smorrey at gmail.com
Wed Nov 23 20:24:09 MST 2005
I Finally got Utopia installed.
The techs just left a couple hours ago and I've now had time to play.
Here's the skinny.
There was a 3 week waiting period for my install from the time of
order, but other than that it's been flawless, and the waiting period
was about the same when I went to Comcast Cable originally, so no harm
This house is sitting on a 1/4 -1/2 acre, the nearest pole is about
500-800 ft away from the tie in point on the house.
I now have a fiber running into my house, from there it heads into an
Allied Telesync multiplexing router, which converts and translates to
and from the house to the fiber.
Also they gave me an APC powershield UPS, so if the power goes out my
phones don't go down. And assuming I had a UPS on my TV and Computer,
they would be fine as well.
After they had all that initial setup completed, the real work was started.
I have a 2,400 sqft rambler brick house with semi solid concrete
interior walls built circa 1956. This house is so old, that it came
with precisely 4 power outlets none of which are the three prong
grounded type, and there is still the old school phone jacks (you know
the circular kind from the 1930s) in one bedroom upstairs.
The computer is in the middle of the basement.
The phone is upstairs in the kitchen
The TV is an RCA 60" big screen and it's located in the living room.
None of these share any common wiring points at all.
There is no line of site anywhere between these rooms.
WiFI would be a joke because of the steel reinforced concrete walls.
In short this house IS a faraday cage ;)
First they strung 2 Cat5 ethernet with wall mounted jacks, one
upstairs behind the TV (I have no clue how they got that one there).
The other one was placed within 5 feet of the computer about 6 inches
from the power jack and sitting directly above it.
I want to mention that they also cleaned up after themselves.
The phone service is excellent, for my plan, I have unlimited
nationwide calling, the phone service was also able to reuse the
existing copper for the phones. There is no way at all to tell
anything has changed in this department other than the fact that I
have a new phone number. Which is OK because I still want to keep my
cricket cell service.
The internet is blazingly fast, I am recieving about 15 Mbs down when
the TV is off, it drops to a still respectable 10Mbs with the TV box
The really cool thing is these speeds appear to be completely
bi-directional and with the TV on there is no upstream drop. This
means I can upload 50% faster than I can download, assuming I'm
watching TV too.
I also have a completely static IP address.
But the thing I like best is my latency is all but completely gone.
xmission is 3ms (May as well be localhost)
google is 45ms
yahoo is 50ms
The only part of the service I really have trouble recommending at
this point is the TV service.
Especially the box, it's erie, like HAL 9000 erie, seriously the box
is just the same size and while not exactly round, it's round enough
that it doesn't sit flat without a special base that doesn't quite
look right, and that red glowing eye thingy...
Well it all just kind of gives me the creeps.
Also the costs for features isn't great.
And I'm not sure if thats very fair considering what I'm coming from.
With Comcast I had the Top Tier package, with full DVR service and
Cable Broadband etc.
This was costing about $130 per month before taxes and PPV etc. I
also had no phone service with Comcast.
With MStar / Utopia, I have unlimited phone, internet and TV.
I have the MStar top tier package which is going to run me $116 before taxes.
So all in all I AM getting more service for less money.
However even though I have all the same channels via MStar, the part I
dislike is there is no DVR service at all. This isn't a big deal if
you have a TiVO box or something, but I don't and I have to admit I'm
quite used to DVR functionality.
The other problem I have with MStar and this may be a feature for some
folks, is that the Set Top box comes pre-set in a "family friendly"
configuration. This means no adult fare without calling MStar and
getting the default PIN code to unlock the box. I realize this is
Utah and so that whole, family friendly thing may appeal to most
people, so this may in fact be "feature" for you.
However even though the box comes pre-loaded with a family friendly
configuration, I find it frightening that PPV is not also locked.
Maybe this is particular to my circumstance, but I have friends,
friends with house keys.
I'm also the only one with a high-def big screen.
This has lead to more than one incident, where I have had surprise PPV
charges on my Comcast bill until I finally got smart and locked the
With this set-top box, ordering PPV is as easy as changing the channel
and hitting the accept button! Not cool, it just says "This is Pay
Per View, the charge is $2.95 which will be added to your bill." The
default choice is "Accept".
The other beef I have is the set-top box, if you can call it that.
It's roughly half the size of my old cable MODEM, and really not much
bigger than a remote control. This box was never designed to sit on
top of anyones TV unless they have a one of those 9-13" TV's you can
get at walmart for $50 bucks.
The cords just barely stretch to the top of my TV from the connectors
way down at the bottom. I got frustrated enough, that I called a
buddy and had him run to best buy for new longer cables. Since the
only two ports on the back of box thing are coax or high-def, while my
TV has every port I've ever seen.
Also Comcast removed my Hi-Def cables when they took out their box this morning.
All in all the TV quality is good, if you don't mind being in the
stone-age without DVR features, and the set-top box IS a Minerva IPTV
so, I can actually set it up anywhere I have an ethernet connection.
Picture quality on coax is decent, but the signal coming out the
Hi-Def ports is on par or better than with my Comcast box.
So out of 10 stars here is my rating for MStar service an hour or two
Internet 9.5 out 10 stars
(my only gripe is that 5 Mbs drop in speed when turning on the TV,
which is still 3-4 times faster than Comcast ever was.)
Phone 10 out of 10 stars
(perfect for a landline, way better than I had expected)
TV 5 out of 10 stars
(great picture and sound, no DVR yet, and did I mention the box is a
Techs 10 out of 10 stars
(The techs from Utopia were by far and away the smartest, most
proffesional install technicians I have ever seen. I still can't
comprehend how they put in all that cat5 without tearing my house
apart AND they even cleaned up after themselves. They not only met my
expectations they exceeded them by so much that I feel like I should
add an extra few stars, but thats so cliche' Oh well, *** ;)
MStar / Utopia Grand Total 8 out of 10 stars
(I'm giving the whole thing a total of 8 out of 10 stars so far, would
be 10 out of 10 with DVR and a different default configuration on the
box, but if thats not important to you then read this as 10 out of 10)
One other final and important thing to note, the install was completely free!
I hope you all find this information useful.
More information about the PLUG