TiVo review

TiVo is a new way to record TV. Find out how it performs.
 
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05.New stuff on TiVo

Expander drive

TiVoTiVo have announced a 1 terabyte (TB) external hard drive that expands the TiVo's capacity to about 230 hours of HD recording.

The extra recording space is very handy. Unfortunately, the price is $249, which is $100 more than a similar 1TB drive from the same manufacturer.

CHOICE can see no reason why TiVo owners should have to pay a premium for a drive that can only be used by the TiVo.

Movies on download

Online movie downloads isn't really new to the TiVo, but the selection has increased thanks to an agreement with Blockbuster. The cost per movie ($3.95 to $5.95) is reasonably competitive with hiring a DVD. If your internet service provider isn't Internode, however, you're going to use a substantial amount of your download allowance because each movie is between one and two gigabytes.

The movies will last for 30 days from download and 48 hours from when you first start to watch. But to sign up to the service you mustput $35 into a Blockbuster account, which is debited as you rent movies. Once you go below $10, your account is automatically debited $25 to top it back up. Should you decide to stop the service, TiVo/Blockbuster will refund any money in your account with them.

We suggest you read the CHOICE report on direct debits before you leap in.

Podcasts

In May 2009, TiVo launched a podcast service that features breakfast and 'drivetime' podcasts from Nova and Vega radio stations. The broadband usage for each podcast will vary depending the length of the podcast and how long you listen, but should be between 1MB and 30MB. Apart from any costs you incur through internet downloads, the service will be free to TiVo users and will be updated daily.

TiVo Home Networking Package

 6th April 2009.

If you like the idea of transferring recordings from TiVo to your computer, this product might tempt you.

The purchasing process requires you to pay for the product online, wait for an email then put in a lengthy key via the My TiVo website. You download the software to your computer, then get a number from the TiVo itself (called a MAK number), which can take up to 24 hours to appear. You install the software on your computer and enter the MAK number, restart both the PC and the TiVo.

You then get constant reminders to upgrade the software to allow you to convert files so they can be seen on portable devices such as an iPod. To do this you get another lengthy number from the My TiVo website and enter it in the software when prompted.

You can then:

  • Tell the software what folders your video, images and music reside in so you can transfer them to the TiVo to view or listen to them.
  • See what is recorded on the TiVo box from your PC.
  • Transfer files from TiVo to PC and back again.
  • Convert files transferred from your TiVo to the PC to formats suitable for mobile devices such as an iPod, or Sony PlayStation among others.

This all sounds good, but this software has a couple of rather annoying features:

  • Every time you open or transfer a file the software pops up a dialogue box warning you about copyright issues. This does nothing to deter anyone determined to misuse the software and is just annoying for everyone else.
  • Conversion of a file takes a long time. We tried a couple of different files with different conversion formats, and a half hour program took around 45 minutes.

Conclusion

At $199 it's an expensive upgrade and not as easy to use as the TiVo itself. However, it does make it possible to store programs if the TiVo is getting full and watching your own videos or pictures on your TV could be a big plus for some consumers.

Movies on TiVo

On the 1 December 2008 TiVo introduced downloadable movies.

There will only be one movie available a week to begin with - starting with The Waterhorse and followed by Men In Black. In 2009 the service is supposed to get a wider range of movies.

There's no cost for the movie itself at this time, but it comes with lots of warnings that you'll have to calculate how much you're likely to get slugged for the internet download - the amount of data used in a movie download is typically quite large.

The TiVo movie download is no exception. The file size of the movie we downloaded was slightly under 2.6GB. The movie also took a long time to download - about three and a quarter hours to download over an ADSL 2+ connection. That's quite dissapointing because our TV reported the native format for the movie at 576i - Standard Definition TV. Not quite as good quality as a DVD and a long way off the quality of HD TV or Blu-ray.

The movie will self destruct if not watched within seven days. Once you start watching you have; either 24 or 48 hours to finish or watch it again before it self destructs. If you start watching on the last of the seven days, you can't delay past the end of the day. The confusion over 24 or 48 hours is because the initial download says 24 hours, but the information attached to the download itself says 48 hours.  It seems to depend on the movie title you select.

Leaving aside the image quality issue, by our reckoning it's a very expensive movie hire. If you're on an internet plan that limits your downloads to 7GB per month and charges around $90, you'll have used over a third of your allowance for one movie.

In dollar terms that's around $30 for a seven day movie hire. Until TiVo comes up with a way to negate or substantially reduce this cost, we suggest a short walk to the shop to hire a DVD.

Weather on TiVo

Weather channelOn the 22 October 2008 our TiVo got a weather page.

It's a regularly updated feature that provides weather information for all Australian capital cities as well as many regional centres. Access is via the main menu and ours currently has a big gold star, so it's hard to miss.

Also hard to miss is the prominent advertising for Channel 7's morning program and a chain of hotels. In this case the service is being funded in the same way as free-to-air TV, which is paid for by advertising.

"It's the first of many broadband services our customers will receive on their TiVo in the coming months - all at no additional cost," said Hybrid Television Services CEO, Robee Minicola. Hybrid Television Services is a subsidiary of of the Seven media Group and is the exclusive licensee of TiVo products in Australia and New Zealand.

Even if you assume advertising is a cost for the viewer, the weather page is a handy addition.

More for 2009

Some new simple games will become available over the next few months, along with a daily horoscope and a world clock that can handle up to six different time zones. 

A service to view images and share them with others who have a TiVo is called PixelEyes. You upload your images to either Picasa or PhotoBucket and others who have a TiVo and know your login can download them to their TiVo for viewing.

 

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