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on September 7, 2012

Overall, the DirecTV Genie (HR34) is a very good HD DVR and the five tuner feature makes it a must have for those who share a DVR and are willing to pay a premium. As a standalone DVR, it is a five star product. However, due to bugs and performance issues with the Whole-Home DVR feature (recording on one DVR and playing back on another), I can't give it five stars overall.

Detailed Review:

[Updated: February 1, 2013]

I've been waiting for years for a DVR with more than two tuners and the HR34 has finally delivered. If you've shared a DVR, then you are probably familiar with the "Live TV Conflict" screen that appears when you want to watch something but all of the tuners are in use. I used to get this screen constantly with the two tuner HR24. I've had my HR34 for six months now and I can only remember seeing the conflict screen once. This alone makes up for the extra cost.

I ordered two upgraded units from Technically, I believe the order is considered a lease, not a purchase. The upgraded model is the same as the regular HR34 except with a two terabyte hard drive, which is double the capacity of the standard model. The standard one terabyte model will record up to 200 hours of HD.

After getting the units, I had DirecTV send a couple of techs to do the install. Normally, I would install it myself, but to get the extra tuners to work, the wiring needed to be upgraded. I've read that you need to have a SWM dish and SWM power inserter, but that wasn't an issue because I already had those. I've also read that you may need to extend your contract with DirecTV for two years if you add this unit to your account. However, when I added the units I received from WeaKnees to my DirecTV account, they did not require me to extend my contract. I did order an HR24 separately straight from DirecTV and that did require a two year extension.

When the unit was first powered up, it had the outdated DirecTV software installed, so it was running the old DirecTV menus. After a few hours, the new version of the software loaded (with the new black menus.) The interface was slow for the first day or so; I was told that was due to updates and program data that it was downloading. After that, the software (the menus, etc.) has generally run at a good speed.

For those familiar with DirecTV, the HR34 is functionally similar to the HR24 except with more tuners, more storage, and a larger case. The software appears to be a variant of the software used to power the HR24 and seems to be functionally the same (menus, search, etc.) I read in a previous review about recording reliability problems; so far, my HR34s have recorded reliably. Perhaps the software has been patched since those reviews were posted.

This DVR has a nice menu system, good search functionality, and some cool extras like sports scores on certain channels. If you go to ESPN, wait a few seconds and then press the red button on the remote, you'll get a menu with sports scores and, if it's a live event, you can drill down and it will show you what channel(s) it is playing on with an option to instantly switch to that channel. Very cool!

The Whole-Home DVR service is where I've run into trouble with my HR34s. Playback of content recorded on one HR34 from another HR34 usually works until I want to pause, rewind, or fast forward, at which point the picture usually freezes. The workaround is to exit the recording and resume it again from the playlist. I've also run into a problem with the DVRs not communicating with each other. The solution was to unplug the units and then power them up simultaneously. These bugs are very annoying, but at least there is a workaround for both.

To use the On Demand features that use the Internet (e.g., HBO On Demand), the tech installed an adapter (DECA) that connects the DirecTV via Ethernet to my router. The On Demand works well but it is limited by the speed of the Internet connection. So if you want to watch a movie or TV show from On Demand, start downloading some time in advance of when you want to watch it. Also, the On Demand downloads expire after a certain amount of time (I've seen as short as two weeks.)

Overall, I'm happy with this DVR. If I were using this as a standalone DVR, it would meet all of my expectations. I really want to give the HR34 five stars, but it's not quite there yet because of the aforementioned bugs and performance issues with the Whole-Home features. Hopefully, future software updates will make this a five star product. Although it's not perfect, of all of the DVRs I've used over the years (including TiVo), the HR34 is my favorite.
33 comments|49 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on April 17, 2012
The pros: Can record 5 programs at once. Connects to whole home Directv service. I have 3 other DVRs, an HR24 and two HR22s and now I can record 11 programs at once and watch them on any of the 4 TVs. Only 1 room can watch the same recorded program. If someone is already watching a show, you can watch other shows but not the same one. Can access on demand shows via wifi internet connection. Larger capacity to record than other DVRs.

The cons: Its expensive. No optical output for audio. HDMI and Digital Audio Coax outputs only. Picture in Picture is hard to use but its there after all these years of no PIP. Need the SWM dish. This is a lease and not a purchase so you must return it to Directv is you discontinue service. Requires a 2 year service agreement and the penalty for early term is $20 for each month you leave before the 24 months is over. Youtube feature is primative compared to smart TVs (no fast forwarding, hard to search).

DTV can offer a credit if purchased from them. Whole home DVR connection needs an installer to come out which can be arranged by Directv.

1313 comments|46 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on June 17, 2013
I had written a prior review talking about the HDMI issues etc but gave the Genie a generally good review because when it works it is good. The problem is it does not always work. If you do not believe me go online and read all of the consumer complaints.
This review is based on about 1 months worth of service.
This product is not ready to be used by consumers. I have been a DirecTV customer for 13 years and seen the good and the bad but this product really is not good. You have to continually reboot the unit, you can't connect the HDMI from the unit directly to many AV receivers (Including my Yamaha receiver) and it freezes a lot. If none of this bothers you then go ahead and buy it.
Like many DirecTV releases it is probably a year away from having the bugs worked out of it but until then I would just use their HD DVR which is very reliable.
I am trading mine in as we speak.
DO NOT BUY THIS PRODUCT UNLESS YOU WANT TO DEAL WITH A LOT OF TROUBLE. I am not an angry consumer but people need to know this stuff. DirecTV has admitted to me on more than two phone calls into tech support that the product has issues.
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on July 15, 2014
Well it does record 5 channels at a time.. when it works at all. This device freezes up at least once a day, usually when you are taping something (of course). It takes about 10 minutes of reset time before your show comes on. Which means, you will NEVER know who Juan Pablo is taking on the home town date(just kidding). The "slave" genies go out all the time as well, and the little red button the side doesn't do anything. You have to reset the main box. Which makes all of the "slave" genies stop working. I have only used about 5% of the hard drive space, so I know that's not the problem. I sure am glad I had to sign up for 2 years in order to get the special benefits of having this "free upgrade".
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on May 4, 2012
Maybe because it's a new product it needs some tweaking. I almost sent it back after using it a couple of days. If you are coming from using one of the old Tivo HR 250's to this prepare for some adjustment. I would say it has some bugs. There are times I programed it to record something and it didn't. There are more steps to go through to record, more buttons to hit on. If you hold down the guide button for a nano second too long it will yip right through the listings in a blur. Fast forwarding through commercials is a knack. One and two seems to go very slow, three is okay but if you hit four, you will miss some of the program. It's just not a Tivo :-(( Better than nothing I guess. I've been using it now for several months and becoming familiar with how to work with it's quirks.
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on January 4, 2014
The genie isnt all that much better than a normal DVR but I think if you want more storage and like the fact it has 5 tuners then you should get it. As far as all the advertising you have probably seen from Direct TV about the Genie dont have your expectations high becuase its just a fancy DVR I like it but I think thats why people rate this one 3 out of 5 stars because of the complicated install and having high expectations. I feel like in the end I am happy with it though! The whole home DVR service is neat we have the Genie in the living room and a normal HD reciver in the bed room we have not purcased the genie client yet so we can only watch recored shows from the living room and we cant pause live tv or acccess on demand in the bed room. Still with everything said and done I would recommend getting the HR34 because the price isnt that much diffrent from the HR24 and you do end up with more! I hope that this helps!

Here are some Pros, and Cons

5 Tuners
Better priced that the HR24 DVR
1 TB Hard Drive (Lots of Space!!)
Whole Home DVR (Can watch recorded shows in other rooms)

Can't actualy own the DVR just like all Direct TV products
You may have to have your dish upgraded to accomodate for the 5 tuners
Still slow and sluggish sometimes when navigating menues
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on September 25, 2014
I have a Genie HR34/700 - for the past 2 weeks it's been freezing, hanging, needing multiple hard reboots, haven't been able to watch the thing (live or recorded) for more than 45 min at a time and recordings are all partial. Directv admits its a known bug, with no date for resolution. If my software company had a bug that made my service unusable for weeks at a time and I didn't fix it ASAP, my company would be out of business. And don't think the protection plan will help. When I called and asked what Directv is selling to new customers, the agent said a different receiver was being provided to them. When I asked for my receiver to be replaced with that model, she said they couldn't do that "for a company-wide problem". Ridiculous...I do not recommend.
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on June 11, 2013
My wife and I have been Directv customers since the first week service was launched. We went from receivers to DVRs when the UltimateTV was launched. When HD came along we went to Directv HD DVRs. We even tried the HD DRV with the Tivo interface (didn't like the user interface much). For a long time the biggest limitations with the HD DVRs we a limit of 2 tuners and small disks. The Genie (HR34) solves both of those problems. Instead of having to delete existing recordings to make room for new recordings our disk doesn't go above 75 - 80 % full. And we no longer have to search for alternative showings of programs when we want to record more then 2 programs at the same time. In fact we can record 4 programs at the same time and still have a tuner free for channel surfing or watching something live. The PIP feature is also nice although it is a bit awkward to use.

All in all this is the best DVR any cable or satellite provider offers.
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on September 13, 2014
We are now on our 3rd Genie DVR and told them if they cannot get this one working (HR44-500) we are going to change to another company. Each one has had a different problem. Right now, the recordings freeze at some point in the playback usually after you have watched over half the program for max frustration but freezing also happens right up front. We found posts on this problem dating to June 2013 for people using the HR34. This has happened on local network channels and all cable channels we use. The program usually ends with the choice of "keep or delete" but can fiddle with it by starting over and fast forwarding past the glitch. Most often we just keep hitting another glitch until we just give up. We have had this DVR several months with excellent results until Sept 1, 2014, We reported the problem and was told engineers were working on it. Directv is like the little girl that had a little curl right in the middle of her forehead. When she was good she was very very good but when she was bad she was horrid! My wife called Sept 12 was told the problem was solved and she assured them it was not. She was then kept on the phone an hour going though all the checks because, even though we pay $8 per month for service insurance they will not send out a technician for free unless the customer has been driven to distraction with the checks. The tech is due out Sept 16, 2014. No problem with live TV. Personally I think someone has figured out how to hack a TV satellite signal as this seems to be occurring on different models.
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on September 21, 2012
I have this unit but it was bought from DirecTV. I've had terrible issues with both this unit (HR 34-700) and with DirecTV support. Stay way from this unit until the software issues affecting the on demand feature is fixed. Check out all the issue on DirecTVs Forum. Look under Whole House DVR. Most On Demand recordings play with skips that can be up to one minute or more in length. This post has nothing to do with the Amazon seller of this unit. I have no experience with them and from what I've read, they are great! It is just a warning about this product and DirecTV. Read the forum before making a decision. [...]
33 comments|14 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

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