Originally published at Blogcritics.org
DVRs, digital video recorders, are wondrous things. They allow you not only to record your favorite television shows and movies, but allow you literally to stop time, pause the action when the phone rings or dog barks; do an “instant replay” of that crucial “hail Mary” pass you’ve just got see again. And again. These are things to which a DVD recorder (or heaven forbid, a VCR) can never aspire.
After having subscribed to Comcast’s DVR service for several years, I became frustrated with the lack of features, and with the fact that my DVR machine inexplicably kept erasing the hard drive, or, conversely, failing to record due to “being full” despite the fact that I only had three other recordings on the d**n thing. So, last winter I treated myself to a TiVo Series3 machine and now receive all of my Comcast cable channels through the TiVo receiver. And I will never, ever look back. I’ve been “TiVo’d.” And here’s why:
The Season Pass: I am a House addict. I watch (and re-watch) each episode. I have set my TiVo to record House each time it’s on. The machine picks up every episode broadcast (that’s not already residing on the TiVo’s hard drive). The Comcast DVR can also do this. However, TiVo’s season pass allows something that the Comcast DVR cannot. In addition to being a House fan, I am also a Hugh Laurie fan (my husband would call it a middle-aged crush) — and I’m also a Stephen Dillane fan, an Alan Rickman fan… well, you get the idea. All of these actors are on my “wish list.” The TiVo then records everything (every movie, guest star appearance, talk show appearance, etc) in which my wish list actor appears. Imagine my surprise when Stuart Little 3: Call of the Wild appeared on in my recorded programs list (I didn’t even know there was a Stuart Little 3!).
You can also set up wish lists based on “keywords.” In my other life, when I’m writing my blog, I’m a Jewish educator, and always looking for interesting programming of a Jewish nature. Now, I don’t necessarily want the TiVo to record these programs, but I want to know what’s coming up in the next couple of weeks on TV. Typing “Jewish” into a wish list results in some fairly amusing “hits,” as it finds anything even remotely related to “Jewish.” I can choose, manually, to record or not.
TiVo Recommends…: Particularly fond of a show (or movie) you’re viewing? Completely hate it? Use the red and green “thumbs up” and “thumbs down” buttons on the TiVo remote control up to three times to show your enthusiasm (or lack thereof). TiVo uses that information to recommend more television shows and films. The recommendations screen lists programs that it thinks you’ll like, and you can choose to record or ignore, as you wish. The more often you vote up or down (either on your recommendation listings or on shows you happen to be viewing), the more refined will be future recommendations.
Resurrecting deleted shows: Have you ever unintentionally deleted or erased a show or a movie? I know that I have. I had forgotten that my husband missed a Tudors episode when real life dared to intervene on his Sunday night. I’d watched the episode (which was on “season pass” to automatically record), and since I don’t usually keep Tudors episodes past one viewing, I blitzed it before he had a chance to see it. However, TiVo has a neat feature that archives deleted programs, allowing you to bring them back from the dead, preserving not only quality television programming but countless relationships and marriages. Neat, huh?
Now of course none of the aforementioned would be possible without the huge, ginormous hard drive resident on the Series3. My Comcast DVR barely held a season’s worth of House episodes. My TiVo currently holds 57 House episodes, about 20 movies, countless other recordings, and (like that Energizer bunny) keeps going and going and going. (TiVo Series 3 holds about 300 hours of standard definition programming.)
Wireless capability: Although it’s an add-on (and a fairly inexpensive one), if you have a home wireless network, you can add the TiVo wireless adapter and connect to TiVo through your home network. This enables several very cool features. First, you can upload photos, videos, movies, etc from your computer to your TiVo. Anyone who’s connected S-Video cables and RCA plugs from a laptop to the television in order to view computer files on the TV can appreciate being able to do this completely without wires. The TiVo “sees” your computer and its contents and many things you can view on your computer you can see up on your nice big television screen. Conversely, files on your TiVo can be downloaded to your computer for easy transport and viewing on the go.
Fast forwarding past the commercials: TiVo’s very smart fast forward feature is nothing short of brilliant. Ever fast forward past the commercials, only to skip a bit too far ahead? TiVo feels your pain and understands your frustration. When the fast forward stops, it automatically rewinds back a few seconds, making an often seamless jump over the commercials.
Amazon Unbox: One of the few downsides of using the TiVo box instead of a conventional Comcast cable receiver is the loss of Comcast’s “OnDemand” feature. And admittedly, it’s a great feature; I miss it on my TiVo-powered television. Fortunately, if you miss it a lot, you can add your service’s digital cable box as a second receiver. I have digital cable boxes on two other TV’s so, if I’m in OnDemand withdrawal, I can feed my need. And someday soon (and I believe already available in some markets) Comcast and TiVo will get married and you’ll have access to the best of both worlds.
On the other hand, with TiVo you do have access to the Amazon Unbox (Amazon’s movie rental and purchase download service). This service allows you to browse and search Amazon.com’s movie and television library through TiVo and download direct to your television. Rental is $3.99 for a new release feature film.
Rhapsody: I’ve been a fan of the Rhapsody music service since long before RealAudio took it over years ago. Its music library is exhaustive and eclectic. It’s worth the $25 a year I pay to listen endlessly to everything from classic classical to classic rock, folk, Broadway shows, and pretty much everything and anything else. Log into your Rhapsody account via TiVo and you can have Rhapsody’s entire library come piping though your home theatre.
Et cetera: TiVo comes equipped with a few fun video games, original TiVo programming (The Onion’s, for example), access to Fandango to purchase movie tickets. And now YouTube, as well.
The Future: Amazon has just announced an expansion of its relationship with TiVo. The future will bring a “buy” feature embedded into the TiVo software. That will allow you to purchase products, like books, DVDs and CD (promoted on late night talk shows, for example), direct from Amazon.com with the push of a button on the remote.
The TiVo Series3 receiver retails for around $600.00.