How do I upgrade to a DirecTV Genie HR44?

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DirecTV's official stance regarding their equipment is "you get what you get and you don't get upset."

But this is the tech-blog world! We're powered on a constant cycle of early upgrades! Surely the AAAD household can get its hands on the latest and greatest DirecTV boxes. Let's find out. 

At the outset - let me reconfirm: The DirecTV Genie Whole-Home DVR system is the best I've ever used. 


Its interface is beautiful, its DVR is roomy, and even with though I have the first-gen Genie tech (An HR34 main box, with H25 mini boxes), it is very responsive and generally works flawlessly. 

BUT.... 

There are newer, better Genie boxes out there. 

The HR44 has replaced the HR34, and the H25 Mini boxes have been replaced with the C31 and C41 boxes. 

We had a chance to use the C41 at my in-laws house over Thanksgiving... and it seems to be worth the upgrade. (More on that below.)

But this isn't a straightforward tech upgrade. It's not like a TiVo, where I could sell my old box on eBay and purchase a Roamio or whatever. 

DirecTV owns all of their boxes (like a cable company), and leases them to the customer. And they WON'T just give you the latest and greatest boxes - again, you get what you get and you don't get upset

That throws quite a few wrinkles into the upgrade plan. 

There are lots of places where I can acquire DirecTV boxes (eBay, for instance), but do those people have the legal right to sell me their DTV box? 

(I certainly don't think I'm allowed to sell my HR34 - I never purchased it!)

And after purchase, do I "own" the box, freeing me from equipment fees? Probably not.
Can I even activate the new equipment on my account? 
Can I send DirecTV my old box and ask them to start leasing me the new one? 

So Why Upgrade?

Given all of these issues, we'd better have a pretty compelling reason before we start shelling out cash to "buy" boxes that we won't actually own. 

The good news - there are some compelling reasons. 

For starters, the HR44 main box is about half the size of the HR34. 

(That's a 44 in the middle, sidding on top of a 34.)

The HR44 is also more responsive, and (most importantly) incorporates the wi-fi bridge, thereby eliminating the need for a Cinema Connection Kit. 

But how much is that upgrade worth? Right now, not a whole heck of a lot. Between the HR34 and HR44, the core functionality is almost identical. 

With the Mini boxes, it's a different story. 

The C31 and C41 have the ability to pause/rewind live TV. The H25 does not. 

That's a core functionality that you really take for granted, and its absence is annoying enough that Ms. AAAD has given me the green light to get the small boxes upgraded. 


Which leads to the second question - 

So How Do We Upgrade?

I started by asking DirecTV very nicely if I could trade in my H25 boxes for C41s. They helpfully responded, "Sure! That will be $99 for each box!"

Hmmm. 

That's also the going rate at the well-known DTV resellers, like weaknees.com. 

And that might be a little too rich for my blood, for a box that will have no resale value, because I'll eventually be giving it back to DirecTV.

So, given the relatively low stakes, I think that a trip to the secondary market might be in order. 

Even if I'm unable to get the box working on my account, (or if DirecTV politely asks me to return their stolen equipment) I won't be out very much cash. 

I've been tracking a few eBay auctions, and the closing price for a C41 box seems to be in the $40-$50 range. 

The difference between the C31 and C41 boxes is that the C41 uses the new RF remote control, so you don't need a direct line-of-sight between the remote and the box. 

(This is doubly awesome on the C41, because it's so small that it can be actually be mounted BEHIND a flat-panel TV.)

So, off to eBay! While the ultimate success (and the legality) of this purchase appear to be somewhat in question, for now, it looks like the only legitimate way forward. 

Once we have the equipment in hand, we'll be completely forthcoming with DirecTV - "hey, I just bought this C41 on eBay and I'd like to use it instead of this H25, which I henceforth return to you..." - and we'll keep everyone updated here. 

6 comments :

  1. I have a full legally owned hr44 and 2 genie clients for sale if your interested.

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  2. The "Legally Owned" comment is the key. I purchased an Owned R22 from EBay about three years ago. The seller indicated he was a DirecTV employee and bought it through the company. He further said I could check the SN and ID# with DirecTV to confirm, which I did.

    I just updated the Owned R22 to the Genie Mini, yet to arrive. I confirmed that I can give the R22 to my girlfriend and it will be treated as an SD DVR, so no extra charge for HD ;o) Further, if she adds a service agreement for $7.99/MO, and it dies, they will replace it free and the replacement is then "Owned."

    FYI, in the case of the R-22/HR-22, they are identical and only the faceplate with the receiver number differs. DTV can set it for either SD or HD, apparently remotely.

    I do recommend you check the ID# with DTV before you buy to verify Owned status.

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  3. This adventure is about a Genie who is Genial and is affably comatose in his address - his lamp. He has approved to burrow himself so that simple bodies like us cannot acquisition him. But alas! He is found.

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  4. The wi fi bridge alone is a good reason to get it. I don't like the hassle of having to use any kind of bridge or interface between equipment. Everything should or would just flow seamlessly, in an ideal setting. Thanks for sharing your experience with the upgrade.

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