Calling Digeo‘s Moxi HD DVR a DVR is sort of disingenuous. Sure, it can record and play back TV, but it can do so much more than that. The fact that the Moxi can do so much, however, is both its greatest strength and its greatest weakness.
The Moxi’s many features include a dual-tuner DVR (multistream cableCARD required) with 500GB of storage. You also get the ability to view Flickr photos, movies from Netflix, and content from online video sources including Hulu.com, CBS.com and Amazon Video on Demand . In addition, you can connect the Moxi to your home network to play video content stored locally. You also can listen to music from Rhapsody, play games and browse select web sites.
Still, the Moxi is, at heart, a DVR. And this is, sadly, where the device underwhelmed me. You can record two shows at once, schedule recordings online, and pause and rewind live TV — all the things a DVR should do. It does them capably, but accessing the DVR features can be a hassle, because of the Moxi interface.
Some people love the interface (it won an Emmy), but it didn’t wow me. All of the menu options are laid out in a horizontal bar. When you select an item, its options are then shown vertically. When you want more options, those are shown horizontally. Once you get used to the layout, finding what you want is easy. Backtracking, however, is not. I repeatedly found myself trying to exit menus to no avail. And if you want to get to the DVR functions, you often have to scroll through several menu items just to do so. I wish there was a dedicated button on the remote that would take you right to the DVR features.
And about that remote: It has two sets of directional buttons. One for fast-forwarding and rewinding content, another for navigating menus. Why not just have one set of buttons that handle both features?
If you want to watch Internet-based content, you’ll need to download the PlayOn media server app (a license is included) to a computer on the same network as the Moxi. Once the PlayOn app is running, you can watch titles from your Netflix Instant Watch queue. In my tests, movies started immediately and looked very good. Hulu and YouTube clips — even in HD — also looked great. But navigating through the content in the Moxi’s vertical/horizontal/vertical menu structure can be a challenge, especially when accessing content from a site — like Hulu — that doesn’t use that same format difficult. The Moxi also plays content stored locally on your network, in theory, anyway.
The Moxi found files stored on my network, but wouldn’t play any of them back due to file incompatibilities. The folks at Moxi admit that format support is limited (it supports MPEG-2 and WMV files, as well as MPEG-4 and H.264 files that have been transcoded), and say they plan to beef it up in the future.
If you or your friends have photos on Flickr, you can view them from the Moxi. And you can do so while playing music from the Rhapsody music service (with a $12.99-per-month subscription) in the background. I really liked the Rhapsody integration; it’s a great way to listen to music in the living room.
In addition, you can browse through MoxiNet, a pre-packaged set of web news stories. You can also use the Moxi to visit other sites by adding them to your account; you do so by visiting Moxi.com on your computer. Moxi says web browsing is handled this way so users can make a conscious decision about which sites they’d like to view on their TV screen — and which ones they can navigate without a keyboard.
As you might expect, all of this functionality comes with a price: $799. That may seem like a lot — and it is, especially when you consider that you can get an HD DVR from your cable company for anywhere from $10 to $20 a month. But when you compare the Moxi HD DVR to its closest rival, the TiVo HD XL, the price is competitive. A TiVo HD XL goes for $599, but doesn’t include service; lifetime service is $399. The Moxi comes with the service included.
If all you want is a basic DVR, you’d be better served by renting one from your cable company. But if your entertainment needs go beyond recording TV, Moxi has you covered. If they could beef up the file format support and make the DVR a little easier to access, I’d be sold.