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A peek under the hood

Sun, 06/30/2002 - 8:00pm
Compiled by Jeff Baumgartner, Assistant Editor

Digital set-tops ticketed for North American cable operators come in varied shapes and sizes, and harness mottled levels of muscle power and overall capabilities. In the following pages, we've sifted through and profiled most of the models still on sale today, as well as a few that are on the docket for later this year and into 2003.

DCP501 Home Theater System
ManufacturerMotorola Broadband
AvailabilityQ2 2002
Approx. cost per unit$899 MSRP
CPU clock27 MHz
MIPS–10 MIPS
Operating system(s) supportedVRTX
Middleware platform(s) supportedCableware (WorldGate), Liberate, OpenTV
Internal encryption/conditional access MediaCipher
On-board cable modem?No
TunersOne in-band; one out-of-band
Memory details2 MB graphics; 2 MB FLASH
Graphics detailsUp to 704 x 480 resolution
S-Video port optional/standard?Optional
Standard HD support?No
Home networking protocols supported (HPNA, 802.11x, etc.)N/A
On-board DVR functionality?No
Internal hard drive size or hard drive size options/rangeN/A
Notes/special featuresFeatures a DVD/CD/MP3 player, a digital audio/video receiver and an interactive digital cable receiver.

Explorer 3200
ManufacturerScientific-Atlanta
AvailabilityNow
Approx. cost per unitAbout $300, based on volume
CPU clock166 MHz
MIPS166 MIPS
Operating system(s)supportedPowerTV
Middleware platform(s)supportedLiberate, Wink, Cableware (WorldGate), ICTV, Microsoft
Internal encryption/conditional accessPowerKey, 3DES, DESX, Harmony, Super Scrambling
On-board cable modem?No, but includes on-board DAVIC
Tuners One in-band; one out-of-band
Memory details16 MB DRAM;4 MB FLASH
Graphics details640 x 480 resolution; 64 K colors
S-Video port optional/standard?Standard
Standard HD support?No
Home networking protocols supportedN/A
On-board DVR functionality?No
Internal hard drive size or hard drive size options/rangeN/A
Notes/special featuresStandard front panel USB port; standard Smart Card reader.

BMC8000
ManufacturerMotorola Broadband
AvailabilityQ4 2002
Approx. cost per unitN/A
CPU clock566 MHz
MIPSX-86
Operating system(s) supportedLinux
Middleware platform(s) supportedDigeo Inc.'s Moxi
Internal encryption/conditional accessLeverages DigiCipher II from companion DCT2000 set-top
On-board cable modem?Yes
TunersLeverages two (one in-band; one out-of-band) from the companion DCT2000
Memory detailsSystem: 64 MB; option up to 192 GB Video: 32 MB
Graphics details2D/3D up to 720 x 480
S-Video port optional/standard?Standard
Standard HD support?No
Home networking protocols supported802.11b
On-board DVR functionality?Yes
Internal hard drive size or hard drive size options/range80 GB standard; option up to 120 GB
Notes/special featuresMotorola's BMC8000 is a gateway that works as a companion to the DCT2000 and other STBs.

BMC9000
ManufacturerMotorola Broadband
AvailabilityMid-2003
Approx. cost per unit$300-$400 per TV (including BMC extension modules), based on household with 2-3 TVs.
CPU clock650 MHz
MIPSX-86
Operating system(s) supportedLinux
Middleware platform(s) supportedDigeo Inc.'s Moxi
Internal encryption/conditional accessDigiCipher II
On-board cable modem?Yes
Tuners 2 video and 1 DOCSIS
Memory details128 MB; option up to 256 MB Video: 32 MB
Graphics details2D/3D up to 720 x 480
S-Video port optional/standard?Standard
Standard HD support?No
Home networking protocols supported802.11a, 802.11b, coax remodulation
On-board DVR functionality?Yes
Internal hard drive size or hard drive size options/range80 GB standard
Notes/special featuresIntegrated media center for digital video, voice and data services.

DCT5100
ManufacturerMotorola Broadband
AvailabilityNow
Approx. cost per unitN/A
CPU clock162 MHz
MIPS300+ MIPS
Operating system(s) supportedVRTX, WinCE or Linux
Middleware platform(s) supported Liberate, Microsoft TV
Internal encryption/conditional accessMediaCipher
On-board cable modem?Yes
TunersTwo in-band; one out-of-band
Memory detailsDRAM: 64 MB standard; option up to 128 MB FLASH: 16 MB standard; option up to 32 MB
Graphics details2D/3D, up to 720 x 480 resolution
S-Video port optional/standard?Standard
Standard HD support?Yes
Home networking protocols supported (HPNA, 802.11x, etc.)HomePNA, Ethernet, USB, 1394, external wireless dongle
On-board DVR functionality?No
Internal hard drive size or hard drive size options/rangeN/A
Notes/special featuresAdvanced digital STB with integrated HD support along with DOCSIS cable modem.

Explorer 3100HD
ManufacturerScientific-Atlanta
AvailabilityNow
Approx. cost per unitAbout $375, based on volume
CPU clock130 MHz
MIPS130 MIPS
Operating system(s) supportedPowerTV
Middleware platform(s) supportedLiberate, Wink, Cableware (WorldGate), ICTV, Microsoft
Internal encryption/conditional accessPowerKey, 3DES, DESX, Harmony, Super Scrambling
On-board cable modem?DOCSIS and DAVIC
TunersOne in-band; one out-of-band
Memory details16 MB DRAM 8 MB FLASH
Graphics detailsUp to 1920 x 1080i resolution, 65K colors
S-Video port optional/standard?Standard
Standard HD support?Yes
Home networking protocols supportedN/A
On-board DVR functionality?No
Internal hard drive size or hard drive size options/rangeN/A
Notes/special featuresStandard front panel USB port.

DCT5200
ManufacturerMotorola Broadband
AvailabilityEarly/mid-2003
Approx. cost per unitN/A
CPU clock162 MHz
MIPS300+ MIPS
Operating system(s) supportedVRTX, WinCE or Linux
Middleware platform(s)supportedLiberate, MSTV
Internal encryption/conditional accessMediaCipher
On-board cable modem?Yes
TunersTwo in-band; one out-of-band
Memory detailsDRAM: 64 MB standard, option up to 128 MB FLASH: 16 MB standard, option up to 32 MB
Graphics details2D/3D, up to 720 x 480 resolution
S-Video port optional/standard?Standard
Standard HD support?Yes
Home networking protocols supportedHomePNA, Ethernet, USB, 1394, external wireless dongle
On-board DVR functionality?Yes
Internal hard drive size or hard drive size options/range40, 60, 80 GB
Notes/special featuresDCT5200 offers all the capabilities of Motorola's DCT5100 plus integrated PVR support.

Explorer 8000
Manufacturer Scientific-Atlanta
Availability Now
Approx. cost per unit$650 per unit list
CPU clock Dual 164 MHz processors
MIPS 328 MIPS
Operating system(s) supportedPowerTV
Middleware platform(s) supportedLiberate, Wink, Cableware (WorldGate), ICTV, Microsoft
Internal encryption/conditional accessPowerKey, 3DES, DESX, Harmony, Super Scrambling
On-board cable modem?DOCSIS and DAVIC
TunersTwo in-band; one out-of-band
Memory details 16 MB DRAM, 8 MB FLASH
Graphics details640 x 480, 65 K colors
S-Video port optional/standard?Standard
Standard HD support?Yes, by year-end 2002
Home networking protocols supportedOptional HomePNA and 802.11x
On-board DVR functionality?Yes
Internal hard drive size or hard drive size options/range80 GB standard
Notes/special featuresAnalog/digital picture-in-picture, standard front panel USB port, standard IEEE 1394 support.

Voyager 3000
ManufacturerPioneer
AvailabilityNow
Approx. cost per unitMid-to-upper $200
CPU clockDual 81 MHz processor
MIPS85 MIPS
Operating system(s) supportedPowerTV
Middleware platform(s) supportedPowerTV
Internal encryption/conditional access PowerKey; compliant with Harmony, DVB/DES Decryptor codecs
On-board cable modem?No, but does include on-board DAVIC
Tuners One-in-band; one out-of-band
Memory details4 MB FLASH; 16 MB SDRAM; 4 KB NVRAM
Graphics detailsMPEG-2 video decompression, MP@ML (ISO/IEC 13818-2) Variable bit-rate 1.5 to 15 Mbps, with various levels of resolution: 704 x 480, 352 x 480 and 544 x 480
S-Video port optional/standard?Standard
Standard HD support?Supported in the 3511HD
Home networking protocols supportedN/A
On-board DVR functionality?No
Internal hard drive size or hard drive size options/rangeN/A
Notes/special featureIEEE 1394 optional.

Pace 550 HD
ManufacturerPace Micro Technology
Availability 1st half of 2003
Approx. cost per unit N/A
CPU clockDual 81 MHz processors
MIPS 162 MIPS
Operating system(s) supportedPowerTV
Middleware platform(s) supported PowerTV; others not disclosed by company
Internal encryption/conditional access PowerKey
On-board cable modem?DAVIC 1.2 (DVS 167)
TunersOne in-band; one out-of-band
Memory details32 MB DRAM, 4 MB FLASH, 2 MB MPEG SDRAM
Graphics details640 x 480, 65K colors
S-Video port optional/standard?Standard
Standard HD support?Standard
Home networking protocols supportedN/A
On-board DVR functionality?No
Internal hard drive size or hard drive size options/rangeN/A
Notes/special features HD video scaling, graphics overlay on HD, IEEE 1394 support, 480i upscaling.

Pace 500 Digital Cable Gateway
ManufacturerPace Micro Technology
AvailabilitySince Nov. 2000
Approx. cost per unitN/A
CPU clockDual 81 MHz processors
MIPS162 MIPS
Operating system(s) supportedPowerTV
Middleware platform(s) supportedPowerTV, others not disclosed by company
Internal encryption/conditional accessPowerKey
On-board cable modem?DAVIC 1.2 (DVS 167)
TunersOne in-band; one out-of-band
Memory details16 MB DRAM, 4 MB FLASH, 2 MB MPEG SDRAM
Graphics details640 x 480, 65K colors
S-Video port optional/standard?Standard
Standard HD support?No
Home networking protocols supportedN/A
On-board DVR functionality?No
Internal hard drive size or hard drive size options/rangeN/A
Notes/special featuresEnergy Star Qualified; audio and video loop-through USB host.

DCT2000
ManufacturerMotorola Broadband
AvailabilityNow
Approx. cost per unit$289-$300*
CPU clock27 MHz
MIPS–10 MIPS
Operating system(s) supportedVRTX
Middleware platform(s) supportedCableware (WorldGate), Liberate, OpenTV
Internal encryption/conditional accessDigiCipher II
On-board cable modem?No
TunersOne in-band; one out-of-band
Memory details 2 MB graphics, 2 MB FLASH
Graphics detailsUp to 704 x 480 resolution
S-Video port optional/standard?Optional
Standard HD support?No
Home networking protocols supportedN/A
On-board DVR functionality?No
Internal hard drive size or hard drive size options/rangeN/A

DHG-M55
ManufacturerSony Corp.
AvailabilityNow
Approx. cost per unitN/A
CPU clock324 MHz
MIPS300+ MIPS
Operating system(s)supportedVxWorks
Middleware platform(s)supportedSonySAM (HTML/JavaScript/ATVEF/SSL), CDK
Internal encryption/conditional accessDVB/DES descrambler
On-board cable modem?Yes
TunersSingle tuner for in-band video services and an additional tuner for out-of-band and data services over DOCSIS
Memory details64 MB SDRAM; 32 MB FLASH
Graphics details3D/2D
S-Video port optional/standard?Standard
Standard HD support?HD pass-through over IEEE 1394
Home networking protocols supportedAV/C commands over 1394
On-board DVR functionality?No, but architecture is designed to support DVR interface
Internal hard drive size or hard drive size options/rangeIDE, 40/80 GB hard drive optional
Notes/special featuresUSB host x2, USB peripheral (for VoIP adapter) x1, MemoryStick slot, EIA-7816 smart card slot for affinity applications, Dolby Digital optical and coaxial outputs.

Pace 700 Digital Cable Gateway
Manufacturer Pace Micro Technology
Availability2nd half of 2002
Approx. cost per unitN/A
CPU clock250 MHz
MIPS300+ MIPS
Operating system(s) supportedVxWorks
Middleware platform(s) supportedLiberate, OpenTV, Microsoft TV and OCAP-compliant platforms
Internal encryption/conditional accessMotorola DigiCipher II
On-board cable modem?DOCSIS 1.1
TunersOne in-band; one out-of-band
Memory details16 MB RAM (expandable to 32 MB);32 MB SDRAM (expandable to 64 MB); 256 KB NVRAM
Graphics detailMulti-plane graphics,HDTV and all format decode
S-Video port optional/standard?Standard
Standard HD support?Standard (480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i)
Home networking protocols supportedEthernet port for DOCSIS modem bridging
On-board DVR functionality?Build option
Internal hard drive size or hard drive size options/range40 GB–expandable
Notes/special featuresHD video scaling, graphics overlay on HD, IEEE 1394 support, OpenCable build option, dual USB (one front panel, one back panel).

Voyager 3511HD
ManufacturerPioneer
Availability4Q 2002
Approx. cost per unitVoyager 3000 unit cost + roughly $80 for HD component
CPU clockDual 81 MHz processor
MIPS85 MIPS
Operating system(s) supportedPowerTV
Middleware platform(s) supportedPowerTV
Internal encryption/conditional accessPowerKey; compliant with Harmony, DVB and DES Decryptor codecs
On-board cable modem?No, but does include on-board DAVIC
TunersOne in-band; one out-of-band
Memory details16 MB SDRAM; 4 MB FLASH; 2 MB MPEG; 16 MB (HDTV MPEG decoding, MP@HO or HD)
Graphics detailsLevels of resolution ranging from 704 x 480, 352 x 480 and 544 x 480
S-Video port optional/standard?Standard
Standard HD support?Yes
Home networking protocols supportedN/A
On-board DVR functionality?No
Internal hard drive size or hard drive size options/rangeN/A

Explorer 4200
ManufacturerScientific-Atlanta
AvailabilityAug. 2002
Approx. cost per unit$425-$450, based on volume
CPU clockDual 164 MHz processors
MIPS328 MIPS
Operating system(s)supportedPowerTV
Middleware platform(s)supportedLiberate, Wink, Cableware (WorldGate), ICTV, Microsoft
Internal encryption/conditional access PowerKey, 3DES, DESX, Harmony, Super Scrambling
On-board cable modem?Yes, DOCSIS, plus on-board DAVIC
TunersTwo in-band; one out-of-band
Memory details32 MB DRAM; 8 MB FLASH
Graphics details640 x 480 resolution, 64K colors
S-Video port optional/standard?Standard
Standard HD support?No
Home networking protocols supportedHomePNA and 802.11x supported via Ethernet port
On-board DVR functionality?No
Internal hard drive size or hard drive size options/rangeN/A
Notes/special featuresStandard front and rear panel USB ports and standard Ethernet port.

DCT2500
Manufacturer Motorola Broadband
AvailabilityLate 2002
Approx. cost per unit $300*
CPU clock 175 MHz
MIPS 175 MIPS
Operating system(s) supportedVX Works
Middleware platform(s) supportedLiberate, OpenTV, Cableware (WorldGate)
Internal encryption/conditional accessMediaCipher
On-board cable modem?No
TunersOne in-band; one out-of-band
Memory details DRAM/Graphics: 8 MB to 64 MB; FLASH: 4 MB to 16 MB
Graphics details Resolution up to 720 x 480
S-Video port optional/standard? Optional
Standard HD support?Via HDD-200
Home networking protocols supportedN/A
On-board DVR functionality? No
Internal hard drive size or hard drive size options/rangeN/A
Notes/special featuresMotorola's enhanced interactive digital STB, providing more memory and processing capabilities than the baseline DCT2000.

DCT2600
Manufacturer Motorola Broadband
Availability Early 2003
Approx. cost per unit $350*
CPU clock 175 MHz
MIPS175 MIPS
Operating system(s) supportedVX Works
Middleware platform(s) supportedLiberate, OpenTV, Cableware (WorldGate)
Internal encryption/conditional accessMediaCipher
On-board cable modem? No
Tuners One in-band; one out-of-band
Memory details DRAM/Graphics: 8 MB to 64 MB; FLASH: 4 MB to 16 MB
Graphics detailsResolution up to 720 x 480
S-Video port optional/standard? Optional
Standard HD support? Via HDD-200
Home networking protocols supportedN/A
On-board DVR functionality? Yes
Internal hard drive size or hard drive size options/range40 GB – 80 GB
Notes/special featuresDCT2600 adds integrated PVR support to the DCT2500.

Explorer 2200
ManufacturerScientific-Atlanta
AvailabilityNow
Approx. cost per unitApprox. $300 per unit, based on volume
CPU clock166 MHz
MIPS166 MIPS
Operating system(s) supportedPowerTV
Middleware platform(s) supportedLiberate, Wink, Cableware (WorldGate), ICTV, Microsoft
Internal encryption/conditional accessPowerKey, 3DES, DESX, Harmony, Super Scrambling
On-board cable modem?No, but does include on-board DAVIC
TunersOne in-band; one out-of-band
Memory details8 MB DRAM; 4 MB FLASH
Graphics details640 X 480, 65 K colors
S-Video port optional/standard?Standard
Standard HD support?No
Home networking protocols supportedN/A
On-board DVR functionality?N/A
Internal hard drive size or hard drive size options/rangeN/A
Notes/special featuresStandard Smart Card reader; standard front panel USB port.

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