For Christmas this year, my wife bought me/us the relatively new Tivo Premiere. The Premiere is basically the Series 4 model, and was released in March/April 2010. It sports newer hardware and software, especially HD tuners and screens. We’re not new to Tivo, but we’ve been on hiatus from Tivo since June 2009. Last month, Tivo was running a deal where you can pay $19.99 a month for a two-year committment, and no upfront cost to purchase the hardware. Not a bad deal at all. The only recommendation I would make is that it is important to change the contract after 24 months!

A little history — a friend gifted us (late wedding gift) a Tivo Series 2 way back in 2004. A single tuner, but wow, so much better than a VCR! It died in June 2007, so we bought a new one Series 2 with dual tuner. Wow, even better! This lasted until June 2009 when we switched to the wonders of FiOS. We dumped the Tivo and went for the Verizon-supplied STB that doubled as a DVR. It wasn’t as intuitive or nice as Tivo, but it was cheaper and easier than maintaining two boxes. Tivo’s one claim-to-fame is their interface. If they screw that up, that’s it.

Fast-forward to 2010 when Tivo screwed up the one claim-to-fame, the Tivo interface. More on that later.

In April 2010, Tivo showed off their new Tivo Series 4 and the new interface. It looked pretty nice. However, there were many complaints about the sluggish interace, crashes, and system freezes. Meanwhile, telco and cable companies are renting their garbage DVR STBs to people who want to save money and consider them to be “good enough.” Heck, we decided against purchasing a new Tivo last year to save money. I dislike the Motorola DVRs and their interfaces, and the new Motorola QIP7232 are not being rolled out existing FiOS customers. While the new v1.9 of the DVR Interactive Media Guide is getting good reviews, there’s no date on the production release. What’s a consumer to do?

I decided to jump in with both feet, and ride it out, so I opened the box. We can’t hold our collective breath while waiting for Verizon to release new products. The new DVR and software is delayed with no release date. The announced new Actiontec router providing 802.11n wireless was due to be released to production in August 2010, but that date came and went. Personally, I’m the type of fellow who, if I want something to make my life better, I’d rather pay for it than sit unhappy. I don’t mind paying for the Tivo service — I’m already paying monthly fees to rent a DVR from Verizon. I might as well go back to paying a few dollars more a month to get a better DVR.

Tivo Premiere Series 4

Tivo Premiere Series 4

As I decided to jump in with both feet, I called Verizon on Christmas Day (they were open!), and scheduled an appt for Jan 31st to have a technician come out and install our M-Card (multistream CABLECARD.) I’ve read that cable companies and telcos can either just let you install it, or require a technician to do it. I would have done it myself, but Verizon requires a technician. Dumb, and do you know why? The technician arrived, gave me the M-Card, I slipped it into the slot on the back of the Tivo, and he called the same FiOS support number available to me to have it activated. He didn’t have to do anything that I couldn’t have done.

TiVo 802.11n wireless adapter

TiVo 802.11n wireless adapter

The installation was basically smooth, except for one hiccup. I had difficulty getting the external 802.11n wireless adapter working correctly and attaching to my wireless network. I’m not running 802.11n yet, but I’m future-proofing when FiOS finally releases the new 802.11n routers. I didn’t think I needed to read the wireless adapter manual, but I finally had to refer back to it. If you don’t have a WPS router, you apparently need to set up the adapter by connecting it to a desktop/laptop. Once I did that, the adapter was ready.

Is it a better DVR? Well, yes and no. Tivo has been releasing updates since March 2010, and released the v14.7 update last month. For stability reasons, they still haven’t enabled the second processor. The only real benefit that I have at the moment is the huge jump in hard drive space, allowing us to record up to 45 hours of HD programming. That’s double the 20 hours we had on the Motorola STB. However, there are two aspects of the Tivo that bug me:

  1. Without the second process enabled, the HD interface is slow. It’s one of those click a button, wait, the cursor moves. I talk a mile a minute, so waiting for my Tivo to catch up to my brain is frustrating. Someone online made an interesting analogy — it’s the same feeling when you use a PC with too little RAM or processing power. It’s that feeling that it’s struggling to handle the requests.
  2. I can not understand why Tivo would rush out the Premiere without migrating all the screens to HD versions. I find it extremely odd and jarring to suddenly be thrown into the old SD screens. Kittens aren’t being eaten as a result, but where is the quality? I wouldn’t rush a half-completed product to market. Maybe this is a case of the corporations using the ability to roll out updates after the fact via the Internet and getting lazy, but this is egregious.

I wouldn’t worry about the fixes being made, except that it has been about seven months now, and Tivo still hasn’t remediated these issues. When they promise you fixes “in the coming weeks and months”, and it’s still unresolved. That is worrisome, and you lose faith that they can or will fix it. I still like the Tivo, and it’s an improvement over the ones provided by cable and the telcos. It could be so much better though.