Cloud DVR | DIRECTV NOW | Reviews

First Look: DIRECTV NOW DVR (Latest Release)

Exclusive inside look. We’ve got the screenshots and information you’ve been asking for…

DIRECTV NOW Cloud DVR Beta

Here’s a first look at the latest build of the DIRECTV NOW DVR on Apple TV.  The build, Version 1 Build 400, was released on December 6, 2017 and has been met with fairly positive response among Beta testers. From our personal experience with the app, It would appear that AT&T is inching closer to a finished product.

Interestingly, the beta build is not set to expire until March 7th 2018. Could this foretell that the release date of the Cloud DVR will at least be delayed until after this date?

DIRECTV NOW recently sent out a new round of invites to their Beta program and welcome emails began arriving this week allowing a new crop of beta testers to access the software. The screens in the slideshow below reflect that latest beta build available for Apple TV and Apple TV 4K

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DIRECTV NOW DVR – First impressions:

  • Speed and Responsiveness – The channels load reasonably fast, and menus overall are responsive, with the noted exceptions of the grid guide as documented below.  There doesn’t appear to be any of the buffering issues that users have reported in previous builds. It appears that the infrastructure has been beefed up to more adequately handle system demand.
  • DVR – Recordings and playback appear smooth and reliable thus far on both the Apple TV and the Chrome/Safari browser based UI. With the exception of some noted UX misses mentioned below, the overall app design appears to be pretty well thought out. A couple significant caveats though, unlike PS Vue’s DVR, which currently sets the bar for Cloud DVRs, you cannot retroactively record live program content after tuning in. When you opt to record a program, the recording starts from the moment you tuned into the channel, not the start of the actual program. And there’s no rewind capability until you choose record – you don’t have a live buffer to play with without counting against your storage limits. You cannot indefinitely pause live TV without first choosing to record  the program.
  • App Sophistication – Overall it seems like they are moving closer to what I’ve grown accustomed to with the traditional DIRECTV satellite service’s “Genie” DVR, which I was extremely pleased with before I swapped over to the OTT service last November.

DIRECTV NOW DVR – A few issues that need to be ironed out:

  • Missing Locals – Users have reported that some of their local channels are not appearing on the beta, despite appearing on the regular version of the app. For example, here in Birmingham, were we have access to both ABC3340 and WVTM NBC13, only the ABC affiliate is showing up. Fox and CBS still not available in my area although Youtube TV has ABC, CBS, NBC and CW – but we are still left wishing and waiting on an wider device support to see Youtube TV take off
  • Grid Guide Quirks – The grid guide departs from the existing app and adds a details row containing  a thumbnail image of the selected programs as well as episode information, description and time. The guide still appears to be a work in progress however. There are some overlapping of the grid squares and the animation is jerky rather than smooth. Its reminiscent of the Playstation Vue grid guide in which elements change size as they are displayed, resulting in screen redraws that have somewhat jarring transitions.
  • Favorited Channels – While on the grid guide, users can select to filter the listing by their favorited channels. This feature works flawlessly on the non beta app, however, the beta app does not persist the user’s last selected filter. In other words, if you selected to show favorites only, after you close and reopen the guide, you will have to refilter the guide all over again.
  • Recording Episodes and Series Passes – In order to set up a series pass (for those shows that allow it), you have to first click the “REC” icon while watching the program or the episode name that appears when you mouse over the screen – this text is not clickable in full screen mode but does work while in the half screen “Watch Now” mode. So once you activate the details screen by clicking on the episode name text, you can select “Record Episode. The popup menu that appears to confirm your choice, then allows you the option to select “Record Series”. However, the popup goes away automatically unless you quickly make a choice within about 3 seconds.
  • Full Screen Mode Options – You cannot set up a series pass from the full screen mode. Currently you have to exit to the “Menu” screen overlay, then click to activate the “Watch Now” screen in order to be able to click the program name (bottom left corner) to access the program details screen to set up a series pass.
  • Series Passes Limited – Not all programs that can be recorded can be set up on series pass.
  • Swiper no Swiping – Puzzlingly, the FF/RW controls do not utilize the Siri’s swipe pad like virtually every other Apple TV app. You first have to click the touchpad, then you have to move an underline cursor to the appropriate icon that controls FF/RW and Pause. It also means that Harmony remotes FF/RW buttons do not work for the app. This is not ideal and we hope they will rework this before the final release.

Have a question or comment about the DIRECTV NOW DVR Beta? Share your thoughts in the comments below. Leave a comment:

  • NCAviator

    I just started to use the beta this morning. For me the BIG MISSING FEATURE is that in GUIDE you can’t tell what shows are set to record. No RED DOT like most DVR solutions.

    I am also having the missing local issue with my NBC station in Greenville, SC. Shows in the non-beta.

    Am also having issues with FAVORITES now showing my ABC local station even though it is marked as a favorite.

    The software has much to get right before it is released.

    • Good finds. Please make sure you submit your findings to the feedback channel. You can also email direct to g08533@att.com

      Agree there are some issues that need to be ironed out, but as it stands I’ll take a flawed DVR over none. Now, if they want us to pay more than $5 a month, they need to do some serious UX work.

      BTW, I just updated the post to reflect my findings related to the expiration date of the Beta build. Its currently set to expire on March 7th, so I would not expect this to be completed before then. March is probably a most hit deadline for this service. Any later and I’m expecting mass defections, especially from those that don’t have access to the beta for their DVR needs.

      • NCAviator

        I submitted my feedback using the link in the Chrome App/Page. Said successfully submitted. Have not received any follow up. Do they reply if you use email address?

        I selected a show to record. It recorded 4 shows. When I try and select and click on them. Nothing happens. Can’t play the show. This is in Apple TV. Works fine in Chrome Browser.

        They really need more options to recording. Like record only NEW shows not reruns.

        • I have a batch of feedback to send. I’ll try the email link and see what returns. Agree completely on the recording options. I’d expect that to already be there if it were going to be. Its something they would have wanted thoroughly tested by now so its doubtful it will be there unless they are delaying the release until after spring, which I highly doubt they can afford to do with the heated competition.

        • I just tried submitting feedback through the Apple TV interface. It pops a message that asks me to submit feebdack via the web at this URL: http://att-research.com/feedback

          I’m unable to playback episodes from series recordings in the library on Apple TV (tvOS 11.2.1)

          • Loren Kruse

            I struggled with this …the select button doesn’t work. You have to press the PLAY/PAUSE button to watch the show. If it still doesn’t work force close the APP…

        • Loren Kruse

          I struggled with this …the select button doesn’t work. You have to press the PLAY/PAUSE button to watch the show. If it still doesn’t work force close the APP.

        • I had the same issue yesterday and submitted feedback. Today, after closing the app and reopening, I was able to do as Loren indicates, use the PLAY/PAUSE button to launch the recording. It should allow one to playback with EITHER play/pause OR a click of the ATV touchpad.

  • From Reddit user @milan03:

    Not sure if others have noticed, but DirecTV Now BETA now offers streams of up to 1080p/60fps at 10Mbps using the high efficiency video codec (H.265) on capable devices like AppleTV 4K. This means that DTVN is sending their stream at twice the bandwidth, and also using a video codec twice as efficient than the traditional cable, providing a pretty incredible viewing experience.

    1080p streams are available pretty much across the board, and the only channels left with 720p/60fps are the ones that use backhaul satellite feeds sent at 720p like Fox and Disney channels including ESPN and FS1.

    Regular non-BETA app also has a few channels streaming in 1080p like CBS, CBS Sports, Olympic, POP, so even if you’re not a BETA tester you can get a taste of it.

    This reddit user indicates they have tested it against the Time Warner and FiOS set-top box, and the picture quality is significantly better on DTVN.

    https://i.imgur.com/fIuahOq.jpg

  • Loren Kruse

    I have noticed some recorded shows end prematurely. Need the ability to record and add a minute or two after the show is scheduled to end.

    • Agreed. I’ve been unable to playback recordings from my library since yesterday. Hopefully things get sorted out soon. This really needs to start getting buttoned down if we are looking at a near term release.

  • Feedback I submitted today:
    Would like to have the ability to pause and rewind live TV without having to first record the whole program. There is currently no live TV buffer. PS Vue does this well. If I only want to rewind a few seconds to catch something I missed, I shouldn’t have to record the whole show! Especially if you are considering only 20 hours of DVR storage. Allow at least a 10 minute buffer to allow rewind/catch up without requiring us to record the entire program. Especially helpful for news programming that will be stale and not worthy of recording space.

  • Cableguy

    Been using the beta a few days. Recorded a few shows on Apple TV gen 4 and iPad Air 2. Fast forwarding is slow. Hit the first button a second time and the recording goes back to the beginning. Now when I schedule a recording it doesn’t record on either device. I uninstalled and reinstalled the beta app on my iPad and it still won’t record. I’ve sent several feedbacks.

    • Thanks for the update. It appears they are working things on the back end. You may have gotten the email a few minutes ago. If not, check my message above.

  • Just received this email from DIRECTV NOW Beta Program:

    Good Afternoon Testers,
    We’re currently upgrading a few things for the beta app, so you may experience intermittent playback issues for live and DVR streaming until tomorrow afternoon.

    We also have a scheduled Cloud DVR maintenance that begins at midnight PST tonight. We anticipate that we’ll be done at 10am PST tomorrow. During this time, any recordings scheduled for this timeframe will not be recorded. You also may not be able to play any of your recorded content as well.

    We apologize for the inconvenience, and appreciate your patience as always.

  • Rey White

    I have been using the Directv Now Beta for my three Amazon Fire Sticks and I am pleased with the recording features thus far. I have recorded and watched 5 shows; two of which were recorded with the Beta for my Smart phone last week. Where I had issues viewing a couple of the shows recorded with the smart phone, all of the programs recorded with the Amazon Fire Stick software recorded and played back beautifully. I also like that I can watch the recorded content from any of the four devices.

    • Good to hear Ray. I’ve heard similar comments on the Fire beta.