Bell 9200 PVR Sucks

have been a PVR fan for quite some time. My first exposure was a TiVO series 1 on DirecTV, and then when Bell ExpressVu came out with their 5100, I immediately grabbed one. The difference between the 5100 and a TiVO series 1 is quite stunning – no name based recording or season’s passes. In spite of the shortcomings, I happily used the 5100 for a couple of years, until the hard drive started getting more and more flakey.

What a perfect opportunity to check out ExpressVu’s latest offering – the 9200. This beast offers HD, dual tuners, 180 hours of recording time, and name based recording! At least, that’s what all the advertising said. In reality, there’s no name based recording. After much hype advertising the feature as coming soon for the last six months or so, they have quietly dropped all mention of it on their website.

The second problem is that my unit ‘stutters’ when playing back recorded shows. Not just some of the time – it stutters about every two mintues or so continuously! It makes watching recorded shows unbearable. I thought I must have got a defective unit. I did some searching on the web to see if this was a known issue. Boy was I surprised. I found some good threads over at with people experiencing the exact same issue. In fact, these people had researched the problem enough to pinpoint the problem to a particular brand of hard drive.

This morning, I called Bell ExpressVu to ask them about the problems I was experiencing. After initially denying any knowledge, they conceded that there was a known problem with the software, and that a fix was going to come out to address the problem. They were unable to provide me with an estimated date for the fix, and they seemed to think that the stuttering was okay and wouldn’t affect my enjoyment of Bell ExpressVu. They were also unable to provide a delivery date for the promised name-based recording feature. I’m not happy with their explanation, and I’m not happy that I’m not able to watch recorded shows with this unit. I’ve escalated the problem to a manager (yeah, right) who will call me back within 48 hours. I’ll let you know what they say.

Update: 2006-04-17 20:37

Discussions on the boards seem to suggest that the 9200s that exibit problems have Maxtor hard drives in them. My son suggested that perhaps Maxtor’s ‘Acoustic Management’ feature might be enabled on the drive, which would definitely affect performance, and might be the cause of the stuttering. I might just have to break down and void the warranty to pull the drive out to verify if this is actually the case. I’ll post an update if I pull it apart.

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