Verizon FiOS TV
It’s been two years since I had Verizon FiOS installed, and overall I’m glad I made the switch from Dish Network. Originally I wrote this review after the first two months of using FiOS TV. Now its been updated for 2009.
Ordering/Installation: Ordering online is straightforward if your address qualifies for FiOS service. You can select from the available installation dates and times. If you do not currently have FiOS Internet, the installation will take 4-6 hours.
Once FiOS is installed to the outside of the home, the installer will usually use the existing coaxial cabling throughout the house to distribute the TV service. They will install new cable outlets at the rate of $54.99 per outlet. Regardless of whether or not you order internet service, Verizon will install a router and connect it to the FiOS network with a cat5 cable. It also connects to the home’s coaxial cable distribution to communicate with the set top boxes. The router downloads and provides all the guide data for the set top boxes. Currently Verizon offers 3 different setup boxes:
- Motorola QIP 2500 – for standard definition viewing of FiOS TV ($5.99/mo lease fee per unit)
- Motorola QIP 7100 (replaces QIP 6200) – for high definition viewing of FiOS TV ($9.99/mo lease fee per unit)
- Motorola QIP 7216 (replaces QIP 6416) – for Digital Video Recording capability in standard and high definition ($15.99/mo lease fee per unit)
It is possible to connect a TV with a built-in QAM tuner directly to the FiOS TV service, without any set top box. However this method will be able to access the local channels (usually around 15 channels total). Verizon also offers a multi-room feature called Home Media DVR. For an additional $4/mo, a feature within the Motorola QIP 7216 is enabled to provide DVR access for up to 6 Motorola QIP 2500 and/or QIP 7100 set top boxes. If FiOS internet service is installed, this upgrade also enables Media Manager, which allows photos and music from a home computer to be played on the TV.
Programming: There are 4 base programming packages:
- FiOS TV Essentials – Up to 295 digital channels including 14 in HD
- FiOS TV Extreme HD – Up to 348 digital channels including 55 in HD
- FiOS La Conexion – 140 channels including 25+ Spanish language channels
- FiOS TV Local – 15 channels
In addition to the basic packages, Verizon offers these add-ons:
- Movie Package – Includes Starz, Showtime, Encore, TMC, Flix and Sundance (47 channels total, 17 in HD)
- Sports – Features Fox College Sports, Outdoor Channel, GolfTV, The Golf Channel and more (now part of the Extreme HD base package)
- HBO (14 channels, 14 in HD)
- Cinemax (12 channels, 12 in HD)
- Foreign Language Channel Packages
The packages are really simple compared to most cable and satellite providers, and the channel lineups are extensive. I like the fact that the basic package includes National Geographic Channel (also available in HD). With Dish Network, only the most expensive package has NGC.
Any local High Definition broadcasts that exist are likely to be part of the FiOS TV Essentials package. Local HD channels from a Dish or DirecTV are a different story. The newest setup boxes from the Dish and DirecTV are capable of receiving HD locals over the satellite feed, but the HD locals are only available in certain markets. In addition, in order to fit local market HD channels in the satellite feed, both providers are now using a more compressed MPEG4 stream, which often means lower quality. Of course with or without a service provider, most people can hookup an antenna to an HDTV to get local HD channels.
The quantity of national HD channels neck and neck for the most out of all major providers. When comparing price, I don’t think any other service provider provides as many channels as Verizon FiOS for a better price. Check our HD Channel Comparison for more information.
Video On Demand: FiOS TV offers an extensive library of free and pay Video On Demand selections. Free selections include programming from Discovery, Discovery Health, Animal Planet, National Geographic Channel, Travel Channel, MTV, E!, VH1, Music Choice music videos, among others. The satellite providers cannot offer such a large Video on Demand library. Currently over 14,000 titles are available through FiOS Video On Demand. Over 1,000 selections are in HD. Again, due to the bandwidth of FiOS, Verizon will continue to have a competitive advantage for VOD services. I would like to see them pair up with an online provider to provide even more selections for users. I’m just not sure how a company like Apple (iTunes) will provide their services to TV Service providers when it competes direclty with Apple’s Apple TV.
Quality: Standard definition channels are as good as it gets as far as I’ve seen. High definition channels are also as good as I’ve seen. Verizon will have a real competitive advantage over cable and satellite providers when it comes to picture quality thanks to the ample bandwidth that FiOS can provide. Numerous HD titles are now available through VOD. This is only a recent addition, and a very welcome one. The only downside is a higher price for movies. New release movies cost up to $5.99 for HD. Purchased titles will be available to view for 24 hours.
With any of the movie packages, you have access to the VOD selections provided by those channels. Most of the time I preferred searching for the title and recording it live on the HD channel in HD quality rather than playing it through the VOD service. Of course you may have to wait a while for the title to be played again on the actual channel. Now, a lot of the premium movie titles are available in High Definition through VOD. However it’s still not as many as the standard definition selections.
Set Top Boxes: From my experience the Motorola boxes are considerably better than the Scientific America boxes provided by many cable providers. With that being said, I still had problems with the Motorola boxes, mainly the QIP 6416 with DVR and HD capability. Luckily the new Interactive Media Guide has made drastic improvements to the previous user interface. TiVo users will probably still prefer TiVo, but Verizon’s IMG is quite good. The IMG is unique to Verizon, so it will take some getting used to.
The recording options are very effective. For whatever reason, I have had some missed recordings over the last 2 years, but not nearly as many I did with Dish Network. Like most DVR boxes, it allows you to record series in a certain time slot or only new shows (not re-runs).
The most annoying aspect with the Motorola QIP 6416 and the new QIP 7216 is the small hard drive. It’s only capable of recording 80 hours in SD or 20 hours of HD. Of course you can mix and match SD and HD recordings. There is a connection for an external hard drive, but this feature has not been activated. Surely the media conglomerates do whatever they can to limit the amount of recording we can do. After all, one of the biggest reasons people want a DVR is to skip commercials. Luckily the FiOS set top box makes skipping commercials a breeze. Just hit the skip ahead button once for a 30-second jump, or say 6 times for 3-minute jump. It’s a little easier than pressing fast forward and watching the commercials in fast motion on edge ready to press play in order to resume normal speed. To my knowledge the DVR’s from FiOS and Dish Network are the only ones that have the skip ahead feature.
Regarding the skip ahead feature… If you look at the remote provided with the Motorola QIP 6416, you won’t see one. However, as of the current firmware version, the feature IS provided, you just have to find a remote that can send the right command. The only way to do that is to either get a Harmony Remote (command is downloadable) or get any remote that can learn a command and find somebody that has a remote with THAT command. Luckily for new customers, the current remote provided will all FiOS boxes is much improved and includes a skip ahead button.
On to the multi-room features. I applaude Verizon for offering such a feature since this is the way of the future and it provides a better end user experience. If you get the QIP 6416/7216, it is capable of communicating with up to 6 QIP 2500′s (the regular set top box). Each 2500 can record to and watch any recorded content from the 6416/7216 (up to 3 can watch different recordings at the same time). The only problem with this feature is that currently the 6416 cannot down convert High Definition content. So any HD programming recorded will NOT be viewable on the QIP 2500′s. This should be resolved in a future software update.
The Media Manager feature allows you to connect to a home computer and view photos and play music through the TV. You have to install a program on the computer that scans for compatible content. I did get this feature to work, and it can be useful, but I feel its more of a gimmick. I’ll stick to using my Logitech Music Anywhere Wireless Music System for listening to computer music in the living room. Seeing the photos on the living room TV is a neat feature, but it takes too much effort to put together slideshow each time.
Other Features: FiOS offers something called FiOS widgets to expand the available features. Widgets can be setup to provide easy access to weather information, local traffic details, or your daily horoscope. There’s even an interactive widget that shows you what other FiOS users in your area are watching most. With a click of a button, you can have this information appear on the screen .
PIP is still a work in progress. I was not able to get it to work on my system. There are PIP buttons on the remote, and a DVR capable set top box should not have any trouble provide such a features, it just doesn’t seem to be enabled at this time.
Verizon FiOS is relatively new service that brings tons of features and potential. The only real downsides stem from the Motorola set top boxes. The service itself has been rock solid stable. You don’t have to worry about losing signal during rain. The method of delivery (fiber optic), in my opinion, makes it much more robust than both satellite and cable providers. If you’re looking for more reviews, be sure to read the user comments and experiences on PVRBlog.
Motorola QIP-6416 Set-top box.
Motorola 6416 Back panel connections.
FiOS TV Interactive Media Guide.
FiOS TV DVR Menu.
FiOS TV Video On Demand Menu.
FiOS Optical Network Terminal mounted on an exterior wall (open).
FiOS remote control (Motorola 2500, 6200, and 6416).
Battery backup for FiOS Optical Network Terminal mounted inside, plugged into an A/C outlet.
FiOS Optical Network Terminal mounted on an exterior wall.