Dish 921 first impressions

peterd

SatelliteGuys Family
Nov 26, 2003
57
0
Warning: strong opinions follow. (Flame retardant suit on!)

Well, I won't do a detailed post here. (There's so much info already here at SatelliteGuys as well as at DBSTalk's DVR-921 Support Forum and general Dish Network DVR Discussion.) Instead, I'll boil down my opinion of the 921 to three main points (and supporting discussion of each).

For those who might not read all the way through, let me say right off the bat that the 921 is a work in progress & these observations apply to the 921 today. Hopefully, a few months from now the only limitation which will remain for the 921 is that it only has one OTA tuner (and since it does have internal expansion slots, maybe they can remedy even this!).

Just got my 921 last night. I think the best things I can contribute are as follows:
  1. The 921 is not ready to be your primary receiver.

    The notion that a $1000 box is not yet ready to depend on is hard to accept, but it is the current reality. Unless you live alone, don't even think of it. (In the first hour or two using it I could tell the 921 could be a real relationship killer! ;) )

    Even if you do live alone, ask yourself what your tolerance is for things screwing up. Be honest - how will you feel if you miss the critical 5 minutes of that show because your 921 rebooted at just the wrong time. (No, I haven't timed it but I don't think that's an exaggeration. First it boots Linux, then it spends some time displaying the lovely "Acquiring Satellite" message and, if you happen to have been watching OTA you can expect to have to go back into the menu to force it to see OTA stations again.)

  2. The 921 is not ready to be your primary receiver.

    ...Especially if you want to time-shift OTA HD. (If you'll only be watching satellite, you might be ok with a 921 as your primary receiver.) Here's why I think that (unless they pour on the steam with lots of debugging right away) Dish Network will get their butts kicked once the HD DirecTiVo comes out or the cable companies really ramp up the roll out of their HD DVRs:

    There are several reasons why people like & use DVRs. The one used most in the ads is "Pause Live TV!" I think this is featured because it is an instant differentiator from VCRs. This is handy, but anyone who's had a DVR for a while will tell you that easy time-shifting (using the program guide to schedule) is the killer feature. And right up there with easy time-shifting is skipping commercials.

    Where does that leave the 921? Well, let's start with a few (IMHO reasonable) assumptions. First, the focus of the 921 is HDTV. Given the relatively small HD recording capacity (and relatively high price), that's what you'll mostly want to record). Second, the most time-shifting benefit comes where there is schedule conflict and/or little repeat within the week. Where is this most apparent? Prime-time network TV. HDNET or Discovery HD will air that show again... So will HBO or Showtime (and the commercial skip feature is moot!). What about movies, you ask? Sure, there's some value there. (IMHO, huge value if & when they turn on the firewire ports.) But again, throughout the week/month HBO, SHO & HDNET Movies will have enough airings that you may find a good time to watch without time-shifting. And let's not forget that DVDs can look damn good on many HT setups, providing most of the "start when you want, pause if you want" convenience of the DVR.

    So I come back to my contention that (even though a satellite company may not want to hear this), OTA is where the most benefit will come from an HD DBS DVR. And OTA is where the 921 is most buggy! The biggest shortcoming -- no program listings for your local OTA signals. That means setting up timers for OTA is a real pain. And, no program names show up in your recording list. Either keep a "cheat sheet" of what you've scheduled to record handy, or expect to do a lot of back-and-forth to the DVR menu as you try to figure out what you have taped by sampling each show. (There's also the major bug with OTA signals which causes lots of reboots & other problems, but to be fair this is supposed to be a known problem with a fix soon to be downloaded in the L1.43 update.)

  3. The 921 is not ready to be your primary receiver.

    If you don't have Dish Network yet, don't get it for the 921 (yet). If you haven't had HDTV yet, don't make the 921 your initiation into HD! If you already have Dish and you have a 6000 already (from what I hear the 811 still has its own set of bugs to shake out), consider the 921.

    - If, that is, you have a love for experimenting...

    - If you like being the first on your block (heck, in your state! :) ) with a new toy...

    - If you like following (and contributing to) the progress of shaking out a new product...

    - If you qualify for CBS-HD from Dish ('cause that's the only network HD where you'll be able to just select programs to record from the guide or see any program names in your list of recordings)... Or you can't get ANY HD over-the-air... OR you really, truly, (be honest now) NEVER watch any Prime-time network TV... :)

    - And only if you don't consider yourself to be a newbie when it comes to this stuff!
So, if you want all the details as to why I feel this way, go read Mark's review at DBSTalk and Scott's review here at SatelliteGuys. Then read all the posts of bug reports. There's plenty of detail already on the net, but (other than the "Top 10 reasons to wait..." posts) I haven't seen anyone boil it down to this level. Those of you who know me from the AVS Forum know that in nearly 4 years there, I read everything but post sparingly (and rarely opinion or speculation -- mostly facts). I felt this deserved an honest post of my impressions as an early adopter so those who might consider trying to get a 921 today will know that they should be thinking about this seriously and doing plenty of reading first.

Am I happy to have the 921? Hell, yes! :D Am I sorry I paid this much (yes, I paid a few % premium over what it would have cost to get it locally -- if I could have bought it locally!) to be among the first dozen or two to own one? Not at all! Will I now be going to a great deal of trouble to run another cable so I can reconnect my 6000 as my primary receiver -- you bet! :)
 

peterd

SatelliteGuys Family
Nov 26, 2003
57
0
More reasons why the 921 isn't ready to be your primary receiver

Thanks to a spontaneous 921 reboot, I missed Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction! :D

Just had to force a couple of reboots since the 921 would not playback anything properly (stuttering freezes of varying duration).
Every recording is gone!

I rest my case.
 

AndyMon

SatelliteGuys Pro
Supporting Founder
Sep 8, 2003
395
1
Long Island, NY
Well composed post. Thanks for expressing your view so succinctly. It just reinforces my conviction to wait and see what pans out in the field, E* vs. D* vs. v* vs. cable.
 

peterd

SatelliteGuys Family
Nov 26, 2003
57
0
It's a miracle!

Scott Greczkowski said:
Man how did I miss then when it was first posted?

GREAT WRITEUP PETER!
Thanks, Scott!


OK, to be fair I must report the latest development...

After a couple of pull-the-plug reboots, all the missing recordings & timers are back !?

Good thing I didn't forget: "It's only TV." :D
 

Scott Greczkowski

Welcome HOME to SatelliteGuys!
Staff member
HERE TO HELP YOU!
Sep 7, 2003
100,205
18,804
Newington, CT
Hey my 921's hard drive dies on me a few times, however after awhile it just started working. Dish sent me a new 921.

I just sent the old one back the other day.

I am worried that they are going to try charging me a $30 fee for no problems found with my 921 as it was working (again) just before shipping it out. Let just hope they dont test it, see its working and package it for someone else.
 

peterd

SatelliteGuys Family
Nov 26, 2003
57
0
Don't believe in miracles!

921 locked up again...

This time, no amount of rebooting is making the recordings & timers re-appear! :no

I was about to send it in for the blue line fix, but now I'm not so sure I'd want the same one back!
 

sclaws

Supporting Founder
Supporting Founder
Sep 8, 2003
249
3
Aurora, IL
Mine had locked up a few times, but I sent it in for the blue line fix last Monday. They found some other unknown issues with it apparenly, and told me today I'd be getting a tested replacement--hopefully shipping today for delivery tomorrow. I'm a bit concerned tho since I keep hearing about shortages of stock that they'll be able to even send me one as promptly as they claim. I asked the tech to call me either way tonight, with or without a tracking number.

...Fingers crossed, holy water on stand-by.
 

the_tx_dude

Member
Jan 20, 2004
8
0
Kingwood, Texas
sclaws said:
Mine had locked up a few times, but I sent it in for the blue line fix last Monday. They found some other unknown issues with it apparenly, and told me today I'd be getting a tested replacement--hopefully shipping today for delivery tomorrow. I'm a bit concerned tho since I keep hearing about shortages of stock that they'll be able to even send me one as promptly as they claim. I asked the tech to call me either way tonight, with or without a tracking number.

...Fingers crossed, holy water on stand-by.

Need holy water here also...I got mine back from a blue line fix about 4 days after sending it. Blue lines still remained although a bit lighter on the darker scenes. Dish is sending me a screened replacement overnite and asked me to send back current one. Looking forward to checking new one out but hanging on to current one until i get a tracking number.
 

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