Category Archives: Electronics & Gadgets

OK Tivo… What Now?

Around this time of year I am reminded that my Tivo subscription is up for renewal.

This leads to a series of questions I ask myself and ultimately I take the lazy way out, not wanting to undo my way of doing things:

– If I leave and then come back, I’ll have to set it up again and get the device ID and wireless settings, and grant permissions, etc.  Phooey!

– Other than recording shows, what am I getting out of having a Tivo?

– My DVD player has links to all those WiFi enabled services, if not more.  Why should I keep the Tivo?

– I don’t have the time to watch all the stuff I record, and, watching on a mobile device is not my style.

Some of my favorite things about having Tivo would include:

– Oh Snap!  I’m sitting in a restaurant in another state and forgot that some show I wanted to see is airing this weekend.  I can use my mobile phone to bring up my account and set a recording.

– I was aware of RealPlayer and RealNetworks for ages, but ignorant of the Rhapsody app.  Once I tried it and saw beyond the initial 30 seconds only limit, and sound quality limitations of the initial website version, the standalone app sounded so much better.  To have the mobile app version and the Tivo version (which sounds superb hooked up to a stereo system) offers so many more luxuries over Pandora, LastFM, Sony Music Unlimited.  The down side is the Rhapsody interface on Tivo is really pretty slow and hasn’t been updated in years.

– I like the ability to search for YouTube videos on my Tivo, even if the most current interface is pretty awful.

– Finally, Comcast’s video-on-demand seamlessly integrates with Tivo.  The caveat of one-way communication cablecards didn’t seem to be a problem after all, as one morning the feature just suddenly showed up on my existing Tivo menu!

I am on my 3rd Tivo.  The initial product was because the place I was living at the time was a condo complex that opted to not go with a cable provider for its residents, so we had a shared DirecTV antennae and I had to purchase a little box to get more channels than what came in my montly homeowner’s fee.  I discovered if I were to get a Tivo, it would eliminate the need for extra hardware.  The device was not HD and I did not own an HDTV, so when the next generation came out, I upgraded.

I discovered the included hard drive wasn’t big enough and I got an external “MyDVR Expander” drive for it, but this hardware did not always work correctly and it slowed the performance down and caused pixilation.  I’d power cycle the devices every now and then and maintain the drive space by eliminating the deleted shows.  This grew tiresome though.

When the next generation device came out, it allowed the use of Cablecards and could record multiple shows at once.  A larger included hard drive eliminated the need for an external one.  My biggest gripe would be how Comcast handles the fees for having a Cablecard, as they charge for the card and the cost to pump the service to the number of tuners in the device.  Just simply having the card (A multistream card, one card) because my Tivo has two tuners, I am being charged a two-card rate and two “A/O” (additional outlet) fees.  I have called Comcast several times to dispute the charges as they conflict with some printed materials I was given in a Comcast service center, but to no avail, this setup definitely costs more than just having a cable box or a cable company provided DVR.

Then we must mention the Tivo subscription service.  You can pay for a product lifetime subscription (about $500 currently) but being I have replaced my Tivo three times since 2005, this option does not make sense.  Monthly the Tivo service is about $15, and takes care of the TV schedule updates which are necessary for the recordings to actually occur.  Promo annual subscriptions used to run $99 but it’s upward of $129 last time I checked.

Probably the main features Tivo is known for (recommending shows, automatically recording things if you “thumbs up” a certain type of program, ability to rewind live shows (well, you are watching a buffer of what actually just aired), these are pretty much the main features.

The latest generation Tivo (Roamio, Roamio Plus, Roamio Pro) has the ability to record even more shows (up to 6 simultaneous shows), a faster processor for faster interface response, larger hard drives (3TB which could potentially record 500+ hours worth of HD programming), and the ability to stream shows to mobile devices or watch a Tivo recorded show in another room on another Tivo (with purchase of additional hardware).  The last feature used to be available with MoCA (Multimedia over Cable Alliance) network protocol, but the latest way, via WiFi and the Tivo Minis seems to be much easier, even if it does require additional hardware.

In the end I guess you have to ask yourself how much TV do you watch.  I tend to like the ability to pause and rewind TV, in case I’m in another room and want to review something that just broadcast.  I use the Season Pass feature to record an entire series of a favorite show.  The Tivo brand and brand image has grown to be one of friendliness and a companion to your tele, but whether it is right for you can only be discovered if you actually were to try it.