TiVo review

TiVo is a new way to record TV. Find out how it performs.
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See our December 2010 video of Tivo versus Tbox.

Price: $699, for the 320GB model. However, there are some packages which include the optional wireless connector and home network software. For an extra $249 you can add a one terabyte external drive.
Contact: tivo.com.au

TiVo offers a means of recording free-to-air digital TV without having to learn too much about the inner workings of the machine. There is a remote control and an onscreen menu system, which are both easy to use. However, TiVo's real value lies in its ability to free you from having to think too far ahead when planning your TV viewing. It does a good deal of the thinking for you, but it's not perfect - even its terms of use acknowledge that mistakes can happen. If there's an error in the electronic program guide (EPG) data, TiVo won't know and you could still miss a program.

Please note: this information was current as of November 2009 but is still a useful guide to today's market.

Video: Tivo vs Tbox

Chris and Denis discuss whether the new Telstra T-Box is a serious alternative to the TiVo.

What TiVo will do

  • Record from free-to-air digital broadcasts. Menu
  • Record two HD channels at the same time.
  • Play a recorded program while recording on two channels.
  • Allow you to pause a live TV broadcast and continue watching it when you're ready, but this is limited by the amount of space available on your hard drive.
  • Rewind up to half an hour of live TV.
  • Download and display a seven-day electronic program guide (EPG) which is updated daily.
  • Allow you to select programs to record from the EPG using the remote control.
  • Allow you to indicate your preferences using the "thumbs-up" and "thumbs-down" buttons on the remote control.
  • The system remembers preferences and will make suggestions.
  • Select a "Season pass" which tells the system to record every instance of a particular program. You don't have to know when the program is to be broadcast.
  • Automatically record programs by genre, actor, director or that relate to a particular sport.

What TiVo will not do … yet

  • Remain fully functional if its connection to the internet drops out. We found it refused to change channel after about seven days offline.
  • Show advertising while searching or viewing the EPG. TiVo says this may come in the future.

In control

TiVo claims it will put you in control of free-to-air TV. At first look we'd agree that it's relatively simple to set up, easy to use and its EPG is reasonably well designed.

The main difference between TiVo and most other digital video recorders (DVR) is that it's designed to do most of the thinking for you. Its menu system is simple to use and reasonably intuitive, but its tendency to change settings based on your previous preferences could be annoying for some users.

There was consternation in our test home when a scheduled recording was set to delete automatically only a couple of days after the recording date. We then realised it would keep the recording after that date if space on the hard drive was available for other recordings.

TiVo is currently available from:

  • Harvey Norman
  • Domayne
  • JB HiFi
  • Myer
  • Dick Smiths
  • The Good Guys

CHOICE verdict

At first look, we like it. It's not cheap and having to be constantly connected to the internet is inconvenient, but neither are major drawbacks. However, we're not letting TiVo off the hook so easily. We're going to keep watching and you can read our updated comments online over the next few months on the pages that follow. See our review of digital video recorders.



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