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Disappointed with DirecTV

Glaskowsky describes major problems with a DirecTV HDTV upgrade.

DirecTV is in the middle of a long-planned upgrade to new satellite broadcast technology. The company has launched new satellites that use MPEG-4 video compression to carry an ever-increasing number of HDTV stations, both local and national.

I've been a DirecTV subscriber for many years. In fact, I signed up in 2000 because I wanted to take a look at the then-new RCA DTC100 HD receiver. I didn't even have an HDTV, but I did have a high-quality 21" CRT computer monitor that the DTC100 could drive. It wasn't good for large audiences, but for one or two people at a time, it was a real eye-opener. Eventually I got a real HDTV and the Hughes HR10-250 TiVo DVR (digital video recorder) for DirecTV. That was a great combination, one of the best high-tech purchases I've ever made.

Late last year, DirecTV started calling me, inviting me to upgrade my equipment so that I could start receiving the new MPEG-4 channels. The representatives explained that the MPEG-2 HD channels I was watching on the DTC100 and HR10-250 would be phased out, and I would need to get new receivers eventually anyway.

But I really didn't want to upgrade. See, DirecTV and TiVo don't get along any more. DirecTV sells its own DVRs, and all the reports I read online said these non-TiVo models were pretty bad. I wanted to hang onto my HR10-250 as long as possible, hoping there'd be a new TiVo-branded DirecTV DVR before the old MPEG-2 channels were cut off.

But eventually I forced myself to accept that wasn't going to happen, so when DirecTV called again last month and offered to give me a new receiver to replace the DTC100, a new DVR to replace the HR10-250, and free installation of a new dish antenna, I gave in and scheduled the appointment.

I should have held out longer. I had problems getting the appointment set up, big problems with the work done by the installer, more problems with DirecTV customer service, and now I'm stuck with a mediocre DVR, DirecTV's HR21-700, that doesn't do all the things my HR10-250 did.

I'll explain what happened and provide a detailed review of the HR21-700 over the next few days.