In my travels over the past few weeks, I have found myself in many different cable companies servicing areas. Visiting friends and family all around the country is amazing, but there is invariably that moment where people are sitting in front of a TV, and it is at that moment that the analyst in me kicks in and starts comparing all the doodads (yes that's a technical term) and features, and how easy it is to use, and how responsive the remote is.
I will start that I currently live where Time Warner is the behemoth that most people have. Yes there are other options, but in my apartment, it is only Time Warner. (On a side note, how is that not considered a monopoly? Yes, I have the option to use RCN or Verizon Fios, but neither are connected to my building. So my choices are Time Warner, Time Warner, or Time Warner. Doesn't seem like much of a choice for me. And there comes the pricing… There are specials that even though I have only been a customer for three months, I can't take advantage of, and if I cancel and then become a "new customer" I have to pay installation again, which means all the benefits go out the window. Awesome!)
Ok so let's stick with Time Warner. My Time Warner DVR freezes and is forced to restart at least once per week. I am not sure if that is normal, or if I am just "blessed" with a good DVR. I record a lot of shows, but that shouldn't mean the DVR is forced to reboot once per week. I mean, it never gets above 60% full. However, traveling has made me thankful for Time Warner's DVR. My parents were upgraded to a Comcast DVR and really didn't even know it. They thought the Play, Stop, Fast Forward buttons on the remote were for On-Demand. So when I showed them how to use it, and recorded our first show (it was what we were watching, I just wanted to show them how to do it), accessing that show through the DVR felt like I was working on my PC from high school. You know the one where you had to wait for the AOL to dial up and connect you to the internet? Optimum cable is one of those smaller companies, and is able to give their customers a little something extra. I want to emphasize the word little here.
Finally, my last stop was New Orleans. Headed back for a little of the Mardi Gras atmosphere, and let me tell you, I was still impressed. Back in college (I went to Tulane University in New Orleans), I was never really disappointed with the Cox Cable DVR we had in school. I mean it mostly consisted of recorded college basketball and football games that were either on too early or were on after we would have been out for the night. However, it never had to reboot, and when it started to get full, all it did was delete the oldest shows on there. It didn't really slow down, and when you were fast forwarding and you hit play, it didn't jump back 15 seconds (like Comcast) or five seconds (like Time Warner), it started to play a second or two before the last screen shot. That is something nice because I have gotten very good at letting the show fast forward for a few seconds after I see my show or event is back so I don't have to watch local cable news or car advertisements. Now this is also almost ten years ago now.
Cox didn't let me down on my latest visit back to New Orleans either. They are just as quick as they used to be, are responsive, and all menus are still extremely to use. It is cheaper too, but I just attribute that to the fact they are in New Orleans and I live in New York City.
So Time Warner is the best cable company I have access to, but not near the top of the pyramid. Also, with as many problems as people have with their cable (I still think it is a monopoly) you would think they would have better customer service. However, you have a problem, and there is someone that can come help you in the next three weeks between 10 in the morning and 4 in the afternoon. Is there only one repairman for all of New York City? And clearly if there is a three-week waiting period there is the demand for that job, so why not hire someone else?
So in my travels, I have learned a few things… HD television is the same no matter what cable company you have. Having a DVR has become almost expected. (What do you mean I can't rewind and look at that play again?) The remotes are all basically designed the same, and you keep accidentally hitting the same buttons over and over. Not all DVR's are created the same, and even more than that, the "user" experience for those DVR's are definitely leaving me wanting.