Tips and information on Shaw’s New Motorola DCX Line of HDTV Cable Boxes:
This post is long and includes information on Shaw HDTV Cable Boxes including the Motorola DCT Series, Pace and New Motorola DCX Series of Cable Boxes. This post is the entire article, however for users looking for specific product information should check out our product reviews on each individual cable box.
There are basically three product lines of digital HDTV Cable Boxes currently being offered by Shaw Cable, two are Motorola Products while the other is manufactured by Pace.
The two current Shaw Motorola HDTV Cable Box model series are the DCT Series of products and the newer DCX Series of cable boxes.
DCT Series Motorola Analog/Digital HDTV Cable Boxes:
The older Motorola DCT Series of cable boxes are easily identified by their champagne silver body color. These HDTV cable boxes have been around for a couple years now and have been proven performers with varies glitches. Essentially these cable boxes have been discontinued however Shaw still regularly installs refurbished DCT boxes especially the Basic, Non-PVR model in commercial and some residential locations. The Non-PVR DCT Series Cable Boxes are frequently used to replace the Problematic “Pace” HD Cable Boxes which are now being phased out by Shaw due to their troubled history and unreliable performance… More on the Pace HD Cable Boxes in a minute.
The Motorola DCT-3416 HD-PVR is by far the most popular HD-PVR Cable Box among Shaw’s installed base. The unit features dual tuners and a 160 GB PVR Hard Drive. The HD set top box comes with both HDMI and Component Video outputs and an eSata jack for connecting a PVR Expander Hard Drive….. see tips for money saving tips on DVR compatible eSata drives.
The standard 160GB Hard Drive included with the DCT-3416 HD-PVR will allow you to record 22-26 hours of HD programming or approximately 6.5 GB/hour. Twenty two hours of programming isn’t much (10, 1 hour shows and 6 movies) so the HD on the DCT-3416 will fill up fast which means you either will need to monitor your hard drive space and erase recordings frequently once they’ve been watched or connect an external PVR Expander Hard Drive to the eSata jack on the back of the set top box and expand your hard drive space by 500GB to 1TB of space. Adding the external hard drive will gain you and additional 150+ hours of HD recording space allowing your DVR to record 150-180 hours of HD programming ….. now that’s more like it!
While Shaw, Future Shop and Best Buy all sell dedicated, branded 1TB hard drives labeled PVR Expander’s for $150-$200 dollars what they don’t tell you is that these so called PVR Expander hard drives are just Western Digital Branded hard drives and that any external eSata hard drive enclosure which has a Western Digital brand hard drive inside will work with a Shaw/Motorola digital cable box. This means you don’t have to buy the premium priced, special “PVR Expander Hard Drive” but any External Drive with an eSata port and Western Digital HD inside will work and cost substantially less.
We tested an $85 dollar, MicroNet 1TB Fantom External drive with an eSata port , it worked perfectly with both the Shaw/Motorola DCT and newer DCX series of HDTV digital cable boxes. We saved 45-100% over the cost of the specially branded PVR Expander. We haven’t tested it yet … but we’re wondering if a 2TB Micronet eSata external drive will also work? We expect it will however a word of caution … the larger the hard drive the more likely it is to fail especially when it will be continuously recording and re-recording over and over again.
Pace Branded HDTV Cable Boxes:
In a word …. Don’t Buy These! The Pace DC758D cable boxes have been on the market for about a year now and they’ve been plagued with problems from day one. We like the design and features of the Pace DC758D cable box, especially the ability to connect and eSata drive up and convert it into an Instant PVR, our experience with these problematic boxes seems to indicate that 20% of the boxes work great and the other 80% are riddled with problems even after the latest firmware upgrade. Cable providers and some retailers continue to sell the Pace DC758D HD cable box until they deplete their inventories, once that happens it will probably be replaced by the New Motorola DCX3300 which offers similar features in a more robust platform.
DCX Series Motorola HDTV Digital Cable Boxes:
The DCX series is the latest HDTV Digital Cable Box product line from Motorola. Shaw Cable and it’s retailers are now selling two versions of this HDTV set-top box, the Entry Level DCX3200 and the Dual Tuner PVR Model DCX3400. It’s odd that Shaw is not offering the middle DCX3300 Model, which has similar features and would be a direct replacement for the problematic Pace DC758D box. While Shaw officially wouldn’t comment to us that they will be offering the DCX3300, we anticipate that once the Pace inventory is sold the Motorola DCX 3300 will also be available for Shaw Customers.
So what’s so great about the new DCX Series of cable boxes from Shaw. We’ll for starters they’re a lot faster than the DCT Series thanks to increased processor power, additional flash and S-DRAM. The new DCX set-top boxes also decode both MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 AVC services while their predecessor only handles MPEG-2. Add support for both support 2-D and 3-D TV, Dolby Digital and Digital PLUS audio and automatic video formatting for 480i/p all the way up to 1080i/p via HDMI and you’ve got a cable box ready for the next generation of HDTV….. but wait there’s more… how about an optional MoCA® Home Network Interface! allowing DCX Series set-top boxes to communicate with each other for “PVR Anywhere” and “Follow me TV” services through existing coaxial cabling.
That’s right, the new Motorola DCX Cable boxes will eventually be able to offer networking through existing home coaxial cabling to allow you to watch your DVR in any room on another DCX series MoCA® equipped set-top box. You may not have heard of MoCA® yet but you will be hearing it more and more in the coming months. MoCA® stands for “Multimedia over Coax Alliance” and it is a new technology and protocol which will allow MoCA® enabled devices to communicate with each other in a local area network over coaxial cable at similar speeds to what currently exists with Cat5 and Cat6 lan networks. Because there is so much existing coaxial wiring installed throughout the world and wireless bandwidth is limited and expensive MoCA® is the technology that is going to propel IP HDTV to the next level. Shaw is in the process of upgrading their network to full digital and once that is complete sometime next year we can expect them to eventually roll out the MoCA® capabilities of these new Motorola DCX set-top boxes.
Now for some specific information on the New Motorola DCX3200 and DCX3400 set-top boxes.
Just in time for Christmas Shaw introduced new Motorola DCX3200 All Digital HDTV Cable Box. At a list price under $180 the Motorola DCX3200 cable box is sure to be a top seller but with the low price come some disappointing limitations. At 10.5” wide, 3” high and 10.5 inches deep the DCX3200 will fit anywhere. Above the TV, below the TV, behind the TV, in the equipment rack , shelf or cabinet the small size and light weight will allow you to install this set-top box anywhere you want.
The DCX3200 has the same processor, memory, digital outputs and optional MoCA® capabilities as other DCX set-top boxes however it is missing two key features which are sure to disappoint many. The first feature missing from the 3200 is the Dual Tuner which leads to the second missing feature, PVR expansion. Unlike the basic Pace set-top box which was instantly converted to a PVR by connecting an external hard drive the Motorola DCX3200 does not, I repeat Does NOT, have an external eSata port and therefore cannot be converted into a PVR. Once MoCA® becomes available dual tuner and PVR convertibility will not be such a big deal, however in the interm, until we can network our cable boxes and have “Follow Me TV” and “PVR Anywhere” the option of being able to hook up an external hard drive and convert a cable box into a PVR is very enticing. Just to be clear Motorola does make a PVR convertible dual tuner set top box – model DCX3300, however Shaw cable does not offer the 3300 at this time.
Motorola DCX3400 PVR:
If you’re only going to by one HDTV Cable box this one should be it. Irregardless of networking every home cable system will need at least one (1) digital HDTV PVR cable box. Once again the Motorola DCX3400 PVR set-top box offers all the features of the DCX product line. In addition to the improved processor power and speed the biggest and most noticeable improvement of this DVR over its predecessor (DCT 3416) is the internal built in hard drive size has been increased from 160GB to 500GB. That increased hard drive space means out of the box the DCX3400 can record 60-80 hours of HD video, three times more than the previous model. But wait there’s more, the DCX3400 has an eSata port so you can connect an additional 1TB external hard drive expanding the recording capacity to 200-240 hours of HD recording.
While the Motorola DCX series of HDTV Set-top boxes are definitely an improvement over the aging DCT series and Pace boxes there are still some things we wished Motorola would have included which other HDTV providers have on their set-top boxes.
1- UHF Remote Control: UHF remote controls have existed in the satellite industry for
more than 20 years. UHF, assignable remote controls are necessary
when more than one cable box is housed in the same equipment rack or when
a single PVR is used throughout the house as a media center or hub. A harmony
remote is a must with any Shaw Cable box.
2 – Caller ID: both Bell and Telus set-top boxes support on-screen caller id display.
This feature is more than 20 years on some satellite receivers and is simple
and easy to implement yet Shaw cable boxes continue to ignore this useful feature
3 – Network – Media Center – Hub: As the Telus slogan says “The Future is Friendly” well
the future is NOW! Telus already offers “Follow Me TV” and “PVR Anywhere”
while built in support for MoCA® is great, Shaw you really need to activate this
feature and soon! The tech savvy public is ready for Networked PVR’s
4 – Online Programming: Once again both Telus and Bell set-top boxes have the
capability to be programmed On-Line via the internet or smart phone apps.
It would have been great to see similar features on these new DCX series
Shaw continues to be one of the most reliable providers of HDTV programming and distribution. As you can seen their new Motorola cable boxes are a great improvement over previous product offerings but there are still a lot of features and options missing from the Shaw hardware line-up offered by other providers.
There is no, one best HDTV content provider or method of transmission. Each content provider and method of transmission has it’s pros and cons the challenge is to find the right fit for your needs. As systems integrators at DJ’s Sound City we design systems with your needs in mind, if you’re uncertain as to which content provider or equipment is right for you give us a call and we’d be happy to help you out.
A note for our American Readers – Shaw Cable is a cable service provider in Canada, Motorola DCX Set Top Boxes are also used in the United States buy Time Warner, Comcast and others. The equipment information found in this article is applicable to all service providers using DCX set top boxes, however some features and hard drive sizes may change depending on the cable service provider.