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November 04, 2014

Stuck without an HD PVR

I'd been lingering on Standard Definition analog TV long past most people, the impending death of plasma TVs pushed me into upgrading my TV and kick starting the transition to HDTV. I didn't really want to, mostly because I couldn't really replace my TiVo PVR.

I've kept right on using my TiVo in analog SD, as the options just aren't compelling, heck they downright suck. The HD content sure is nice on the big plasma TV, but I just can't stand using the interface on the Shaw PVR. It barely works, let alone be friendly and usable. It's not even a match for the features TiVo had 15 years ago.

Here's an example. I watch F1 racing, it looks wonderful in HD, I go out of my way to have the Shaw PVR record it. I can't set the Shaw box to automatically record it however, there isn't an option to do so. The only way to come close I can find will record many other things, but still miss some F1 coverage. So every race I need to manually load up the listings and set the box to record the race coverage. (As an aside, I can't comprehend why Shaw won't hide or allow me to hide the channels I don't receive on their hardware, they appear in all listings and search results). Welcome to the 80s VCR. Now that almost works, except sometimes it doesn't. The show won't record, or it will record then instantly disappear, or it won't show up in search results or something else just wonky. I keep the TiVo recording the race just in case. In fact, once set up it does it all by itself, I don't need to remember when the races air or do anything to record them.

The user interface on the Shaw hardware is weak and kludgy, doing even simple things is painful. The PVR clearly has been tacked onto a cable box, depending on features which have been tacked on beforehand. Searching for shows? You better know when they air and what channel they are on or good luck finding them. All those simple things TiVo conquered years ago are missing. Like rewinding the show a little after you stop fast-forwarding to account for the latency from the scene you saw that made you stop to the time you hit the button. Shaw has another box that is a little more featureful, but extremely buggy. MTS, I think they've got a very similar PVR to the Shaw one I own. Same with Shaw satellite, seems to be about the same hardware. I don't know about Bell satellite, but I doubt it's much different. None of these really have much storage space either, would quickly fill up and stop recording with even regular usage. The CRTC doesn't mandate any 3rd party access, so there isn't any, use the hardware from the provider or nothing at all. MythTV? Tried that, after months fighting to set it up and get it working reliably, I gave up, it was never going to meet my desired usability. It also depended on specific Shaw hardware. HD Over The Air antenna TV is available, but really only 3 channels are available and after trying several antennas, I couldn't reliably tune even those 3.

I'm growing tired of SD content on my nice HD tv. My TiVo is growing old and would like to retire, but there just aren't any options. The content distributors might just push me into cord cutting, not because the alternatives are better, but because they are worse.

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