Wednesday, April 7, 2010

TiVo Premere

Last night my TiVo HD told me I needed to check out the new TiVo Premere, the new DVR device from TiVo. Intrigued, I followed the "link" on my TiVo, which only really gave me the opportunity to buy it. That was odd, I figured TiVo would have some kind of video highlighting the new great device they wanted me to buy. Nope.

Frustrated, I went to TiVo's web site. Which made me more frustrated...

Following the link on the web site brought me (yet again) to a link asking me if I wanted to buy the darn thing. Here's what they said the new product could do (and it's just about all the info they have about it without digging) (italics are mine to differentiate TiVo's info vs. my comments):
  • "Reinvented HD user interface" - Uhh...I kind of liked the old interface really. I don't need lots of pictures floating around the screen. It's why I haven't yet activated the new TiVo search (in addition to privacy concerns)
  • "Up to 45 hours of HD recording" - So they put a bigger hard drive in it. WeaKnees or even an external drive could breathe some new life into my existing TiVo HD with 20 hours of HD recording (which I haven't yet had a problem exceeding).
  • "Replaces your cable box*" - So does my TiVo HD (see below for more frustration...)
  • "The world's largest VOD store" - In comparison to...what? I mean, yeah, I like having access to Netflix and YouTube on my TiVo. It doesn't look like this is any better, except that they've given-into the dark side and are integrating a Flash client (which seems like a bad idea given Adobe's reputation with Flash).
  • "Online & Mobile Scheduling" - Same as my TiVo HD...and still missing a way to actually manipulate my DVR directly.
The big question in my mind, and probably many other people's minds, is, "Does it implement two-way capability with CableCARD?" This would permit the TiVo to access VOD services from the cable company and eliminate the need for the tuning adapter for switched digital video (SDV) channels. I looked high and low for this in the FAQ, because I knew it would be a frequently asked question. The only thing I was able to find is that the TiVo Premere could only use the multi-stream CableCARD (better known as a M-Card). While this is less functionality than the TiVo HD, it really is better from an engineering point-of-view (single stream CableCARDs were meant for TVs, not DVRs).

As far as I can tell, because I don't see anything to the contrary, is that the TiVo Premere still requires the tuning adapter (or tuning resolver, depending on who's talking about it) in order to view switched channels, and the cable company's VOD services are still not available.

So I sit here asking myself, "Why would I want to dump my old TiVo HD for a new unit and plunk down $240 for the privilege? (TiVo HD owners can get it for 20% off)" Answer: I wouldn't.

Now don't get me wrong, TiVo has delivered a pretty decent product in the past, and I'm sure that people will like the TiVo Premere. Honestly, though, I'm a big fan of a user interface that's fast and uncluttered. TiVo increased the processor speed and number of cores, and in my opinion, just used that to support their more "rich user interface." If I still had cable, I really would have liked the ability for the TiVo to communicate to the cable head-end without the need for an additional box from the cable company (which was pretty clunky when all was said and done).

There are a few good features of the TiVo Premere, and to be fair, I should mention them:
  1. Picture-in-picture capability when in menus - Yes, the one (and probably only) good feature of the Scientific Atlanta DVR is finally in the TiVo: While you're navigating menus, there is a miniature of the current channel that appears as a box in the upper-right hand part of the screen. Cool.
  2. Disk Space Meter - Shows how much disk space is available for recordings. This is something that should be in the existing TiVo DVR, and I don't see any reason why they haven't done it yet. It definitely shouldn't require a dual-core 400 MHz CPU to tell me how much disk space I have available...
  3. Lower power consumption - They don't really go into detail much about what they did to decrease power consumption, but I'll take their word for it and assert that this is a good feature.
These are really the things that caught my attention as being interesting. Everything else just seemed like a lot of fluff.

I should also mention one thing about multi-room viewing that TiVo doesn't talk about, and probably doesn't want you to know. If you are on Time Warner Cable (and probably on other cable companies too) every cable broadcast is tagged as being copy-protected. This tag doesn't differentiate between copying for multi-room viewing, copying for watching on your computer or mobile device, or copying to upload to your favorite bittorrent site. So in effect, you cannot use multi-room viewing (or any feature that would send that broadcast to another device) with your TiVo for any cable TV programming.

The price of the TiVo Premere is the same as the old TiVo HD, and is clearly meant to be a new version of the same old DVR, with a "fresh new interface" that is sure to please some and annoy others. I want my DVR to be fast, reliable, and just function properly. I don't want to buy a new TiVo every two years (seriously, it hasn't even been two years for me!). I don't want the interface to be crowded with lots of superfluous stuff.

Finally, as I walk up on my soap box, if TiVo starts getting into bed and getting it on with Adobe and their Flash crap...I'm probably going to find a buyer for my TiVo HD on eBay when the yearly service expires. Here's the one company -- TiVo -- that could put some pressure on Adobe to open source the Flash player and make Flash a standard rather than a technology that Adobe controls. TiVo makes use of a lot of open source software, including the operating system that actually drives the TiVo. TiVo, it's time to pay the piper and actually give back to the community that helped build the business you've created. Here's a chance to show that you're not a sell-out...

Down off my soap box and off to not watch any TV for a while...

1 comment:

christianed said...

I'm experiencing new frustrations with a TiVo that I've come to love. Our cable company changed our service and as a result I must pay them for the privilege to use my Tivo. We are looking into Dish. You state that you no longer have cable, but you still use TiVo. Is there a way that I can do that with Dish? Or maybe you have some other insights into this matter?