Optimum DVR Plus
Pros:Multi-room DVR playback. Record up to 4 shows simultaneously.
Cons:Buggy. Crashes continuously.Misses recordings. Bad picture quality. Limited recording space.
Does Cablevison’s cloud-based Optimum DVR Plus live up to the hype?
Cablevision is the pioneer in cloud-based DVR with their newly launched Optimum DVR Plus service. Unfortunately, being a pioneer can quickly turn disastrous if the technology is not properly managed. At this stage, Cablevision’s groundbreaking new service leaves much to be desired and will need major improvements to be a viable choice for most consumers.
The main advantage of cloud-based DVR service is the ability to host TV shows on a provider’s servers, instead of recording these shows locally with a cable box. When this new technology was announced a few years ago, Cablevision received a great deal of hostility from the TV networks about the ability to centrally record and stream their shows and movies. Eventually Cablevision overcame this hurdle and started offering the DVR Plus service to its customers.
At first glance, the DVR Plus service seems like an improvement to Cablevision’s previous DVR service. The first improvement is an upgrade from their outdated cable boxes to Samsung HD boxes. You can play back your recorded shows on any cable box in the home, and you can continue watching a show where you left off on a different TV. The new cable box also gives you the ability to record up to four programs at the same time.
The user interface has also been improved. Recorded shows can be organized by show rather than just by date. You can record single shows or schedule to record the first run of each new episode of your favorite show. We always recommend setting the recordings to record at least 2 additional minutes of your show, since recording the exact allotted hour often results in missing the last few moments of the show. The DVR schedules recording based on a fairly static program guide that gets updated every 2-3 days. That turned out to be an issue when trying to record The Good Wife since the shows is on Sunday nights at 9pm, but with the football games running longer in the afternoon, the show often ends up starting around 9:30pm or 10pm. The DVR doesn’t intelligently adapt to the change, so we schedule the show with an extra hour of recording to avoid any problems.
Unfortunately, while these improvements seemed promising, we have been testing the service for a few months now and came across several major problems that Cablevision is very slow to address or is not addressing at all.
The “new” Samsung HD cable boxes we were provided with turned out to be refurbished. They had dents, scratches, and were extremely dirty. We tried on several occasions to have them replaced with new boxes but were told time and time again that only refurbished cable boxes were available.
Another major problem is the fast forward feature. Unlike Verizon Fios TV DVR service, Cablevision Optimum DVR Plus lacks the option to skip 30 seconds at a time. And because the recording is streaming from the server, the standard fast forward feature is extremely unresponsive. By the time you see the show starting, it’s much too late to press play. We usually found ourselves fast-forwarding well into the show, then having to rewind back into the last commercial and resume from there.
A further frustration of Cablevision’s DVR Plus service is that is sporadically fails to record scheduled shows. Last week I had it scheduled to record Fringe, but the recording never happened. We have been seeing this happen intermittently; either the recording is completely missing, or it’s there but crashes the system when you try to play it back. This problem is especially frustrating in the case of shows like the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, which aren’t available On Demand at a later time.
If all this wasn’t enough, the DVR playback menu doesn’t always work. I had some family and friends gathered in the living room recently to watch the latest episode of Homeland. The DVR menu page wouldn’t load, and we had to call Cablevision’s customer service. After keeping us on hold for over 30 minutes, they needed to reprogram and reboot the cable box to get the DVR menu working again. A real party pooper. The DVR menu acted up an average of once or twice a week during the time we tested the DVR Plus service.
Space limitations are another major issue of the DVR Plus service. With the earlier Cablevision DVR service, you could record just 24 hours of HD TV, while competitors offered the ability to record up to 300 hours. With the cloud-based DVR Plus service, you would expect Cablevision to offer many more hours of available space to record. Inexplicably, Cablevision still limits you to 24 hours of HD recording, shared throughout the house. Yes, we said shared, because if you have four TVs in the house, you can only record 24 hours all together. We were baffled when we learned this. Why give the ability to record four shows at once when you have such limited space on Cablevision’s server? There is no reasonable explanation for this.
Let’s now assume that you were actually able to record your favorite show in HD and get it to play back. While watching your favorite action scene in Person of Interest, or the wheel spinning on Jeopardy, you suddenly notice a high amount of pixelation. The quality of the video has suddenly jumped from an expected 1080i HD to a low quality that’s worse than playing back a video stream on your cell phone 10 years ago! We were simply shocked at this and saw it happen time and time again, on different dates, different channels, and different shows. Upon further investigation we discovered that while Cablevision broadcasts all its HD programming in 1080i quality, when it comes to the “HD” DVR Plus, the video streamed back to your cable box is drastically compressed. This results in subpar and grossly pixelated video that is especially noticeable during quick movements like a camera panning or a fast action scene.
Several calls made weekly to Cablevision’s customer service have resulted in no resolution of these major issues.
At this stage we feel that Cablevision’s DVR Plus needs some drastic improvements to make the service viable for its customers. We currently do not recommend this service, but we hope that Cablevision will promptly address the issues at hand.