aka, Suck it Cable/Satelite!
Tuesday March 2nd, TiVo unveiled their next generation DVRs to the world. Dubbed “TiVo Premiere”, these devices not only continue TiVo’s legacy of DVRs, but more closely integrate them with Online Content, including Netflix, Amazon OnDemand (formerly UnBox), YouTube, and BlockBuster Online. Unlike Series 2 and 3/HD models, the Premiere, these content sources appear within normal searches. Which for some people will be a great help, and for others be a source of consternation. Their new menuing system is based on Flash, which allows for it to show previews of shows in the screens while loading in the background, and it is enhanced for Widescreen TVs. A big advantage of the Premiere over the Series3/HD is new compatibility with Verizon’s FiOS service, something the former didn’t have support for due to the way FiOS is delivered, but it appears that either the TiVo Premiere can stream via the Ethernet port or Verizon has included support for CableCARD in their service.
The Premiere will work with any Cable Company (analog or digital), Over The Air Broadcasts, or FiOS. There is no support for Satellite with this box, but a DirectTV/TiVo device is coming out later this year, and there is no support for at&t U-Verse. The lack of support for U-Verse is odd, considering it is using the same technology as FiOS, but may be related to the lack of CableCARD support, a streaming incompatibility, or the fact that TiVo is suing at&t, Inc., for patent infringement on their company supplied DVRs. For those of you who have not purchases a DTV converter, and either want the ability to use a DVR or just have some extra money, the TiVo Premiere will act as the converter for you.
Premiere has a 320GB Hard Drive, capable of recording 50 hours of HD programming or 400 hours of SD programming (or any combination of the above). The Premiere XL has a 1TB Hard Drive, capable of recording 150 hours of HD programming, or 1350 hours of SD programming. These devices also retain TiVo’s support for downloading content from the DVR to your computer for your own use, burning to disk, archiving, or converting for portable media players, and vice-versa (provided you purchase the software required), as well as the ability to stream music and photos from your computers or from PhotoBucket or Picasa. The Premiere also retains TiVo’s partnership with Real’s Rhapsody service, Live365, and Music Choice. The Premiere appears to be TiVo’s attempt to make the TV the media hub of the home. TiVo is also keeping the eSATA port on the back of the TiVo, so you can always add more storage to your TiVo without having to open up the device.
The physical size of the TiVo Premiere is a bit smaller than previous TiVos, thanks to the ability to get smaller components. The front panel of the TiVo is a little more cluttered now (although not as much as with the TiVo Series 3), with 5 lights on the front, one for power, one for Network (flashing on activity), one for each tuner (2), and finally the traditional light to indicate that it received a command from the Remote Control. Also, on the front panel is a Format Button. This is useful when a station goes from broadcasting an HD Program to SD, and you need to adjust the layout from 16×9 to 4×3, or alternatively, you are watching a channel that is poorly operated that broadcasts a 16×9 image in a 4×3 space and you have to stretch the image out to make it viewable (very common on Digital Subchannels, especially THIS-TV).
TiVo also introduced a long requested upgrade to their classic “peanut” remote control, a QWERTY keyboard. Available for the TiVo Premiere, the new remote slides open like many smart phones to reveal a full QWERTY keyboard, number pad, and second controller wheel. It is only compatible with the Premiere, but won’t ship for a couple of months. TiVo has also announced a Wireless N adapter for their Premiere and Series 3/HD TiVos, which will give users 5 times the throughput on their wireless connections.
Impressions – I like the idea of the TiVo Premiere, but would have preferred the name “Series4”, just because the names are starting to get ridiculous (HD, HDXL, Premiere, and Premiere XL). I would have liked to see the new QWERTY remote be standard issue with the Premiere XL, because I don’t think that THX Certification and a 1TB hard Drive is worth the extra $200 they are charging. I also think that the pricing could have been a little more competitive, $299/$499 is a bit steep for a DVR, especially when you have to have a subscription cost on top of that, plus subscription costs for Netflix and BlockBuster, and per download cost for Amazon. If they had made it $200/$300, and a $15 subscription for the first TiVo, and that subscription included a Netflix TiVo only account, then they would have problems keeping them on the shelf.
I also think that TiVo needs to begin working on options to have more than two tuners on their devices, as some people need 3 or 4 in order to keep up with the shows they want to watch, especially if they only have one TV, and can’t justify multiple TiVos. It would also be nice if they had not removed the Coax out on the Premiere, as some people, especially with older HDTVs, don’t have HDMI, or Component, and HD Coax is much better than Composite. TiVo also needs to embrace the ability to plug a USB Hard Drive into the TiVo for storage expansion (instead of just eSATA, and the ability to connect thumb drives or hard drives for media viewing and transfers. It would also be nice if TiVo supported MPEG4 videos, transferred from computers, and perhaps to go so far as to work with Apple to allow iTunes AAC music and videos to be view on the TiVo (something Apple likely won’t do, due to the Apple TV).
Aside from that, the TiVo Premiere’s big strength is the new interface and Internet/TV integration, it is miles ahead of the previous “Classic” interface, which will still be available for those with SDTVs or those who prefer it. The TiVo Premiere is definitely a buy if you have an HDTV or are a current subscriber, as you can get a discount for having an active account.