The TiVo HD sitting on my entertainment rack, ignore the wiring job.  (Source: DailyTech, Anh T. Huynh)
An overall positive experience with Comcast and CableCARD

Last week I took a dive and bought a new TiVo HD to accompany my new TV. Now, before everyone starts asking why I opted for a TiVo HD instead of renting a digital video record, or DVR, from my cable company, I might as well explain why. After owning a Sony 30” HDTV CRT television for two years, I was never bothered by how programming looked coming out of the Motorola DCT-6400 that Comcast uses. I owned a CRT TV so analog programming looked great on it.

After I purchased a new Toshiba 42HL167 LCD TV, the shortcomings of the DCT-6400 become quite prominent. SD programming, even with Comcast’s all digital network in Bellingham, WA, looked horrendous. The Motorola DCT-6400 just did not have that great of a picture, especially when compared to integrated ATSC/ClearQAM tuners integrated into the TV and the Samsung DTB-H260F set top box I used on the CRT TV.

In addition to the image quality, I simply didn’t like the TV Guide user interface Comcast rolled out in Washington State. The user interface was ugly, clunky and did not do it for me. I also didn’t have a Comcast DVR and just the standard Motorola DCT-6400. Comcast wanted to charge an extra $15 to upgrade my cable plan and get a DVR. I am quite content with my basic digital cable-programming package, since I only watch local channels, Cartoon Network, Comedy Central and Discovery HD.

So after reading a couple threads on TiVo Community and reading CableCARD horror stories from friends, I took the dive and bought a TiVo HD, knowing the problems I could possibly face. The stories I read online where people had to schedule appointments for an installer to come out or the hoops they had to jump through to get CableCARDs, I did not have a single problem with Comcast.

I walked into the Comcast offices expecting to schedule an appointment to have an installer come out and expecting hassles, but as always, the people at the Bellingham, WA Comcast offices have always been nice, courteous and very helpful, despite all the bad things people have said about Comcast. I have had nothing but great experiences with them, albeit I live in a smaller city.

It did not take much to obtain two CableCARD’s. I simply walked in, asked for two, they took two out of the back, and I was on my way. Pricing is cheap too – the first CableCARD is free while the second one is $1.75. After I got home and plugged in the TiVo HD and the CableCARD’s, it was activation time. I spent about an hour and a half on the phone with Comcast to get the CableCARD’s activated. The first card I had, they were unable to activate and I had to exchange it for another one the next day. I was able to get one card activated, painlessly without any headaches.

The only issues were the long wait times it took for them to get the CableCARDs into the system and send out an activation signal. It did not bother me that much because I just put them on speaker phone. When I went to exchange the non-working CableCARD, it was as easy as obtaining them. It took them around 30 minutes to activate and I was done.

No hassles, no headaches. After everything was activated and working, I popped open the TiVo and shoved a 500GB hard drive in there. I could not be any happier with it. I can receive my Discovery HD programming and record it, the image quality is much better with SD programming. TiVo suggestions are also quite nice, although it keeps recording random shows I never watch such as Hannah Montana and random Disney Channel programming.

Not all stories with CableCARDs are as simple as mine. My friend bought a TiVo HD the next day and had plenty of fun trying to get two CableCARDs for it. Apparently, some providers, in this case Click-Network in Tacoma, WA, do not comprehend the concept of two CableCARDs going into a single box and refused to issue two CableCARDs for his TiVo HD. After calling his friends that worked for the company, he was able to get two CableCARDs.

After my initial experience with CableCARD, I do not see what the problems are about. However, my experiences are only with Comcast and other providers may have different policies, as shown by my friend. I don’t expect everyone to have the same experience because it seems like a your mileage may vary issue, but those afraid of CableCARDs shouldn’t be, it isn’t as bad as the Internet makes it out to be.

"Vista runs on Atom ... It's just no one uses it". -- Intel CEO Paul Otellini

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