Going satellite for television: ditching Comcast for DirecTV

Recently, we switched from Comcast to DirecTV for our television viewing. The package we chose is much cheaper than Comcast and the picture quality is vastly superior. Even the standard def channels look better than the cable equivalents do.  (Which, btw, I am perplexed that certain channels, like H2, do not seem to have an HD option.) The receiver box, a DVR, is also much nicer than anything from Motorola that Comcast foists on its customers.

The DVR, called ‘Genie’, can record up to five programs at the same time. Which means you can record four programs and watch/record a fifth channel at the same time. A very nice feature. Genie also has a half decent user interface, though it is still confusing in places.  There are also ‘apps’ available, including games and a Facebook client. Interesting, but I have not yet used them to any length of time nor can I see myself doing so in the future.

We wanted it in our bedroom as well, so we got a client box. The box, much smaller than the Genie (which is HUGE, original XBOX huge) and ‘dumb’, comparatively speaking. As it turns out, Genie is also a server. It can serve up video that you recorded on the Genie and pipe it to any client in the house. A nice feature. There is also an additional piece of hardware and matching software that lets you stream DVR programming to just about any device in the house.

DirecTV also has Android and iOS applications that you record programs while away, and also watch selected programming away from your home.  Also a nice feature.

While the hardware selection you get is really nice, better than cable’s offerings, it’s the programming that really matters. So, how do they stack up?

Well, OK, as it turns out.

For all of Comcast’s shortcomings-are there are a ton of them-they do seem to excel in programming.  We had a hundred plus channels to watch on Comcast. They were of many types and I only watched a couple of dozen with any regularity.

DirecTV, on the other hand, is heavily tiered. We got a middle of the road package and, thus, lack what were basic or ‘enhanced’ channels on Comcast. Things like Sprout and Hallmark Channel on Comcast are on a higher tier on DirecTV.  That’s fine, I chose the package we have and get all of the channels we want (but Sprout.)  Here’s the rub, though: a third of the channels, perhaps more, that we get are shopping or all ads.  The program guide is littered with these things.  With the sheer number of such channels, I would expect a bigger price differential that there is.

Overall, I am pleased but I have realized that I am not really saving much over my previous Comcast installation. I still have Comcast for Internet access, which is eighty dollars (US) a month. Add the fifty for satellite, and I am back up where I was with cable a few months ago. Admittedly, one of the reasons we dropped Comcast was because it was going up to $180 next month—so I am going to save, just not as much as I had hoped.  The Best Buy salesman said we could get Comcast internet for half of what we do…not true. It would have been if we were new to Comcast, but we are not and I do not want to cancel and re-sign since I would lose my email address, which I do not want to do.  If anyone has suggestions, please feel free to offer them up.

Now, what channel is Food Network again?

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