Improvements to the UPC Horizon Set Top Box

Update 29-Aug-2014 – a software update to the Horizon box in the last couple of days seems to have solved some of these problems – see:UPC Ireland – Horizon Software Update

Horizon is UPC’s premium TV offering, and has several advantages over other TV/DVR systems, such as:

  • Ability to record up to 4 TV shows at the same time and watch a 5th, which avoids recording conflicts
  • HD channels as standard, rather than as a paid-for extra
  • Integrated broadband modem and WiFi router in the set top box, so you only need one box for TV, Broadband and Phone (although of course, as they’re in one box, you have to have everything in one location)
  • Ability to stream live TV via WiFi onto iOS devices and PC/laptops in the home (although no support for Android yet)

However the new Horizon system is now without its problems.  I was involved in the public trail back in the spring of 2013, and fed back all of these findings to UPC – but as of today, none of them have been resolved:

  • The TV Guide is very slow to navigate. There is no way to go straight to a particular, so if you want to find something to record in a week’s time, you need to scroll through an entire week’s worth of shows to find the one you want.
  • The Recorded Shows navigation is slow and involves a lot of key presses.  Deleting individual shows is very slow, and you often end up pressing the remote several times, thinking that the button press has not registered. Also if you want to delete a whole series, you are forced to delete each show in the series individually, which takes ages. There’s also a very dangerous “delete all” option that could accidentally be selected – and it will delete everything off your box!
  • The Now and Next on-screen option is very poor. You can see what’s on now, or what’s on next, but not at the same time!  It’s so bad it’s not even worth bothering with.
  • There are numerous sound problems. If the picture freezes for any reason (a regular occurrence particularly with recorded shows), or you press pause while playing on-demand content, then the sound drops out completely. The only way to get it back is to fast forward or rewind a couple of times.
  • Recorded shows are inaccessible to watch. Sometimes the recording corrupts, and the series/episode numbers show as ‘-1’. When this happens you can’t access the show to watch it.
  • WiFi reach is quite poor. It’s certainly not as good at the old UPC modem I had. There are also problems where the wifi will sometimes stop working altogether (about once a month), which requires a box reboot to clear.  Some devices also have problems connecting.  It’s such a problem in my house that I’m planning to switch back to a separate wifi router.
  • The horizon.tv website is useless. You’re meant to be able to stream all the channels from it (if you’re on UPC internet) but only some of the channels are available. The TV guide doesn’t work properly either – particularly the remote record function.

I’m very surprised, and disappointed, that none of these issues have been resolved in the past six months, and the UPC continue to strongly push the Horizon service knowing that it has problems.

UPC Upgrades

It’s no more than a month since my NTL (UPC) broadband speed was doubled from 3 megabits to 6 megabits, and now I read that from July onwards the they’re increasing the downloads bandwidths again to 20 megabits for the €40 package, and 10 megabits for the €30 package; the one I have (see news item: UPC announces 20Mbps broadband for €40 a month)

At long last we’re achieving reasonable download speeds in Ireland, comparable with other countries in western Europe. Shame that they continue to restrict the related upload speeds so much.

However, they have announced that they’re going to abolish the data caps on their new 20 and 10 megabit packages, so I shouldn’t moan too much, as they now seem to have the best offering on the Irish market

Broadband unavailable

Seems that NTL (or rather UPC) are having a bit of trouble with servicing my area at the moment.

On Friday evening the whole network went down for about two hours, cutting off both my TV and broadband signal. And then this evening the broadband internet disappeared for another couple of hours.

I used to tell people that, once the NTL service was set up, that it was fairly reliable. I know my cable TV and broadband connection in Edinburgh was good, because for one period of time I didn’t have cause to contact them for about 3 years. But the utilities here in Dublin don’t seem to be all that resilient – what with all the power cuts too.

I have broadband

Joy of joys! I now have broadband, and can waste time at a much faster speed than before.

For the last six or seven months I’ve been making do with different wireless internet connections – all of which have been pretty flaky. With slow download speeds and dropped connections, its kind-of criminal that they sell these wireless services as ‘broadband’. They’re maybe okay for the very occasional web user – someone who checks their email a couple of times a week – but not for me.

Back in Edinburgh I used to have broadband internet over cable (Telewest), and had very few problems with them. In fact, over the 5 years I was a subscriber, I think I only ever had to call the tech support line about three times. And so I decided to go for the same thing here – or more specifically, I am now connected up to UPC Ireland – Broadband Express, giving me a 3 megabit connection.

More problems

The farce continues with the NTL DVR installation. Following two failed installs on Monday and Tuesday this week, I was assured on Tuesday afternoon that a DVR would definitely be installed “first thing tomorrow morning” (Wednesday).

Well it’s now Wednesday afternoon, and guess what? Yup, you got it. Nobody came, and the number of failed appointments reaches three (or four, if you also count the missed Broadband install on Saturday).

So I called NTL (I know the number from memory now), and they told me that no appointment was made for this morning, and that my DVR was booked in for Friday afternoon – which was news to me – but not much of a surprise. After all, almost nothing that NTL tells me ever seems to match reality. I’ve had several promises made to me over the last week, and not one of them has been kept. And at the moment, I have very little faith that anyone will arrive on Friday either.

What I should do, of course, is cancel my service with NTL. They’ve messed me around more than any sane person could stand. But I don’t want to go elsewhere. I just want NTL to install the services I asked for.

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