Pros: Mature operating system,upgradable Hard drive
Cons: Currently hard to get.$$$$
I started with PVR (Personal Video recorders) back in 1999, when Panasonic brought out their "Showstopper" series. Used it until Dec 2005, when I bought the HR 10-250 High Definition PVR unit. I also have been a DirecTV customer since about 1996 or so, and had to upgrade my service to accommodate the new TIVO PVR.
I currently have a 37" LCD HDTV by Sceptre, purchased about the same time as the HD Tivo unit. The TV is capable of displaying resolutions from 520p to 1080p. The HD Tivo displays 1080i on this display, using the HDMI output on the HD 10-250. I run a TOSLINK cable from the DIGITAL OUT on the HD 10-250, to my YAMAHA Receiver, where the receiver decodes DOLBY SURROUND (if the source is encoded that way).
..On Second Thought...
Depending upon your near future plans, you may want to consider an HDMI switch box, since so many video devices now have HDMI inputs and outputs on them. Check at "Monoprice dot com" for reasonable prices on HDMI switch boxes, and HDMI cables: don't let the "monster" get you with inflated cable prices! A switch box will give you the ability to switch between HDMI devices...like that Playstation 3 and/or more than one DVD Player. I added one as a second thought...wish now it was my first.
Now, the Star of the Review
...The HR 10-250 Series 2 High Def Tivo. It comes stock with a 250GB Hard drive, which gives it the capability to record up to 30 hours of your favorite Hi Def programming or 200 Hours of Standard Def programming, or a combination of the two. Its two tuners gives you the capability of recording TWO programs at once, while watching one you have already recorded. You can always watch a DVD while you're recording on the HR 10-250 (thats where that HDMI switch comes in handy!) It also has an input for a terrestrial (Over The Air)antenna, which has worked for me very well since the beginning, thank you! The HD Tivo DOES record OTA High def from my local stations beautifully, plus it does a GREAT job on HBO HD, and all the other HD channels available through your upgraded DirecTV service.
Inputs and Outputs Galore
The HD 10-250 has more than enough outputs to accommodate any ones requirements: HDMI, Component Video, Composite and S-Video (although why you would want to use the last 3 with your Hi Def display is beyond me!) You also have the Optical Audio OUT (Toslink as it is sometimes referred to), and analog audio out as well. If you're still considering an HDTV to go with your Hi Def Tivo, do not even consider one that does NOT have at least ONE HDMI input,and that is HDCP compatible (I can't go into HDCP now, but, trust me...you want your HDTV to be HDCP compliant!).
Navigating is a breeze!
The TIVO Operating system (for lack of a better way to describe what TIVO actually does) is very intuitive, customizable, and easy to set up. Its extensive use of "wizards" guides you through setting up your channels, setting up "season passes" so that you will not miss your favorite serie's episodes. The interface is colorful, and with the last firmware upgrade, very responsive. The remote is easy to use and grip as well. This is a well thought out, and mature Graphic User Interface (GUI).
TIVO and DirecTV have parted Ways
Unfortunately, about 18 months ago, TIVO and DirecTV ended their agreement. TIVO now makes their Series 3 unit that is made for CABLE, using the problematic CABLECARD technology now supplied by cable companies. As for DirecTV, as you may have guessed, they now have their own Hi Def recorder withOUT the TIVO interface. So far, the reviews are less than stellar on their unit. Those of us with HD10-250's can look forward to being supported by DirecTV into the forseeable future. Not only that, but the HR 10-250 can be upgraded with larger Hard drives (DIY or installed for you),and network connections by several upgraders out there. There is even an outfit that SELLS the HD 10-250 already upgraded to your liking. Check out "weaknees dot com". The possibilities for upgrading the HR 10-250 are unlimited. Unfortunately, neither the Series 3 TIVO or DirecTV's new HD recorders are that versatile, or (IMHO) work nearly as well as the TIVO/DirecTV combination HR 10-250!
What You'll Need!
You'll need an HDTV of some flavor, with (preferably) an HDMI input, a "land Line" phone for initial set up ( I have recently gotten VONAGE to work for that purpose,however YMMV), a Receiver or amplifier that can take one of the Audio output options from the HR 10 -250. My HR 10-250 came with ONE HDMI cable (1 meter), and A triple LNB DirecTV dish that MUST be professionally setup. If you intend on grabbing your own Over The AIR (OTA) local stations, you will need some sort of terrestrial antenna as well, which you will have to install yourself.
What to Expect
If you have yet to experience Hi Def programming in your living room, you're in for a treat, no matter what type of HD display you choose. For the best possible picture, your HDTV should have 1) At least ONE HDMI input, and 2) be capable of 1080i(p) resolution. Number two is not absolutely necessary, but you'll be glad it does have that capability. If you're already watching Hi Def DVDs (HD-DVD or Blu-RAY), chances are good your display already is capable of 1080 i(p). Once you see Discovery HD, you'll realize as I did what a quantum leap HDTV is to home entertainment.
Your Mileage May Vary...
..However I have spent almost the past 18 months with the HR 10-250. There were some early glitches, and there continue to be minor glitches here and there ( I have yet to experience any of them, however), so keep in mind the maturity of the technology...and sit back and enjoy your favorite programming in glorious High Definition! I have never regretted my investment in the HR 10-250. And, with the firmware upgrades were automatically downloaded into the unit a few months back, the operation is even better!