Here in Phoenix, Cox offers the Scientific Atlanta Explorer 8000 as their PVR set top box. Your only other option for PVR is to use something like a tivo and have it use an IR remote to change the channels. So why wouldn’t I want to use it?
Because the explorer 8000 is a really really crappy product. Really crappy. No, really. While technically yes, it will record programs, and has a nice 2 tuner system, it’s so burdened by it’s crappy user interface, abysmally slow response time, and general lack of useful PVR features, as to be useless.
One of the great things about Tivo is the season pass feature. Record every new instance of this show for me. The explorer doesn’t offer this. Instead it will let you record at a specific time on a specific day, and have that repeat if you like, but if the show is a re-run it will record it. If the show moves time slots, it will record that slot. If the show is pre-empted for some stupid olympic event or something, it will record it. But, what I can do is just record EVERY instance of that show, regardless of time aired, channel, episode, or anything else. I can’t just record every new episode of the Screen Savers. This might not seem like a big deal to people without a PVR, and are used to the pain of VCR recording, but that’s why I got a PVR in the first place, for convenience. So this thing is out for episodic recording.
While it is relatively easy to set it to record a single movie or show, it’s somewhat hit and miss whether or not it will actually record it, or just the last 10 minutes. Which is nice.
There is no way to get any of the recorded video out of the box. The HD is formatted with an encrypted file system. While it has firewire ports, they are not active.
While apparently some Cox markets that use this box have firmware upgrades that allow true season pass functionality, these firmware updates haven’t made it to Phoenix, and they are not something you can apply yourself. Great.
Basically this thing is really just good for pausing rewinding and fast forwarding TV. Not worth the $10 a month they charge. If you’re thinking about getting one, and you live in Phoenix, don’t bother. Buy a Tivo, or better yet, build a mythTV box.