Digital video recorders, in cable, over-the-air and satellite flavors have been around for awhile now, and if you’re like me, you’ll probably consider having one as an indispensible part of your home theater system.
Moxi, a relative newcomer to the retail DVR category, offers HD DVR models that provide features and capacities that others don’t, including multi-room streaming, as well as the ability to accept recording commands sent to the DVR box via the internet—a great feature if you’re occasionally absent-minded like me and forget to set a recording timer for a show ahead of time before a trip.
Started by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s Vulcan Co., Moxi’s maker Digeo was bought last fall by communications equipment maker ARRIS, and they’ve recently expanded the Moxi line-up by adding a three-tuner model in addition to the two-tuner Moxi under review here. For multi-room functionality, there’s an optional Moxi Mate box that streams recorded shows over your home network, and is soon to have live TV viewing functionality (via a software upgrade that may be available by the time you read this). Moxi suggests using either a single Moxi Mate with the two-tuner Moxi DVR, or up to two Moxi Mates with the three-tuner model.
First off, the Moxi is strictly a cable TV-only affair, with no over-the-air or satellite tuning built-in. For compatibility with premium cable TV channels (which are usually digitally scrambled), the Moxi comes with a CableCARD slot that accepts the so-called M-card, which provides for dual premium channel access at the same time. That card will have to come from your local cable TV provider, who’ll charge you a few bucks a month for it. Depending on your local cable provider, you may also have to acquire an outboard adapter box (for switched digital video, or SDV) which is a cable channel coding method that allows greater channel capacity, and which more and more cable operators are turning to in order to expand their HD channel lineups. That box will also have to be sourced from your cable TV provider, also to the tune of a few more dollars per month. For those in areas where some cable channels are still piped out in good old-fashioned analog, Moxi offers an optional external analog tuner add-on that plugs into the main box via a USB connection.
Moxi’s main appeal is three-fold. First, the set is fairly feature-rich compared to the typical bare-bones HD DVR from your cable provider, and comes with a very slick and spiffy user interface. Equipped with a hefty 500GB hard drive, the Moxi can record up to 75 hours of HD or up to 300 hours of SD, or a mix of the two, significantly more than standard cable HD DVR boxes can handle. For serious couch potatoes, an eSATA port on the back allows connection to a DVR-compatible external hard drive—Moxi states that the box supports up to 6TB drives, which boosts maximum HD recording time to about 1,000 hours total. Second, the system allows for multi-room streaming, by adding on the optional Moxi Mate box and connecting it to your home network. Third, the hardware price is the total cost of ownership, as Moxi doesn’t charge monthly, annual or lifetime DVR program guide fees, which is the case with competitive boxes such as the Tivo (Moxi’s main competition in the retail HD cable DVR space), not to mention the monthly fees that cable operators charge for their DVR offerings. Over time, say three years or longer, that adds up to possibly hundreds of dollars in savings.
Consider this DVR if: you’re constantly running out of space with your cable company-supplied HD DVR. Even without connecting an external hard drive, the Moxi’s 500GB internal drive is good enough for about two weeks of HD recording, assuming an average of 5 or so hours of HD recording per day.
Look elsewhere if: you’re fine with the cable company’s HD DVR and don’t need a lot of HD recording space, or if you need a DVR with a built-in over-the-air (OTA) tuner.