It’s not even out yet, could it be obsolete? That’s the claim some are making against DIRECTV’s HR54 Genie DVR. The replacement for the popular HR44 Genie won’t be with us for some time (although we have an exclusive look) and already some are saying DIRECTV didn’t go far enough.
The HR54 doesn’t bring much more to the table than the HR44, that’s true. The two DVRs look and act the same and the HR54 actually loses the phone jack from the HR44. It adds something new, however; using 7 SWM channels instead of 5, it’s believed to be the first DVR to support 4K when DIRECTV starts carrying live 4K content. But it’s been confirmed that the HR54 itself cannot output 4K. It does not have the requisite HDMI 2.0/HDCP 2.2 port to do so, meaning it’s limited to 1080p. While it’s possible that some software switch could be flipped enabling 4K, our understanding of the chips inside the HR54 makes that pretty unlikely.
If you want 4K content from DIRECTV, there are two ways to do it: The C61K Genie Mini Client or a smart TV. Both are excellent choices and when there is 4K content available, you’ll probably need the combination of the HR54 and a client or smart TV to watch it.
Maybe it doesn’t make sense to you, but DIRECTV views the HR54 as more of a home media center. This is an idea that’s been floating around DIRECTV for close to 10 years — the idea that all the work is done by a central DVR that isn’t connected to a TV. Sure, DIRECTV gives you an HDMI port so you can interact with the TV if you really have to, but they would much rather that you used a client or smart TV, both of which give you all the features of the DVR with the exception of picture-in-picture which has proven unpopular among the DIRECTV customer base.
It’s really hard to know if this ties in with other statements made lately, but it certainly seems like DIRECTV and AT&T are moving forward with a central device that will combine an internet portal, a DVR, and a home media server. Other terrestrial providers are moving in the same direction. If you look at it that way, the HDMI port seems kind of vestigial. The DVR isn’t something you interact with directly anyway.
And you know, who wants a big loud DVR near the TV anyway? Wouldn’t you rather have a little client box that stays quiet and cool? That’s the way I think about it.