Cox Contour TV ‘Hands-On’ Review

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Cox recently completed rollout of their Contour TV upgrade, a system that integrates intelligent user recommendation software with hardware components for the home. You may have seen advertisements popping up in Cox markets that focus on personalization and iPad integration, but what about what’s under the hood? We got a chance to check out the Contour TV product to get a look at the hardware, software, and essential elements of the system.

Hardware

The main piece of hardware in the Contour TV system is the 6 Record HD DVR that allows you to record up to six separate programs at the same time. Compare this to Dish’s with Hopper Whole-Home HD DVR that also lets you record six different programs, only with a catch. Dish’s 3-tuner DVR requires four of the six be local network programs that Dish serves up On Demand. The Contour 6 Record DVR doesn’t disclose that same fallback, allowing the recording of any TV show or movie on a channel you subscribe to.

Cox-Contour-6-Record-HD-DVR-CISCO-EXP4642HDC-front

The HD DVR unit itself is a CISCO model EXP4642HDC with 2TB hard drive, enough room to store up to 1,000 hours of SD or 300 hours of HD content. The design of the 6 Record HD DVR is not much to speak of, but what it might lack in elegance it makes up for in practicality. What’s more, the DVR can be daisy-chained to two more 6 Record HD DVRs for a total of 6 terra-bytes. That gives power users up to 3000 hours of standard-definition, or about 900 hours of high-definition programming. The Contour 6 Record HD DVR supports HD video up to 1080p, as well as Dolby Digital Plus audio.

Cox-Contour-6-Record-HD-DVR-CISCO-EXP4642HDC-back

Service on the 6 Record HD DVR includes HDMI out, dual USB 2.0 ports, Ethernet, RCA Audio/Video In/Out, coaxial, IR Remote jack, Optical, with a standard 12V DC 3Amp power requirement.

Cox-Contour-client-set-top-box-CISCO-4742HDC-front

The Contour’s client boxes, CISCO 4742HDC models, are much cooler looking than the main 6 Record HD DVR. With a honeycomb-style hard metal case the set-top boxes are smaller than the main DVR but look indestructible. Service options are almost the same as the main DVR but the 4742HDC also includes a USB 2.0 port on face, and coaxial In/Out connections on back.

You can connect up to seven client boxes to TVs throughout your home. Each box, whether the main 6 Record HD DVR, or the CISCO 4742HDC client box, cost an extra $8.50 per month to rent (there are no purchase options). You’ll also need to pay $15 for the Whole Home DVR service.

Software

When connecting the Contour TV to an iPad as well as your TV you’ll be able to see up to eight user profiles, accessible on the tablet, main TV and other TVs in your home. This is the main feature Cox seems to be targeting in their marketing efforts. When you set up a user profile, Contour will make suggestions based on your viewing habits. The software algorithm determines a user’s likes and dislikes by using many different variables such as previously watched, genres, keywords, actors, and other factors.

If you’re a Cox customer you may have always wondered what the little green diamond button does on the remote control. Contour TV has designated that button to access user profiles and recommendations. The green diamond was already used in the guide as an indication of shows you may enjoy, based on shows you watch and user feedback via Like/Dislike votes.

The Contour TV system doesn’t have the built-in ad-skipping option that has been getting Dish into trouble with network broadcasters, but of course there’s always fast-forward on the remote.

Second-Screen Integration

Contour TV expands the TV experience via the iOS Cox Contour for iPad app. As of now, the app is only available for the Apple iPad, but Cox says they are working on a solution for Android tablets by the end of 2013 and for smartphone platforms sometime in Q1 2014. The Contour iPad app, a 18.7Mb file, was last updated on September 17 to Version 1.2.0.

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The main screen of the iPad application shows three panels: My Library, Live, On Demand, which give you quick access to various content you may want to watch. A swipe across the interface opens up either of these sections, allowing you choose a title and get more details or send to your TV screen. In a way, the iPad becomes a more sophisticated universal remote (although sound and other TV controls are not integrated into the app).

To watch most programs on your iPad you’ll need to be using Wi-Fi in your home, although the app provides access to some TV network apps that can be watched outside the home as well. There are also sharing options via Facebook, Closed Captioning, and Remote Scheduling.

Pricing

The Contour TV upgrade costs an extra $10 per month on top of whatever service package you choose. As mentioned above, the Whole Home DVR service costs an additional $15 per month, and the 6 Record HD DVR is $8.50 per month. Any additional set-top boxes TVs throughout your home cost $8.50 per month each.

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About Jeff Chabot

Jeff Chabot writes about technology, broadcasting, and digital entertainment. You can also find him on Gameverse, Gadget Review, and Google+.

11 thoughts on “Cox Contour TV ‘Hands-On’ Review”

  1. Jeff Hanson says:

    Based on the review’s comments mentioning all sorts of issues, it seems the Tivo box is still the best solution for any cable subscriber. I’ll keep using my Tivo Premiere 4 tuner.

  2. sandy christensen says:

    contour broke my samsung television on day after install. my box was vibrating and i had to unplug it because i was afraid it might also cause a fire it was so hot. cox is coming today to trouble shoot but samsung says the power switch is broken so i really have no hope this can be fixed

    1. Jeff Hanson says:

      What was the final outcome?

  3. John Harlan says:

    We are on our 5th service call. Contour boxes have serious problems. Last tech replaced our box and it didn’t work. He called another tech who delivered another box. The first night it rebooted 5 times causing us to loose parts of movies/programs we were watching. Inconvenience of 5 service calls, loosing recorded programs each time a box is replaced and having programs interrupted by rebooting makes me long for Direct TV.

  4. Christopher Colins says:

    After multiple boxes in two different locations, I would rate this 2 out of 5 stars. The software is has too many bugs and appeared to be released well before it was beta tested or piloted. The slightest communication problems, between the boxes or between the servers, make the entire box difficult to use, to use the DVR list, or simply to see the menu guide. Overall thumbs down.

  5. James Courtney says:

    I have experienced nothing but problems with cox contour. I find the whole cox corporation is rather shady. When my 2 year contract expired my prices skyrocketed without warning. When I called to complain they told me I could “save money” by switching to Contour. Needless to say, my bills went even higher. On top of that the Contour box was plagued with problems. I insisted that they switch me back and give me my old box back. They told me to go to the cox store to swap out the box. When I went to the Cox store and spoke to the cox, they told me that they didn’t have the old Motorola box that I used to have and that I can only take the Contour box. I peeked over the counter and saw several of the Motorola boxes. I told the guy that I see the Motorola boxes right there! He played dumb and said, ‘oh, is that the box you want?’ I said, yes! – Finally he gave me my old box back but now this box re-boots itself 10 times per day! It reboots while I’m recording and even rebooted during the New Years countdown. I recommend using any other TV / Cable provider. Cox is an unethical company that is far behind the times and charges ridiculous prices for inferior service.

  6. Duane says:

    I “upgraded” to the Cox Contour box about a year ago. Unlike others I have experienced no problems. That is, except to say that 1) I record more than two programs at the same time far less frequently than I thought I would and 2) if one even BEGINS to fill up the hard drive one won’t live long enough to watch everything! But I’m here to ask a question….

    Can I put a movie on a flash drive, stick it into the Contour’s USB port, and play it? Yes or no?

    Best answer I’ve been able to find searching the Internet is “no” as Cox blocks the USB inputs … but I’m not sure that answer is correct.

  7. Vance Gregory says:

    Until you hear otherwise, do not get the Cisco Record 6 DVRs from Cox.
    I’ve had it for about 4 weeks. It’s HORRIBLE. Most of the time, when you press a button on the remote, the picture either freezes or nothing happens until about 2-3 minutes later.
    You can reboot the devices, and it works immediately after the reboot, but not for more than a couple of hours.
    I’ve never read a forum post where someone had no issues with these boxes. EVERYONE has the same issues with these boxes. Sometimes I can’t even change the channel. I type the channel number on the remote, and the numbers appear on the screen, and then about 2-3 minutes later (literally) the channel will change.
    Come on, Cox. What are you doing? Why are you still letting people put these in their homes when you know it doesn’t work?
    Also…..these DVRs as tuners do not have as good of picture performance as the Tivo Premiere I replaced. My Tivo Premiere was crystal clear all of the time. The Cox DVR is not always crystal clear, and often times I get tiling issues watching heavy action like sports or action movies. NEVER had that problem with a Tivo.
    For now…..get a Tivo Premiere or a Tivo Romio DVR, get a CableCARD and tuner from Cox, and you’ll be MUCH happier.

  8. Bob Shapiro says:

    My experience with the Contour DVR has been quite horrific. I’ve had one box swapped to no good end within a month afted starting the service. I still experience frequent spontaneous “reboots,” numerous picture freeezes, and now my box is completely off-line, requiring another service call.

    I have been led to believe that Cox realizes that Cisco has foisted off a lemon on the company and is going to be touting a replacement unit soon.

    Oh well, there’s always Direct or Dish TV….

  9. TheELeeT says:

    I believe the model numbers listed are incorrect and/or don’t match the screenshots. The DVR shown in the screenshot, which features the 6 tuner/streams is likely one of the the 9800 series (i.e. 9845HDC, 9865HD, or 9865HDC). Reference: http://www.cisco.com/en/US/prod/collateral/video/ps11488/ps12334/ps12291/9800_multi-screen.pdf

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