The latest model of DIRECTV’s Genie, the HR-44, is impressive, but does it fulfill all your whole home DVR wishes?
What is a Genie?
The Genie is a Whole Home DVR system from DIRECTV that allows recorded and live programming to be viewed from up to eight TVs. The most recent version of the Genie is the HR-44, a direct competitor to Dish’s Hopper. With both customers and experts in agreement that satellite providers Dish and DIRECTV have superior DVR systems compared to other providers, it’s a tight race. But with the Genie, HD-DVR, and the TiVo HD-DVR, DIRECTV is one of only a few TV providers that offer a choice in DVRs.
DIRECTV’s most recent model of the Genie offers the following notable features:
- Record and playback in 4K HD.
- 3D programming available 24/7.
- More than 1 TB (1,024 GB) of storage.
- Record and store up to 200 hours of HD programming in 1080p or 800 hours in standard definition.
- Record up to five shows at once
- Watch live and recorded programming on up to eight TVs via DIRECTV’s Genie Minis.
DIRECTV Genie (HR-44) Stats
The Genie is a black, plastic box with a metal underbody. It features blue LED backlit buttons and a display that is dimmable, focused on providing basic controls like guide, menu, select, record, and resolution. If you prefer to purchase your equipment rather than buy into a contract, you can do that with DIRECTV. Here’s what you’ll pay upfront for the Genie receiver versus the monthly equipment and service fees DIRECTV charges.
|Genie HR-44||$299||$15/mo per receiver||13.1 in||9.69 in||1.8 in||Coaxial Digital, Optical digital, Stereo, HDMI, Component Video||2 USB Ports, Ethernet Port, eSATA Port|
|Genie Mini-clients||$99||$7/mo per mini-client||5.91 in||.66 in||1.02 in||Wireless||Wireless|
DIRECTV Genie (HR-44) Hardware
Thinking about getting a Genie but not convinced it’s as great as the hype suggests? We’ll breakdown each part of this whole home DVR system, with details about the equipment hardware and compare it to competing products like the Hopper. Our goal is to give you a sense of what’s superior and what’s pretty standard about the Genie so you can make an informed decision.
The Genie operates as a whole home DVR system with a Hi-Def receiver connected by mini-clients that allow up to eight rooms to be serviced by the same unit. DIRECTV also offers wireless mini-clients that enable service to extend outside within a certain range. While you can include up to eight TVs as part of your system, the Genie only allows four of them to be in use at any one time.
The receiver itself is known as the HR-44 and it’s a capable little unit with soft touch, backlit buttons. Opening the front panel on the Genie exposes an access card to the right and a USB port to the left. The back of the unit offers more outputs than most other DVRs on the market, including an optical audio, which was an upgrade added to the most recent model of the Genie.
Under the casing, you’ll find a much faster processor than its predecessor’s and internal Wi-Fi that allows the Genie to communicate with the latest version of the HR-44 remote. They’ve also added an external, user-replaceable power supply. All of this efficiency has earned the Genie the EPA’s energy star award, one of the only DVRs to secure such an honor.
One of the things that has unfortunately fallen short—even in the latest mode—is the storage capacity. DIRECTV’s Genie HR-44 still only has around 1 TB of storage (1,024 GB). This translates into being able to record and save about 200 hours of HD or 800 hours of standard definition programming. In comparison, the Hopper offers about 2TB or double the storage. DIRECTV needs to up their game with the Genie storage for the next model or risk becoming outdated.
Genie Mini Clients
These petite little units can be tucked away discretely and enable the Genie to extend service to your entire home from one receiver. DIRECTV also offers wireless Genie minis and customers give them rave reviews for ease of use and installation. These wireless extensions allow programming or live TV to be paused, stopped, recorded, and played from any room. So if you wander into the kitchen to cook dinner, you can simply resume that episode of Diners, Dives, and Drive-ins that you started in the living room and continue drooling.
DIRECTV has finally upgraded the Genie remote, and while most of the functionality has stayed streamlined and simple, there is one important new feature. The remote has both IR (Infrared) and RF (Radio Frequency) capabilities, which means that you don’t need to worry about line-of-sight signals anymore. Just click and be in control from anywhere in the room or beyond.
This remote retains most of the main navigation in the center, but continues to offer a resolution button up top, which is a feature customers appreciated in the previous model. The Genie’s most recent iteration on the remote is faster, smaller, and more ergonomic with less buttons and just as much functionality packed into every inch of this handheld device.
Visit Amazon to see the Genie HR-44 remote’s current pricing, equipment specifications, customer reviews, and more.
DIRECTV Genie (HR-44) User Interface
We’ve highlighted the hardware, so let’s move onto the software. What is the user interface for the Genie like and what can you expect from your experience
The Genie user interface is exactly what you’d want from a real genie: helpful and friendly. The background aligns with DIRECTV’s branding, utilizing a black background with blue highlights. Dynamic featured cards rotate through a selection of “What’s On” recommendations, while the rest of the menu allows for search, recordings, settings, and more. Robust parental controls and an HD display make DIRECTV’s user interface a dynamic control center for your entertainment experience.
The Genie Guide
DIRECTV’s guide for the Genie is fairly standard, with a typical grid design that offers channels and times. However, customers have appreciated that, unlike other providers, the Genie guide doesn’t separate HD offerings. Instead, DIRECTV groups them with the same channel in standard definition. While the scrub bar and channel info display is fairly typical, there are a few other guide features that set the Genie apart.
One is something called QuickTune. It’s pretty much what it sounds like. Set your nine favorite channels and they’ll always be there, ready at the click of a button. The “Jump to Date and Time” feature is useful as well, allowing viewers to quickly navigate to future programming rather than having to slowly scroll through pages of recent content.
Perhaps the flashiest feature is how the DIRECTV Genie guide handles sports. Set your favorite teams and all the programming related to that team will be there, sorted automatically behind your sports team’s logo. This feature is complimented by the Score Guide, which provides real time game updates at the click of a button. DIRECTV scored when they became the home of NFL Sunday Ticket, but they’re poised for another touchdown with guide features like these that’ll win big with sports fans.
We’ve discussed that the Genie has less storage than other DVRs like the Hopper. However, 1 TB is more than adequate for most households and allows for storing 200 hours in HD or 800 hours in standard definition. While the Genie whole-system DVR does allow you to manage and set recordings from any room, you can only record up to five shows at once. In contrast, the Hopper can support recording a whopping 16 shows simultaneously. That kind of capacity doesn’t just eliminate recording conflicts, it decimates them.
While the Genie isn’t showing off much when it comes to recording ability, it does quietly excel at agility. Schedule recordings with one click of a button and manage all of your queue remotely from the DIRECTV app. Sometimes it’s not about impressing customers with feats of technological advancement. It’s about creating a friendly and helpful user experience that gets the job done. DIRECTV’s Genie certainly accomplishes that goal.
A word about GenieGo, which is an external unit formerly known as the Nomad. DIRECTV no longer makes these popular devices because all of your recordings are available to watch and manage via the DIRECTV app on your mobile device. While you’ll still struggle to get a variety of live programming or a more complete menu of On Demand choices on the app, the most recent update has rendered the GenieGo obsolete.
Watching TV with the Genie
This is what you really want to know, right? How is the viewing experience? Because when you’re looking for a TV provider, that’s an essential part of the equation. The HR-44 offers most of what you’ll find other DVRs doing these days. Pause and rewind capabilities that extend up to 90 minutes and a scrub bar that tries to be helpful but unobtrusive.
Genie does, however, offer a few unique bells and whistles that should be on your radar. The ability to watch HD in 4K is still a fairly new feature and if you have a compatible HD TV, it’ll be important. DIRECTV also provides plenty of 3D content 24/7 and the Genie will let you take full advantage of that. 72-hour rewind allows viewers to catch the shows they missed and Picture in Picture, or Double Play, gives you the option of watching two channels on one screen. DIRECTV has focused on doing what they can to double your viewing pleasure without distracting from what’s on the screen.
DIRECTV Genie (HR-44): The Verdict
If you’ve been struggling with an older DVR or have yet to upgrade to a whole-system DVR, DIRECTV’s Genie HR-44 will make your dreams come true. You’ll gain the efficiency and functionality you’ve always wanted, coupled with a friendly interface and an incredible HD experience. However, if you’ve had a whole-home DVR system before and enjoyed some of this technology, you may not be as impressed. DIRECTV still has one of the top DVRs on the market, but if you’re enjoying your current equipment and it’s meeting your needs, it may not be worth the hassle of switching providers.
Ultimately, X1 from Comcast and The Hopper from Dish, offer similar functionality and an equally dynamic user interface. And in terms of sheer capacity, the Hopper leaves other DVRs far behind, choking on the veritable dust of Dish’s innovation. But if you’re interested in a whole system DVR that offers wireless functionality for every room, plenty of capacity for the average viewer, and a friendly, HD interface, DIRECTV is going to exceed your entertainment expectations.
For more reviews of other DVRs and TV equipment, see Cable TV’s equipment reviews.
Learn More about DIRECTV
Want to upgrade to the Genie or explore the benefits of DIRECTV? Find out what packages are available in your area: