Why my Comcast DVR sucks

A couple months ago I moved from a Time Warner city to a Comcast city. While TW is no choir of angels, Comcast manages to be even worse.

There is one nice feature of the Comcast DVR that I like. You can use the “previous channel” button to toggle between a live broadcast and a show that has been recorded. I don’t recall the Time Warner box working this way.

Now on to why the DVR sucks:

  • Channel input: It’s necessary to push all 3 digits to enter a channel, even 2 digit channels. So if I want to go to channel 8, I have to press 0-0-8. If I just press 8, it waits a moment and then ignores me. Pain in the ass.
  • I have to change my TV aspect ratio settings when I change from an HD to SD channel or vice versa. Time Warner properly formatted SD channels to the center portion of the HD aspect ratio. Some people might complain that TW doesn’t allow you to stretch your SD channel to fill your screen, but 1) they’re idiots and 2) it should be an option in the box, not something I have to change on my television, so in that respect Comcast and TW both got it wrong, but at least TW gets in wrong the way I like.
  • When you press the DVR button you get a menu and you can select to see a list of your recorded shows, future recordings, or series recordings. Once you select one of these options, there’s no way to get back to the menu. You have to fully exit DVR and press the button again to get back to the menu. Ok, it really only amounts to one extra button press, but the darn box is so slow it feels like an eternity waiting to go from one screen to the other (probably has to do with the fact that a small image of the current channel is displayed in DVR mode and it has to toggle between this and the full image).
  • If you attempt to turn the DVR off while it’s recording a show you get a warning that this will cancel your current recording. This is lame. What happens when I’m recording a show at night and want to go to bed? The box stays on all night. In reality the only difference between the box being on or off is whether the output is active, since it is always buffering the current channel. This brings me to my next gripe:
  • The box is always buffering the current channel. At one time in my life I thought this was nice in case you’re a little late turning the TV on, you can rewind and not miss anything. I’ve changed my mind. This is a colossal waste of energy, and more importantly, it heats the crap out of my bedroom. No joke, it is several degrees warmer in my room than the rest of the house. And who wants the cooling fan on their cable box coming on when you’re trying to sleep.
  • The list of recorded shows on the DVR doesn’t display how much longer until a show will be automatically erased. Instead they decided to list as a percentage how full the disk is. That might roughly let me know how long a show has (if I could easily see my scheduled recordings, which I can’t [see above]), but it’s generally useless. Point for Time Warner on this one.
  • And that’s why my Comcast DVR sucks.

    20 Responses to Why my Comcast DVR sucks

    1. adawes says:

      But see, local monopolies will help the customer by keeping costs and redundancy low. Yeah, I don’t buy it either.

      It reminds me of a local radio station in Moscow that tried to hold a phone-in contest and basically crashed the local phone network (GTE at the time). Lots of listeners were pissed that they couldn’t get through and the phone company was pissed at the station because it made them look incompetent. GTE blamed the radio station in some ads and so the radio station promptly returned fire with a jingle which had the refrain: “When you’re the only phone company in town, you don’t have to know what you’re doing”.

    2. bpt2 says:

      When I was in grade school, a classmate’s dad worked in the oil industry. After the Valdez spill, he used to wear a shirt that read “We don’t care. We don’t have to care. We’re Exxon. We’re part of the problem.”

      Ok, so Exxon’s not a monopoly. But I still like the quote.

    3. bpt2 says:

      I’m sorry, not the appropriate place to post this. But I just glanced at the blog stats. Today we had two hits because someone googled “bare bikers” and landed on the post I wrote about Dutch bicycles. I can only imagine their disappointment.

      If everyone is six degrees or less from Kevin Bacon, I wonder how many clicks this blog is from a porn site.

    4. bmarts says:

      [Comcast vice president Beth] Bacha noted that Comcast has more than 25 million customers, the overwhelming majority of which are very satistified with their service.

      I’m guessing anyone who doesn’t complain directly to Beth is counted as very satisfied.

      Unfortunately, it’s a can’t live with, can’t live without situation. Maybe next time I’ll consider satellite.

      Here are a few other Comcast DVR irritants:
      — When you switch from fast forward to play, it doesn’t jump back a few seconds like TW does.
      — Whenever a recording starts or finishes, a big information box comes up on the screen informing you of this. Very annoying when you’re trying to watch something else.
      — If there is closed captioning, I couldn’t find it after about 10 minutes searching through every menu. (This is related to a show that recorded with missing audio tracks.)

    5. jwambaugh says:

      You could always get a real Tivo. The one my parents have is vastly better than any cable company (Time Warner or Comcast) DVR that I have seen.

    6. adawes says:

      Tivo, bahh, roll your own! There are at least a dozen options for turning your linux/win/mac pc into a DVR for basically the price of a capture card ($70-$120). A couple articles on lifehacker have good links.


    7. jwambaugh says:

      I’ve used my computer as a DVR for about eight years now, and it’s certainly economical, but the software for Tivo is absolutely amazing. Very much worth the money if you’re frustrated with another software package.

    8. bmarts says:

      It seems like every time I think about this topic I remember more annoying problems of the DVR. Like the fact the menus don’t wrap around, in other words, if you scroll to the bottom of a menu, continuing to scroll down does nothing rather than return you to the top of the menu. If you ever wondered what happens to the people getting Ds in your CS courses, I’ll tell you — they’re programming DVR boxes for Comcast.

      I realize that TiVo is a superior product, but I really don’t want to spend more money and what’s really frustrating is that the Time Warner box is also much better than the Comcast box for essentially the same price, the only reason it’s not an option is that cable companies are local monopolies.

    9. brianbunton says:

      It sounds like the problem is with the DVR, not the cable company. I’m guessing it’s a Motorola, because mine behaves in much the same way. (My cable company is HTC, a local co-op.) If Comcast is to be blamed, it’s for going with Motorola over the vastly superior Scientific Atlanta.

    10. adawes says:

      Yeah, motorola must hire some real flunkies for interface engineers. My phone has all sorts of fun features, like if you change an alarm setting but don’t click done at both the change _and_ the main area for that alarm… then it doesn’t save the change. Late to more than one event after closing my phone once I clicked one “done” button.

      At least there they implement the wrap-around in the menu. This makes John very easy to call… until I meet someone with a name further down in the alphabet 🙂

    11. jwambaugh says:

      Planning is everything.

    12. boogiewaga says:

      u guys are correct

      u now me boogiewaga

    13. Artheon says:

      I’m in the same boat as you, I’m stuck with Comcast and the Motorola DVR is just plain horrible. There are two main things that erk me. Fifty percent of the time there’s a stutter between the time I press a button and the box responds. I know it receives the single because the light comes on, yet that doesn’t keep me from pressing the button again out of sheer lack of patience with the damn thing. After that first button press for some reason I always hit the exit button, but then realize I shouldn’t have done that so I push the first button again. This tends to go on for a few moments and I usually end up pushing about 5 different buttons, so once the DVR catches up with the buttons there’s all these different screens flashing on my screen. The second issue that really bothers be is the confirmation box when you select a show to record from the guide. I could see the idea of the dialog box if it gave you the option to cancel the recording, but the only option is to hit “confirm”. It’s like asking you if you really want to shoot yourself in the head after you’ve already pulled the trigger.

    14. bmarts says:

      As long as we’re kicking Motorola in the pants, I do have a gripe about my phone. Yesterday I was entering a phone number and paused to do something else. The screen went blank to save power, which is fine, but I didn’t know how to make the screen come back on. So I just pushed a button. Well, I’m part moron, so I happened to push the button that corresponds to “cancel” and everything I’d entered was erased. I’ll take my portion of the blame here, but I think the people at Motorola should idiot proof their phone — if the screen saver is on, button presses shouldn’t be valid input, they should just make the screen come back on.

    15. brianbunton says:

      Artheon’s complaints are mainly my complaints about the Motorola DVR. That, coupled with all the problems I had with my Motorola phones, including difficulties in charging, have led me to the position never to use Motorola products again. Or, in other words… Goodbye, Moto.

    16. jwambaugh says:

      Maybe we should get Mike Cataletto on here to do some damage control… He works for Motorola.

    17. brianbunton says:

      Tell him that Motorola sucks almost as much as his fantasy team. Hey-o!

      (Like I have room to talk.)

    18. Chris says:

      I Googled “Motorola DVR sucks” to find this page.
      My POS Motorola was supplied by Time Warner Cable in Los Angeles.
      It’s not just Comcast users who are suffering the pain of a Motorola DVR, it’s a pandemic.

      Don’t know about your Cable Co., but TWC let’s you exchange them as often as you like and I’ve found that they work well when new, I’m on my fourth in the past 17 months or so.
      It’s worth the time to call your provider and ask if they’ll exchange it for free, even better if they have a convenient store front location where you can do it on the fly without setting up an appointment.

    19. jesus says:

      I can understand, I went to DISH and have never regretted it. The DVR functions as a DVR should, it records. I don’t understand why its so hard to get it right. I also work at DISH and can honestly tell you that its definitely worth the switch!

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