CNET has posted their review of the DISH Network DTVPal. And it seems Matthew Moskovciak and I are pretty much in agreement.
The DTVPal DVR ($250, currently sold out) falls somewhere between a VCR and TiVo in functionality. In general, I find the interface sufficiently powerful but, like the remote, more cluttered than TiVo. The guide data (PSIP or TVGOS) is limited in both days and data compared to the comprehensive Tribune data TiVo, and others, pay for. Therefore, I assume, the DTVPal DVR architects chose to record solely based on time slot. While you can search for shows by name, the actual scheduled recordings are set by day and time. Meaning if a show runs an extra minute or so (as the networks often do) and for shows that run on more than one night (such as early episodes of American Idol), you’re on your own – the DVR doesn’t have the smarts to overcome these without human intervention.
Like the CNET team, I haven’t personally witnessed any of the reported rebooting or freezing issues. However, as reviewers, we probably spend less time with the unit than folks who’ve purchased it for their living room. It’s also possible our newer (?) hardware/firmware combo is more stable. Not to mention, my unit is on a well ventilated shelf and draws steady power through a nice Monster surge protector. Potential customers should be aware that DISH doesn’t appear to accept returns… You should be prepared to live through the issues that typically plague new devices.
Overall, I do like the fee-less DTVPal DVR. It meets a need, providing basic and economical DVR services to those solely pulling content over-the-air (OTA). However, the advanced scheduling/recording options and Netflix streaming found on TiVo make it worth the $13/month premium for me.