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I don't have a Tivo or Tivo-clone (or even cable!). But now that you can stream "TV" through the internet, I've been wondering about using a recorder to time shift programs. Nine years ago Cool Tools ran a review of the cheapest Tivo box, but things have revolutionized since then.

What's the current best practice and gear for time-shifting TV, and commercial deleting? What is the best and what is the cheapest?

asked Aug 07 '13 at 12:24

Kevin%20Kelly's gravatar image

Kevin Kelly

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I LOVE my TiVo Series 3 HD. I installed an aftermarket 1TB internal hard drive so I can record lots of movies and save entire seasons of shows for summer programming dry periods--all in HD. The 30-second skip (forward) button, combined with the 8-second backup button makes it a breeze to bypass commercials. Another favorite feature is the 30-minute buffer for live TV. I can tune in to a show 15-20 minutes after it starts and skip through the commercials, and be about caught up by the time it ends. So efficient! The Season Pass function makes it easy to never miss an episode. Another really cool feature is that you can tell TiVo to record anything with a certain actor or director. It will find things you didn't even know were out there. Basically, my TiVo is like a personal TV assistant, always thinking about me. UPDATE: I should have mentioned that I bought lifetime TiVo service so monthly fees are not part of my experience.


answered Aug 10 '13 at 07:44

Cluttery's gravatar image


edited Aug 11 '13 at 18:46

I've had several generations of TiVO, going back to the original version, and they've gotten progressively worse with each iteration. The original interface was brilliant. The current one is very junked up, and not very intuitive. As a Netflix box, TiVO is not great. Our TiVO's drop connection constantly, and we can't watch anything uninterrupted, no matter how good or poor the connection is. For streaming, Roku is where it's at. Cheap, fast (if you have a Roku 3, anyway), and they never drop connection.

The biggest problem I have with TiVO is the pricing structure. You have to either pay a monthly bill, or pay a large sum for a lifetime subscription. There's no way to run one without paying extra money. The fee supposedly covers programming updates, but there are other services out that provide this service for free. To that point... the next DVR I get will be a PC, running Win 7 or 8, with their 10 foot interface enabled, and a SiliconDust box on our network with a couple CableCards installed. Exact same functionality, with a monthly cost savings, and it will let me broadcast TV to practically any screen with an internet connection.


answered Aug 10 '13 at 09:59

Mike%20Farris's gravatar image

Mike Farris

We've got TiVos. We love them.

We've found that, these days, there is enough programming over cable that we deem worth our time that we can even not record shows that sound promising. And the commentary/advertising of new shows is focused enough that we're aware of what's likely to be interesting.

As a roadie, I can use the TiVo web to schedule new shows to be picked up on any of the boxes we have. TiVo's got a doodad that will encode shows for transfer to your iStuff, but nothing yet for Android. So that's still a gaping hole...

Another advantage, if you select the right box, is the THX certification. With that (and the calibration videos), you can assure yourself of the best possible image & sound in your system. Of the two TiVos we've got, there's a subtle but also distinct quality improvement for the one with the THX system.

So far, I've found that streaming has two issues: 1) Discovery of new shows. I'm not a kid anymore and we're not plugged into the twitterverse or Mugbook, etc., so there's no good slipstream for us to pick up on stuff that may interest us; 2) Streaming is supposed to work "everywhere", but crappy, slow connections dominate. And choke points abound, making things worse when you really want to get it to work right. Does the broadband industry have conflicting interests here?

The TiVo world's not a perfect one. Lots of features should have been added years ago. But they work, as intended, almost without flaw. But anyone who depends on their Kabletown DVR should really really dump it and get a TiVo. Or even just a TiVo and an HDTV antenna, for pete's sake. I'm stumped as to why anyone keeps those truly abhorrent Motorola boxes that their provider "rents out".

Not all TV is crap. Some of it's even good enough to justify spending your dough so that you can have it waiting for you when you want it.


answered Aug 08 '13 at 00:58

Wayne%20Ruffner's gravatar image

Wayne Ruffner

edited Aug 10 '13 at 12:00

Not good. When it comes to turning off an account, Tivo is possibly the worst company I have ever dealt with - worse than cable companies. Unlike Netflix or most other online subscriptions, in order to cancel your Tivo subscription you have to call a special 1-800 number during business hours, then go through a gauntlet of questions from a phone "support" person who's been trained to keep you on the phone until you give up trying to turn off your account. Really slimy. I don't intend to ever do business with Tivo again.


answered Aug 10 '13 at 15:37

mrfoo's gravatar image


Tivo is the best machine and the best user interface but I quit it in favor of a dvr from the cable co. and it's fine. The main reason for getting rid of tivo was to reduce the ever increasing number of monthly subscription payments. You will be amazed at the number of them that are sort of hidden away in automatic payments between software and entertainment it adds up and I don't spend much time in front of the tube anyway. One thing I do know is I won't go back to Tivo again after the smarmy termination process they put you through.


answered Aug 10 '13 at 20:25

menglert's gravatar image


When you get past the price and trouble of setting up cable card, etc. NOTHING beats Tivo for recording broadcast/cable TV... and the iPad app makes it even better!

That said, its a non-starter for Nextflix streaming, You Tube, On Demand, etc. Those are all there but just not pleasant to use.


answered Aug 10 '13 at 23:28

joshua's gravatar image


I think Tivo is great. I've had 3 different generations. I actually have two in the house. One for my use and one for my wife's use. It is easy to move shows around. I haven't watched a commercial in 5 years. When watching sports I will wait until an hour or so has recorded then start watching and can skip all commercials and end about the time the game really ends. You can rewind any scene or play. If you wonder what that person said just back up 6 seconds and replay. Need to answer the phone just pause and start when you return. You can schedule a season pass and it will record the shows even if the station moves the program or makes a show 1 hour and 6 minutes instead of an hour. And you can program it to only record first runs of the show. You save 20 minutes per hour of TV you watch. I've noticed some of the smaller cable channels must not provide accurate time info since one in 50 shows might have some problems. To get around that I just program it to record a fixed time and channel. My wife just decided to watch Downton Abbey and the Tivo has Hulu Plus built in so it is easy to watch on the big screen. Comcast just set up something called Xfinity on Demand that gives us access to all Comcast scheduling to see past shows. I've tried the cable company dvr and the interface is primitive compared to Tivo.


answered Aug 11 '13 at 10:12

avery1317's gravatar image


Most DVR offers from cable & satellite are as good or better than the TIVO alternative.

For example the DirecTV genie offers simultaneous recording of 5 shows, multiroom service watch any recording in any room, control with an ipad, watch shows on an ipad, etc. TIVO really cannot compete in a world where competitive DVR offers are one of the primary selling points for the various content providers. No provider has an incentive to work with TIVO and therefore TIVO is always one step behind in integration...

It was a wonderful box when they were the only game in town, but I'm afraid they have worked themselves into a corner with an unprofitable business model.


answered Aug 11 '13 at 13:37

NoDef's gravatar image


At the risk of summarizing the above good answers, it sounds like TiVo technology works and may be superior to other DVRs, but that it may not be worth the monthly subscription model they run on. Mike Farris mentioned using a Windows PC with storage drive. Are there other Mac-based or open sourced software version of a DVR that are easy to set up?


answered Aug 11 '13 at 14:30

Kevin%20Kelly's gravatar image

Kevin Kelly

Elgato Eye TV is the Mac solution.


Haven't used it myself as I'm a TiVO user. I've been a TiVO user since the first version. I've always gotten the lifetime subscription and it's always paid for itself.

Currently I have an TiVO Series 3 HD which I got in 2007. After 6 years of continually being on the built in hard drive finally went bad a few months ago. I replaced it with a 2 TB drive from Weaknees and am more than happy with it.

I had cable for many of those years, first needing a cable card, then a digital tuner (which is a separate box that plugs into TiVO USB and you run the cable TV through it). It was pretty annoying but worked. I eventually cut my cable service when I realized I got better quality video for local stations on the tivo doing over the air recording, and the cost of the cable TV shows I watch was less on iTunes + Netflix. When I did all this I ended up with a system that was TiVO for over the air, and an Apple TV for Netflix + iTunes. I've used my Dad's Roku for Netflix and both it and Apple TV are better for Netflix than the TiVO.


answered Aug 11 '13 at 18:44

Kevin's gravatar image


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Asked: Aug 07 '13 at 12:24

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Last updated: Aug 13 '13 at 07:37

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