Review on the Comcast HD DC3416 DVR
The DCH3416 is the latest Dual Tuner Comcast HD DVR (digital video recorder) High Definition Cable Box from Motorola. Last month, we reviewed the DCT6412 Comcast Cable Box which is nearly identical in features, operation and performance. One major distinction with the new, DCH3416 is that it uses the hip, trendier blue LED lights, as opposed to the yellow-orange of its predecessor. The yellow-orange LED lights were so 2005-ish. There are only a few slight differences, and we will get to those later. Like any High Definition DVR or Digital Cable Box, the features are somewhat limited by what the cable provider will allow.
If you just bought a brand new 1080P HDTV LCD Television and are wondering why you cannot get many HD channels or why they are so hard to find, you will want to get a digital cable box from your Cable Provider. Comcast uses the Motorola digital cable box. The DCH3416 will also give you dual tuning Digital Video Recording (DVR). Dual Tuning means you can watch one show while you are recording a 2nd show or you can record two shows at the same time. A HD DVR (Digital Video Recorder) will also allow you to 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 model Digital Cable Box that you want, so it helps to know ahead of time what you want and simply ask for it. There will be a limited number of choices, but if your provider is Comcast, chances are they will provide you with the latest High Definition, Dual Tuner DVR Digital Cable Box from Motorola. You’re paying for it with your monthly bill, so make sure they are giving you their latest and best product. The other significant feature of this cable box is Video On-Demand which gives you access and control over thousands of pre-recorded programs. Much of this review covers the operation and features found in the DCT6412 review we discussed last month, but there are a few subtle differences, and we will describe what those are at the end of this review.
In order to take full advantage of the features and get the most of the picture and sound quality of the DCH3416 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 DCH3416 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 DCH3416 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 DCH3416 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 DCH3416 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 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.
Using the DCH3416 Dual-Tuner DVR High Definition Digital Cable Box is pretty simple; though it is unlikely you will tap its full potential in your first week of use, if ever. The DCH3416 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 awkward 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 digital 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 DCH3416 user manual. The DCH3416 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. One noticeable improvement with the DCH3416 over the DCT6412 is that the box does not seem to get nearly as warm. However, we still recommend placing it in a well ventilated area:
DVR (Digital Video Recording)
The DCH3416 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 DCH3416 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 DCH3416 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. The DCH3416 is equipped with a slightly larger hard drive; A 160GB, as opposed to the 120GB on the DCT6412. You will be able to store about 17 hours of HD programming on your 160GB hard disk. 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. Also, you can program recordings to automatically erase older programs when space is needed.
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 DCH3416: The interaction seems a little bit quick and more responsive than on the DCT6412. Fast-forwarding, rewinding and navigating back and forth between programs seems a little be quicker than with the older unit. The DCH3416 has a front USB Port, which like all Motorola Cable Boxes, is not enabled for anything very useful. However, because the USB port is in front, you can use it as a convenient way to charge your iPod, MP3 Players or other USB Devices. The DCH3416 has an eSata Port. This is a great idea, because this should enable allow you to connect an external hard drive for even greater DVR program storage. But alas, it is not enabled either.
The DCH3416 compared to the DCT6412
The DCH3416 is an all digital video recorder. The DCT6412 is both analog and digital. The DCH3416 is described as a Digital Cable Host Set-top box, where-as the DCT6412 is described as a digital cable tuner. Functionally, they are pretty much the same. The DCH3416 does not have a DVI connector. The DCH3416 is 17″ Wide by 12.70″ deep by 2.76″ high and weighs 12.0lbs. The DCT6412 is 17.13 wide by 12.75 deep by 2.75 high and weighs 11.5 lbs. The DCH3416 has a 160GB Hard Drive; the DCT6412 comes with a 120GB Hard Drive.
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 DCH3416 HD, Dual-Tuner Digital 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.
Setup and Documentation: 92