Goodbye DirecTV, hello Comcast.

The first bitter disappointment associated with moving into my new home and reconfiguring my AV system came to fruition earlier this week when it was discovered that I can no longer use DirecTV as my source of TV and HDTV programming. While the southern exposure at my new place is good, a beautiful little patch of fir trees across the street blocks one of the satellites critical for HD programming. Looks like Comcast is the only game in town for me now. Ugh. Can't say I'm looking forward to it. Let me tell you why.

My experiences with cable companies have been varying shades of bad. While I can't remember which cable company I had at the time, in the early-to-mid 90's my company raised our rates and then shut off Comedy Central during a big chunk of the day to put in more home shopping channels. Not being a big fan of cheap jewelry I switched to DirecTV over ten years ago and haven't looked back.

With DirecTV I've enjoyed great service, reasonable and stable pricing, and a terrific expansion of HD channels. The quality always looks better than what I see at houses of friends, and I'd never have thought of switching had this not happened. I'm glad I didn't find out sooner either; it might have unduly affected my choice of house, and other than this snafu the new house is the proverbial bomb.

The worst HD image quality I've seen in recent years has been from Comcast installs at friends and relatives. I hope and pray that what I've been seeing has been due to fixable configuration issues, but even that is daunting. Comcast locks up its set-top boxes up tight so no one can mess with their configurations. This makes any attempt at adjusting the image frustrating.

This is an especially upsetting propsect as I've just spent weeks with DirecTV's HR20 HD DVR, and it's superb in every aspect of operation. It has HDMI out, it's simple to configure, it has wonderful image quality and teriffic aspect ratio controls, and it even has a "native rate" mode that outputs every signal at its native resolution. On top of that it has a serial ATA input, ostensibly so you can hang a big ass hard drive off the thing to expand your DVR capacity exponentially without going inside the box and shooting your warranty to hell. Here's to hoping Comcast's current HD DVRs are a lot more open to adjustment than the predecessors I've seen.

This is also a blow from a reference standpoint. I've been watching DirecTV's channels, HD and otherwise, for a long time. They're a very known quanitty that is invaluable in reviews. It's going to take a while for me to adjust to the quallity level of the new programming, whatever it is.

And according to the Comcast rep I spoke with on the phone, I'm losing two of my very favorite HD channels- HDNet and HDNet Movies aren't available. Comcast offers 19 HD stations in my area and he promised me that all the channels available to other satellite and cable providers is available to Comcast and they typically compete with the others. There was a moment of hesitation when I asked him if they had plans to match the 150+ HD channels DirecTV is slated to have up and running by the first part of 2008.

Anyway, as of next Tuesday, I have Comcast, and I'll let ya know what I see and how it compares to what I saw back in the day, when I got my TV and HD from DirecTV. Sniff, boo-hoo.

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