U-Verse first impressions

So, I’ve had U-Verse for all of five days so far. Herewith a few first impressions after having used it a bit.

First, my installer gets an A+++++. He did a great job of setting everything up, putting wires where I wanted them, and cleaning up after himself. I am very well pleased with how the install went; I don’t know if he’s typical of AT&T’s field installer force but if he is that bodes well for them.

Second, Internet speed has generally been excellent, with speeds far closer to the rated limit. As an example, I got a measured 9.3Mbps the other day, which is pretty darn good. Jitter has overall been low, but I am still having occasional burps on my Mitel phone (haven’t tested the Tanjay yet). I had some difficulties getting all 3 of my wireless access points to work together; I ended up turning off two of them, because AT&T’s box integrates 802.11g and has enough range to cover the entire first floor. Problem solved.

TV: channel selection is OK. We don’t get the Toledo CW affiliate, or any other, nor do we get the digital subchannels for local broadcasters, both of which I miss. I’m glad to get BYU-TV again, and there are a few HD channels like Smithsonian that Buckeye doesn’t have. U-Verse HD picture quality is fair-to-good; I’d say it’s on a par with DirecTV but not as good (at least for the local channels) as Buckeye. I like getting STARZ and the other low-end movie channels as part of the bundle, but they only have about five different movies between them.

DVR: this is kind of a sore point with me right now. U-Verse touts its “Total Home DVR”, which puts a single disk-based DVR in one room and satellite units that can stream video from the “real” DVR in others. Great idea, and perfect for our house. There are some drawbacks, though. The satellite units cannot pause live TV, nor can they schedule recordings. That’s one strike. The second strike is that, for some reason, the unit in our bedroom keeps telling us that there are no DVRs on the network, so we can’t watch anything. (An AT&T tech is on his way over right now to see if he can fix it, though.) So, I’ll call that a foul ball… strike two. This morning, after rebooting both DVR units to try to fix that problem, all of the recorded programs were gone. That’s definitely a strike. (Arlene told me that the programs actually disappeared sometime yesterday, because they were already gone at 1630 when she and the boys tried to watch something.)

As long as I’m talking about the DVR functionality: I miss wishlists and suggestions, neither of which the U-Verse boxes implement. Search-by-name works well, and seems quite a bit faster than the TiVo. Series recording works well, as evidenced by the episodes of stuff I recorded before they got wiped out.

Interactive features: AT&T touts their U-Bar interface, which puts your TV picture in a frame that displays weather, sports, or other information. Unfortunately, all we get for weather is the name of our city, the forecast high/low for the next 24 hours, and a little weather icon– that’s it. This is pretty useless, especially compared to getting “weather on the 8s” with the local Weather Channel broadcast on Buckeye. Local weather is an oft-requested feature on the U-Verse support forums so maybe we’ll get it some day.

Miscellaneous grace notes: the TiVo allows you to see what happened to each show that was recorded or removed, which would have come in very handy in tracing where all my programs went.

My installer just left after verifying that the interior cable run is OK. We’ll see if things improve, but for now it’s back to the Alabama-Georgia game.

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