Check out my updated review of Navigator here!
Recently, my Time Warner cable DVR was “upgraded” from Passport to “Navigator”, Time Warner’s in-house DVR application. Can I just say one thing? It sucks.
Unlike many others, I actually like the newer, high-res menus, although I can see where the “blue on blue” might be off-putting for some:
Sadly, “better graphics” is about the only nice thing I can say about the Navigator software. Oh, there are a few nice touches here and there – you can now sort your recorded programs by name as well as date, and if you initiate playback of a program that had been stopped previously (if I, for example, watched the first 10 minutes of The Office, then clicked “play” to watch it in full a few days later), you can now press SEL + Restart to begin playback from the beginning (on Passport, you had to select “Save” or “Delete” and then go back to the main menu and press SEL + “Restart playback from beginning”).
Although the new software looks much better and has a few nice upgrades, it fails miserably as a DVR. On Friday night, the DVR was set to record The Soup and Battlestar Galactica at the same time (10pm). Although I was there, sitting in front of the TV, I got up to help Lisa with some aspect of the home improvement stuff, then decided to have a smoke. “No problem”, I figured… “I’ll just wait 10-15 minutes into the show, so I can watch it ‘live’ but skip the commerials”. But no – the DVR didn’t record the episode… at all! Man, I was pissed! So I went into the guide and told it to manually record the 12:30am replay of the episode… and when I checked the settings, the DVR wanted to record the 5:00am repeat of an episode from season 2 – and there was no trace 12:30 episode I had just then set to manually record! I manually deleted the 5:00am episode, then told it to record the 12:30 episode again! (to Navigator’s credit, It did end up recording the episode).
Then there’s the issue of “New” programs. I have most of my series set up to record only “new” episodes of most series. A show like The Tudors broadcasts several times a week on the several Showtime channels, so recording only the first episode of the week saves a lot of hassle and disk space. Between local syndication, TBS, TNT and Cartoon Network, shows like Family Guy and The Simpsons come on several times a day, and deleting unwanted episodes is a chore. The Navigator software has an annoying tendency to mark every episode of these shows as new, so it ends up recording episodes you don’t want. But what’s even more annoying is that you can scan the “Scheduled Recordings” menu and fine no trace of these shows! If I were to press the “Scheduled Recordings” button right now (Monday afternoon), I’d see nothing but stuff I actually want to see – tonight’s new episode of Bones (which I actually haven’t watched in a year – I don’t know why I even have it on the DVR anymore), Tuesday night’s new episodes of The Riches and Hell’s Kitchen, then nothing on Wednesday, then a busy Thursday of My Name is Earl, 30 Rock, The Office, and Lost. There will be no trace of The Tudors in the “Scheduled Recordings” menu. Yet, somehow, tomorrow morning, there will be a “new” episode recorded on the DVR. That’s simply unacceptable.
Also, as previously reported, missing from the search feature is “keyword search”. With Passport, you could search the program guide for KATE WINSLET or LONDON or TAR HEELS or any phrase you fancied. Passport would return not only movies with Kate Winslet, but also appearances on Leno or Letterman, or Inside the Actor’s Studio. You can’t do that any more. You can only search by the name of the show. Which bites, especially since the “keyboard search” doesn’t seem to work half the time. I typed in “Deadliest Catch” the other day… and there was no trace of the show in the program list… even though I had just seen it in the guide. Nice work, Time Warner!
Navigator also has a nice feature where you can opt to have your Favorite Channels listed in the guide at the beginning of the list, or the traditional “embedded within other channels” way. The problem is that Navigator moves the Favorites to the beginning of the program guide – it doesn’t copy them. Which doesn’t work well with the music channels. If I tune in to the Alternative channel (514), then I can’t simply press the down arrow to get to the Retro-Active channel (515). This is because channel 515 has been listed at a favorite, and is now near the beginning of the guide. So the only way you can navigate to 515 is to open the guide and press the PAGE UP button all the way to the beginning of the guide (which can cause Navigator to crash) or enter the channel numbers manually: 5+1+5+SEL. What a pain!
Lastly (for now), the FF and REW buttons are… odd. If you rewind a recording, it rewinds but then skips ahead a few seconds. Passport did this too, but did it well. Navigator, on the other hand, seems to wait a variable amount of time to skip ahead after rewinding, so it’s almost impossible to get to exactly the point where the show is coming back from commercial. After futzing with it for the past few days, I usually just watch the last 8 seconds of the commercial and stew about how crappy Navigator is.
I could go on, but I won’t. I’ll just say that I long for the days of Passport. It didn’t have a lot of fancy features, but it was rock-solid at being a basic DVR. I know I seem to be the minority when I say that, but for me it’s been true. Sure, the SA8300HD could act up sometimes, but it was, for me, a pretty solid machine. I guess my local TWC head-end is just well run, ‘cos I really hadn’t had that much trouble with Passport. Navigator has crashed three times on me so far, and that’s 2 more times than Passport crashed on me all of last year. Scrolling quickly through many menu can crash Naviagtor, and rebooting the box will take up to six minutes! (No, that is not a misprint). Word is that TWC is testing some brand new Samsung DVR boxes to appear to work much better with the Navigator software. Let’s keep our fingers crossed, ‘cos the current situation sucks!
In the interest of fairness, I’d like to add a tip and dispell some myths about the Navigator software:
– To get into the “configuration screens”, press the SEL key on the remote until the “Mail” LED lights up on the front of the cable box. Then press the DOWN arrow. You will see at least 28 configuration pages – you can’t edit any of these pages, but you can get important information like the version of the software you are using, the hardware in your box, and how much free RAM\disk space you have.
– When Navigator debuted, many complained that TWC had “killed” the 15-minute skip feature that Passport had. This rumor was either not true, the feature was not documented, or perhaps it was added to the software later on, because you can easily skip in 15 minute increments by pressing and HOLDING the REW\FF keys on the remote.
– Passport had the option to change the screen resolution (Normal, Zoom, Stretch) by pressing the VIDEO SOURCE button on the remote; you could also press the pound key (#) to do the same. Navigator has killed the VIDEO SOURCE button, but you can change the resolution in Navigator by pressing the # key.