Motorola Dual Tuner DVR

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What is a Digital TV Tuner DVR Cable Box?

Congratulations. You just bought a brand-spanking new wide-screen, high-def 1080p LCD television. Now, how do you get the most of your High Definition, Digital Television experience? Much of the way you use a digital TV has to do with the service provider you choose. Whether you go with a Dish or Cable, literally all digital televisions can give you Digital Video Recording (DVR), interactive programming, advanced menu systems, and high definition channel tuning through the Set Top Box. Though virtually all digital televisions have their own high definition, built-in tuners these days, an HD, set-top box is a more powerful way to tap into your TV’s features and performance, such as Digital Video Recording (DVR). Cable Companies such as Comcast, have an additional feature called, Video On-Demand which allows you to choose from hundreds of programs or movies and watch them when you want to watch them. You will need a set-top box to do this.

The DCT6412 is a Dual-Tuner DVR High Definition Set-top box by Motorola.

I am currently renting a DCT3412 through my Cable Provider, Comcast. The DCT6412 is similar, but with a few more features, bells and whistles, which make it a better choice for coverage in this review. If you own a High-Definition television set, it makes sense to pay a little bit more on your monthly bill for a DVR (Digital Video Recorder), so you can record, pause, rewind and replay live television, as well as watch it in High Definition clarity. Comcast and most other Cable companies will not charge you extra to rent the brand and model you want, so it helps to know ahead of time which cable box you want and simply ask for it. If it’s available they will exchange it for you at no extra charge. (Especially if you threaten to try DirectTV.) The DCT6412 was not available at the time my cable was installed in my current home. In the past, whenever I have wanted new equipment with Comcast, all I had to do was ask, so I assume I could upgrade for no extra charge. In a nutshell, here is what the DCT6412 Dual-Tuner DVR High Definition Cable Box has to offer: Video On-Demand, Digital Music (Dolby Surround Sound), interactive programming, Dual Tuner Digital Recording and of course, High Definition tuning and display.

Setup of the DCT6412 DVR Cable Box

In order to take full advantage of the features and get the most of the picture and sound quality of the DCT6412 Dual Tuner DVR Cable Box along with your home theatre sound system, you will need either a set of component video cables or HDMI cable, and a digital audio cable. Setup is pretty straight forward. There is only one Coax Input on the back of the DCT6412 Dual Tuner Set Top Box. That is where you will connect the cable coming from your house. Next, you will need to hook the necessary video and audio cables from your DCT6412 Set Top Box to your television and/or stereo system. The HDMI or Component Cables (either of these are sufficient for High Definition Display), plug into the respective video out connectors on the back of the cable box, than to the HDMI or Component in of your television. The HDMI is the preferred cable merely for the fact it is smaller, less bulky and has only one connection.  For audio, the Set Top box includes a couple of RCA jacks. Plug the two RCA Audio connectors to the back of your box, then to the audio input jacks of your television. You are now ready to watch and listen to your television without the use of your stereo or home theatre system. If you are going to be using your television as part of a home theatre system, you may still want to have your set top box audio connected directly to the television so you can simply watch the TV without always having to turn on the surround sound. The DCT6412 Cable Box has Optical Audio outputs. Plug your Optical Cable into this and then into one of the inputs of your Surround Sound Receiver. This will allow you to listen to movies or music which are programmed and transmitted in Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound. One other convenient feature is that the front of the unit has a set of video/audio RCA inputs. These can be used for displaying output from an external device such as a camcorder. That is pretty much it for the basic setup of your DCT6412 Cable Box. There are a number of other interesting connections on the unit, but any explanation of what they are for and how they are used is inexplicably absent from any of Motorola’s manuals or documentation. For instance, there are two USB connections; one in front and one in back. There is one firewire connector and one 10/100 Ethernet jack. Also, there is a smart-card slot, which is used by your cable provider for programming your service. I have done some research online and will report on what these mysterious, unknown, undocumented features can and cannot be used for in an upcoming article. Meanwhile, let’s discuss how it all works:

Basic Operation of the DCT6412

Using the DCT6412 Dual-Tuner DVR High Definition Cable Box is pretty simple; though it is unlikely you will tap its full potential in your first week of use, if ever.
The DCT6412 Remote can be programmed to control your Television, DVD or VCR player and your Audio System. Instructions are included for how to do this. I’ve found that the number or channel buttons on the remote are a little bit small and awkard to control; otherwise the remote is adequate and easy enough to learn and use. Press the TV button on the remote, then press the cable button to power on the cable box and change channels on your box. When your Cable box is plugged in for the first time, it will take several minutes for it to find and program all of the station information. Once this is completed, you can view detailed information on any program you are watching by pressing the ‘info’ button. You can use the channel up-down button to change programs, or you can press the ‘okay’ button in the center of the four arrows which are located in the middle of the remote. Pressing the ‘okay’ button makes it possible to browse and scroll through 3 or more channels at a time. When you find the program you want, simply select ‘okay’ once again. You can actually scroll ahead several days in advance to view the programming of any channel you are browsing. If you want a full-screen view of television programming, press the ‘guide’ button. You can press the ‘menu’ button to do a search for your favorite program by category or title. There are also a number of other features that can be setup through the ‘menu’ function: Basic Setup, On-Demand, TV Listings, Search, Parental Control, DVR, Messages, Local Weather, Help, and Pay-Per-View.  Each of these menu settings are described in detail in the included DCT6412 user manual. The DCT6412 will support all of the common digital television resolutions; 480i, 480p, 1080i and 720p. There is also a stretch mode which automatically stretches a standard definition program picture to fill the screen of a wide format television.  The resolutions you choose depend on the capabilities of your television resolutions, so make sure you know what your TV supports. Note: The box gets very warm. The manual recommends placing it in a well ventilated area: Good advice.

DVR: Digital Video Recording on the DCT6412

The DCT6412 Dual-Tuner DVR High Definition Cable Box remote has controls much like a VCR or DVD Player: Rew, Fwd, Pause, Play, Stop and Record. Say, you are watching a live football game and want to review a play: Simply, press rewind. You can review the video while it is reverse just as if you were rewinding a tape. Press play, and you’re watching a piece of history in perfect visual clarity as if it were being played for the first time. Pressing the REW or FWD button a 2nd, 3rd 4th or 5th time will successively increase the speed.  Press pause at any time and you will have a perfect still, snapshot picture of the action on your screen. Pressing the LIVE TV button returns you to the live action of the program you are watching. The DCT6412 Dual-Tuner DVR High Definition Set-top box is equipped with a 120GB Hard Drive for storing and saving recorded programs and shows. The advantage of a Dual Tuner is that you can record two programs at the same time as well as watch a program other than the one you are recording. Recordings can be scheduled days in advance. In the DVR On-Screen menu, there are some useful recording options: For example, you can choose to record a program series. This is useful if you want to record your favorite weekly or daily television show.  Just select the show you want to record and choose series. Your DCT6412 set top box will automatically record the show every time it is being broadcast. You can manage and delete your recordings through the DVR menu. High Definition recordings require far more disk space. You will only be able to store 15 hours of HD programming on your 120GB hard disk, as opposed to 90 hours of standard definition programming. This is a rough estimate, as it depends on the quality of the broadcasted transmission. Your DRV menu will display to you how much recording space is left.

Video-On-Demand on the DCT6412

One of the advantages of Cable as opposed to a dish system is Video-On-Demand. Video- On-Demand is basically a library of hundreds of programs, movies and shows that can be watched whenever you want to watch them, 24 hours a day, 7-days a week.
If you want to watch Video On-Demand, press the VOD button.  A menu appears with categories such as, Top Picks, Movies & Events, HD On-Demand, TV Entertainment, TV Series, Free Movies, Sports, etc. etc. Comcast advertises that there are thousands of On Demand choices. I have never counted them all, so I’ll take their word for it. The REW, FWD, PAUSE, STOP all work very much the same as the DVR menu. This is one weakness I’ve come to realize about the DCT6412: The interactive response time is very slow. For example, if you want to fast-forward to your favorite scene of a movie or football game, it is a difficult and very slow process getting there. One solution is to use the DVR to record the show first. Navigating a pre-recorded program is much easier and faster.

Bottom Line Impression of Motorola DCT6412 HDTV Dual Tuner DVR Cable Box

There are not a lot of choices to compare when it comes to these products, because what you get is greatly tied into the service of your television provider. The DCT6412 HD, Dual-Tuner Cable Box by Motorola gets the most of your television, and if you wish to experience Video-On-Demand, this is the best way to do it. Because it is part of the rental package through your Cable provider, this product represents an excellent value.

Ratings: Motorola DCT6412 Cable Box

  • Features: 88
  • Ease-of-Use: 88
  • Performance: 85
  • Cost: 95
  • Setup and Documentation: 92
  • Overall: 89


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