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VINE VOICEon April 5, 2010
This is finally a worthy successor to the Tivo Series 2. While there have been 2 previous HD Tivos before, their relative cost and the lack of available options for lifetime subscription made them unattractive financially compared with the cable company DVR. If you purchase directly from Tivo, there is a (...) lifetime subscription option to those with a previous lifetime subscription. That makes this a worthwhile deal, even if it takes about 30+ months to break even.

If you've not used a Tivo before, I would say it is head and shoulders above Comcast's ugly, ill-conceived interface. If you've used Verizon, it will be a step up, but not nearly so dramatic. If you've used Tivo before, you'll feel right at home. It's basically the 8 year old Tivo interface that's been spiced up here and there, with supporting links to Netflix & Blockbuster for streaming movies.

This Tivo requires an M-Series cable card if you're not recording from an antenna. If you're not sure, call your cable company to see if they support it. Verizon did struggle with this question, although eventually I found someone to confirm the Verizon cable card supports multi-stream. However, the Verizon tech they sent was helpful and had the job complete in about 15 minutes.

Although the Tivo supports resolutions up to 1080P, it is only available at 1080p/24, so if you have a slightly older set that only supports 1080p/60, you'll have to drop back to 1080i. That isn't spelled out anywhere on Tivo's site, although it probably doesn't make much of a difference.

This Tivo networks nicely with older Tivo's allowing you to transfer video between them, although it's not possible to transfer from an HD Tivo to a SD Tivo, although the reverse works nicely. You can also use the Tivo Desktop (a free download) to transfer to your PC. You can even save it to watch later or on your portable (Google "kmttg tivo").

I won't write a review of the Tivo interface. More people have done it better than I could, so Google for reviews. You should know, although the new menus are in high definition, once you get away from the primary menus, it drops back to the old 480/SD menus. The only reason I can tell is the screen on the TV flips a bit until it resyncs with the lower resolution.

This version of the Tivo has a backlit remote, although by default that isn't turned on. It also supports separate volume and muting with an A/V receiver, although it doesn't give you the ability to turn it on with your remote. My A/V receiver did not work with the codes provided, but a chat with Tivo pointed me to a page on their support site where you'll find the new Tivo has a "learning" remote. That did the trick.

If you use Tivo's Chat support, the agents are well-informed and patient.

I've had one brief incident as I messed around with various menus where the HDMI lost sound sync with the TV. A quick resync through the A/V receiver got me back and running in a few seconds. Time will tell if that was a one-time glitch or a problem.

Previous Tivos have worked with Amazon video on demand (which works reasonably well). Now there are additional options to select high-def material, and you also have options to download from Blockbuster and Netflix. Keep in mind there is a charge for this type of on-demand movie, similar to what you'd expect from your cable company. However, this function is integrated beautifully into the overall search function. As an example, let's say you're interested in a program such as "Chuck". As you search for the program, not only will it find the upcoming episodes on TV, but will also present you with the complete episode guide, giving you the options to either record from cable/antenna, or for shows that aren't available you can download them to your Tivo to watch. That's very clever and convenient.

Overall, it's an expensive purchase, but Tivo does their best not to make you feel stupid for buying it.
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on April 15, 2010
I've had a TiVo or two since the Series 1.

Some observations:

1.) Bought one here from Amazon and one from TiVo directly. Buying from Amazon is just so much better than buying from the manufacturer... TiVo shipped theirs via some weird shipping arrangement, whereas Amazon Prime ships it 2-day and tracking is always accurate. I had an upgrade offer from TiVo, but by the time they charge tax, etc. the price was like $429 and Amazon's $499 price on this was offset by their $50 Amazon OnDemand credit - so kind of an ok deal to go with Amazon. A no-brainer if you don't have a TiVo upgrade offer.

2.) These units are slick-looking. Sure, some people will complain that they have lost their fancy clock on the front, etc., but the thinner height and black case are great - looks great with our 40" LCD sitting on top of it.

3.) Smoothest install ever - and that was with Comcast. Comcast in my area (Pittsburgh) drives me nuts - in fact, these new TiVos were impulse buys after Comcast screwed us with not being able to "transfer" two of their DVR's with our recordings on them to our new address - they said it simply wasn't possible and they would need to collect the boxes and give us new ones. Yep, we lost all of our recordings on their boxes. Idiots. So I was surprised when the installer showed up with the CableCards and we had two of them up-and-running in 15 minutes. Quite a bit different than my first TiVo CableCard installs from yesteryear. But probably a few things in my favor:

A.) When booking the appointment, I stressed I needed the installer to bring M-cards (multistream) instead of S-cards (single stream). I also stressed to them that the installer should actually bring 4 of them, as it is not uncommon to have bad cards floating around in inventory, etc. I stressed that these notes be placed in the work order prominently. Low and behold - the installer showed up on-time, with M-cards and 4 of them!

B.) The installer hadn't done many and was more than willing to let me guide the process. I had the boxes set-up and through Guided Setup, latest system software upgrade installed, etc. before the appointment so that all that was needed was popping the M-card in. I also showed him best practice of taking a picture with my iPhone of the CableCard (to capture serial number and such) *before* putting the card in (b/c ejecting the card after inserting it can re-generate new pairing info, etc.) and recording the relevant information that appears on the screen after inserting the card. I can't tell you how many prior CableCard appointments I've had where the installer has jacked things up so badly by popping them out so many times to get information or doublecheck if it was a 0 (zero) or an O (oh). If only Comcast would let customers pick-up the cards and install them themselves... I thought some areas did, but the Pittsburgh market evidently doesn't as I asked several people (on the phone, in person at the service center, etc.).

C.) You have no control over this one, BUT I LUCKED OUT - the back-office person the installer called into to activate the CableCards was *COMPETENT*. He didn't even need to repeat one digit of any number and the person on the backend properly entered the information, told us to go to the Info screen and wait til a MSG count went past 3500 and voila - all channels, even premium channels, worked perfectly from the start.

It seems Comcast has gotten a lot better with CableCards ever since their newer set-top boxes are required by the FCC to have CableCards in them (permanently mounted, but nonetheless, they are CableCards and work the same way on their system as they would on third-party boxes. Or, I recognize that after years of bad Comcast service, I was finally overdue for a great experience.

4.) ABSOLUTELY NO LOCKUPS or problems here - at all - in my two weeks I've had them. I don't know why other people are having such issues other than luck of the draw - but my experience has been perfect.

5.) I was introduced to iTivo for the Mac - which is awesome! Transfers and converts TiVo shows (none copyright flagged content) to a number of formats - even imports into iTunes for auto transfer onto your iPhone for on-the-go viewing.

What am I disappointed with? A few things - typical TiVo moves:

* Why can't they build wireless into these boxes? Having an external adapter stinks.

* Along those lines, why release your latest boxes and THEN a month or two later plan on making available a Wireless-N adapter for the box. Being stuck with Wireless-G to transfer recordings is lousy. Yes you can use a 3rd-party wireless bridge, etc. and I used to do that kind of stuff, but these days I just want solutions that work well out of the box!

* TiVo did indeed get these boxes out before they are polished. It's kind of lousy that the HD menus are rather topical and when you drop down into deeper menus the old standard-def stuff is still there. The boxes can be a bit laggy when doing things on them. I still hate the fact that flipping through digital channels is slower than old-school TV's - and on TiVo there's like 3-5 seconds of gray screen between each channel.

* TiVo is a bit abusive on their subscription model. Basically, their goal is to lock you into a contract which you basically can't escape from. I've paid an early termination fee from them before and wasn't happy about it, but hey, I signed what I signed and knew it from the start...

All in all though, very happy with our purchases of these two and our luck with CableCards this go-around. We'll be close to getting pay-back on the purchase of the equipment after 2-years of not paying $16 per Comcast DVR - and have a lot more functionality/flexibility to boot.

I hope the above has been helpful - just always know what you are getting into with technology. The reviews from people that had no clue CableCards were needed/used are useless - that information is everywhere. If you aren't willing to deal with growing pains associated with emerging technology, just stick to the cable company's boxes - you'll get some stability with the trade-off of less functionality.
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on January 29, 2011
Per TiVo customer service in an email sent to us today, "As stated, the $99 Premiere (and the $299 Premiere XL, also mentioned) are eligible for $19.99 monthly service only. Unfortunately, our Multi-Service Discount pricing cannot be applied to these boxes." We own a TiVo box with a LifeTime Service Agreement which qualifies us for the Multi-Service Discount per TiVo's published Agreement online. We bought a Premiere and an XL for use with Verizon FIOS based on that Agreement as published on the TiVo website. We would not have bought them if we had not expected to get the MSD pricing. When we requested this pricing, TiVo informed us that our purchases from Amazon were a promotional bundle and not eligible for anything other than the $19.95 monthly service fee each. This is not mentioned (a) in the Amazon presentation of these items or (b) in the Multi-Service Discount Agreement. TiVo quoted us a payment plan document and apparently their feeling is that this document is more important than the published MSD Agreement and overrides it.

So be very careful - if you don't buy the box from TiVo, you're going to be paying the $19.95 monthly fee per box whether you have existing MSDs in place or not. In our case, that's an additional service fee of $120 per year per box which we think wasn't advertised adequately and is not stated in the MSD Agreement. We will ask Amazon to update their webpage and TiVo to update their agreement to make this fixed price agreement clear to purchasers. But if you read this before the companies take any corrective actions, at least you'll know that the current pricing is a promotional bundle and it effectively keeps you from getting any kind of other monthly rate except for $19.95.

I have rated this purchase a 1 because of the misleading and expensive situation. We have been TiVo customers since 2001 and like the service. But we are very disappointed in TiVo's actions here. They reflect on the business side of the company very badly, in our opinion. Someone used the words "bait and switch" in another posting. Whether it meets the technical definition is hard for us to know, but it certainly feels like that is what happened here to us.
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on April 16, 2010
This is my fourth TiVo box, and I upgraded only because the hard drive in my Series3 died (for the second time in 3 years), and I didn't want to pay Weaknees $250 for a 1TB replacement drive. TiVo got me with their upgrade offer of $100 off on the Premiere XL, so I got it for "only" $399 and bought it directly from TiVo.

I've had the unit working for about a week now, and I am definitely less than impressed. As others have noted, the UI is very inconsistent, and there are numerous areas where you default back into the old, 480i Series2 or Series3 screens. There is still the inconsistency between Netflix and Amazon pages (which also use the low res screens) and the rest of the UI. Worse, the screen often flashes or turns grey for a moment as the unit switches resolution from 1080i so that it can display the lower res screens. It is still unacceptable for a company that built its reputation on a simple, great looking UI to produce software that looks like this, but I have gotten used to it somewhat. But my wife saw these transitions the other day and remarked "uggh, that looks awful".

My unit has crashed -- and I am mean a hard lockup -- twice in the 6 days or so it has been powered on. I had to unplug the unit and wait for the lengthy reboot process both times. If TiVo is going to build such flaky software, they need to put a reset button on the front of the unit. It is a total pain to have to deal with these crashes, especially when the system is in the middle of a recording.

From a feature perspective, the system still will not stream from a media server unless you install 3rd party (in my case beta) software. The system still wants to copy over the entire file, although you can start playing it quickly after the copying starts. Given the competition from extender boxes from various companies, this is just unacceptable.

Did I mentioned that the UI is slow? Yes, it is slowww[...]

TiVo also (at the request of copyright holders I assume) continues to lock down more and more recorded content, so you cannot save it to another computer or media server to play back later. The vast majority of my recordings on this box now prohibit transfer to any other device. I respect copyrights, and it really bugs me that TiVo is treating everyone like a crook.

Overall, I don't know what TiVo has been working on for the last 3-4 years. The software on this box is clearly immature -- it is clear no better than beta quality, and with all the crashes it might even be alpha. It is clearly not feature complete. I have hopes that it will improve as TiVo pushes out updates, but my 10 year love affair with TiVo is strained at this point. This system is NOT a worthwhile upgrade from the Series3, and it really makes me question how long TiVo will be around if this is the quality of products they are pushing out the door.
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on April 4, 2010
After reading the negative review related to the need for a CableCard, I had to respond with how the product actually operates. I found the Company's literature to be very straightforward in explaining what was required to operate the unit. The whole process worked really well for me. I had preordered the Premiere XL and it arrived on Monday, upon which I called Verizon for a CableCard. They arrived Tuesday morning and it took 10 minutes to install the card and download all the channel data. Done. Painless and works flawless. Verizon Fios folks currently charge a few bucks a month for the CableCard and did not charge me for the Tech to come over for the install.

The TiVo itself works great, exactly as outlined in the literature. The menus and search features are far easier to use for my family than any of the other company DVR's I've used in the past. I do miss the Verizon on-demand, but being able to access my Netflix online, plus the other options from Amazon and Blockbuster makes up for it. Have already used free software available on the internet to transfer shows on the TiVo to my Mac, PC, and iPhone. Takes awhile to perform the transfer, but it's many GB's of data.

Love the auto-backlit remote and the onscreen menu's are very slick. Great purchase, very happy with the unit so far. When activating with TiVo I did purchase the 3 year warranty, but the cost was offset by the Amazon On-Demand credit received when purchasing from Amazon.

Should note the unit does not have wireless capability, so if you don't have the ability to plug the unit directly into an Ethernet port, make sure you get the wireless-N accessory when purchasing.

The Optical audio out port has stopped working. TiVo is replacing my unit and making it easy, but it is a little annoying that a unit less than 30 days old has this type of malfunction. Changing my rating down to 4-stars as a result.
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on April 6, 2010
First point, I purchased this direct from TIVO as I had a special lifetime service offer. I have purchased the series one, two, three, and now this S4 box. Without question, the boxes are becoming less and less capable. The LED displays are dumber and still no wireless built in. TIVO has gone completely no frills eliminating things such as the clock, and much to my disappointment eliminating the switch button on the remote that allows you control two TIVO's in the same room independently. I was able to solve this by using the old remote (the new box can still be set to respond to a particular remote control ID).

I have had the box for a week now. I obtained a new M-Card ahead of time, and had it authorized over the phone with Comcast tech support. A few days later the card started losing channels. I'm not sure if this was a TIVO issue or not. I called to have the cable card re-initialized and it has been stable since then.

I've never wanted to give TIVO less than a million stars. This one gets 4 because it needs a lot more work. First, the new "HD Menu" system is clunky and really seems like it needs to evolve though it has potential. More importantly, I've had the TIVO box hang on me several times while navigating. Looking at the forums, it appears this is due to major bugs in the new GUI. The box gives you the option to use the old GUI, and I switched to that and the box no longer hangs. This will get sorted out in time. One thing I think is very useless in the HD GUI is the ability to see what's playing on one of your tuners in the upper corner of the screen. In the short time I've been making adjustments to the programming, I've caught the end of a show I've been recording and spotted inadvertently who is getting voted off etc. Luckily you can disable this feature in the settings menu.

The hard drives and the box itself are nice and quiet. The fans rarely run. It's nice to get this kind of capacity internal to the box. These are some early impressions. I can't really comment on speed as the new box is mostly empty of programming and the old box was fast until it was loaded with to do recordings and so on. I would recommend the box at this time, but not with the same enthusiasm I had for prior generations.
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on April 18, 2010
I bought the Premier XL knowing that it wasn't a huge step forward but it is pretty good. The problem with the machine is that the software is still in beta testing. The HD user interface freezes way too often (just search "tivo premier freeze" and you will find it). I called Tivo and they issued one patch yesterday and another is coming on the 26th. I am not returning it yet as they have extended the money back guarantee another 30 days. I was also given a credit for the pain and suffering of being a beta tester--because that is ultimately what the early adopters are being used as. If the machine wasn't ready for the market they should have waited. Then they wouldn't have this bad review on Amazon being posted. They advertise the new HD interface, which when it works is very nice, but too often it freezes. So I would wait 6 months when at that point the kinks should hopefully be worked out and then it would be worth the cost because it does work well when it works and that is the problem it doesn't always work.
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on April 28, 2010
I upgraded from the series 3 HD tivo to the new tivo premiere XL and this box is a complete disappointment. Every day the unit locks up at least once requiring me to unplug it to restart it. When it does work the menus are a joke thou the new ones do look nice they take over 10 seconds to get from one menu to the next not to mention over half the menus are the same old menus from series 3.. to play a recording I have to wait over 10 seconds from the time I hit play to when it actually starts to play and it will either play at that point or lock the unit up. To make everything worse tivo has now outsourced there customer support so I get someone who hardly speaks english to tell me all I can do is wait for the update sometime next month... Thanks alot tivo... I am returning my premiere ASAP!!
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on April 29, 2010
We just moved back from spending a few years abroad, and based on our previous experience with TiVo (DirecTiVo) and after suffering through several really poor cable company DVRs, we were really looking forward to being able to get TiVo service again.

I bought a Premiere XL and a Premiere directly from TiVo and paid for the lifetime subscription expecting the experience to be smooth sailing. However, it has not been the case. Tomorrow is the last day of my 30 day trial, and tonight I will decide whether to return the box and deal with the cable company one or deal with the crashes, lockups and buggy user interface.

Here are my thoughts:

-- The good
The new HD user interface (when it works) is quite nice, you have a window in the corner which plays the content you were watching when you entered the TiVo menu (be it recorded content or live TV) - this is a nice touch.
The discovery bar shows you 'related' content which helps discover new shows (since we fast forward through commercials and have been abroad for 4 years learning about shows which may interest us is a nice feature for us).

The TiVo search capabilities are outstanding, search by title, description and many other attributes. Create a 'Wish List' based on keywords and TiVo will record those shows for you. The swivel search is an interesting concept which appeals to me where you look up a show and then you can search for all shows that have one of the actors or are related (if you are the kind of person who spends time navigating wikipedia and find yourself linking to articles and before you know it you have navigated through 10 pages, you will really like this feature)

Having a 2 week program guide is a huge advantage over what the cable company typically offers, although with season passes TiVo does the heavy lifting of finding when shows are playing and even if they change time slot will still record them.

-- The bad
Once you navigate more than 1 level deep in the menus, the box switches to the old SD interface, with quite a long and frustrating lag when switching between the two. The initial load of the TiVo menu is also quite slow - it seems as though the hardware is underpowered. Based on the information about the device, it seems as though TiVo uses Adobe Flash for the menu system - really interesting choice for software development platform.

The box is really dependent on a high speed internet connection, and it seems to spend a LOT of time downloading content. Connected using the Wireless G adapter, the box feels extra sluggish.

The discovery bar shows ads intermixed with related content - I paid $500 + a lifetime subscription for this box - why does TiVo think I would find advertisements acceptable?

Based on our usage the 45 hours of recording time on the Premiere gets really tight very quickly especially when recording mostly HD content. If I decide to keep the boxes, I will probably buy a Western Digital My DVR Expander 1 TB eSATA Desktop External Hard Drive WDG1S10000VN (Black) to expand my recording capacity.
The multi-room viewing is a great feature, however copyright holders place more and more restrictions on being able to transfer content between devices really diminishing the value of this feature. (Not really TiVo's fault but with Fios and Uverse offering better options... I just wish I lived in an area where I could subscribe to those).

-- The ugly
The box locks up on a regular basis. This is an appliance, it is not a computer, there is no reset button on the front of the device. The only way to get the box back is to pull the plug, wait 30 seconds, plug it back in, and then wait 5 to 10 minutes for the box to restart - COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE in a hardware appliance. Any show the box was recording at the time will be truncated. It is worth mentioning that the latest software update has solved a significant number of the lock-ups, but not all of them and there is a remote key sequence which forces the new HD Menu to reboot (without restarting the entire device - Thumbs Down, Thumbs Up, Play, Play) which sometimes works.

-- Bottom line
If you can wait for a few months before buying one of these, I would recommend you do so. The device shows a lot of promise, but it is nowhere near ready for mainstream use. I am a techy and I regularly join Beta testing programs, but I don't like to subject my family to that. This product should be labeled as an early Beta.
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on April 15, 2010
I already own a Tivo HD XL, and waited for this to come out for some time....

I had hoped for cable On-Demand two way to be finally implemented, but alas, no

But what is really getting me upset is the daily lockups, most days more then once a day.... so I unplug and reboot. Already called into Tivo, and they apologized... but teething problems?

Only thing I see of use is the hard drive usage meter, but I'm seriously thinking about returning this and just getting another Tivo HD XL............

Finally..... this is abit louder then the Tivo HD XL, the hard drive noise is more noticeable
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