Customer Reviews: TiVo HD Digital Video Recorder (Old Version)
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon January 12, 2009
I have been a long-time Tivo user pretty much since its inception nearly a day ago. I have used it with cable systems; moved to DIrecTV and their Tivo HD DVR and now just joined Fios and purchased the TCD652160.

I bought two of these HD models for my home complete with lifetime subscriptions for each. It wasn't until I dropped nearly $1300 on these units and services until I found out the dirty little secret about compatibility issues with Verizon Fios.

I noticed within a day that some channels were heavily distorted with pixelation. Doing some Internet research I found this was a major problem with dozens upon dozens of other Fios subscribers using the Tivo HD units. The problem, it seems, is that the Fios signal is too "hot" for the Tivo tuner to handle. This is the reason why there is so much distortion on many of the Fios channels.

The fix? You need to add an attenuator to the point where the coax meets the Tivo unit. The problem is, it's a bit of a experimental process to find out how much attenuation you need while being careful of not going too far overboard. I added a -10db attenuator as well as an extra 2-foot coax cable with a barrel connector to bring the signal down to the point where there was no longer any pixelation.

Complaints have been very strong towards Tivo. I wrote a letter to the CEO and VP of Distribution for the company. I received a phone call response from their Executive department a week later apologizing for the problems Fios was causing Tivo. Tivo has been aware of the problem and pretty much said there is nothing they can do to modify their tuners as doing so will affect its performance on cable systems.

Whether you believe their response or not, this is the sad state of affairs with Tivo and Fios. Fortunately, it looks as if the simple "fix" is attenuation. If you are willing to invest another couple dollars in attenuators you will probably be successful in dealing with the pixelation problems.

As for the Tivo unit itself, I am very impressed. Having moved from the DirecTV HD model (HR10-250) to this brand new HD Digital Recorder saw significant improvements in software interface and reaction times. I am also quite excited by the new 2009 software updates that allow movie streaming through their new partnership with Netflix.

Thus far I have had no real issues with its performance other than the fact, at least with Fios, it only recommended SD channels when searching shows for SEASON PASS. I actually had search by channel rather than title in order to program the Tivo to record off of the higher HD channels.

I have spent quite a bit of money to use the Tivo DVR over what Fios offers, but anyone that has been a Tivo subscriber will tell you that all other DVRs are inferior.
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on May 31, 2009
I hate ads. TiVo is by far the best DVR. I have owned a Tivo since they first came out. But there is a recent development that makes me question whether I will continue to be a customer. It now pops up ads, for Domino's Pizza for instance, every time you fast forward. How ironic. I own a TiVo so that I don't have to view ads. I find this especially irksome because I pay a premium not only for the DVR, but for the subscription scheduling service. This is like a phone company contracting with advertisers to advertise via caller ID. This feature cannot be turned off. I consider this a violation of the trust I put in TiVo to become a customer in the first place. Five stars for TiVo. Zero for their latest advertising decision.
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on May 5, 2009
I won't go into all the features of the Tivo HD DVR because there are plenty of other reviews and articles about it. Instead, I'll add a few thoughts based on using it for the past 5 months.

-Overall, it does everything it's supposed to in an excellent manner. I have comcast and they came and installed a multichannel cable card - very simple - and I've had no problems with it ever since.

-Every once in a while the Tivo will freeze up - usually when I'm navigating through some video-on-demand portions of the DVR. No computer is 100% stable, so I shrug it off. Unplugging it and waiting for it to start up (takes about 5-8 min) gets it back to normal.

-Navigation is good, although sometimes the remote response lags a little when you are trying to enter text onscreen for a search. Still, in my experience the lag is less than some other DVRs that are supplied by cable companies.

-The user interface is great. However, I wish there was a way to organize channels by HD/SD, or group HD/SD channel "pairs" together. My parents' Dish Network DVR does this, but I haven't discovered a way to do it. I think there is a way to filter, but that's different from simply changing the organization of channels. I found that I get many channels in both HD and non-HD versions but one will be listed way down in channel 48, and the other will be up in channel 235. For example, if you see something you'd like to watch on an SD channel like TBS, it can be a pain to check to see if it's being broadcast on an HD version of that channel. Different ordering (i.e. seeing the TBS SD and TBS HD channels sequentially one after the other) would make it much easier to know you are watching the highest resolution version of any given program. I ended up just going through and manually de-listing all the SD versions of channels that I also get in HD.

-I appreciate the Mac OS X support, but I wish there was a better way to take programs off the DVR and burn them on a DVD without having to buy a program like Toast, which gets mediocre reviews. I haven't used it yet, but I probably will get it since I have some inauguration footage sitting on my DVR since January that I'd like to have on a DVD to keep. Still, the process seems clunky and slow.

-The price for the Tivo wireless dongle isn't great, but better than the huge price that Microsoft will charge you for wireless on an xbox 360. Still, I wish there was wireless built in. In retrospect, I probably should've used the money I spent on the Tivo dongle to buy a router. Even with wireless, Netflix streaming of HD content is usually perfect - I only get some hiccups during prime time, and that's more a function of my internet connection than Tivo.

-Recently, Amazon began offering HD movie rentals via Tivo. I haven't yet taken advantage of this, but I'm looking forward to the option. It makes me less inclined to buy a blu-ray player - I think the market is really going towards content delivered via the internet versus on a disc.

-Overall, a great buy. It's a significant cost up front versus getting something from your cable company, but it's a superior product and I refuse to give a cable monopoly any more money than I have to. I would rather vote with my dollar and give it to Tivo, even if it costs a bit more up front than renting an inferior DVR from comcast.
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on November 9, 2008
Tivo is a brnad name. Like Band Aid, the name should only apply to the product that bears its name. Too many people say they have a Tivo, but in reality it is a watered down dvr from a satellite or cable provider.

Over the last 5 years, we have had DVR's from Dish Network, DirecTV and now, Fios from Verizon. We first experienced Tivo with the DirecTivo receivers.

It is amazing how intuitive the Tivo interface is. How easy it is to use. My mom came by to babysit her grandchild a few days ago and had no problem not only using the Tivo remote to change channels, but to also, on her own, figure out how to watch recorded shows or use the program guide.

We have three Tivos in our home. The one HD unit in the living room, and two other SD units in two bedrooms. For me, multi room viewing and Tivo-to-Go all work for all three tivo units. In addition, I added a My DVR Expander to more than triple my storage capacity. Another reviewer wrote that these features didn't work with hers. But their review was written over a year ago. Since then, Tivo must have activated those services.

We ordered our Tivo a few days after we got Verizon Fios TV service. Sure, the Fios is great; Fast internet, great tv quality, low price. But it also has a half baked dvr. I say that with all respect, compared to Tivo, it is only half complete. After using the Tivos of DirecTV, and even DirecTV's own HD DVR, the Motorola from Fios was awful. Changing channels was a chore. Soemtimes you pressed the buttons and it responded, sometime s it didn't. Thinking I had a bad dvr, I tried my neighbor's unit. Same thing. I guess Verizon spent all their R&D money on developing how to get the signal to my house....but not how to manipulate it once I got it here to my home.

I was seriously considering dropping the Fios TV and going back to DirecTV. Doing some research, I found that Tivo had released a lower cost HD Tivo, this one. The first HD Tivo was over $600. Sorry, at that cost, I'd have to sleep with one eye open for quite a while until my wife settled down. At the cost of this HD Tivo, only about $240 when I bought it, I don't have to worry about the wrath of my wife.

I got the Tivo and called Verizon to install the CableCards necessary to make it work. Here in North Jersey, Verizon has S-card CableCards, which means I had to order two CableCards to use both tuners. The Tivo will also accept M-Cards, but my guess is that Verizon likes to charge their customers for two separate cards, rather than one. I am paying $7.98 for the two cards, $3.99 each.

If you are going to add CableCards to your Tivo, use google to read up on getting prepared for the installer. You will need to perform a guided setup BEFORE the installer arrives. From our experience, the Verizon installers don't see a lot of these Tivos yet, so they are not very familiar with them. Make sure you have all the instructions out for them. Tivo's customer service will also work with the installer to get your Tivo activated.....when was the last time anyone said some thing good about an American comapny's customer service?

Using Tivo is a breeze. It just works. Recording shows, adjusting times so it doesn't miss the end of recordings. it even tells me if I am recording something live, like a football game and asks if I want to extend the is that for intuitive? I can watch the shows recorded from my Tivos upstairs, and the upstairs SD tivos can watch all the non-HD recordings from the HD Tivo.

And here's a really great feature. I recently traveled overseas on business. I used the Tivo Desktop software to record hours and hours of shows to a portable hard drive. I then instaleld the Tivo Desktop software on my laptop and watched all the shows on my computer while I was away. Here's a quick bit on how it works....tivo has file protection on it's Tivo recordings. You cannot share them over the Internet with others (Legally, that is). When you install the Tivo Desktop software on your computer, it adds some type of decyption key to allow you to play the files. Oh, one more thing, you must have DVD playing software on your computer like WinDVD or PowerDVD. I cannot remember exactly what, but I seem to recall that Tivo Desktop uses some codecs from the DVD players.

Overall, our Tivo works, works well, and is an important part of our home entertainment system. It never sleeps, and it has yet to miss a scheduled recording.

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on November 21, 2008
I knew about the subscription service but I was surprised to find out that 802.11g connection only works with their network adaptor. I spent another $60 for the adapter. Everything was going well until I found out that Tivo wasn't picking up some of the HD channels that I was receiving on my cable. We decided to return it & cancel the subscription since it came with 30 day cancelation policy. I'm on the phone waiting for 50 mins or so trying to cancel. The firt time I called, the call was just simply disconnected after 20 mins. I'm very disappointed with the way they do business. I'll see how many product reviews I can submit before they finally answer the phone.
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on September 4, 2007
Just hooked up a new HD Tivo, and so far it's great. I'm using it on plain ATSC antenna connection. My Series 2 Tivo wasn't very great with just an antenna, it got the snowy SD picture I get out here in the country, then compressed it. Not pretty.

The Tivo HD good:
-Beautiful picture quality, looks as good watching through my TV.
-Same easy setup and software.
-Tivo HD's ATSC tuner seems better than my Samsung 42" plasma's tuner, it got a channel my plasma couldn't.
-2 Tuners, that is VERY nice.
-The TV volume control didn't work well on my S2, you had to keep hitting the volume to affect any change. The Tivo HD volume control of my TV works great.
-More pretty lights to look at than the 3 on the S2.
-Has a pretty nice channel tuning signal strength screen
-The aspect ratio management seems better than that my TV provides. For some reason my TV won't let me zoom on letterboxed 16:9 semi-HD programming.

The bad:
-I read non-Tivo adapters don't work and my old USB wireless adapter really didn't work. Gotta shell out for the Tivo one. So for now I had to string a phone cord across the kitchen and living room.
-Interface seems slow at times.
-Channel setup was awkward. Tivo asked my ZIP code and city, then loaded a default channel list. Most were channels I couldn't receive. Then I had Tivo scan for channels and it told me it found 21 channels. Well it didn't deselect the not found channels from the list. So I unselected all channels from the list and scanned again, it still didn't select the found channels on the channel list. Weird.

Update March 2008: TivoHD is still working great. Upgraded the hard drive. 20HD hours was just getting too restrictive when I don't watch TV every day to keep up. Original hard drive was 160GB Western Digital SATA, new hard drive was a hand-me-down 320GB WD, so now I have double the space. To do this you have to remove the hard drive from the TivoHD and mount it and the new drive to a Windows PC. I used $12 SATA->USB convertors from NewEgg. Then use a program called WinMFS to copy it to another hard drive. You can choose to copy just the TIvo system or the Tivo System and previously recorded programs. If you copy the programs it takes a couple hours when the drives are hooked up via USB.

Then put the new drive in your Tivo and you're off. I'm keeping the original Tivo drive intact in case I ever need it.

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on April 4, 2009
At face, Tivo seems a popular company with a decent quality product/service. However, my first experience adding Tivo to my household was not a good one. The Tivo HD box I got from Amazon arrived with a defective HDMI port and a problem with static/background signal on the audio. It took hours on the phone with Tivo customer service to finally conclude this was a hardware defect and not just due to needing a Tivo software update (software updates are a hassle with the Tivo, and are required to be able to stream Netflix movies or Amazon video-on-demand). I will say that Tivo's customer service is acceptable, but I think that at $12.95 a month for the Tivo service plus another $250 for a Tivo HD box, the cost-to-value ratio is unfavorable. In any case, I returned the defective Tivo HD unit and am grateful to's customer service for providing a pre-paid UPS return shipping label and for giving me a small account credit to compensate me for the hassle. After my nightmare with this Tivo HD box, I opted not to get a replacement, and instead to buy a Roku player (streams Netflix and Amazon video on demand to my 40 inch samsung LCD TV, via an HDMI port that actually works as it should!). While I was on the phone with Tivo to get a refund for my first month of service, the agent tried to convince me that the defects with my Tivo HD were probably due to Amazon storing the box for so long in a warehouse and not due poor quality control/components in the Tivo HD, and then offered to sell me a new box, direct from Tivo, for $199. I declined. All said, Tivo has good customer service, but needs to improve their hardware quality and stop trying to make a killing off both their hardware and their monthly service rates. If I was a shareholder, I'd try to convince them to sell these boxes at break-even prices and make their money off the monthy service rates.
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TiVO, one of the greatest A/V inventions ever. TiVO HD, with this extended hard drive (Western Digital My DVR Expander 500 GB eSATA Desktop External Hard Drive WDG1S5000VN), is outstanding. About a year ago I had Comcast install an MCard Cablecard in my TiVO - that means one card, one fee to Comcast; but both tuners can how tune HD. MCard stands for Multiple Stream cablecard.

The awesomeness of TiVO - the software is outstanding and intuitive. When my son was 5, he picked up the remote and understood exactly how to use the machine. Yes it needs an update and refresh to make it look more modern - but it's hard to improve on something that works this well. Programs are recorded by name and date - so you select things to watch in a simple intuitive manner.

The key things to buy. The hard drive on this unit is miniscule, 20 hours of HD programming. Purchase the WD DVR extender, and get 80 hours of HD and something like 250 hours of standard def. You'll never fill this thing up. Only one DVR or eSATA drive works with TiVO - you have to purchase the Western Digital, don't even attempt something else. I've had that drive for over 2 years and it still works perfectly (runs 24 x 7 since the day I plugged it in).

The added bonus with TiVO HD - you can stream Netflix. The video quality is outstanding, better than DVD, not quite BluRay. Go to the Netflix website to understand what movies are available for streaming. The other cool bonus, you can do Amazon Unbox / Video On Demand - or rent / purchase movies downloaded directly to your TiVO. They have started offering HD movies in dobly digital 5.1 - so a step up from Netflix. But you have to download the whole movie.

The not so great - there is no on off switch. If the unit jams (and it does about 1 in 10 times with Netflix streaming), you have to unplug, wait 30 seconds, replug in, and then wait the roughly 5 minutes for the restart. It's painful.
The remote is a mixed blessing. It fits in your hand well, buttons are intuitive (we have two for the family room, and all the names are completely worn off the buttons), and you can navigate the buttons by feel alone. The down side, the remote can't do more than input, volume, and mute for a television / A/V receiver. It's just not programmable.

With this TiVO, you can record off of cable (the cablecard is not necessary unless you want HD content), or off the air with an antenna. Off the air, you will receive both standard def and digital / HD channels (no decoder necessary or cablecard for this purpose). Both cable and antenna can be connected simultaneously.

You will need a phone, network, or wireless adapter (TiVo AG0100 Wireless G USB Network Adapter for TiVo Series 2 and Series 3 DVRs - do not buy any other adapter than this one - trust me I know what I'm saying); cable or antenna connector; and an HDMI cable for output. That's it. As you can see from the pictures for this product, there are also S-Video and Component video output. There is Red and White Left and Right channel audio; and SPDIF optical output. This is a very well stocked set of outputs.

Tech support is outstanding. The people on the other end love TiVO as much as you will, and are willing to talk you through just about any problem.

I have two other TiVO's in the house - one is 6 years old. It still works flawlessly. Darn, I wish I had purchased lifetime subscription when I bought all three of these. Stupid me.
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on June 22, 2008
Right now, the TiVo or a cable/satellite company DVR appear to be the only straightforward options for recording programs in full high definition. I would give this five stars for doing that job exceptionally well, but there are enough issues for me to dock it a star. My setup consists of cable, wireless broadband, an up to date A/V receiver and a high quality 42" plasma display.

My short takes:

- Very easy to use. Nearly idiot-proof.
- The manual is clear, well organized and well written (a rarity nowadays with consumer electronics).
- The rear panel has every A/V connection option you're likely to need.
- On-screen menus are intuitive and easy to use.
- Records digital/HD programing with no apparent loss of picture/audio quality.
- Can record two programs simultaneously while playing back a third.
- Mechanically, it's virtually silent.
- Ethernet or wireless USB internet access provides entertainment options beyond watching and recording TV.
- The 160G hard drive provides ample space (up to 180+ hours) for analog broadcast/cable recordings.

Not Good:
- Advertising on the main menu.
- Set up can be a hassle if you plan to use the CableCard feature.
- Too many menu choices for routine use. I have not found a way to streamline them.
- Wireless USB can be a little touchy. Once it's set up, try not to mess around with the connection.
- No simple on/off button to place the unit in standby.
- 160G hard drive can be somewhat limiting (up to 20 hours) for digital/HD recordings.

- Expensive.
- Audio "thump" when switching between digital cable channels.

Now for the really long takes:

I had problems setting it up. The first unit was a dud. Amazon was very good at promptly replacing it with no additional shipping costs. The second unit was fine but getting the CableCard installed and working was a big headache. Those problems were on the part of my cable company, but they eventually got it right. I was able to use the TiVo for basic cable right away, but it was almost a month before I had the digital cable channels. If you are considering this in place of a digital cable box don't expect CableCard installation to go without a hitch. It's not like the old days where you'd get a "cable-ready" TV or VCR and simply plug it in. Aside from the CableCard, the setup is extremely simple. Once everything is hooked up, you are guided on screen, step by step through the setup. The whole process only takes a few minutes.
It's expensive. There's the up-front cost of the box, USB hub for wireless internet and the subscription fee. My initial cost was over $450 for everything. If you are looking forward to lower ongoing costs over renting a cable box, be aware that this will take a few years to pay for itself in monthly savings.
There is a very annoying audio "thump" when switching between some functions and digital cable channels. I don't encounter it on analog channels. It could be a problem with the specific unit I have, but I don't want to go through an exchange and another setup process. I'm using the optical input on my receiver for the audio. I haven't tried the HDMI connection yet. When I do, I'll add a note if it makes a difference.
Another thing I really dislike is advertising clutter on the main menu. Along with all of the main TiVo functions, there is always at least one or two other items that can take you to some sort of promotion or extra service. I'm not against advertising or ad supported services, but for the somewhat steep subscription fee, I would like the ability to opt out and keep the main menu tidy.
The main and subsequent sub-menus feature many functional choices, some of which I rarely use. I have not found a way to streamline and reorganize them according to the way I normally use the TiVo. At least they're straightforward and fairly intuitive. The overall cost, audio glitch, inability to create new or customize exsisting menus and advertising are where I dock it a star.
There is no on/off button! It's not a big deal, but I find it rather odd. To place the unit in standby, you need to access standby through an on screen menu. To turn it back on, you hit the TiVo button on the remote, which is the button that always takes you to the main menu. It will record normally and receive program information when in standby, but you won't be able to access anything on it from your computer if you use the TiVo Desktop home network feature. Also, you need to leave your computer on if you want to use the TiVo to access photos, music, transferred programs, etc. stored there. The Amazon Unbox feature along with a variety of free and subscription based music services make the TiVo a good central entertainment hub.
You can select different record quality settings for analog broadcast and cable programs, but not for digital and HD. Digital and HD are at a fixed bit rate which limits record time to approximately 20 hours. Analog can go from around 30 to over 180 hours depending upon the setting. For digital/HD, 20 hours should plenty of time under most circumstances, but you will want to keep that space limit in mind if you are saving anything indefinitely or go away on a long vacation. You can save programs to a VCR, DVD recorder, or send them to your computer if they are not copy protected. An external (and relatively expensive) high-capacity hard drive is also available to extend record time. Western Digital WDG1S5000VN 500GB My DVR Expander eSATA
Recordings are virtually flawless for digital/HD programs. You get full resolution with no visible artifacts, and Dolby 5.1 audio remains intact. Recordings are also excellent on the high quality settings for analog as well. After decades of putting up with mediocre looking recordings from a VCR (and later, a DVD recorder), it's a real pleasure to enjoy recordings that are indistinguishable from the original broadcast.
You have the usual transport functions such as play, pause, fast forward and fast backwards. It's not a VCR, so you never have to rewind! There is no stop button. To stop watching a recording, switch to live TV or the main menu. The TiVo will remember where you left off. The Season Pass feature is a real blessing if you try to follow a TV series that has an erratic first-run schedule. You can select a program and set the Season Pass to record first-run episodes only. It also compensates for special, longer running episodes and schedule changes. There is one thing you still have to watch out for, it doesn't automatically compensate for sporting events running overtime. If you are recording a sporting event, and/or programming that follows it, the TiVo will operate according to the "official" schedule. You will have to set extra recording time manually to compensate. It's easy to do, but you should be aware of it.
If TiVo could get the costs down and take care of the few issues I mentioned above, I wouldn't hesitate for a moment to give this five stars. It's the Holy Grail if you are looking for an easy to use way of recording television programs with no loss of quality. The picture/sound quality issue was at the top of my wish list. It not only met, but exceeded my expectations on that count. If you have internet access, it also becomes a very flexible entertainment center.
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on October 24, 2007
Update Jan-2009: DO NOT GET A TIVO if you are hoping to use TivoToGo. After a couple of years of waiting for software and buying multiple upgrades to download HD content to a Mac/iTunes, it's all a waste because almost ALL recordings are now marked "copy protected' by the cable company (TimeWarner), so Tivo won't let you download them to your computer for later viewing.

TivoHD is a great product and affordably priced, though don't forget to factor in monthly or annual service fees. Complaint: $300 for the box plus $300 for subscription should get you lifetime service, instead of just three years.

It's really nice to be back with a Tivo after going the PC (BeyondTV) route for a while. Tivo is a *much* better interface than TimeWarner's Scientific Atlanta boxes, and messing with home brew DVRs gets old fast.

TivoToGo is available for TivoHD as of Nov 2007 but unfortunately a lot of HD video, like anything on HBOHD, is NOT transferable (DRM restrictions).

Also, many digital channels are transmitted using "Switched Video", like Austin TimeWarner's CNNHD, MTVHD, and LOGO, so they will not be available on your Tivo because the current CableCARD spec does not support it. Incredible - over 10 years after the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and cable companies still require us to rent a set top box.

Amazon Unbox video ordering is really convenient, I don't mind them not being DVD quality, but they really need to support closed captioning / subtitles. And if you're going to charge as much as a DVD, you should provide the DVD extras.

Btw, the HDMI and component video outputs work at the same time -- this is really convenient for connecting your TivoHD to your main big screen LCD, and running component (three RCA) and audio (two RCA) cables to other rooms in your house. I did have to use a powered component video splitter box (model HDDA-2).
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