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Friday
Feb242012

DirecTV's HR34 HD DVR with RVU

By Bill Van

DirecTV calls its new HR34 HD DVR set top box the "New Home Media Center HD DVR". It can  record 5 shows at once, stores hundreds of hours of your favorite shows and can be watched  in any room.  While it can perform those tasks it can do other things previous DirecTV set top boxes could not and with the long history of DirecTV pushing software updates to their receivers we can expect many more features arriving in future releases.

The HR34 HMC is a major leap forward in set top box technology mainly due to advances in hardware and the RVU (pronounced R-view) alliance software where most of the new functionality comes into play.  At present the HR34 can stream video to three remote clients or set top boxes for a four room connected experience.  In essence the HR34 is an advanced video streaming server.

Before the official release of the HR34 there was a lot of confusion about the requirements for the HR34. Questions like,  do you have to have a RVU TV? Actually, there are no requirements, if you simply want it for some of the advanced features and capabilities it will work just fine as single stand alone unit.

So what is RVU?  RVU is a publicly available open standard that is being developed by the five founding partners, Cisco, Broadcom, Verizon, Samsung and DirecTV with 30 other secondary contributors joining to progress how electronics communicate with each other, for TV, Internet, and more. The RVU standard allows for a very rich user experience, with programming guides, picture-in-picture, access to on-demand, Internet, and shared media on devices like TVs, Blue-ray Players, Computers and Tablets acting as clients.

Samsung initially launched three 6000 series RVU Smart TVs and later announced  that all of their 2012 Smart TV's will come with RVU pre-installed.  DirecTV will soon be offering a Pace C30  RVU  remote client for all existing TVs. The small cigarette box size client resides behind the TV and is connected in-line with the incoming coax cable.  The C30 clients,  currently in beta testing will incur the $6 fee DirecTV charges for all additional set top boxes.  The bottom line:  RVU is an amazing cutting edge software that enhances the functionality of a networked whole home video experience, and it works well.

5 TUNERS

The HR34 comes with 5 active tuners which allows recording of 5 different channels at the same time. In testing my 3 set top box whole home system, I was able to record 9 different channels  at the same time, which was a bit of a surprise. For most users the 5 tuners will be more than enough.  The additional tuners essentially eliminates having to prioritize or choose which programs to record at any given time which should help to preserve the peace in very large families.

RECORDING CAPACITY

The one terabyte recording capacity of the HR34 was a very nice addition.  It doubled the capacity of previous DirecTV boxes and can record over 200 hours of HD and over 800 hours of SD programming. In my three set top box whole home setup I now have over 4oo hours of HD capacity accessible in all three rooms.  It should be noted that each set top box has a setting to share or not to share content with other DVRs which could be important for some users.

PICTURE IN PICTURE

The new Picture in Picture functionality is nice because it's integrated into the main one click options bar making for quick access.  When you select PIP you have options to Toggle On and Off and for Viewing Placement.  You can choose: Upper Left - Upper Right - Lower Right  - Lower Left or Side by Side.   

On our 56" Samsung TV, the side by side screens measured 31" and 26" with the larger 31" being fully remote control active . It looks good and the two videos can be swapped back and forth with a single click.  While I have never been a fan of picture in picture I see where the simplicity and the side by side viewing could come in handy when we are entertaining and producing our NFL Sunday Ticket multi-screen sports bar setup. The one thing I see missing is the ability to use the PIP features with recorded material but that most likely will be available in a future software release.  

REMOTE CONTROL

DirecTV's latest  two set top  boxes, the HR24 and HR34,  come with enhanced XMP remote controls that incorporate a receiver and transmitter into both the remote and the set top box. These special 2 way remotes come in three flavors, all having X on the end of their RC65 model number. They are X which works in IR infrared mode, RX  which works in either IR or RF mode and RBX which adds a back-lit function to the IR/RF remote.

There is a "Copy Setting" feature in the setup menu that allows you to program additional remotes. To program additional remotes just point both remotes at the set top box, click copy settings which will then send all your setting over to the new remote. You can actually see the transfer action happening with the 4 command LED lights flashing on and off on the remotes.  All in all it’s a simple process and with a talking and listening set top box you can imaging what's just around the corner, think Siri?
 
I should point out that I experienced a much easier and simplified process of programming  the remote in my initial set up. If you haven't programmed a DirecTV remote in the last year you will appreciate the new more simplified process.

DirecTV  plans to introduce a new universal remote, the RC70X.  The new remote is code or nick named “Ying Yang” due to its new unique black and white appearance. Obviously, it will not resemble any current remotes. The new RC70 will control only RVU client devices such as the soon to be released DirecTV C30 client and RVU TVs. The RC70X is available today only if you have a RVU client TV.

CONCLUSION

The new DirecTV Home Media Center DVR would be a great set top addition for any new or existing DirecTV customer.  If you are like me, the new features will come as a welcome upgrade. Currently there is a feature missing that I really want to see soon and that's the new DirecTV HD User Interface. They are currently working to enable the new PIP function into the interface along with, I assume, other unique functions of the HR34. The new user interface is expected within a month or two and I was happy to see today a new software release 0x59e arriving early this morning on my HR24s.  DirecTV added the popular Pandora Music service and an option to save energy.  Enabling the “Power Saving” feature in the menu will turn off the receiver after 4 hours of no user activity and will not effect any scheduled recordings.  This is a great addition as set top boxes are one of the worst energy consuming hogs in the home.   

Pricing for the new HMC will vary with new and existing customers. New customers can expect to get it free on up to the listed $99 which will vary depending on current promotions. For new customers I recommend checking out DirecTV's “Refer a Friend” program as you can offset the current $99 fee with $10 bill credits for ten months. You have to mention this program on sign up for both you and an existing DirecTV user  to receive the $10 credits. And you may be able to negotiate the current HR34 fee in lieu of the ten months of credits.

Existing customers can expect to pay between $99 to $399 and is predicated on a "Per User Basis".  They look at many variables like time with DirecTV, programming, credit history and so forth.  Interested existing users should contact the, and this is important,  "Customer Retention Department "  to see what they can offer you on your particular account.  If you can not get the deal you want at the present time call them back in a few months because I was told they do want all their customers to eventually have the HMC service.   

I would like to point out that other providers offer whole home DVR solutions. So by all means contact your provider to see what they offer.  

I would like to thank all the people at DirecTV, especially the upper level "Case Management"  tech team that's dedicated to support the new HMC, Nomad mobile and all reoccurring tech issues. They were all great.   

I would also like to thank, Ara and Braden for the years of keeping all of us listeners current in the world of Home Theater. You guys Rock!!

Reference Links:

DirecTV
http://www.directv.com/DTVAPP/content/technology/hmc_receiver

Dishbuys
http://www.dishbuys.com/products/directv-hr34-rvu-server-for-whole-home-hd-dvr-hr34

Weaknees
http://www.weaknees.com/pdf/hr34-spec-sheet.pdf

RVU Alliance
http://www.rvualliance.org/the_alliance

DBSTalk
http://www.dbstalk.com/



Reader Comments (4)

Wow....very informative...5 shows at once and in any room...very impressive. Amazing write up Bill.
Deborah

February 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah Lutz

I had the pleasure of speaking with Bill today as he was helping his friend get her directv services in order. He seemed to know a thing or two about directv and our services, which impressed me as an account specialist with directv. He mentioned to me that he does some work for this podcast that puts on reviews for our equipment. Bill shared some of his viewed on our equipment and customer service. After our 10 minute conversation i realized that i wasn't speaking to a representative. Bill made me proud to say I'm a dtv representative. This guy represents your cause well. Just wanted to say that you've officially made a fan outta me :D

June 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEdward

Thanks for the post. I just ordered my HMC here in Florida. I was just out of contract so I had to sign up for another 24 months but got the box for $99 - a $299 saving plus free installation, usually $49. Looking forward to my install on Sunday. Thanks again.

June 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMartin Walker

I just ordered DirecTV with the Home Media Center and 3 standard receivers for 3 SD TVs. Only after ordering did I read that the 3 TVs other than our primary LG 60PZ750 HDTV must be RVU-enabled in order to make use of the benefits of the HMC. Now I wonder: Did I "overbuy" by ordering the HMC as opposed to a simpler HD DVR? I have the main TV, which is the HDTV (3D-capable), and 3 standard definition TVs that are obviously NOT RVU-enabled.

June 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChuck

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