I owned a Series 2 TiVo DVR box 10 years ago and enjoyed it very much. That is when I was using a standard definition television and so the picture quality was not as good, but then again, I did not know it at the time.
Five years ago I upgraded to HD programming and went all in with Comcast and started renting one of their boxes. I cancelled my TiVo service and put my old box away in hibernation since it was useless with over the air channels.
However, last year, TiVo released a new version of their DVR so I decided to give one of the new TiVo Roamios a try. I purchased one off of Amazon.com and settled on the smallest hard drive version (500 GB). I figured that since that was estimated to record up to 75 hours of HD programming, that would be plenty.
Best of all, it had four tuners which allow you to record four programs at once on Comcast or satellite television.
What is a DVR?
DVR stands for digital video recorder. These devices replaced the older VCR players allowing consumers to record shows digitally without having to fumble around with a lot of VHS tapes.
There are DVR devices that are sold as stand alone devices that can record single shows just like the old VCRs, or there are DVRs that come with specialized software that allows them to do many more things, for a monthly fee of course.
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(price as of Jan 25, 2015)
How does Tivo Work?
After I took it out of the box, I hooked it up to my cable and plugged my network cord into the back. The TiVo software needs internet access either hard wired or via its wireless capability to update programing within the software. If you have a cable provider, you will need to get a cable card from them which plugs into the back of the TiVo box. That entire experience can go smoothly, or the opposite of smoothly, depending on who you get on the phone to activate your cable card.
This TiVo box is such an improvement over the Series 2 box I bought 10 years ago, I do not know where to begin. I suppose my favorite feature of the actual hardware is the four tuners which allow four shows to be recorded at once. Previously, I was only able to record two at once with the Comcast DVR and you have to watch one of them that you were recording.
The 500 GB hard drive size is also impressive. I do not have to worry about filling it up.
Here are some basic specs:
- Record 4 shows at once
- 500GB hard drive equates to around 75 Hours of HD programming
- Works with digital cable, Verizon FIOS or HD antenna
- Built in wireless networking
- Includes Netflix, Hulu Plus, Pandora, Spotify Apps, Amazon Instant Video and Youtube
They also sell a more expensive box with a much larger hard drive, however, so far I have found the 500 GB to be sufficient for my needs.
The Roamio has a smaller DVR footprint than my old Series 2 and the software is more versatile allowing you to access Live TV and streaming apps from a single menu.
If you are considering getting rid of cable or satellite, then the TiVo Roamio will work with over the air HD signals, something that is new. My old TiVo Series 2 DVR had to be hooked to cable for the software to work. For those that are considering cutting out the cable bill, Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Instant Video can be used to get additional programming. Even if you paid for all three each month, you would still come out a lot cheaper than the average cable bill, so it is something to consider.
The software also introduced me to TV channels that I did not even know I had. It scans your cable service and includes the channels in your cable package, then with TiVo Suggestions, it records on its own. I discovered a lot of new channels when scanning through those Suggested recordings.
Additionally it allows you to view your recordings in other rooms if you buy an additional device called a TiVo Mini. Basically, you will be streaming your recordings from the Roamio to the Mini. I have not tried that feature yet, but I am considering it.
Once you buy the Roamio, you will pay a Tivo monthly fee of $14.99. Or you can pay up front for a lifetime subscription for that particular box that is $299 I believe. As of now, I am paying the $14.99 a month.
With the TiVo Mini, you would be able to stream any of those services to other rooms.
Finally, one of my favorite features is the What to Watch Now option which displays what TV shows are on at that exact time. The sections are divided into Popular TV, Movies, Sports and Kids. I use that feature multiple times during the day.
Overall, I recommend this product. In fact, with TiVo Suggestions, it finds things for me that I would have watched had I known it was on or had I known I even had those channels. So this review is as much about the software as the box itself. I can honestly say it has shown me channels I did not even know I received because of the stuff it automatically records.
The monthly cost is $14.99 but it is really a wash considering what you pay to the cable company for their DVR service. All I can say is after three months, I do not regret buying this device.
As a Tivo alternative, you could buy one of the stand-alone DVRs and save on the monthly fee, however, the overall functionality of the device would be much less without robust software.