Yesterday the cable guy came and delivered as expected the new Scientific Atlanta Explorer 8000 Cable box. It’s loaded with the Pioneer 3.0 OS (according to the installer as I can’t find any reference to that anywhere and have not forced a reboot yet).
I have not had much time to play yet, so bear with me on this quick overview.
It works VERY well. The guide is actually a slicker version of the already impressive Time Warner (NYC) digital cable guide. There is roughly 80GB of storage space, though I can’t see any way yet to determine how much is left. You can record 2 programs at the same time and watch a third that has already been recorded. This is by far the best feature in my opinion as it is hard to do that on existing cable DVR set-ups. The second tuner also allows for a nice PIP addition to any set and as it is not dependent on your TV to use it. It’s all in the box. Picture quality is very good, better that our Series 1 TiVO in my opinion. I have not and won’t actually do a direct test as TiVO is no longer connected to the main set and won’t be… I’m thinking of moving it to our bedroom set for now.
You can easily create a season pass and manage preferences as to which programs should be more or less of a priority. It’s very slick in my opinion and integration in general with how you normally or previously watched TV is excellent. As I know I’ve mentioned to people in passing and I think somewhere previously here, the program guide on TiVo was the weakness. Since our IPG is advanced the TiVo one always felt like a let down. We can easily see types of programs, by color and navigate much more quickly through the vast (channels go over 1000 and while there are repeats, most are used) content.
Three things TiVO has which this box does not which may or not bother me… Wishlist and alpha data entering, predictive recording. Wishlist was something we used rarely, as was the predictive programming past the first few months as much of what we recorded and time-shifted so far has really just been programming we know we want to watch. There is no thumbs rating to allow the box to learn from anything other than what you record but I am quite sure it won’t be doing that any time soon. The alpha entering though is something that would be nice to have. If you want to record a program that is not first to show and not close to being on, you have to surf for it. Once you set the season passes it won’t be much of an issue (I think), but this morning before I left I tried to set-up Trading Spaces for my wife and was let down by having to actually page through the “T’s” until I got to Tr…(There’s a shit-load of stuff that starts with T!!)
Overall, I think Time Warner has a winner in this box. AND – I believe that there is an HDTV version coming soon. My cable guy seemed like he was very in the know, working solely on DVR’s at the moment. The plan, it seems is to roll the initial box out, see how it does and then follow it with the HDTV box.
For now, we actually have two cable boxes hooked up to our TV as it can easily handle it and allows us to have HDTV, on demand but primarily (guessing since it was just installed yesterday) watch TV through the DVR box until the day comes when one box will work for everything we want.
Almost forgot…. There are actually 2, 1394 (FIREWIRE!) ports on this box. I was told they don’t work yet, but it seems worth a shot. I doubt TWC, would allow for hard drive archiving, but just imagine…