While the Tivo HD XL has generally been recognized as the cable DVR king-of-the-hill, Moxi ups the ante by adding multi-room functionality via their optional Moxi Mate box, in addition to accessing content from DLNA multimedia devices on the home network, and the Moxi boasts a very slick user interface that won them an Emmy when it was first introduced. It doesn’t include an over-the-air tuner though, which may be of concern to some users as some cable operators may not carry all available local broadcast stations in some markets.
The Moxi Mate provides streaming of previously recorded shows over the home network, and worked just fine on my bog standard 10/100 wired Ethernet system, plugged into a Linksys switch and Linksys router. Moxi advises that for users without a wired LAN system in their home, their boxes are compatible with available PowerLine (over the home’s AC wiring) adapters and MoCA (multimedia over coax) adapters. What the Moxi Mate doesn’t do at the moment is provide for live TV viewing in another room, a feature promised via a software upgrade that, again, should ideally become available by the time this review appears online.
While the main Moxi box is fairly responsive to commands such as skipping forward or backward through a program, the Moxi Mate is comparatively pokey, as it has to relay commands back to the main box and await a response. But it works well otherwise, and features the same high quality on screen interface.
Where the Moxi comes up short is the lack of access to pay-per-view video-on-demand cable programming, and that will be of concern to some prospective owners. The Moxi does support content streaming from sources such as Netflix, Hulu, YouTube and the like, but those have to be accessed by connection to a multimedia PC. Moxi currently offers a free full license for PlayOn software for the PC that enables the internet streaming functionality. For Apple owners, Moxi suggests use of TwonkyMedia Server software for the Mac, but that software package isn’t free, nor does it provide the ability to stream shows from Netflix.
In addition to the CableCARD slot, there’s an eSATA port for an external hard drive to boost recording capacity. One of the two USB ports allows for connection to an optional external analog RF tuner, which will be needed by users in areas served by a mix of digital and analog cable TV transmissions, as not all cable companies (sometimes called multiple system operators or MSOs) are 100% digital yet. Props to Moxi for including a full set of video connecting cables with the unit, including an HDMI cable, a component video cable, and an analog SD composite cable that’s paired with a stereo analog audio cable. The unit also features both coaxial and optical digital audio outputs, yet another plus.
On Screen Display
Not too many consumer electronics makers can boast of winning an Emmy award for their user interface—indeed, Moxi is the only one I know of. Here the Moxi wipes the typically mundane cable DVR user interface off the map, with crisp and colorful HD graphics and a large picture-in-picture window that’s bigger than usual (it occupies almost a full quarter of the screen) and is sharp and crisp. The program guide is especially clear and easy to sort through, and includes a powerful search engine.
The main Moxi and optional multi-room Moxi Mate boxes come with the same remote—a big plus. The remote is fairly well laid out, and includes gentle bluish-white backlighting, with red backlighting for the power button at the top. The navigation buttons are prominent and large, as are the transport (Play, Stop, Pause, etc.) buttons. The skip forward and back buttons are a tad on the small side though. Some of the ancillary buttons feature smallish fonts, which might have some fumbling for their reading glasses, but on the whole, the Moxi remote is far superior to the typical cable box remote, and it can be programmed for basic control of your TV and audio system.