Pros: Sophisticated set top boxes with excellent sound & video plus Widgets and Apps.
Cons: remote control, standard STB's suck.
Since I talked so long about the internet connection in my previous review, I won’t waste time setting up another interview…I’ll simply get to the major points of why I think FIOS TV is better than CABLE TV.
The installation of my FIOS went pretty quickly.
It took the technician about 5 hours (8:45AM – 2PM) to wire lines through the floors and ceilings of the house for the individual “set top boxes”. I ordered 4 regular STB’s at a cost of $6 each per month. You can also opt for the larger HD STB’s at the exact same price if you have LCD/Plasma TV’s in the house, but, the other option is for the FIOS DVR HD STB which allows you to record programs to one box and then watch them from that box, anywhere else in the house connected to the network. That’s pretty cool – but, as there was no promotion, the DVR costs $12 a month.
Speaking of promotions, Verizon has been switching and changing them up almost monthly. Less than a year ago, Verizon was offering a mini-DV camcorder free with FIOS Triple package. That changed to a $150 cash back (via gift card) and then to a mini netbook computer (which carries a $150 cost and a delivery fee).
#1 Verizon FIOS has one major element that separates it from Cable, DTV and other services: BANDWIDTH. The fiber optic cables carry tremendous amounts of data over their laser beams and when you upgrade to FIOS TV, your data service goes from around 16000 Kbps down/ 5000Kbps up to the unheard of 22000 Kbps down/ 22000 kbps up. This amount of speed is ridiculous and my Xbox360 can’t even keep up with it. I actually experience lag because my latency is so ridiculously low. Downloading files to any WiFi device; computer, iPhone, Blackberry,etc takes but a few seconds.
Bandwidth is vastly helped by FIOS' fiber-to-premises model which sends the fiber optic directly to the home or business, rather than terminating at a neighborhood distribution box and splitting into coax lines - like the Cable TV model. With Cable TV, peak hours see decreases in bandwidth due to the shared resources throughout the local network. FIOS gaurrantees full speed during peak and off-peak hours.
Because of this tremendous speed, the STB’s connect faster than Cable boxes and the picture as well as sound is noticeably clear on regular TV’s and on HDTV’s – though you also have to have a good HDTV to take advantage of the HD STB’s full offerings.
#2 The Verizon remote offers you access to WIDGETS. The widgets, similar to their use on a computer – allow you instant access to local information. The Weather widget tells you the weather for the week (like on my iPhone), the Traffic widget tells you local traffic (here in NYC I can see traffic on the major highways and bridges), there are also horoscope, daily news and sports news widgets. It’s a very cool feature and since you don’t have to actually watch any news stations for instant access to them, they are very helpful if you wake up early for work.
#3 The remote offers you FAVORITE setups and ON DEMAND channels through buttons and the remote is relatively easy to use.
#4 You can play GAMES against the computer or another person sitting nearby using the remote. I played CHESS, but there was also Solitaire and Soduku. Other games become available over time.
The computer was actually very quick with its Chess moves and there never was slowdown of the picture so I guess the STB's have a very powerful processor inside. Most likely an Intel.
I have not gotten my first, regular bill yet so I’m not sure how deep I’m digging to have FIOS every month. When I update this review I’ll give CONS if I find any. So far so good.
#1 The FIOS Remote doesn’t fully illuminate. The DVR buttons (which also controls “On DEMAND”) light up, but the really important buttons like the numeric keypad and the menu/option/exit buttons do not. In the dark, its really, really hard to figure out which button is where because the numeric keys are placed so low, they are unintuitive. Time Warner Cable has a really good illuminated remote, and I’m surprised Verizon didn’t learn from them.
#2 The HD STB is better and faster than the Standard STB. Make sure you get the HD STB instead - which is the same cost ($6/month) as a standard model.
#3 As FIOS is carrying a 100% digital signal, you cannot simply connect the coaxial cable to a TV unless it has a Set Top Box to get regular channels. The jury is still out on whether or not this is always the case, but I do know that with cable, using a TV without a cable box is possible. Of course, without the Cable STB, you only have access to 20 channels or so.
As I mentioned before, Time Warner Cable is Verizon’s main competitor. Therefore, it is necessary to offer more content – or at least the appearance thereof.
Verizon gives you 1951 channels out of the box with free HBO and CINEMAX for 2 months of trial. I’m not sure how much they cost yet so I’ll have to update this review.
The first 319 channels are regular television programming. A Mixture of local entertainment/news/sports/Women’s/sci-fi/etc.
The next 60 channels are movie channels available in the “movie package” which includes: Starz, Encore, Showtime and TMC. More on pricing later.
The next 45 channels are HBO and Cinemax. The last 3 channels are porn channels from Playboy.
502-931 are HD channels. In order to access these, you must have an HD box. These channels are specifically designed for HDTV’s and they are repeats of the first 445 Channels designed to operate on 720p and 1080p. The picture quality is flawless. The one downside however is that the regular STB’s don’t bother to cut out the HD channels. This means when you scroll through channels on a regular STB you will be greeted by a “cannot play HD channel message”.
Why not just cut them out?
Channels 900 onwards are ON DEMAND channels.
Channels 1000 – 1499 are Pay Per View…mostly sports such as boxing events, football games,etc.
Channels 1500 – 1741 are referred to as La Conexion (en espanol) – the primary channels for Spanish speakers.
The international channels range from 1750 – 1788, offering content from China’s CCTV4, to Arab, Persian, German, Korean, Portuguese, Japanese Romanian or even Armenian among others.
The downside is that these channels are premium channels requiring a subscription.
Channels 1800 – 1951 are music channels. Everything you’d listen to on XM radio or internet radio is here. Rap, Country, Latin, etc. The sound quality is perfect but you’ll need an HD stereo system to get the most out of it.
FACEBOOK and TWITTER were recently added to the Widget list. In order to use them, you have to enable parental control and then setup your account by inputting your username and password. Once you are online you can view friend updates, friend’s photo albums, your own photo albums, messages, and account settings. If you are a Tweeter who really must tell everyone what you’re doing moment by moment, you can simply click on “what you’re watching” and your account is updated with a simple message letting people know exactly what you are watching.
The integration of this feature is brilliant and I hope Myspace will follow. The only major problem is that you must input your password each and every time you sign in, and there is no “leave me signed in” option. This is annoying if its dark due to the remote not being illuminated. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that you are automatically signed out even if you simply close the application without turning off the set top box. You can only use these features on a split screen view, so, you’ll end up closing the split view to see your film in full screen. Each time you want to update what you’re watching, you’ve gotta sign back in.
VERIZON’S ON DEMAND is actually pretty good. Right now I am watching “Demolition Man”, but, many of my other favorite films are currently available FREE such as Schindler’s List, Bourne Supremacy, Aliens vs.Predator:Requiem, Predator, Predator 2, and others are available right now. My only complaint here is that my favorite animated shows like South Park, Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Robot Chicken are slow to update to new episodes. Otherwise, the newest released movies are available in HD as soon as they leave theaters.
FIOS gives you FREE HBO and Cinemax during your first 2 months, but, as I see it, you are best only ordering movie channels during months when you are on vacation and not planning to go anywhere.
OVERALL…The television is exactly what I expected and I’m satisfied with it. I’ll have to update this review when I get the second bill. There is also the VERIZON HUB phone to review. I’ll get to that in the next review.
UPDATE 6/1/10 - I have thus far used FIOS' HD boxes with three different HDTV's. The first two were regular LCD HDTV's and the 3rd was a Vizio LED LCD. I used HDMI cables (provided by Verizon) to connect. Picture clarity on HD channels with content broadcast in HD was crystal clear and sound quality was perfectly balanced in all cases.
I will never go back to Cable. The monthly bill (with 4 boxes) is roughly $145 which includes $25 extra a month for HBO/Cinemax.
11/02/10 - STILL A HAPPY CUSTOMER.
My uncle recently dropped cable and got FIOS. He's getting Shotime, HBO and Cinemax with 4 boxes for less than $150 a month.
I hear alot of people are switching to FIOS because cable television isn't carrying their favorite sports games. Welcome to the Fiber Optic family!
Youtube has been added to the Widget list. Its got a complicated setup which you need to do on your computer, but if you manage to get through it, you can watch Youtube on your TV.
UPDATE 5/22/11 - STILL A VERY HAPPY CUSTOMER !!!I am still paying $155 a month for every channel (except Playboy) on 3 Set Top Boxes. The bills have been reduced in size from 3 pages to 1. Very simple to understand. 3D Television has just been introduced. Sports and movies can be had in 3D, $9.99 a month, subscription for channels 1002 onwards.