Review: Moxi HD DVR

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moxi-box
Think of the Moxi HD as a hot, new Hollywood actress. She might have the look and desire to be the next big thing, but she just doesn’t have the goods to hang with the real starlets. That’s the Moxi HD DVR. It looks amazing, but the core functionality isn’t as good as other options and it fails to offer anything significant in comparison.

User interface

The Moxi looks stellar on an HDTV. The interface was designed with high-def in mind. The company even won an Emmy for the interface. The colors are bright and pop on the screen. However, the beautiful look doesn’t transform into a user friendly interface.

The Moxi’s GUI isn’t a treat to use. In fact, it’s kind of a pain. It often seems like actions require an extra click or two on the remote to perform a given task. For instance, to watch a show found via the guide, a user needs to hit the OK button to select the TV program and then hit the button again to actually watch it. Even hitting the play button brings up the same screen before the program is displayed.

moxi-3Something similar happens when browsing network shares as well. The system always asks you to confirm that you actually want to step back rather than performing the action requested by the user. More on network sharing further down.

It’s little things like that which are more irritating than true deal breakers. Perhaps it’s just that the GUI is different than every DVR I have ever used, and I’m not over the learning curve yet. The guide is something that I don’t think I could ever get used to though.

moxi-7This is one thing that I cannot stand about the Moxi. First, the vertical bar doesn’t offer nearly as much info as I want. It only displays what is currently playing on all the stations and the user has to select a station to see what’s coming on an hour from now. TiVo offers a similar guide layout, but there is also the grid option that shows multiple stations’ upcoming lineup simultaneously. Yes, the vertical bar does allow the currently playing station to be displayed while browsing the guide, but so does the grid menu on most cable providers’ stock DVRs.

moxi-6The search system really surprised me when I opened the app for the first time. Look at that pic. Trust me, I do not subscribe to some of those stations shown on the screen. It seems the the search app shows the content provider’s entire lineup alphabetically starting with numbers. The results are laughable to me, but many people could find it extremely offensive. The search should only show programs on stations that are available. Perhaps that setting is somewhere in the menu, but it should be enabled by default.

I strongly feel that past the core functionality of recording and timeshifting television, the second most important function of a DVR is to present outside content to the viewer: Internet video, network stored files, and such. The Moxi scores high marks on paper but fails miserably in practice. It’s almost like the Moxi designers settled for “good enough” rather than “really good” in this regard.

moxi-4The Moxi tech supported shocked the hell out of me when they told me that the Moxi HD DVR does not support AVI playback at all. A lead engineer explained it to me that it has to do with the Broadcom chip at the device’s core and compatibility issues with the file format – MKV files aren’t supported either. He said that sometime soon there will be a firmware update sent out which should enable this feature.

Until then though, users will only be able to playback MPEG-2, H.264-encoded MPEG-4, and WMV files on the Moxi HD DVR. This is a dealbreaker for me. It doesn’t sit well that a high-end device in 2009 doesn’t support AVI playback when my original XBOX and first generation DLNA devices stream the files fine.

A software update for the Moxi rolled out a few weeks ago and touted that the DVR now supports YouTube and a bunch of Internet video sites. It does, but not with a built in app. The Moxi DVR also now supports Hulu, CBS, Netflix, CNN, and ESPN, but through the Windows-only DLNA streaming program PlayOn. My friends, this is a cop out.

These Internet video sites are only available through the DLNA network and require you to set everything up on the computer, which must be running for this service to work on the Moxi. There isn’t a built-in app that allows you to, say, search YouTube for a video directly from the DVR. The service does allow access to the top viewed, favorites, and new videos directly from the Moxi interface, but everything else has to be added to your personal queue from a computer. It’s lame and not the way Internet video should be accessed in a modern-day connected device.

It seems so elementary that at least YouTube should have a dedicated app in the device allowing access to the entire library of content. The same goes for the rest of the video services. If Digeo wanted the Moxi to be a game changer, there would be a dedicated app for Hulu. That function alone would have won me over dispite all my issues with the DVR. Anyway, the current method for internet video isn’t good enough for an $800 DVR. Period.

moxi-superticker
Folks, there is one shining light to the Moxi HD DVR though and that is the SuperTicker. I love this thing. Press a button on the remote and the little ticker at bottom of the display will pop up and give you a shit-ton of info. Everything from local weather, to sports scores, to news will tick across the bar. It’s wonderful and a true innovation, but doesn’t make up for the rest of the Moxi HD DVR.

Hardware

moxi-insideThe Moxi HD DVR does come packed with some impressive gear – expect for the small 500GB HDD, but we’ll get to that. The DVR has a powerful Broadcom chip at the core, which is what provides all the pretty eye candy. Plus, the DVR outputs up to 1080p via HDMI and Dolby Digital over both Toslink and Digital Coax connections. The rear panel USB jacks and eSATA also allow users expansion of the DVR’s storage.

moxi-back1
The Moxi is equipped with dual channel buffers that allow watchers to swap between stations without losing the ability to rewind on those stations – a huge plus over the average cable company’s DVR. With two buffers, you can pause one station, switch to another, and then switch back to resume watching on the original station. Oh, and this buffer is huge at three hours. Just so you know, TiVo has dual buffers too but they max out at 30 minutes.

Truth of the matter is that the Moxi sounds great, but pales against the TiVo HD XL, which is its main competitor. The TiVo has an ATSC over-the-air tuner, is THX certified, and comes with a 1TB hard drive. I really expect Digeo to update the hard drive shortly, mainly because 1TB drives are dirt cheap these days and it would eliminate many people’s main complaint about the more expensive Moxi HD DVR.

moxi-remote
The remote is a curious thing too. It looks well laid out, but it doesn’t really work well. I often confused the playback controls with the navigation controls. The button layout is too similar and they feel almost identical. And there are buttons on the remote that do almost the same thing. The Moxi button located directly in the middle seems to do the same thing a button in the top row and the zoom button. Maybe I’m dumb.

Pricing

The Moxi HD DVR isn’t cheap – sort of. It costs $800 but there is payment plan in the works to break it down into easier payments. There isn’t a monthly subscription fee to use the Moxi DVR and not a single advertisement stuck anywhere in the system, so that’s a plus.

Let’s do some quick math.

TiVo HD XL has an MSRP of $599+ $12.95 monthly fee = $755 for the first year and $155 every year after.

TiVo HD XL $599 + $299 lifetime service fee = $898

Moxi HD DVR costs $799 and there isn’t a monthly fee

This clearly shows that the Moxi HD DVR does cost less if the TiVo HD XL is purchased at full retail. However, Amazon is currently selling the XL HD at $498, so it would work out to be nearly the same cost as the Moxi after the lifetime fee, which truly levels out the playing field.

Conclusion

I’m not sold on the Moxi HD DVR. Both my wife and I have used it for a couple of weeks and we’re ready to switch back to the TiVo. It’s not that the Moxi is a bad DVR. Hell, it kicks the crap out of nearly every cable or satellite DVR system, but it fails to live up to the claims that it’s better than TiVo. Perhaps as the Moxi DVR grows up a bit, it will work out the major kinks and become a killer DVR. It sure looks nice…

Stay tuned for a Moxi vs. TiVo post. We’re going to put the two head-to-head, feature-to-feature, so you can decide the winner.

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Pros

  • GUI looks great in HD
  • The SuperTicker is truly innovative
  • No monthly charge
  • No advertisements

Cons

  • Remote poorly designed
  • Menu is buggy and inconsistent
  • Only one layout offered for the guide
  • Expensive at $799
  • Must have broadband Internet

Deal Breakers

  • No over-the-air ATSC tuner – cable only
  • AVI and MKV file playback not supported
  • Only a 500GB hard drive
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