DVR Switch: The Remotes

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DVR Switch: The Remotes

Monday, December 3 2007

I've been using DirecTV's non-TiVo DVR for about six weeks and it's made me appreciate all the work that TiVo's engineers have done to make the user interface easy to use. Because I was comfortable with the TiVo interface, any change is going to be disruptive, but there are a few things that I think DirecTV has done especially poorly. I'll start off with the remote controls. The new DirecTV DVR's is on the left, with the old DirecTV TiVo on the right.

Remote Controls

There are a few big things I don't like about my new remote's design:

  1. It's rectangular. That makes it tougher to find buttons by feel, since I can't tell where my hand is on the remote without looking. That's especially problematic because...
  2. There are two adjacent clusters of a big round button surrounded by a ring of smaller buttons. That makes it tough to find the right button by feel.
  3. Among the playback buttons, "play" is the largest and most central. But my use shows that "pause" is a much more useful button to get to quickly.
  4. The "stop" button is positioned right between the buttons that skip forwards and backwards, so it occasionally gets in the way when I'm navigating commercial breaks.
  5. The "record" button is positioned as one of the buttons used to control playback of recorded material.

The new remote control has six more buttons than the old one, but offers less functionality.

  1. I don't think there's any need for a "prev" button when you already have "back" and "exit."
  2. The four colored buttons only used as workarounds for bad UI design, so I hate them on principle.
  3. Three different power buttons?
  4. There's no button for slow motion playback.
  5. The "dash" button can be pressed twice to quickly delete a recorded show from the playlist. I have yet to run into any other use for it, so I'm not entirely sure why it's called "dash."
  6. There's an "active" button that I'd prefer not to have, since it just tunes to channel 9999 to show me an interactive portal channel with lots of marketing. There are lots of better channels and none of them have their own button on the remote.

All that said, I like both of these remotes a whole lot more than the Dish Network DVR remote. It has colored buttons and dedicated buttons for paging up and down in lists.

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