I just picked up a new Roamio 6-tuner TiVo in order to test out and post a review of soon. It is my 7th or 8th TiVo I've ever owned, but this one has proven problematic on setup due to a bug with Verizon FiOS, CableCARDs, and pay channels.
The problem looks like this on any channel that isn't a major TV network:
I went through a couple back and forths with Verizon tech support (who insisted this was a bad coax or HDMI cable issue) and eventually @brennokbob on Twitter pointed me to a thread on the TiVo Community forum where a user reported similar issues with HBO not working on their new Roamio TiVo on FiOS. Design VP of TiVo Margret Schmidt pointed out the issue is with CableCARDs that aren't the latest and greatest version.
My own multistream CableCARD is two years old (shown below), and carries one of the "bad" serial numbers listed in those posts, so I'm getting scrambled cable on my new TiVo until a technician can help me replace it.
Hopefully anyone else with a similar problem stumbles onto this post and can get it remedied.
The above image is reportedly what the lower end models will look like, and the specs on new models have been bumped up impressively, with two different 4 tuner models and one 6 tuner top end recorder. The hard drive sizes look like they will go from 1Tb to 3Tb in size, both of which are ample recording capacity for HD. Rumored release looks to be in the Fall of this year.
It sounds like updated chipsets will offer a lot more processing power for better software functionality, streaming possibilities, and (finally) built-in WiFi. Personally, this might be the first TiVo box I don't pre-order on day one (as I have with previous versions going all the way back to the series 2 box) since my 4-tuner, 1Tb TiVo XL Premiere is pretty rock solid and working fine for my needs. But if the added computing power makes for more interesting applications and uses for the box, I could be convinced to try the upcoming iterations out.
Dave Zatz got his hands on an early release of the upcoming TiVo Stream, a small $130 box you attach to your TiVo Premiere that lets you stream recordings to iOS devices and also gives you the ability to download shows to those devices.
Ever since I installed the TiVo iPhone and iPad clients, I've long wanted a way to stream the shows to my iPad in the house. At one time I had a Slingbox especially for this purpose but it was finicky and a pain to maintain and I eventually gave up on it. Personally, watching a dramatic show on an iPad with headphones is a really great way to get fully engrossed in a story and I'm really looking forward to this product.
Yesterday Dave also shared a sneaky way to pre-order one by phone.
Looks like the previously announced official TiVo unit for DirecTV that launched in December is now nationwide in the US. I live outside of their launch cities but noticed I can now sign up for new service and receive a free TiVo unit for it.
(I just may sign up and have DirecTV alongside my ailing fiber service from Frontier Communications, who has almost completely phased out TV service)
After hinting at rekindling the DirecTV-TiVo relationship for the last 5+ years, there is finally a new DirecTiVo out. It is only available in large cities at the moment (Chicago, Denver, LA, NYC, Philly, Phoenix, Sacramento, SF, Seattle, DC) but it's definitely good news to anyone that has ever used the older models in the early 2000s. I myself thoroughly enjoyed the DirecTiVo I had from 2002-2005, and I only gave it up when there wasn't a viable HD option for DirecTV.
There isn't a ton of specs available yet, but if this was available where I live, I would seriously consider moving to it, especially as my own fiber optic cable provider has strongly hinted that they are canceling TV service in the next year or so. Here's hoping they spread it to more markets soon.
A couple weeks ago, TiVo announced the newest high-end product in their line, the TiVo Premiere Elite. It's a whopping four tuners combined with a 2Tb hard drive, giving you the ability to record four shows at once (instead of two like the TiVo Premiere) and ups the storage from 1Tb to 2Tb. The biggest change otherwise is that OTA (Over The Air) recording is not available in this device, making it digital-cable only.
I don't live in an area with any OTA HD channels, so I never used that capability. I suspect TiVo's own research showed much of their customer base either didn't know or didn't care about OTA recording and they decided to simplify their latest device to keep costs down. List price is $499 and lifetime service was a whopping $500 extra (monthly service is up to $20/month, so their lifetime pricing is still holding at about 2 years of monthly service).
If you're upgrading from the previous TiVo Premiere, it featured the use of a CableCARD mcard, or multi-stream card. My Frontier/Verizon TV tech claimed I could just remove the card from one device and slide it into the other without problem, but we found only the free major network channels worked. None of the cable channels worked higher in the line-up. After a few minutes of me insisting that he needed to call home base and re-authorize the card, he eventually did and they re-authorized it and all my channels worked.
Moving to a new TiVo allowed me to use a pretty great feature for the first time, the ability to transfer Season Passes on TiVo.com between the two boxes on my account:
It only took a few minutes after guided setup for my new TiVo to appear in my account, and with a couple clicks, my new TiVo box resumed recording everything I had set up on the old box (though the passes were out of order, dang).
I'll report more on the new TiVo after I get a chance to use it over the next few months but so far the out-of-the-box experience has been pretty good. TiVo is really smoothing out the setup process, but unfortunately, having to schedule a cable company technician visit just to call a number and authorize a cable card is the biggest stumbling block and unfortunately, one TiVo has no control over.
Justin Mecham has a fantastic wishlist for Series 4 TiVo features he'd like to see. Most of them are season pass related and I have to say I agree with them all 100%. Some of them are a bit complex, but I could picture the menu options in most cases (like setting defaults for season pass options).
For myself, in addition to everything Justin mentioned (especially Hulu integration), I'd like to see the two-way CableCARD technologies implemented so that video on demand and pay-per-view content directly from cable companies could be accessed.
I'd also like to see other ways to be notified by my TiVo, perhaps by RSS, when an important event is coming up. I keep a bunch of wishlists around that I don't set to automatically record, but I often forget to periodically check them for the 1 in 25 upcoming items I do want to see. If I could subscribe to a feed of upcoming keyword/wishlist items with a handy link to record, I could easily scan recent matches and ignore or record items without having to dive into deep menus on my TiVo.
In addition to Hulu, I guess I'd like to see something more like boxee where I could play any media file on my TiVo (which is just a small computer capable of running anything), but given TiVo's ties to the major studios, I doubt that ever happens.
There's a great long post at Engadget commemorating the ten years of TiVo and along with it are five ideas for how TiVo could improve. I really like all the suggestions and would love to see TiVo try at least a few of them. When TiVo was on the ropes a few years ago I wanted to do a "100 ways to save TiVo" post (ala Wired's 101 ways to save Apple issue) but me and a few friends petered out of ideas after 30-40 of them. A lot of the ideas were similar in some ways to the Engadget ideas by basically extending the TiVo box in ways the studios probably don't want them to.
Usually these sorts of posts where a blogger posts a few ideas never get anywhere, but amazingly enough, TiVo's head of marketing sent Engadget a response. It's got quite a bit of marketing boosterism in it without too much concrete plans for the future, but it's good that TiVo is at least listening to criticism.
I forgot to post this soon after it went up, but a few weeks ago, my friend Peter Merholz got to do a long interview with Margret Schmidt, head of User Experience for TiVo. It's in three parts on the Adaptive Path blog: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. In it, they talk about the design of the interface, how new features are developed, how groups work internally at TiVo, and how user experience ties into the business aspects of TiVo.
A few years ago I got to ask Ms. Schmidt a bunch of questions about the design of the TiVo remotes, how the user interface of TiVo was developed, and my personal favorite -- how they designed the audio bleeps and bloops that still to this day are the only helpful sounds I've used in a consumer device.
There's been a recent update to TiVo boxes, enabling two famous and long-rumored features: Netflix support and Ads displayed while pausing/fast-forwarding. Both were first discussed on this site four years ago and it wasn't until this week that both finally became available for TiVo users.
The Netflix support is really good, exactly like using a dedicated Roku box. You add things to your Instant Queue on the Netflix website, then walk over to your TiVo to play them. Unfortunately you can't search for new movies from your couch and have to use a computer to interact with the Netflix website, but the the syncing is nearly instant and easy enough to use. Video quality is quite good and I had some low-end HD video that looked a lot like the AppleTV's 720p HD movies. Movie selection is limited to studios that allow for Netflix streaming but one of my favorite genres (Documentary) is well represented.
The ads displayed during fast forwarding has been a long time coming and raised quite a ruckus when it first was announced. Gizmodo has a screenshot of what they look like and say it's only on the older Series 2 boxes for now. On first glance it doesn't seem as invasive as I envisioned, but it does seem like a distraction from the way a TiVo is typically used.