 70 hours of space in its stock configuration, and, the R15 gives you 100. But that’s as far as it goes. The R10 can get much larger – up to 900 hours of space with larger drives.

Conclusions

The inevitable comparison that keeps coming back to mind is the iPod versus the generic MP3 player. At heart, the main function is the same, and while in that state – listening to music on those, or watching a program on these DVRs – the equipment doesn’t really matter. But it’s the other times – the navigating, recording, configuring – where the differences appear. And in those areas, the TiVo OS, maybe due to its maturity, or just to better design, truly shines. The interface is uncluttered, efficient, effective, and intuitive. The R15 gets the job done, but with more steps along the way, more thinking, less automatic movements.

Physical Information

Unit R10 R15
Connections Grounded Power Outlet

RJ-11 Phone Line

2 Satellite inputs

RF in (pass-through)

RF out

Serial

S-video

2 Composite Video outs

2 Left-Right Audio outs

2 USB ports (inactive)

Digital Optical Audio (Toslink)

Grounded Power Outlet

RJ-11 Phone Line

2 Satellite inputs

Off-Air in

RF out

S-video

2 Composite Video outs

2 Left-Right Audio outs

1 USB port (inactive) (back)

1 USB port (inactive) (front)

Digital Optical Audio (Toslink)

RF Remote Antenna (inactive)

Buttons DirecTV

Standby

Info

Guide

Live TV

Select

Four-way arrows

Power

Guide

Menu

Rec[ord]

Active

Info

Select

Four-way arrows

Capacity Variable, up to 70 hours (upgradeable) (80 GB drive) Variable, up to 100 hours (160 GB drive)
Size 15″ x 12.5″ x 3.25″ 15″ x 11.75″ x 3″
Remote TiVo Peanut w/ SAT-TV Switch Generic DirecTV RC23
Included Items Remote, manual, power cable, composite A/V cable, phone cable, two AA batteries, DTV access card Remote, manual, power cable, composite A/V cable, phone cable, two AA batteries, DTV access card
Warranty 1 year parts / 90 days labor 90 days parts and labor

53 replies on “The weaKnees R10 – R15 Comparison”

Thanks for the review. It was truly outstanding. I just received an R15 for Christmas. I hooked it up the next, day and returned it to the store the day after that. Not having two tuners to watch and pause is like losing one of your twins in sickening accident. This might be OK for a new DVR user, but as someone who has had TIVO it is impossible to live without. Even when recording on both tuners(on the R15) you cannot pause and flip back and forth with it holding your spot. I returned mine and bought the floor model R10. The R10 has been discontinued so the one I got had no cords (not even the power cord) no remote and no access card. I had to call Directtv and order replacments. The R15 is so bad that I would rather pay the same price for a beat-up floor model R10 than a brand new R15.

Bah! Floor models? Should have bought it on Weaknees!

As for the R15, you’re review summed up my experiences completely. Its a pretty useless device, one in which I can’t fathom why it costs a dollar more for the service. My main tivo died two days ago, so I moved this device (which I bought to test and use in my bedroom as a place to stick some talk shows to watch in bed) as the primary DVR. OMG it blows. The lack of using and buffering both tuners just ruined my football sunday.

A couple of other issues I’ve had. When hooked up to one tuner, I tried taping the Colbert Report and letterman the same night (letterman higher). Colbert started taping for five minutes, then it switched to the late show. It never tried to tape colbert again. Its ridiculous.

Second, its season pass feature should be seen as a Season Suggestion. It will just decide that some days, it doesn’t have to tape what you selected (for me, all episodes of Who’s line on 311. It taped sunday, monday, one on tuesday, skipped wednesday and thursday completely).

I’m buying a new R10 today online. I can’t be doing this.

Makes me wonder if NDS and DirecTV really understand how people watch TV, or use their DVRs, or what.

With regards to wishlists, fair to middling. They have a “Find by…” menu option, which lets you search on title, character, keyword, or channel. However, the title search looks for a specific title in the guide, so you can’t save the search if the title doesn’t appear in the guide.

Worst part of the “Find By…”, to me at least, is that it searches ALL CHANNELS, not your current channel group (Favorites, they call it). So a search for POIROT not only showed Bigraphy channel showings, but airings on HBO and Encore (even though I don’t subscribe to either).

Side note: There’s no way to take channels out of the All channels list, so it has selected all the channels that I could potentially get (including all PPV, HBO, SHO, etc). So the only way to limit what is shown in the guide is to create your own set. With the Tivo, you can specify which channels “You Receive” (and even exclude the ones you don’t care about, like the shopping channels and E!), plus set up a “Favorite Channels” section.

Keyword searches seem to work, as best as I can tell, with the ability to sub-categorize the results, if you want (movies, sports, etc). Actor searches searches like Tivo, off a list of actors.

BTW, when performing a keyword search, I selected “All” as the category, and the thing just sat there for a minute, like it was hung. Turned out it was searching, but they decided it wasn’t worth the effort to say “Please wait…” or “Searching…”.

There’s no category search (so no search on “Movies/Mystery”.

The menu has an item named “Recent Finds” (or something like that), which lists your previous searches, but I can’t tell whether this is just ‘recent’ searches, or will it remember all searches (naming is everything). You can select an item you searched for to see if it comes up with something this time.

You can set a search to autorecord (didn’t test it specifically), however, if you don’t do this when you first perform the Find, you apparently can’t go back and tell it to autorecord later, even if you re-run the find (you have to re-enter it completely to be able to autorecord.

As far as the Channels list, I’ve noticed this same issue on the D10s and D11s: you can’t have the unit automatically determine which channels you receive and then limit its guide (or searches) to that list. You have to do this manually with Favorite channels.

Frankly, it’s pretty smart from DirecTV’s perspective right? Show everyone what they’re missing – maybe they’ll want to buy it.

I am a DirecTV subscriber and am considering getting a DVR. I use a Whole House RF Remote Control. Is such a control available on the R10 or R15?

Thanks

Thanks for the excellent comparison review and comments. The r15 is my first dvr and I think it stinks. I wasn’t sure if I should expect more from a dvr (apparently I should). I’ll definitely buy an r10 on weaknees tonight.

Is the R15 as slow in channel guide navigation as the Tivo versions? I recently picked up an HR10-250 for HD recording, and navigating that sucker is like wading through molassas compared to my (SD) ReplaTVs.

Nice to have information like this available. I’m new to DVR with the R15 unit, so I’m not trained to know better from previous experience or Tivo. Although disappointed to read that the R15 is debuting so poorly, it represents the future direction of DTV DVR so I’ll be patient. Word-of-mouth information of disappointment will hopefully pressure improvements and upgrades by DTV near-term.

I was getting ready to buy a new dvr since my current one that i have had since 2002 is going out and read this comparison. im glad i did before i bought the r15 that i was looking at.
after reading this i went out and bought the last r10 that i could find locally. thanks for the info

Thanks for the great review. Now only if I would have read it BEFORE DTV sent me the r15. I have had my r10 for the past couple years. I got the new r15 for my bedroom. I thought great, a new upgraded DVR it will be nice. But, within 5 minutes of using it I felt like I was cheated. After trying to deal with the new unit I gave up when it decided to not record shows or refuse to set up “Series link” for shows correctly. I bought a r10 and am sending the r15 back to where it came from. I hope that DTV gets their act together and comes up with a better version because I don’t see the DVR Plus is more like a minus.

Yes the R15 is cumbersome. Yes it only has a 100 hr HD (to Weaknees: is an upgrade kit on the horizon? Can the unit take a second HD?) But the 90″ buffering is much appreciated (saved me on a football game recently), the dual tuner buffer issue hopefully will be resolved, as will the inconsistencies in the software interface. Obviously it’s software “brain” is a baby compared to the adult Tivo but that can change. And DirecTV will always support them both. But the Tivo is definitely more user friendly to the rookie user, my wife would hate the R15!!

I have an R15 and it hangs when I back up the full 90 minutes and start watching. After about 10 minutes it stops and I gat a “Keep” or “Dont Keep” option window. There is no way to override the window. No matter which option I press, the buffer is cleared and I lose the entire 90 minutes. Is anyone else having this problem?

I just bought an R10 and it seems the only way to find future showings is to search by title by typing in the first few letters of the show. DirecTv tech support tells me the R15 like the regular reciever you can just hit the info button in the guide and find the future showings. Anyone find a shortcut for this in the R10????

I’m new to the DVR era. I purchased an R15 and the users manual is simply the pits. It tells you what the R15 is capable of doing, but as far as giving complete directions as how to perform a request is not included. Exp: I found a HISTORY file that has no explaination at all in the manual nor how to use or delete it. Will it continue to use up disk space? There’s no listing in the index for RECORD, DELETE, CANCEL etc. You have to keep thumbing thru the manual. Simply terrible. I selected setup language as ENGLISH but the FIND BY includes shows with SPANISH names.

I also waited (too long) to enter the DVR era. With nothing for comparison, I found that once I got used to the R15 interface, I am able to get around pretty well. [But I am a geek, so factor that in.]

My main complaints would be the lack of compensation for reaction time when coming out of “hyper-speed” [FF Level 4 >>]. I have also experienced strange behavior trying to get CSI to record. I have a Series Link set for the CBS and Spike (reruns), but the CBS (new shows) definition doesn’t seem to stick. I find myself verifying that it will actually record each Thursday, and having to do it manually for the past few weeks.

After seeing the screenshots here, I like the R15 interface look-and-feel better overall, and (my family, who are trying to actually watch the show and not the channel-browsing/surfing) appreciates the PIP of the current channel. 😉

I do get miffed at the switching between inputs, but if I hit the “Record” button once before leaving the current show, I can change channels without losing the show.

What I would really like to see for future upgrade is:
1) Enable USB for external HDD to increase capacity.
2) Enable USB for keyboard to type in search terms (OK, wouldn’t use this much, but would still be cool).
3) Enable automatic buffering on each tuner (but this presents a problem if you are surfing and not just switching — which two shows do you keep, most recent two? — seems that hitting the Record button intentionally removes the ambiguity)
4) Improve response time on user interface, and compensate for dropping out of various FF speeds.
5) Enable skip-forward button to do the 30-second thing.
6) This comment is too long already!

my complaint is that if i decide to record a movie I’ve already watched I have to watch it again to record it, how about one of the two outputs come from the now playing list DUH!!!

“At WeaKnees, we are definitely TiVo OS partisans. While we continue to offer upgrades for UltimateTV, ReplayTV and Scientific Atlanta DVRs, we strongly feel that the TiVo platform is the best.”

Sorry, guys, but I must disagree… EVERYONE I know who has been an actual user of both ReplayTV and TiVo prefers Replay’s OS (at least for single tuner units). But I would still come back to you in a minute (you swapped a large drive into my Panasonic unit) for any purchase, service or repair issues..Thanks!

Patrick

We have a DVR15 and the caller id worked for the first 2 months and then it just quit. We’ve tried resetting it, unplugging it and everything…it still doesn’t work. Any one else had this problem?

My older RCA DirecTiVo bit the dust, and DirecTV sent me an R15 as a replacement. Not only was I cursing the interface constantly, it seemed to hang at various times and require a reset. Everything your review (and the other posters) described were things I ran into and found very irritating. To top it off, it refused to power up two days later. The DirecTV support folks were clearly embarrassed by this. I have no intention of getting a replacement from them because it’ll likely be another R15. I ordered a WeaKnees TiVo instead 🙂

Yes I “tried” the R15 for just over a week due to one of my 3 DirecTivos biting the dust. The thing was a piece of junk. I raised #%@%[email protected], and after a week they finally allowed me to return the unit BUT said they only can send another that the Tivo units wont be compatable much longer so that I NEED this newer unit.

I ordered an DSR7000 from weaknees. Its a shame that DirecTv has to have full control of there customers. I have truely enjoyed my DTivo’s and there simple menus and EASE of use. IF they ever force the use of there DVR I will switch to Dish or get cable they can KEEP there dvr, What a Joke!!

Its only a matter of time before they shove there R15 down there customers throat and stop supporting the DirecTivos all together. That will be a good time to get Dish or Cable!

One thing the review did not mention, nor any of the comments I believe, is the seamless operation of rewind, skip and replay funcions.

Because of a R10 unit failure after 9 months, I got a R15 replacement, so now I have one of each (thanks DirecTV).

In my experience the R10 is far superior to the R15 in the aspect of real-time jumping around. with the R10 it is seamless to hit Rewind, Fast Forward, the 8 second Replay, Pause, etc. In the R15 unit when I hit Replay for example it takes a second and even goes black sometimes before resuming playing 8 seconds earlier. It does perform the function correctly, but its not instant. The R10 was seemingly instantaneous with all such operations.

That combined with the other annoyances as mentioned in the review (the R15 is more difficult to navigate and control basically, and the ability to switch tuners without resetting the buffer) makes me a die hard R10 fan.

I truly hope DirecTV does not force going to the R15 at some point by not supporting Tivo based units.

There are a few R15 features I like (like Caller ID), but none that I cannot live without .

I’ve had my DirecTV R15 for three weeks after my R10 died and it is awful. The most unforgivable aspect of the R15 is that it does not record programs in a logical and consistent manner. The “series link” option neglects to record new episdoes of shows for no explicable reason, causing me to have to surf the guide every day to make sure it’s not skipping something important like a new episode of “Lost”; if you have the “record new episodes only” option selected not only does it not always recognize and record new episodes, it also at times re-records a previously broadcast episode if you’ve since deleted it from your play list (e.g. an episode of the Sopranos airing on an HBO channel sometime after an original airing on the main HBO channel within the same week). Also, if you are trying to get a “series link” to a show that is in repeats (and tell the system to record “all” or “just repeats”) sometimes it lets you set up the series link, and sometimes not. I tried unsuccessfully to set up a series link for “A Different World” that was airing in repeats. However, the show was being shown 4x a day, with the first two airings being the same episodes that they aired in the afternoon on the previous day. My old R10 would record the two new repeats, and would not record the two old repeats from the previous day (because it understood that the episodes had been previously aired and recorded within the last 30 days) and, of course, the R10 would record the show automatically pursuant to a season pass. Apparently, this is all too complicated for the R15 because it won’t accept a “series link” for this show at all; every damn day I have to manually set each episode to record…

And if it’s not bad enough that the R15 undermines the very peace of mind that I expect a DVR to provide, I found another recording quirk tonight to my chagrin: I had two shows scheduled to tape at 9 pm and 2 shows scheduled to tape at 10 pm. I happened to be watching one of the 9 pm shows at about a 10 minute delay. At 9:55 pm, the R15 interrupted my playback (ten minutes behind live TV) and asked me if I wanted to change the channel or stop recording. I must have had a brainlock because I didn’t expect the R15 to want to change the channel before 10 pm. When I selected “change the channel” (because, of course, I didn’t want to cancel the 10 pm recording — and it was only 9:55) IT CHANGED THE CHANNEL IMMEDIATELY, losing the last five minutes of the very engrossing show I was watching — and it didn’t start recording on the new channel until 10 pm…

Even if I would ignore (and I had planned to ignore) the annoyingly unintuitive interface and remote which causes a big problem when you are responsible for bringing elderly non technically-savvy members of the household up to speed after the ease of the TiVo interface (I had to read the user’s manual for crissakes just to figure out basic unit operation), the poor recording logic that drives the software is too egregious to be tolerated. For three weeks I’ve actually had to worry that my shows would not record — which is completely unacceptable in this day and age and when I pay so much money for my TV system.

I wasn’t sure that TiVo would survive the changes on the horizon but as I send my R15s back to DirecTV and order my new R10s from WeaKnees, I shall also place an order for some TiVo stock.

I’m thinking that I’d like to buy an R10 and stop using my R15 altogether. As far as dealing with Directv is concerned, can I make the switch easily or is it a hassle? What is required in switching? Do I just call Directv and tell them I am switching to a different box?

There is no way I’ll up(or down)grade to a R15 because it doesn’t have the 30 sec skip. I love this feature and don’t want to live without. Especially considering the R15 doesn’t have the compensation for the fast forward. The only thing I read about the R15 that I liked was the Caller ID and 90 min buffer. Oh, and not being able to add another hard drive is a big negative too. The sizes of the boxes look about the same so it must be a software issue?

Btw, for the person that ask the USB are for NOTHING! I wish I could connect it to my computer so I can save a digital copy of what I want to put on DVD but instead I have to copy to DVD with a analog signal. What a waste.

Dtv anounced today a 3 year deal with tivo. It means they will continue to support the tivo H10-250s for 3 more years. By the end of that time they may have fixed most of the bugs on their dvr. Or I can get the nfl sunday ticket from dish.

Nice Review…it explains a lot. One thing that isn’t addresed here that I’m curious if anyone as info on:
High Def DVR with HD Local channels capability. Accoring to DirecTV the current HDTiVo boxes can not record in HD from the recently launched satelites which carry HD locals for certain viewing areas (Philadelphia in my case). This is supposed to be accomodated by the future HR20-300 models which I was told are due this summer. Does anyone know of plans for a HD TiVo box that will be compatible with the new format? I love the TiVo software and don’t want to lose it (especially after reading some of the comments here) but I’m really anxious to see some of my favorite shows in HD without the hassle of an extra over the air antenna.

The DIRECTV DVR Plus – R15, is a piece of crap. Its user interface is unintuitive and slow to respond to the remote, locks up easily and needs to be reset often when it gets confused and won’t respond to the remote or the buttons on the front panel. It will display the recording light on a program I did not chose to record. When I go to List to view a recorded program, it will sometimes show a blank screen and then ask me if I wish to delete this program as if I had just watched it. It will also refuse to change the channel. I had to refrain myself from totally destroying this useless box.

I got my R15 installed on Friday. I found after getting it I was losing the 30 second skip feature which I constantly use on my R10. I called tech support at DirecTV and asked them how to program the R15 to do this. They admitted they couldn’t. I raised such a stink that they are sending me a R10 to replace the R15 in two business days. They cited the advantage of the R15 of not needing a phone line connected.

I just got my R15. The forward skip button works – although not skipping 30 seconds, but rather fast forwarding 30 seconds. Each successive press counts up in the playstrip on the right hand side – press it six times to jump forward three minutes. I like the way it works.

The software has been updated to buffer both tuners.

It does really need reaction time compensation – especially at the blazing and huge jumps with no frames displayed 4X speed.

The unit was not hooked up to a phone at set up and never has been.

At odds with logic and horrifyingly hard on your sanity is the issue someone else brought up – the unit will ask to change the tuner channel about seven minutes before a show needs to be recorded on another channel. The issue is, in a logic-defying manner, answering yes changes to the channel immediately, while no cancels the upcoming recording. If you want to finish watching the show you are currently viewing, you either watch it with the dialog blocking a large area of the screen and select yes when you’re done watching your show, or say no, finish watching, and quickly reschedule when your show is done. Worse – if you’re watching a previously recorded program, the unit still asks to change the tuner channel… what??? Like I care what the tuner is tuned to, I’m watching a recording. Worse than worse – answering yes stops the recorded playback and dumps you to the tuner!!!!!

Let’s say show A is one hour long and started recording at 5,00 p.m. Show B is one-half hour long, and started recording at 5,00 p.m. Show C is one half hour long, set to record at 5,30 p.m., on a different channel than show B. I am taking advantage of the much touted ability to watch a third recorded show during this period. At 5,23 p.m., I am subjected to a dialog asking to change the tuner to the channel for recording show C. Well, of course, because I wanted to record show C (and why do I care what the channel the tuner is on? I’m watching a recording!). Whoops, since it wants to change channels immediately, before show B is over and done recording, I get a dialogue stating show B is recording, and since it is now trying to change the tuned (and recording B show) channel, do I want to continue recording show B, stop and keep, or stop and delete. What the? Did the people who wrote the software try using the thing?? Why does it need to change channels nearly 10 minutes early? Why is the recording I’m viewing stopped and I’m dumped onto the channel I’m going to record?

These are questions I will pose to the DirecTV people. Not that I expect much of an answer even if I get one…

Other than these glaring problems, I’m very happy with the unit. The software needs a generous amount of love though before it reaches the baseline expectations of DVR functionality.

I am fighting it out with DTV as we speak. I’m on my 2nd R15 and I’m done. They either refund my purchase or I’m pulling everything and switching vendors. I have every bug that every one of you have mentioned, plus a few others.

Just an update. I have just threatened DirecTV with the possibility of launching a web-based effort at a class action lawsuit if they do not do something (either refund or replace with a working unit that is not an R15). I’m still on hold. This is a defective product line, guys.

I’ve had the same experience with the R15:
Gradual degradation in ability to process playback related commands. Missed recordings. Finally it just stopped working. Menu navigation and guide still worked, but no shows would play. Not even recorded ones. Just a black screen.

After seeing the horror show of the Comcast DVR, I dusted off my old R10 (damaged in a move) peeled the cover off, made a couple of exceedingly amateur repairs, and now I’m back with Tivo (and a new weaknees drive).

I’ll follow Tivo wherever they go from now on. There’s nothing else out there besides misery and pain.

when the ice on the lake up here in the frozen tundra is thick enough we drive out on the lake, dril holes and fish through them. the R15 is perfect for finding out the depth of the water. just hold the plug and let ‘er drop to the bottom. now you know where to set your bait.

Just found out about WeaKnees from the R15 forum on DBSTalk.com, where I’ve been struggling for three months to troubleshoot my R15. I wanted to share my misery with you…

After downloading a software update, the R15 developed problems which made it progressively more unusable. Pulling the plug would cure these problems for a while, but these working intervals became shorter and shorter. It finally locked up so I couldn’t change channels or play back recordings, and would also stop recording in the middle of a program.

DirecTV’s help desk was useless. They offered no suggestions and extolled the virtues of the R15 to me – it is “popular and reliable.” So much for that…

I had a technician come look at the unit, but it performed flawlessly for him so he wouldn’t replace it. After he left, it failed again. The tech ordered a new unit, which took a week to arrive.

While waiting, I tried the dreaded “Reset All.” That cured most of the problems, but also wiped my hard drive clean of all recordings and destroyed all my settings and series links. When the new unit arrived, I refused it. Why take a chance on another unit when this one is working moderately well?

This unit will still lock up when searching for programs, and has a few annoying malfunctions which may get fixed with a future software update.

Why am I sticking with DirecTV? If the R15 software isn’t fixed by the time my trial subscription expires in July and the rates go up, it’s back to Time Warner Cable for me! Or I may keep the DirecTV service and re-employ an older but reliable technology: a VCR.

I’m not sure what R15 you are looking at, I just bought one and I think it’s great, and YES it does have an HDTV out from the Box, My Direct TV signal was always very Good,Nice crisp and Clean but the HD channels are awesome not a spec of Pixalation, and I don’t find it difficult To use or navigate never mind the affordability of this unit and you can also change the Hard drive for longer hours of recording, It does not take a brain Surgeon.

I posted the following on PVRblog.com on 27 May 06:

I have a been messing with TIVO, Adelphia and now the R15 (with DirecTV). I’ve figured out season pass (hit record 2x) and 30 sec fast forward (->|). Have 3 things on my wish list, 1) weaknees upgrades 2) USB or ethernet connection 3) A guide list that showed the next programs on a channel in a vertical list (ie 5 or 6 lines worth (like Tivo and Adelphia do)). Thnx Bob

I want to post the following here (on wkblog.com, I hope to do the same on PVRblog.

13 July 06 – I’m ready to chuck my R15 in the trash. I bought a TIVO series 2 that I’m running in parallel, but the R15 is crashing so much, that I can’t even use it as a tuner! I’m loosing it !!

I’m really identify with TheTooleMan, article dated June 29, 2006 12:22 PM. I’ve listed (in some of his words) highlights that ring true to me. I need to check out DBSTalk.com.

I wanted to share my misery with you…(very good TooleMan!)

The R15 has problems which are now making the system progressively more unusable. Pulling the plug (or hitting reset on the top right corner) cured these problems for a while, but these working intervals became shorter and shorter. It finally locked up so I couldn’t change channels or play back recordings, and would also stop recording in the middle of a program.

From TooleMan’s comments, I’m afraid that DirecTV’s help desk will be useless. So, I tried to get DirecTV to answer my questions in writing. They only want me to call. So much for that…

TooleMan wrote “While waiting (for a replacement R15), he tried the dreaded “Reset All.” That cured most of the problems, but also wiped my hard drive clean of all recordings and destroyed all my settings and series links. When the new unit arrived, I refused it.”

TooleMan, what is your status now? I’m not ready to loose everything I’ve recorded … and don’t have the storage or patience to transfer it all to TIVO … what am I going to do !!

Anyway, my R15 locks up all the time, as I said above, it’s so bad that I can’t even use it as a tuner. I reboot it two or three times a day.

Why am I sticking with DirecTV? I’ve recorded a bunch of stuff I want to watch. Frankly, I wish I could say, if the R15 isn’t fixed by the time my trial subscription expires on 23 July (and the rates go up) I’m out of here. But, my alternative seems to be, pay $12/month, so that TIVO can take care of me or go to cable. I’ve not seen that I can upgrade the Cable DVR machines, I really want 100 plus hours.

TooleMan … what are you going to do ?? Did the reset all make you happy enough or are you out of here !?!?!

Hopeless Bob_in_MB_CA

I can also confirm multiple problems with DirecTVs R15. I had an old 40 hour DirecTV w/ Tivo receiver (R5?) which had worked flawlessly for over two yeras. I wanted more recording capability, so when I moved I ordered a new DVR to be installed as part of the move, and received an R15. I was initially very disappointed with the interface and lack of features (especially switching between tuners), as well as the comparative slowness of the new unit. After about a month, the unit began crashing constantly, and reached a point where I would have to reset it just to change the channel. DirecTV me a replacement DVR, but since it was through my Protection Plan, it was a refurbished DVR. When I received it, the receiver was still active on someone elses account (most likely because it died on them and was returned). It wasn’t activated on my account for a week, and then only because I called in demanding a supervisor.

Now I’ve had the “new” R15 up for two days and it’s already starting to freeze up and crash. Yay!

Has anyone had success obtaining an R-10 unit from Tivo. I’ve requested one, but they said there was no way to guarantee that I would receive an R-10 vs. an R-15. I’m not going to accept a third R-15. Any advice?

contact Dtv to return their units (3 R15..sucks!!!)I want to add to all these that I tried three times to get my R15 returned to Dtv, but, when they transfered my calls they disconect me…Is this happening to any one?

My wife just purchased an R15 and I am concerned about all the negative comments. I have not installed yet and am willing to give it a try but, only if the new ones now have a Dual channel buffer. Can anyone confirm this and, is it an automatic (satellite s/w upgrade) or is there a serial # denoting when the change was implemented? If it ends up behaving like its based on Windows rather than TIVO’s Linux, can I go back to TIVO by swapping the R15 HD into my old Huhges unit to cure the frame freezes that just started after several years very satisfactory service.

I just called and got them to ship me an R10 from Direct TV (currently have the R15). Was a hassle but if you go straight to the advance technical services they will happily do it for you (they hate the R15 too). The reason I switched is the R15 would forget to record my season pass or not show me that it has conflicting programming. And then would prioritize what I first put in as a Season Pass. It also froze and was a giant headache when it came to recording. I soon felt like I would have to be home in order to make sure it even recorded! So I recommend the R10, I had it before and I love it!

I just (8/25/06) swapped out my recently purchased R15 for a refurbished R10 from DirecTV. Aside from a telephone modem glitsch in the supposedly refurbished DVR R10, it does have 100 hr. (rated) memory and 1-1/2 hr. cache (a really big plus) plus slow motion (which the directv R15 dropped as a feature.) You have to ask — who the hell is in charge of Marketing at DTV and why is he pushing $200 NFL coverage at the same time Design/Engineering is delivering no slo-mo? Isn’t Instant Replay On Demand a sine qua non for Football? Is DirecTV developing “mature cable” symptoms that caused me to drop Comcast four years ago? This is definitely a Jon Stewart type story!

Is there any way to get all the video on the hard drive of a R15 copied to a PC? I just want to burn DVD’s and clear space on the R15 HD.

I have had an R-10 TiVo receiver from DirecTV for severa1 years and I love it. A few months back I received an email from DirecTV offering free DVRS, only having to pay for shipping. I jumped at the deal, but then the R-15 arrived. There is no comparison to the R-10 (TiVo). I would be much angrier if I had paid for the R-10. What a piece of crap!!

Same problem here with the update. I have had the r15 since June and it was problem free until this past week’s update. Level 2 tech support had me completely reset the R15 and d/l the update (wiping out all stored shows). I think that I’ll call back and request an R10. They did say that the USB ports will be enabled by the end of ’06 or early ’07 and support the ability to offload content. They would not elaborate on how this would work, but at least R15 users know it is coming.

I am so glad I didn’t let DirecTv offer to replace my series one unit a few months back when the hard drive bit the dust. I am glad I had already purchased an HR10-250. I at least know I have three years of the seamlss DirecTv/Tivo integration, I hope the R15 and what ever other crap DirecTv tries to shove down our throats perfroms miserably. Finding out that Rupert Murdoch has an interest in both companies (DirecTv and the one making the DVR’s) makes me nervous. But I am hoping Tivo sticks around and is able to convince him that his product is crap and Tivo is the way to go to satisfy customers. We all need to find a way to voice our displeasure over the constant crap R15’s and suggest that DirecTv and Tivo kiss and make up, even if DirecTv and Tivo have to merge.

Had the R15 as a replacement for my original Tivo. My 8 year old hated it immediatley. And then I learn to not like it also. No problem getting DTV sending me the R10.

I used an R20-250 (newest generation from DirecTV) for 3 days. I tried, I really tried to like it. To quote someone on this blog: “OMG it blows!” I was told by DirecTV that I was getting the TiVo unit. HAH! I gave the old college try, and gave up. My wife even said, “You need to read the fine print in the prenuptial agreement: “No TiVo, No.. well, you know what.”

DirecTV admitted they screwed up and allowed me to return the R20-250. I contacted Weaknees and quickly ordered an R10-250 while they were still in stock.

WHEW! Peace has finally return at home, as well as you know what 😉

DirecTV needs to get chummy with TiVo. Murdoch needs to use a TiVo and a non-TiVo DVR to see what all the fuss is about. Or maybe he should just buy a controlling stake in TiVo. Rupert, just DEAL with IT and make it right.

DirecTV can keep selling the R10-250, but they also need a new and improved R10-250 that can handle MPEG-4. DirecTV has created way too many varieties of satellite equipment over the years. They can do it with 3: an HD receiver, a TiVo MPEG-4 DVR, and a non-TiVo DVR for those who think this is the cat’s pajamas.

Once people drink the TiVo Kool-Aid, there is not going back. As I have said for many years, there are two kinds of people in the world: those who use TiVo and all others. (OK, so I slightly modified a line from “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”.)

Write letters to DirecTV to voice your choice in DVRs. Do it now!

See my review for the R20-250 at http://www.eopinions.com

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