CNET weighs in on the DTVPal DVR

Dave Zatz —  March 3, 2009 — 15 Comments

CNET has posted their review of the DISH Network DTVPal. And it seems Matthew Moskovciak and I are pretty much in agreement.

The DTVPal DVR ($250, currently sold out) falls somewhere between a VCR and TiVo in functionality.  In general, I find the interface sufficiently powerful but, like the remote, more cluttered than TiVo. The guide data (PSIP or TVGOS) is limited in both days and data compared to the comprehensive Tribune data TiVo, and others, pay for. Therefore, I assume, the DTVPal DVR architects chose to record solely based on time slot. While you can search for shows by name, the actual scheduled recordings are set by day and time. Meaning if a show runs an extra minute or so (as the networks often do) and for shows that run on more than one night (such as early episodes of American Idol), you’re on your own – the DVR doesn’t have the smarts to overcome these without human intervention.

Like the CNET team, I haven’t personally witnessed any of the reported rebooting or freezing issues. However, as reviewers, we probably spend less time with the unit than folks who’ve purchased it for their living room. It’s also possible our newer (?) hardware/firmware combo is more stable. Not to mention, my unit is on a well ventilated shelf and draws steady power through a nice Monster surge protector. Potential customers should be aware that DISH doesn’t appear to accept returns… You should be prepared to live through the issues that typically plague new devices.

Overall, I do like the fee-less DTVPal DVR. It meets a need, providing basic and economical DVR services to those solely pulling content over-the-air (OTA). However, the advanced scheduling/recording options and Netflix streaming found on TiVo make it worth the $13/month premium for me.

15 responses to CNET weighs in on the DTVPal DVR

  1. Mr. Moskovciak made a factual error in his review. He claimed you could not view recorded shows sorted by title in groups. In fact, that option is available. I would think any reviewer with a little patience and curiosity would have figured this out. I was also a little surprised that he didn’t point out the fact that software patches are and will continue to be available for the DTVPal DVR.

    Is the thing perfect? No. It doesn’t wash my dishes. But for a guy like me without cable or satellite, it has drastically improved my television watching experience, at a very good price. I think Mr. Moskovciak missed the point by casting it as a step down from satellite or cable DVRs, rather than a giant leap up from rabbit ears and a vcr.

  2. Kurt Christopher March 6, 2009 at 12:26 am

    I’ve had the DTVPal DVR since December, and have also been very pleased with it. The dual tuner works great for recording and watching simultaneously. If there is signal interruption for any reason, it automatically re-tunes the signal for you. You do have to realize that this is a FREE service, and therefore does not have some of the bells and whistles of a TiVo, which you are paying a monthly fee for. I would love to see the next software upgrade allow for name-based recording rather than a time-based schedule recording. I have found that it is smarter than a VCR in that it checks the TV Guide data when repeating a scheduled recording (Mon-Fri or weekly) and will adjust its start or end points accordingly. Software updates were easy enough to install either via a network cable or USB drive. All-in-all, when I figure how much I’m saving with zero TV costs and I get a beautiful HD picture and DVR, it ain’t a bad deal.

  3. Related to signal interruption, I tried removing a few channels (on multiple occasions) that I don’t care about. Every day, they return to the lineup. Anyone know of a way of permanently killing them, telling the DTVPal DVR to not rescan them?

  4. It has been perfect for my uses. There is a reason that it sold out previously, and was a Best of CES for 2008.

  5. Not a bad article. I however would point out for people looking at the DTVPal DVR that on top of the 13.00 a month you also have to add in your Cable bill if you don’t have cable and your internet bill if you dont have internet. Those three services would total 120.00 a month on the low side. Now if you do Tivo for three year contract…it is about 9.00 a month for Tivo and Tivo is awsome. If like me you cut Cable and Internet and just go the over the air rt. Tivo will not work with out cable and internet. DTVPal DVR is for people wanting something better then a VCR with the Program Guide of Cable and the somewhat look of Tivo…well then I would drop the 250.00 and buy the DVR. I bought mine at SolidSignal.com and no complaints. There out there just look.

  6. I don’t get why people give the product such a bad wrap. I have had the PalDVR for over a month and am absolutely loving it. With Tivo, I would have to buy the box, sign a contract and pay a monthly fee just for schedule listings.

    I am saving $1000/yr on cable tv and don’t have to flip through 80 channels of garbage any more. Granted there are a few channels I miss but the savings makes up for it.

  7. DON’T DO IT! Mine is frozen in a reboot loop after only 1 month of use. They wouldnt give me a refund and i’m still waiting on a replacement 3 weeks after talking to them!

  8. I am one of those who went to return my DtvPal DVR after numerous random reboots and freezing. It got so bad that I had to unplug it just to try and rescue what I was watching. Customer service, to my surprise, was very good. I documented my trail via email before online tech support told me to call; I was told to return and they would send me a new one. During the week after my call, I hooked it back up to the web to see if the there were any upgrades (yes) and would they make a difference. Lo and behold it did. Knock on wood… and I’m probably jinxing myself BIG TIME.. but the unit has performed flawlessly since the firmware upgrade.

    p.s. I see “W” is having the same issues I was, and am wondering if they did the firmware upgrade. If not, give it a shot. If so… well, good luck. I’d ask for a supervisor who you can cal back if needed.

  9. I have a dtvpal+ set top box. I am considering buying a dtvpal dvr. Does anyone know if the remotes operate off of different code sets so that two could be side by side without interference?

  10. They do not work together. The pal dvr will activate the pal+, but the pal+ will not bother the pal dvr.

  11. Update on conflict between DtvPal+ and DtvPal Dvr. The remote code in the Sys Information screen on the DtvPal Dvr can be changed to a different code.

  12. I have a DTVPal DVR and its works great! The only issues I have are the adding of channels that I don’t want, and sometimes I have to unplug the unit to get it to come on… but love to be able to record my show and watch them when I am ready.

  13. I have owned one for two months, and it works fine, but there is no way to save only part of a recorded program, (a clip).

    Tech support doesn’t know much. . . They couldn’t help me.

    The manual for this unit seems to be an arm’s length,”Keep ‘em out of the box”, project. No specs or detail on how to overcome its limitations.

    There is one unlabeled button on the remote ? ? ? What does it do?

    If you stumble thru the setup process and activate the “find channels” button, it deletes all your previously stored timer events!

    Newly broadcasting channels are automatically added without any user option to review them first.

  14. We bought a DTVPAL DVR december of 09 and it has worked well up until yesterday when it is locked up in a loading mode. From what I can tell the thing is toast and can’t get anyhelp with the thing….very frustrating.

  15. I see the earlier postings are months old – I hope someone still looks here – and can help me here, or point me elsewhere for help.

    I have 2 DTV Pals. I love how it works, but I sometimes want to record 3 shows at once, and also want to hook the second to a 2nd antenna aimed in a different direction for more channels with better reception.

    I’m currently using one of them, with the 2nd still unused, new and boxed.

    Are they usually all sold set up with the same (“#1″) remote code ?

    I’ve tried to see how to change the remote code on the first one so I’ll know I can change it if I open the still boxed 2nd one – and may find that they are the same and conflicting.

    (I have been using it after initial setup, and do have recordings set – is that preventing this change ?)

    So far, I can (only) look at the remote code setting by pressing the info button on the remote, but can’t seem to change anything from that screen, or find another method to access and change that in the unit and on the remote.

    Has anyone solved this who can provide step by step directions to do that ?

    Also though I could label and use the 2 remotes, can you ‘toggle’ one remote back and forth to control each unit in a reasonably simple way ?

    Or does anyone know from experience the likelihood that two units bought from the same store MIGHT be factory set up with different codes ?

    (Some electronic items are sold that way, others ALL set the same initially, requiring users with 2 to change one of them themself.)

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