Can you activate a DIRECTV HR21 DVR?

A customer recently asked if the HR21 DVR still worked. Short story is, yes it does. Long story is, you might wish it didn’t.

The HR21 story

The HR21 DVR was DIRECTV’s second attempt at a homegrown HD DVR. The first, the HR20, was released in the summer of 2006. The HR20 was a revolutionary machine, with the ability to record two HD programs and a built-in off-air adapter. The only issue for the company was the cost to produce it. An independent observer at the time suggested that the HR20 cost the company over $800 to make. A less expensive alternative was needed, quickly.

The HR21 was first shown to testers in mid-2007 and was released to the public in late 2007. It carried with it all the same features of the HR20 with the exception of the tuners. Using multiple manufacturers meant keeping costs quite a bit lower. The HR21 was easily distinguished from the HR20 by its “piano black” outer case, which was quite stylish at the time.

The HR21 continued to be offered long after its successor the HR24 was offered. The HR24, of course, is still available today.

Why activate an  HR21?

If you happen to buy an RV which has satellite equipment built in, you can save a lot of money, even if the equipment is older. The HR21 receives all current HD programming and even has the same interactive features as all modern DIRECTV equipment.

The most important thing is figuring out the status of the equipment. Many HR21s were still in service as late as 2012, when the product was declared “deprecated.” Products in the field continued to work (and still work today.) However, future updates may not always be applied to older equipment.

The biggest change when going to “deprecated” status is that the customer is told they don’t have to return the receiver or DVR when turning service off. However, this doesn’t mean they are free to transfer or sell it. So, when you get an RV with these older receivers, you should always check to make sure that they actually can be reactivated. In many cases they can but you need to be sure, especially if the cost of the receivers is part of the price you’re paying.

Why maybe you shouldn’t activate an HR21

By today’s standards, the HR21 is slow. Very slow. The HR24 was viewed as a milestone in speed when it first launched, and today we think of it as slower than and Genie equipment. If you’re just going to use an HR21 for casual TV watching, it’s going to be fine. But if you’re going to use it to poke through the guide a lot, you’ll find yourself waiting more than you might like.

How to make the best decision

If you have an RV with old equipment, give the experts at Signal Connect a call at 888-233-7563. They can tell you exactly what that equipment’s capable of. If old receivers can be reactivated, they’ll get it done even if no one else can. And if you want to upgrade, they’ll take care of you there, too. If it’s after east coast business hours, fill out the form below and our staff will get back to you, usually within 24 hours.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.