Taking a Look Inside the Cisco 8742HDC Cable Box
My Samung cable box recently stopped working and had to be replaced. When the Time Warner technician arrived I expected he would replace the box with an identical model but instead he left me a Cisco 8742HDC box. I did a quick search of Samsung’s website and I couldn’t find any product info for the SMT-H3270, or SMT-H3272 anymore so I believe they may have been discontinued but I haven’t been able to confirm this.
Currently there is very little information available regarding the 8742HDC cable box. I wasn’t able to locate a users manual or even anything that mentioned the 8742 on Cisco’s website. A little searching on Google turned up a brief article that indicated Time Warner has just started testing the 8742 DVR in the field.
One of the cool features of the 8742 is the touch panel on the front of the unit. You’ll find no buttons on this unit, instead the front panel is completely smooth. To activate a feature you can simply touch the text labels. The touch panel is a neat feature but it doesn’t seem very practical to me. I don’t find myself sitting in front of the cable box very often, 99.9% of the time I’m sitting on the couch using the remote. Besides looking cool I’m not sure what purpose the touch panel really serves.
Touch buttons on the front panel
- Power – Turns the DVR on or off.
- Guide – Brings up the on screen program guide.
- Info – Displays information about a selected program in the guide.
- List – Opens the list of recorded programs.
- Exit – Exits the program guide or other menu.
- Select – Opened the highlighted item in the menu.
- Volume Up/Down – Increases or decreases the volumes
- Channel Up/Down – Scrolls up or down through the channels.
The rear panel design of the 8742 is pretty clean. The box includes a decent selection of input and output connections. The cable card slot is located on the upper right side of the back panel. Since the box doesn’t have an integrated power supply there is no switched outlet for powering another device.
- RF Input – Connects to the cable outlet connecting to your service provider.
- RF Output – Legacy output for connecting to the RF input on older devices. (Lowest Quality)
- Composite Out – Connects to the composite input on a TV or receiver.
- Component Out – Connects to the YPbPr HDTV inputs on a TV or receiver.
- Infrared In – This can be used to connect the DVR to an approved infrared receiver.
- Digital Optical (SPDIF) Out – This can be used to send digital audio to a TV or receiver.
- Ethernet – Used for connecting the DVR to a home network. (Mine was disabled)
- USB – USB 2.0 port used for connecting equipment approved by the service provider. I’m yet to find out what this approved equipment is.
- HDMI – Outputs high definition video and audio to a TV or receiver. This is the best available connection on the 8742.
- eSATA – This port can be used for connecting an external eSATA hard drive to expand the storage capacity of the device. The DVR I examined had this port disabled through the firmware image.
- Firewire (1394) – Used for sending video output to a firewire device. (May be disabled)
- 12V DC Input – The AC/DC power adpater connects to this port.
The Explorer 8742HDC is an Energy Star qualified STB.
Power for the DVR is provided by an external power brick manufactured by LiteOn, part number 4035345. The maximum power output from the adapter is 36 watts (12V * 3A). Using a watts up power meter I measured an actual draw of about 20 watts while the DVR was powered up. I was surprised to see that this cable box uses such a low amount of power.
In sleep mode power usage drops down to about 18 watts. When enabled sleep mode activates after 4 hours of inactivity. To enable or disable sleep mode press the settings button on the remote and access the timers tab. Highlight power save mode and press select to toggle the sleep mode on, or off.
The power adapter has an efficiency rating of level V which is currently the most efficient rating on the scale. Having a good efficiency rating means the adapter doesn’t waste much electricity when it’s plugged into a wall socket but not power a device.
- Input- 110 volts AC / 1 amp
- Output – 12 volts DC / 3 amp
- Polarity – Positive center pin
Opening up the cable box is pretty simple. The box is held together using tamper resistant torx screws (size T10). Most security bit sets include a size 10 tamper torx bit since it’s fairly common, most Cisco / Scientific Atlanta boxes use this same size.
There are 3 screws on the back of the box and 1 on each side that must be removed to remove the cover. Once all the screws are out pull back and lift up on the cover to remove it.
Under The Cover
Removing the cover provides access to the hard drive and mainboard of the box. This model doesn’t have an internal power supply, instead power is provided from a 12 volt , 3 amp DC power supply. Personally I prefer to have the power supply integrated into the cable box but I suspect it’s more expensive to produce a system with an integrated supply. DC power bricks are typically much less efficient than a quality integrated power supply.
As expected the system contains a PowerKey multistream cable card or, M-Card. The cable card can be removed but it requires breaking the tamper evident seal to do so. It’s really ironic that manufactures try to secure the cable cards to the boxes at all since they were intended to be separable security. Unfortunately cable cards have been nothing more than a massive failure.
Internal Hard Drive
The hard drive caddy can be removed from the chassis by taking out the 4 gold screws holding it in place.
The 8742 includes a 500GB Western Digital Green Power hard drive, model WD5000AVDS. Green power drives are a good choice for DVRs or NAS systems since they are cool and quiet. The lower operating temperature of the drives leads to longer life spans. They are also designed to keep the power draw levels to a minimum.
GP drives don’t offer as much performance as the Western Digital Caviar Black drives do but for a dual tuner DVR they offer plenty of IO performance.
Removing the Front Panel
The front panel is held in place by 4 clips (2 top/2 bottom), and one screw on each side. After removing the screws the panel can be popped off, be careful not to break the clips.
The cable connects to the mainboard using a single 12 pin ribbon cable (2×6).
The control panel board is secured to the plastic case using glue making it a pain to completely remove the board. The touch button functions are printed directly on the board. I’m not sure what “HIDDEN” is supposed to indicate, there might be a special button on the system but if there is I wasn’t sure how to use it.
IR Sensor Location
The infrared sensor for the remote is located just to the right of the USB port on the front of the box. It sits behind the plastic bezel hidden from view which makes it pretty difficult to locate unless you take the front panel off. The plastic is actually semitransparent allowing the signal to pass through the front bezel to the receiver.
The infrared eye is the black box on the right side.
Slingbox IR Blaster Placement
Below is a picture taken by Silvia which shows the placement of a Slingbox IR blaster on the 8742 cable box. The external IR blaster allows the Slingbox to change channels and perform other functions to control the cable box.
To access the on screen diagnostics hold the select button down for 15 seconds, then press the channel up button. After performing this key sequence the main diagnostics screen will load. The summary screen (show below) displays basic status information about the cable box.
The manufacturer diagnostics section contains 42 pages of diagnostics information. My provider (Time Warner) did not have a password configured to protect this page.
Page 30 of the manufacture diagnostics displays the current OpenCable middleware image loaded on the box.
My box is running vmlinuxCVT-87xxHDC-OHT169_0501-std-noesata-p.csimg.
From the image file name you can see that the eSata port is disabled in this version. I’m not sure why cable providers are so concerned about enabling the external sata ports, unfortunately it’s very common to see them disabled.
The 8742 is fully certified by the MoCA Alliance to support multimedia over coax. Unless the provider disables the MoCA module the box should be able to support multi-room DVR functions.
I connected the ethernet port on my cable box to a linksys switch and I was able to obtain link. The device did not attempt to obtain and IP address via DHCP. The diagnostics pages indicate that the ethernet port is disabled. So although the port appears to be electrically active it doesn’t appear to be useful currently.
I’ll update this section with documentation for the 8742HDC as it becomes available. So far the only item I have been able to obtain is the quick reference guide. I’ve opened a request with Cisco for the complete users guide.
Performance and Other Thoughts
Overall I’ve been pleased with the performance of the 8742 DVR. The box runs very cool and quiet which should provide a long life for the hardware, especially the hard drive. The menus and functions are responsive and so far I haven’t had any issues with the box crashing.
I do like the small footprint of the DVR but I don’t like having to use an external power supply. I would much rather have an integrated power system since I’m running out of room behind my entertainment center for power bricks. Although they are some nice cable management systems available such as the Blue Lounge cable organizer.
My other complaint relates to the program guide Time Warner uses on this box, unfortunately they still haven’t updated their program guide to support wide screen displays.
Thanks for reading, I’ll continue to this post as I experiment with the box. If you’ve had any experiences with this box please leave a comment below. Also if anyone has access to a manual, or any other documentation for this box please contact me.
Sam graduated from the University of Missouri – Kansas City with a bachelors degree in Information Technology. Currently he works as a network analyst for an algorithmic trading firm. Sam enjoys the challenge of troubleshooting complex problems and is constantly experimenting with new technologies.