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Oh My Tech!: Xfinity's X1 due for a big upgrade

Published March 6, 2014 8:49 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

I just had an upgrade to Xfinity X1, and the guide takes up the entire screen and covers the current show we are watching. I have four sets and it is the same [on each of them]. I asked the installation person but he said this is how it is programmed. But my daughter who just had this installed in her home has the guide on her side. I looked online but could not find how to do it.

Georgia Bihler

The Xfinity X1 system that Georgia is talking about is the new interface and cable box from Xfinity/Comcast for cable television that eventually will take over the old cable box.

Just about everything with X1 is new. First, the onscreen television guide is completely different. The most recent version to the X1 guide (which is part of a major software update that Comcast has internally been calling "X2") is much larger, and as Georgia says, it completely takes up the screen unlike the older guide, which used to show a screen of the channel you're currently watching in one corner.

This is what may have happened with Georgia: When she had the X1 installed at her home, the installer must have upgraded to the very newest onscreen guide (again, part of the X2 upgrade) that takes up the whole screen. Unfortunately, once you upgrade to this, you can't go back as far as I can tell. I've done the upgrade myself and have not found a way to go back to the older version. Georgia's daughter, on the other hand, must have gotten X1 without upgrading to the latest version of the onscreen guide.

The new guide with the X2 version is part of a larger upgrade to the new Xfinity cable box. It not only changes the onscreen TV guide, but it also will eventually start using cloud-based recording where your TV shows recorded for your DVR aren't saved to the box's hard drive but rather to Comcast's servers. The reason for the change is it will afford you much more recording space than before.

The whole X1 service has been rolling out to customers bit by bit. It was introduced last fall, first to new "Triple Play" customers who were signing up for Internet, cable TV and landline service. Now, I've heard it's being installed for current "Triple Play" customers who want it. Eventually, it will be the defacto system and box that everyone will get when they sign up for Comcast cable and for existing customers if they want to make the changeover. There is no additional monthly fee in changing over, but you have to pay an initial $50 to $100 installation fee to make the switch and get the new cable box.

With the new service, you get a 500-gigabyte hard drive in the new box, and it can record up to four programs at once. It also can run several basic apps that show the current weather, sports, stocks, your horoscope and more. It also works with an Xfinity mobile app that can act as a remote for the box.

Last August, I reviewed the new X1 service and found it a step up in some ways but also very buggy. Since then, Comcast has ironed out many of the bugs, but some of the glaring design flubs still remain.

Since Comcast introduced the new service last fall, it has been rolling out the major X2 software upgrade that I mentioned earlier, though only in some markets. In Utah, you can upgrade to it by going to "Settings" and then "Preferences" on your onscreen guide and clicking on the upgrade. But again, once you make the changeover you can't go back.

For now, you only get the new onscreen guide in upgrading to X2, but not the ability to record shows to the cloud. That will come later.

I've been using the new guide for a week or so now, and it's going to be a big change to those using any of the older guides. It's very big, with huge fonts — so huge, in fact, that the guide displays less channels of information than before.

Not only is the guide bigger, it's also simpler and overall more elegant. It's easier to read and navigate. It also uses a recommendation feature that recommends programs with the ones you recorded. The "On Demand" section also is organized more simply.

But there's still some boneheaded design choices carried over from the previous version. X1 still doesn't have a one-button press for your Favorites, the customized list of your favorite channels. So it still takes several button presses to weed out all the unwanted channels in the guide.

It also doesn't show a screen in the corner of what you're currently watching while you surf on the guide. Instead, the onscreen guide is superimposed over a barely-visible screen of the current channel.

X1 is far from perfect and needs more improvement. But it's slowly getting there and hopefully will be a worthy upgrade.

If you have a tech question for Vince, email him at ohmytech@sltrib.com, and he'll try to answer it for his column in The Salt Lake Tribune or on its website. For an archive of past columns, go to www.sltrib.com/Topics/ohmytech.






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