Hands On With Verizon FiOS TV 2.0

Dave Zatz —  July 17, 2007 — 55 Comments

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Thanks to John Czwartacki, Mari and I recently converged on Verizon’s corporate HQ in New Jersey for some hands on time with FiOS TV 2.0 (aka Interactive Media Guide, aka IMG). As with Digeo’s Moxi, Verizon has really enriched and modernized the DVR interface. And while not perfect, Mari and I both came away impressed with the direction Verizon is taking their software (which has been in development only about a year).

Widgets

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Mari loves widgets. I’m not quite as enthusiastic, but Verizon is rolling with the basics such as local weather, traffic, and community events. Below the widget bar, video continues to play. I find Moxi’s info ticker concept more appealing as similar info is subtly available while video remains full screen.

Hardware

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Like the MSO-deployed Moxi and the upcoming Comcast TiVo, FiOS TV runs on Motorola hardware… as does the oft-maligned i-Guide (Comcast+Gemstar) DVR software.

Multi-room Viewing

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Like Moxi, Verizon is also providing multi-room viewing over coax – using MoCA in this case. Only SD programs can currently be streamed to remote boxes, but Verizon hopes to offer HD streaming early in 2008. Two boxes can simultaneously access a source DVR for multi-room viewing, though the number of boxes you can deploy around the house is unlimited. Streaming is real-time.

Media Manager

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The higher-end FiOS TV DVR package also includes media extender functionality. Media Manager PC software organizes photos and (unprotected) music for DVR streaming.

PIP

Everywhere you look in the interface your video is available, either in a window or below the menu. I’m a fan of PIP, but unlike the Comcast Moto TiVo and Moxi interfaces FiOS TV doesn’t allow you to pause the video while in a menu or widget. So users will have to hit pause first to hide that Hell’s Kitchen elimination. In addition to PIP, the DVR interface is (optionally) partially transparent to the video below.

Pricing & Deployment

Verizon’s HD DVR service and box fee runs $12.99/month. They also offer a $19.99/month plan which includes Media Manager functionality and supports multi-room viewing — obviously requiring additional hardware ($4.99/month for each basic SD cable box). Sure seems reasonable compared to the TiVo Series 3…

FiOS TV 2.0 is currently being deployed in Fort Wayne and Rhode Island, with plans for all boxes to receive the (free) software upgrade by the end up September. In fact, we can probably expect a press release out of Verizon in the very near future.

More Pictures

 

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Free space indicator!

 

 

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30 second skip not sufficient to bypass commercials?
2 minutes sounds about right.

 

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Filter by HD channels.

 

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Full-featured search.

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Multiple input options.

 

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Multiple input options. (Keyword Search)

 

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Additional content like CNET.

 

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Geeky system info.

 

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Season Pass functionality.

 

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Rich VOD interface.

 

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Bookmark VOD titles for reference.

 

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Cellphone DVR integration expected this fall.

 

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Media Manager PC software.

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Media Manager on DVR.

 

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Basic music streaming interface

 

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Remote

 

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Mari, Dave, and John at the Verizon “Condo”

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55 responses to Hands On With Verizon FiOS TV 2.0

  1. I sure wish Verizon would wire my building for FiOS.

  2. So is Verizon ripping off the XBox 360′s “blades” interface?

  3. Some elements look similar to blades, but you don’t interact with them exactly the same as the Xbox. It’s more like nested menu screens.

    You scroll up and down through the main menu, though the focus always remains on the center item. When you click on an item, the screen is revealed, which may have subscreens, giving you that nested look. It’s not the same click left, click right action of the 360.

    As soon as I left, I realized I should have shot some video. Doh!

  4. This looks like a lot of fun Dave. I bet you got to ask all kinds of great questions. You mentioned the Moto box in the post, but I didn’t see anything about cable card support. For some reason I thought Verizon was supporting the cable card, but I might be wrong. Any hope out there for us S3 owners that want to ditch Comcast.

  5. Verizon does offer CableCARDs, so you can BYOT (Bring Your Own TiVo) if you choose. Though you may not need/want to…

    As far as Verizon deploying Moto boxes with CableCARD slots, the FCC gave them a waiver so I wouldn’t expect to see new hardware from them any time soon.

  6. Dave,
    Did they say anything about which cell phones and networks their DVR-cellphone control feature would work with?

  7. They didn’t, but I assume they’d want to push Verizon Wireless. I think the phone I played with was a RAZR. (VZW currently offers a TiVo web scheduling app for $2/mo.)

  8. Dave,

    Is the ‘Condo’ open to the public?

  9. The “condo” is a demonstration area for press and analysts within Verizon’s corporate HQ. We were invited and escorted.

  10. I have Verizon FiOS TV 2.0 here in Fort Wayne, IN. Been running for about a month now.

  11. Yep, Fort Wayne was the first city to get it starting in May. The widespread rollout is beginning now and other locations will have their boxes upgraded from the existing software over the next two months.

  12. Media Extender capability is impressive. How far does it extend? Video also?

  13. “Media Manager” moves pictures and music from a home PC to the TV. The multi-room viewing is DVR-ed video stored on one set-top box being played back on another. Not sure if there are any restrictions on length of a cable run.

  14. I mean can they extend the ME functionality into a full blown ME device… ie. getting videos off the PC & Internet … interfacing with other services (like Live or Unbox or Vongo or Netflix …)

    Basically have they prepared for the future possibilities?

  15. They don’t currently support streaming video from the PC or internet video, other than their large selection of VOD on OnDemand titles. Not sure what their future plans are.

  16. I’m hoping I get FiOS 2.0 when the guys come… (Montgomery County, MD)

  17. Was there any mention of rolling out service to single family dwellings in Philadelphia?

    With DirecTV and DISH unable to carry Comcast Sportsnet here, I’d think FIOS – which does carry Comcast Sports Phily – would be very popular.

    Since Mari is in the area, I thought the subjectve come up…

  18. We actually didn’t ask much about FiOS deployment in general. I’ll ask my guy if he knows anything about your area.

  19. CRAP! I just got FiOS TV about a week ago here in Garland, TX. I loved the programming but the menu reminded me of an ATARI game console. I can’t wait for the download. I wish Verizon would post a schedule of some sort. :-(

  20. I have FiOS TV and I love it. This seems to be something that will only make it better. Now if they’d only realize that 20 hours of HD storage is just not enough. Any word on increasing that and/or allowing archive to USB or Firewire Drives?

  21. In keeping with the cable companies, Verizon is very close-mouthed about its service areas. actually, Verizon’s been much better than a lot of cable companies about detailing its existing service areas, but it’s still generally mum about where exactly FiOS will head next. It’s all around my area (Philly suburbs), but not in my township yet. Same with my folks who live in Montgomery County, MD.

  22. Its really gud

  23. Just got the new interface. It’s pretty, but has a major problem. “Add/Remove Channels” only changes what’s in “Favorites” but channels you don’t want or don’t get STILL show up with chan up/dn and in the guide. Also, just now I went back into “cached” video and I can’t record it.

  24. I just got the upgrade yesterday. Very impressed with the usability and the responsiveness of the new interface. Definitely a big improvement from what i had. Noticed the issue with channel flipping and am using the guide to select my favorite channels…they have an easy way to filter favs on the guide.

  25. Yes, you can filter the guide to your favorites (but you have to select it each time.) When you use channel up/down (“surfing”) you get all the crap you don’t want (shopping, spike, G4, MTV, sports, court tv, crime, fox etc.) and all the channels you don’t subscribe to. LAME.

  26. Well, after a few days of not being able to “channel surf” without going through all the channels I never want to see and all the channels I don’t subscribe to I’ve decided to go back to DirecTV (I still have the TiVo box.) I’d LIKE to have TiVo with Fios, but with the insanely over-priced TiVo fee, that’s not going to happen. Oh well, Sorry Fios, you blew it. There are some other “features” of the new software that I don’t like either, but the inability to remove channels is enough to kill the deal for me.

  27. just recieved the update and it killed my secondary power outlet on/off. My wife is ready to throw it out the window because she now has to use to use two remotes to turn it off (yes i have a universal remote- but my wife can’t grasp the concept sheesh)

  28. I just got my update a couple of days ago. I immediately called Verizon to complain. They asked what was wrong. I asked if they wanted the top 10, or the whole list. Oh, sure, it LOOKS nice, but functionally I find it worse than the previous software and I’ve probably counted about a half dozen defects in the software. YUCK!!

  29. I got IMG two days ago in Arlington VA (August 14, 2007)and would rather go back to old Guide. Beyond my frustration of trying to deal with VZ CSR, here are the problems:

    1. Eliminated Channel Selection feature and only offer Favorites. Therefore, it is impossible to use Channel Up/Down feature on Remote to click through channels without getting all the channels such as Local Programming, spanish, sports, mil history etc etc etc. Favorites is not the same as Channel Selection List. (For me right now, identifying Favorites only means that the Guide feature lists only the favorites; it does not translate to the actual picture/channel up/down control.)

    2. Informed by VZ rep that Channel List Selection will be included in “next release”. When asked for timeframe, response was “We do not have a time frame for the new release. I know they want to get it out quick, but not so quick as to cause more problems that it solves.”

    3. Takes at least a second for program info to load as you channel up/down. Way too slow.

    4. NO advance notice of upgrade.

    5. Obviously did not Beta test IMG. Beyond serious issues identified here, there are numerous flaws.

    6. After spending two hours on toll free, discovered that my AT8550 remote does not work with new Guide. VZ made no attempt to contact subscribers and arrange for new remote prior to implementation of IMG.

    7. After 2.5 hours on telephone with operators, am now informed that new remote will be mailed to me. My fear is that when it comes, I will likely STILL be frustrated at the simple task of advancing through channels that I am interested in viewing.

    8. Video display of Guide is harder to read. Presentation and color selection is poor, as is font size. Far too little info displayed requiring a second click for any meaningful data on Info feature.

    9. I switched to Fios from Comcast and was very satisfied prior to this IMG Upgrade. All of my neighbors and co-workers with Fios are reporting similar frustration.

    10. I am curious as to whether VZ will respond to any of these posts with a corrective action plan. Posts from folks who are only looking at screen shots doesn’t come close to the agony of actually using the software.

  30. I’m not sure if the upgrade to the media guide is an improvement or a step back. It seems to require more steps to find things (show info, VOD, etc) than the old guide. I can live with that but my main frustration is with the DVR playback. When I am watching a VOD show or a recorded show and press play or stop after I forward through commercials, I get no response and can’t get the show to play at normal speed. Anyone else having this issue?

  31. We’ve had IMG for about a week now, and I feel like I am in mourning. Something I really, really enjoyed (o.k., loved) was snatched away and there is nothing I can do about it. Change the look — that’s fine. Add features — even better. But to take away information, features, functionality, and ease of use — oh, I just want to cry. This is not a case of not liking it because it’s different, I don’t like it because it doesn’t function anywhere near as well as it used to. Verizon evidently doesn’t want to hear about it either, because I couldn’t find a phone number or e-mail address for feedback. I eventually called a service number and talked to a woman for about an hour and a half about all of the missing features I want and need, without worrying about what I simply don’t like. She said she was taking note of my comments. By the way, she also said having all the fancy colors and whatnot results in LESS DVR space!

  32. Dave,

    I hope Verizon is paying you well for your beta-testing praise. Verizon has rolled out a software update that clearly no one with even half-a-brain actually tested.

    I am dumbfounded at the number of bugs in this system. Literally every feature has something wrong with it.

    The whole FIOS TV team should be ashamed of themselves for releasing this product in this state and then having the nerve to say we will continue patching it twice a year.

    I was lured by the fiber and skewered by the phone company again. I guess I should have expected Verizon to screw this up too.

  33. Todd,

    I’m not sure what beta you’re referring to and ZNF is independent. We liked what we saw though, as we acknowledged above, it’s not perfect. (For example, we found slight video stutter when resuming from pause.) And obviously there’s a large difference between spending 60 minutes with a piece of software versus living with it. I’ve been informed that Verizon is working on an update slated to hit later this year to correct some of the quirks and deficiencies of their initial release.

  34. Dave,

    When the Verizon.com blog is pointing at your blog as “the reviews have been great” then perhaps you need to mention at the top how little time you actually spent “reviewing” and not “testing” the system.

    It appears Verizon looked at it for about an hour as well, rather than actually testing it.

    - It is slow,
    - it has removed popular navigation features,
    - the format takes up a lot more screen real estate,
    - none of us have the new remote yet (like you have pictured and verizon is touting on their website in overly long training videos done in a ludicrous sitcom format),
    - dvr controls and navigation constantly drop the user back to a default navigation point,
    - dvr disk space utilization is no longer available on dvr menus,
    - the upgrade disabled the second a/c outlet on many set top boxes,
    - channels cannot be removed from the guide lineup (since I am not bi-lingual, it was nice to be able to skip by all of the La Connexion channels in espanol),
    - adding favorites adds both the english and spanish channel to your list…

    After one hour, I thought it was “prettier” too. Then I started actually having to use it.

    But, hey, we got widgets that work and a marketplace feature so that Verizon can sell more stuff to us… and woohoo games are coming in 2008.

    Those unnecessary additions definitely do not offset completely screwing up the navigation.

    Forgive me for accusing your independent review of being less than independent… but realize that Verizon has your review prominently linked to their site as part of their PR campaign to help convince the rest of us that we should like the system of bugs they have foist upon us.

    Todd

  35. This wasn’t a review, it was an overview with pictures – hence the “hands on” title.

    Having said that, I welcome constructive feedback and I’m passing it on to Verizon via my press contact. I’ve also suggested they keep an eye on the comments here.

    And in case folks haven’t caught it yet, the first IMG maintenance release has been scheduled for Q4. It sounds like some of the fvorite channel issues may be addressed to some degree:
    http://www.zatznotfunny.com/2007-08/fios-tv-20-getting-q4-update/

  36. I was going to create a comprehensive, detailed explanation of the problems I found with the new interface before I switched back to TiVo, but I’m just going to post the notes I made to myself. Most are self explanatory. This isn’t everything, just the ones I made notes for.

    No longer offers to delete after end of pgm – must go find and delete

    no slow fwd/rev, only step with intrusive banner

    video and/or audio blanks out randomly

    frequently powers off on pgm delete

    could not save cached video

    select on menu items inconsistent (sometimes right – sometimes select) I understand the idea, but it’s annoying this way.

    CANNOT REMOVE CHANNELS!!!!! – makes “surfing” impossible – HUGE MISTAKE!

    unsubscribed channels should AUTOMATICALLY be hidden!!

    records same episode over and over and over and over- CLUELESS about existing recordings.

    “first run” seems meaningless

    No persistent search for future shows or keywords

    search should NOT include unsubscribed channels (or deleted channels if you COULD delete them)

    cannot add second episode (at another time) if one already exists

    “ouija board” wraps top to bottom, but left or right exits – frustrating to use

    Many menu selections are slow with no audible or visible selection confirmation.

    remote commands get buffered – slow functions result in multiple commands (confirm sound or msg would help)

    “Next Airings” – (not shown if =none?)

    Menu randomly non-responsive

    no confirmation sounds or prompts

    never a “please wait” msg on slow functions – “it just sits there”

    description often incorrect or describes series, not episode

    Date, names not shown in info. Info generally poor.

    sometimes displays wrong info for recordings

    What do the colors mean in the guide??

  37. We’re expecting the new guide any day here in central NJ. I’m NOT excited. I switched from DTV to FiOS about 1 month ago, and while I like the picture quality and price, the DVR is the second worst I’ve ever used! (The worst was a Polaroid unit I got from Walmart) They should not bother with the fancy graphics until they get the basics working. Their guide incorrectly lists programs as repeats which are new episodes. I’ve missed a dozen shows in the past month, where my TiVO on DTV missed 1 show in two years! Also, the response to pause, skip, etc., is horrible with long delays and imprecise positioning.

  38. I have Verizon TV and do like the STATION lineup, it’s even Better than DISH Network. 200 channels for a set fee. No tiers, no levels…ALL of them
    IOW >>ALL OF THEM

  39. The negative feedback at the bottom of the blog is spot on. Hopefully, while Verizon has lost the initial rollout battle, it can win a war by taking advantage of it’s control of the IMG source-code and providing restoring beloved features in a timely manner.

  40. 1. DVR recorded episodes of the same program is now limited to a maximum of five. Verizon deleted four of our prerecorded and unseen programs overnight when they implemented their IMG upgrade.
    2. DVR recording program information is now truncated.
    3. DVR recorded and View Schedule programs no longer include the episode titles.
    4. DVR recorded and Series Manager programs are no longer listed alphabetically.
    5. DVR recording capacity is now reduced down to 47 hours; previously it was 80 hours. Interesting, the Verizon website says the capacity is 120 hours.
    6. It takes five button pushes to learn if a program is new or a rerun; previously it was display along with the basic information about the programs on the TV listing and DVR screens.
    7. When watching a recorded program and it ends, pushing the Stop button now display all of the recorded programs; previously, we were given the immediate option to delete the previously watched program. Now we must search through the entire recorded program in order to find the program that we just watched so that we can select it and delete it.
    8. I found the Marketplace listing something that I’m not interested in. In fact, it cheapens our whole FiOS service.
    9. No longer can we search for a program by date and time, as that option is gone.
    10. Programs in the DVR View Schedule now only show seven days in advance while the TV Listing shows 14 days.
    11. The Reminder feature on the STB for controlling a VCR no longer works.
    12. The remote control on the Help video shows a totally different control than the one that we received with our DVR and STB boxes. We have four Scientific Atlanta AT8550 controls. We are missing the DVR, OK, On Demand, Options, Skip Forward, and STB buttons. Verizon is charging us $5 apiece to replace the remotes.
    13. The channels previously removed from the TV Listing are now all back and the option to remove these unwanted channels is no longer available

  41. I’ve had my FIOS DVR for a week – I’m coming from a DirecTV Tivo DVR – it was *far* superior:

    - When I pause a show to frame-advance, the banner stays up – blocking a large part of the screen! Frequently, the thing I’m trying to see when I paused is covered by the position banner!

    - When I search for a show, if it is in HD, ONLY the HD listing appears! I don’t want to record everythingin HD – the capacity on the unit it too small – so I have to scroll through several days of the guide to get to the non-HD listing of the show to record it!

    - I frequently have to hit “Pause” several times to get it to pause, and the same with “Play” to continue playing.

    - Menu selections are very slow to respond.

    - When a recorded show I’m watching ends, I then have to search through my list of recorded shows to delete it – it should give me the opportunity to delete it upon completion, or if I hit “stop”.

    I’m not happy at all.

  42. I’m heading up to NJ for a Verizon IMG update. Leave comments on today’s post, if you have questions or concerns you’d like me to address with the Verizon rep.

  43. Too bad I missed your time frame. My FiOS box just deleted most of my content because it thought it was full, even though it should have had quite a bit more room. It was reporting more HD space used than actual, and it is one of the boxes that thinks it has half the storage space. So when it recorded ONE show last night, it blew away maybe ten shows I had stored. I’m *this* close to going back to Time Warner with ALL my business.

  44. So…. How did your visit to Verizon go? Here in Mercer County, NJ, we still have not been upgraded. Have they fixed things so when we finally get there it’s at least not a step backward?

  45. Marshall Berube October 25, 2007 at 6:22 pm

    Just upgraded a few days and it is obvious IMG never went thru a useability lab before sending it out.

    It is pretty but it is:
    slow
    will delete programs during conversion
    difficult start a DVD recorded program
    difficult to delete the same program after watching
    fast forward gauge works sometimes

    This is definitely a step back. Anybody know the number for Tampa Brighthouse?

  46. I just received the IMG 2.0 here in Plano Texas. The switched output on the back of the box does not work. I use the switch output and I turn the settop box off and the switched output still stays on. As long as there is power to the settop box, then the switched ouput will be on….

  47. HOORAY Verizon does not have Outlets that Switch On and Off…they are very abusive to TV sets! Even the old CRT TVs suffer from the old switched outlet. It’s good that they are “always on”.

    Don’t believe me? Plug and Unplug your TV for the next hour, while turning it on and off…That power supply will end up Shorted. Thats the abuse no TV should suffer.

    Avoid the abuse, save your hard-earned money

    Now if you’re operating a lamp with a hula girl on it…that’s ok, bulbs are only a couple dollars at most.

  48. I think I posted this before but in the wrong place.

    When you push the information button channel information displays and then fades away.

    But when you use any pause function channel information comes up covering a fifth of the screen and never goes away.

    The channel information permanently covers the portion of the screen THAT you paused to see ie. that 1-800 number from an advertisment or a slogan you would have liked to be able to read but CAN’T.

    Ironic but not funny.

  49. Will they ever fix it!? I have been living with this for well over a month, nothing has changed, no options to choose, nothing. You can’t even set reminders for future shows, which i used every day. I am tired of this new IMG, i wish i still had dish. Now when i go through the guide, it just keeps going up if i press up, no matter what i do it wont stop until i press exit about 20 times and by then i loose the show i wanted to watch. Ugh, next time they need to test things better,

  50. 3 things to improve:

    1.I would like the ability to hide the banner that pops up when you ffwd or skip segment. The banner stays up for 5 seconds. Want to be able to not see the banner.
    2. Be able to swap between tuners on dual tuner DVRs.
    3. Be able to adjust the start and finish time adjustments when you hit the record button. Previous version would allow that. New version requires you to go the the scheduled recordings to set the start/finish time adjustments.
    thanks

  51. three huge gripes:

    1. It’s slow.

    2. The guide is hard to read, navigate, and why are there two separate views when you try to get out of the guide? We only need one.

    3. (This is the MAIN, most ANNOYING thing):
    You can’t remove channels you’re not subscribed to or ones you hate.. they’re ALWAYS in the guide… and sure, you can make the guide “favorites-only”, but you need to do it every. time. you. hit. the. guide. button.

    Ridiculous. Anyone up for petitioning Verizon to get this fixed IMMEDIATELY?

  52. Well, we finally got the new IMG yesterday. It’s version 1.0.4 and from what I’ve read it’s a big improvement over the old one! In fact, I’d have to say I generally like it.

    Yes, it is still very slow. But they do seem to have improved the skip forward/back response. After a night of TV watching I didn’t get frustrated at it, and that’s definitely new for me!

    I do understand the slowness given the on-line nature of it and the low end CPU used in the DVR. All they really need is a BEEP or a “Working” message which comes on immediately when the command comes in. That would prevent your not knowing if it heard the command and then pressing the button again only to have the command canceled or the wrong selection made. This is industry standard UI stuff and they should know better. Verizon: Get some adults to write your software!

    They do need to provide a quick way to make the guide show only the channels you subscribe to. They are also inconsistent with their menus, for example in one menu you use “remove” and in another “delete” to do the same thing. Not very professional.

    The final issue they need to address IMMEDIATELY is not the look of the interface, but the content. The TV Guide info is too frequently wrong, and the DVR too frequently misses shows and/or records the wrong thing. We pay BIG BUCKS for this as diversion and entertainment, and nothing is worse than wasting your free time on frustrating entertainment.

  53. We seem to have received a DVR software upgrade last night. (1.0.5) Does anyone know what’s new or improved in this version. I don’t see any difference off the bat. The only reason I even looked is because I found my DVR off this morning when I usually leave it on.

  54. I am a new fios TV customer and love it but am very frustrated by poor design and poor support either by phone or on the web. Does anyone know what the color coded entries in the IMG (guide) are for? The shows on the grids are definitely different colors but no where does it explain.

  55. I wish it had the functionality to choose a Favorites 1 or 2 default instead of having to hit the “heart (fav)” button or left arrow when in guide view.

    As for everything else, my favorite function is multi-room viewing…my DVR was always 80%+ due to having to be in the family room. Since this feature, our DVR has not crept above 16%.

    If you know how to make one of your Favorites a default, I would love to hear it.

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