Posts Tagged ‘ Moxi ’

I’ve Got Moxi

In 2007, Digeo announced plans to launch a consumer DVR, which I reviewed for CNET at CES. Then just one year later, with no product to market, Digeo significantly reorganized, refocused, and suspended their plans for a consumer DVR. Or did they? A/V geeks like me have been watching the progress of the Moxi digital video recorder for years now. Digeo, the company behind Moxi for the past six plus years, has seen some degree of success supplying Moxi DVRs through cable companies, but it’s taken them a very long time to get a standalone DVR out to consumers.

So why are people fired up about the Moxi? For one, Moxi is worthy competition for TiVo—the gold standard for home DVRs. TiVo leads in a somewhat challenging market space. Numerous companies—including Replay, Panasonic, Samsung, Sony, and Microsoft—have tried and failed to compete in this space. Even DirecTV, once a TiVo licensee, has strayed and since announced its return to the TiVo world. About the only thing really cutting into TiVo’s market these days is the cable industry itself. Cable companies have achieved success leasing DVRs to their customers for a monthly fee. They offer the convenience of home television recording without the significant up-front cost.

But TiVo is an aging contender, and the overall user experience hasn’t changed or improved significantly since TiVo’s inception–nearly ten years ago. The time is right for some worthy competition.

Enter Moxi. Last month—nearly two years after the CES announcement—Digeo quietly (and somewhat unexpectedly) released the Moxi HD DVR, available for limited release exclusively through Digeo is expected to make a more public splash with the device this January at CES 2009. In the meantime, $799.99 at Amazon gets you a two-tuner high definition video recorder with 500 GB of storage and lifetime updates to TV listings. The price tag may scare some people, but when you break it down and compare it to the cost of ownership for other DVR options, the cost is not unreasonable.

The Details

Moxi has the expected features for an HD DVR: it’s a two tuner recorder for digital HD cable, using a single multi-stream CableCARD to decode the signal. The device has nearly every type of connection possible: outputs include component, composite, S-Video, HDMI for video plus RCA, coax, and optical audio. Ethernet and USB connect the device to the outside world, and an eSATA connection lets you add your own external storage. The Moxi includes cables for nearly all the connections, including HDMI. You’ll need to bring your own digital audio, USB, and eSATA cables, though.

The Moxi remote is similar in form factor to other DVR remotes. It includes all of the expected functions broken into navigation, shuttle, and keypad zones, but some features are labeled with obscure symbols. The buttons are generally placed where you’d expect to find them. One feature the remote lacks is a dedicated button that takes you to the full program guide, which may take some getting used to for those in your household with less patience. [“Richard, why is there a Setup menu when I press the Moxi button?”]

Bright, sharp menus; high-resolution channel icons; and smooth graphical motion are the hallmarks of Moxi’s beautiful two-dimensional menu system. It’s fairly intuitive and easy to use, and it’s pretty responsive. For channel surfing, Moxi offers two modes: a quick guide that lets you flip through channel cards in the lower third area of the screen and a full, graphical 2D alternative to the traditional grid guide. In either mode, you can watch the current channel while you surf. The Moxi program guide takes some getting used to, but once you’re acclimated, the old grid seems as antiquated as your parent’s TV Guide subscription.

In the Moxi menu, you can navigate left or right through an endless loop of modes including pre-filtered programming (e.g., sports, movies, favorites, kids, HD), access to music and photos, games, and settings. Moving between modes expands a vertical menu that lets you select the applicable content or options. Moxi also includes a news feed program, MoxiNet, that seems slow, stale, and out of place in this otherwise stunning UI.

Recording shows with your remote is straightforward, but tedious. Finding programs to record is no easier or harder than you might expect. You have lots of options for recording individual shows and series, but there’s no way to specify your default recording preferences for all shows. So for example, if you typically want to record and keep all new episodes of a show until space is needed, you must record the series, then edit the series recording options, and change three settings (keep all, only new, ’til space is needed). Since you can’t define these default options for all shows, you have to go through these steps for every new series you record. Viewing the list of recorded programs for playback, however, is simple—it’s one of the only Moxi menu features that has a dedicated button on the remote.

Digeo also provides Moxi owners with remote programming capabilities through the web. This service lets you record shows with realtime confirmation and conflict resolution, view a list of scheduled and recorded programs, and cancel scheduled recordings. Digeo advertises that the Moxi HD DVR can record about 300 hours of SD or 75 hours of HD programming. If that’s not enough for you, you can expand the available storage by adding your own external eSATA drive. Not some specially-certified (read: expensive) device, but any eSATA drive.

It’s easy to get photos and music to the Moxi. You can load photos directly from a USB device or drive, connect to photos shared on your network, or link to specific Flickr accounts. Configuring Flickr couldn’t be easier because you do it online—none of this trying to type a username and password with an onscreen keyboard. You can play music from any Windows Media Connect source in your home, including Media Center and Windows Media Player. You can also play music from your Finetune account [who/what?]. What you can’t share with or from the Moxi device is video. You can’t get external video onto the thing, and you can’t get recorded video off. Original prototypes for Digeo’s home recorders included multi-room capabilities, but this device does not have that feature.

The Bottom Line

So how does all of this stack up with the competition? For a first release consumer product, it’s pretty impressive. It doesn’t have all of TiVo’s features and capabilities, but it sets the foundation for a new generation of consumer DVRs. And the cost is not as high as that price tag might suggest because there are no monthly service fees. The chart below shows that over a period of four years, Moxi (bolstered with additional external storage) costs less than similarly-equipped dual-tuner, 1TB TiVo and Media Center devices. However, they’re all more expensive than any box you might get from your cable company.

Media Center
(Dell Inspiron)
Cable DVR
Up-front device cost
Service fees
Cable rental fees*
Add’l 500GB storage
Total 4-yr cost

*CableCARD rental estimated at $3/month, DVR rental estimated at $10/month

Digital cable HD DVR 4 year cost of ownership comparison

Overall, Digeo has released a great new product. And while TiVo is starting to feel a little long in the tooth—its largly-unchanged UI now encumbered by a patchwork of heavily-branded, disjointed features and ads—it’s nice to see someone doing something new, something fresh. Enter Moxi.

1/14/2009 update: Table above updated to reflect cost of CableCARD rental, as suggested by a commenter.

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