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Let me start by saying that I too did a lot of research before buying. I did buy a Sony Ultimate TV receiver instead of the RCA. I do have an RCA Direct TV receiver as well. Since buying a receiver is tied to buying a service along with it, I think a few comments relevant to Ultimate TV vs. TIVO is relevant to Amazon customers.
If you surf the web, and type in Ultimate TV vs. TIVO into a major search engine, like or Yahoo, you will be lead to sites with very elaborate, feature-by-feature comparisons of the two. You will notice that the older they are, the more they favor TIVO. The newer they are, the more they become balanced between the two. I will tell you up front, that Microsoft is behind Ultimate TV. The receivers are built for the future of viewing, with built in twin USB ports, and a LPT1 printer port. They are hardly functional at the moment, but the future is only a little bit around the corner. The TIVO receivers I have seen don't have any of that, so the future of viewing is not even in the running. I don't plan on having to upgrade hardware anytime soon, since hardware upgrades are simple add ons with the USB-Universal Serial Bus system.
If Netscape Navigator was any lesson, we learned that when Microsoft gets into a competition, the investing world bails out of backing the competitor. I see that happening here also. The hardware is futuristic, the software is something that they download, free of charge, on a regular basis. I read many comments about the search features of Ultimate TV being a little less than desirable. I didn't have the unit more than 2 days, and lo and behold, I woke up the second morning, turned on the unit, and had an upgrade from Ultimate TV with over 30 enhancements to the search functions loaded on the machine.
When Internet Explorer first came out, it was free, but not as good as Netscape Navigator. Then an upgraded version came out, and it was superior to Netscape's Navigator. That is truly what I believe will happen with the TIVO-Ultimate TV wars.
These receivers are bought with more than just a few weeks use in mind. My RCA Direct TV receiver has been in use for over a year. I did experience a failure of my first one, after only 6 months. On the other hand, I have a Sony Direct TV receiver, which is about 2 years old, and that unit has given me zero problems. I had read the reviews pertaining to reliability, and that drove me to choose the Sony Ultimate TV receiver.
Pertaining to the intuitive nature of the control functions, it did have a slight learning curve to it. The logic of how it is designed is refreshing, once you learn the simple commands. I have heard complaints of not being able to erase a recording quick enough> I think it takes me about 3 to 5 seconds to do it now. A warning screen comes up to make sure you do not erase something you want to keep. One more quick click, and your in.
Ultimate TV receivers by Sony also come with a keyboard, and three free hours of Web TV service. You can surf the web in your TV. The future of computerization will integrate your TV, Video experience, and your audio into one system. I could write a book about how excited I am about that, but it would not be serving the interests of the subject at heart.
As all others have told you, once you experience the Ultimate TV-TIvo experience, you will not ever want to go back to watching TV the old way again. An advantage of Ultimate TV over TIVO is the commercial skip feature. Commercials are 30 seconds. U-TV fast skip forward button is able to skip single whole commercials at a time. Very exacting. TIVO on the other hand only has a fast forward feature, or fast rewind. Invariably, what happens in that situation, is that you have to try and stop the fast forward at the end of the 6th commercial, or however many are running. You always over shoot it, then need to rewind, then fast forward, then reverse, and finally get to it. Not the right tool for the job. Some say that feature alone is worth it, in your decision of Ultimate TV over TIVO. This is only the beginning. I am telling you that Ultimate TV will reign supreme in the Star Wars. Regardless of my feelings of the fairness of the Microsoft stranglehold, I am a pragmatic enough to realize what the best bet in digital recorded TV-Video-Audio is. It is simply a matter of software upgrades, which are automatic, for the victory to be won, and that is Microsoft's strength.
TIVO came out in 1999 with a big head start. Ultimate TV has been out for a shorter time, so it is a matter of catch up. The advantage is that MSFT has the TIVO service as a study guide, and they have the developing teams to take it to the next level.
I know this review has not been a blow-by-blow analysis of the difference between the two. Since that very elaborate information is covered very thoroughly, on web sites accessible by the major search engines, as stated earlier, I thought the herein contained comments are something essential in your buying decision.
I have found the current functionality of Ultimate TV to be very intuitive, and easy to use. Like all other software or feature rich systems, you have to get into the objectives at hand, to understand the methods of accomplishing them. It is easy to use. Learning all the cool new things you can do takes a little while longer. That is more of a result of breaking into new ground, as compared to being a design function irregularity.
Go with Ultimate TV. I don't think TIVO is a bad system; as a matter of fact I am sure it is great. I just think that it will not be the Ultimate TV service of our future.
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on September 15, 2001
I bought this because I got an open box special at a local store and had been wanting some kind of video recorder for some time. The remote control is very confusing and awkward to use... in addition, the delay between pressing a button and the machine actually doing something seems like eons. IT IS REALLY SLOW! I think the main advantage of this unit is being able to record two things at once or watch one thing while recording another. It even has picture in picture. But aside from the PiP, the new DirecTV TiVo units do this as well (mine got a software upgrade as soon as I plugged it in to the phone line). I can't complain about the recording quality or the on screen display. Both are quite nice.
I ordered a Philips DSR6000 DirecTV w/TiVo from Amazon just the other day and I must say I am infinitely thrilled with it. I would never go back to Ultimate TV.
Unless you want the WebTV stuff or interactive TV features (really just a call to WebTV too), don't bother with this thing! Get a DirecTV receiver with TiVo instead! The setup process is the same and both services go right onto your DirecTV bill with one phone call. The TiVo software is so much more robust and fun to use. UltimateTV is also seriously lacking one of the best features of TiVo: Season Pass (automatically record a show every time it is on and skips reruns). I also enjoy the optional automatic recording of TiVo suggestions based upon your own thumbs up/down ratings. Sorry, but I wouldn't recommend this or any other UltimateTV unit to anyone.
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on June 9, 2001
and I think some of the negative reviews are more Microsoft/Gates bashing than they are product reviews. I replaced an older RCA unit with this new combination unit and have been nothing but thrilled. My old Tivo was a disappointment because it frequently locked up and required rebooting (unplug, wait 30 secs and plug it back in). The Ultimate TV portion of this unit has thus far performed flawlessly and even brief power outages have not affected it (it, like the Tivo before it, are on small UPS units). The DirecTV functions are just fine. The menus are quite quick, based on the same processor as most other RCA units and now the industry standard at 32 bits. The picture in picture works fine, though it requires that you run 2 separate coax cables in from your dish (you cannot split it inside, and so you may need a 4:1 downblock at the dish, unless you have a dual LNB dish and are only using one side of the output). I agree the PIP is a bit limited, but it's also very simple to operate and I think it's going to be a hit during football season, especially when coupled with live-action pause (Sunday Ticket will be even better!). The DirecTV subscription adds $9.95 to your monthly bill, which enables all the Tivo-like functions; Tivo was also $9.95. As a bonus, this unit gives you direct access to the internet and as a result, an extra place to get your email or browse if you're having a hard time getting PC time at home. Lastly, the DirecPC includes very good connections for your home theater, including optical sound and SuperVideo outputs. This is a Swiss Army knife for home theater and I am very satisfied.
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on May 22, 2001
Sure, Its a great thing to pause live tv, but it sure isn't worth what I paid for my new receiver. I've been a directv subscrber for about 2 years and love it,. I bought the receiver,..the setup went smoothly, but I had to call twice also. I spent a good part of the day playing around with it, and found that I couldn't schedule recordings of baseball cames that I get on the Extra Innings package until they appear on the program guide. (2hrs before broadcast) This is very frustrating because that is the main reason why I purchased the thing in the first place. I am going to return it, cause I cant see paying..[this much] a month for it. I will wait until more features become available, and the price comes down. It would be nice to see a Hughes reciever equiped with Ultimate TV, I prefer the onscreen menu's that Hughes brands have over the sluggish RCA, Maybe I'll check out TIVO and see if they're any better
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on January 22, 2002
We purchased this unit in September. We loved all of the features and quite frankly became addicted to watching what we wanted when we wanted. During the first week of January we began losing reception of a few channels. "Searching for satellite signal" is all it would display. After a few days we called their tech support. They had us unplug the unit to reset it. Now, instead of missing just a few channels we had no reception, period. After several calls over a period of a week we decided to pull out our 7 year old RCA receiver and reactivate that. Since then the UltimateTV has been collecting dust. Apparently UltimateTV requires that all the DirecTV transponders be functioning in order to "set up" and receive a signal. Three or more transponders are down so new UltimateTVs and ones that hve been rebooted will not work. DirecTV said it will be a month before this problem is resolved. That was three weeks ago and that is also what they said today. Unless you want an expensive paper weight do not buy this product. What amazes me is that there has been no press on this and that they are still selling these worthless units.
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on January 15, 2002
Let me start by saying that I have a Sony Ultimate TV Receiver rather than an RCA but I believe my complaints are useful because the Ultimate TV service is the same. I purchased the receiver 12/28/01, had it professionally installed, and now, 1/15/02 still have not been able to receive Ultimate TV programming. There seems to be a technical problem sending the signals to the new receiver. I even returned the receiver and got another one. Nothing. I can use my original RCA DirecTV receiver and get programming but as soon as I hook up the new Sony, ZIP, NADA, NOTHING. The DirecTV and Ultimate TV Customer service reps have been useless. They all tell you to unplug the set, leave it off for 15 minutes and start it again. It does nothing but get you out of their hair for a few minutes. Several have had me press an arcane series of buttons then enter a numeric code, all to no avail. After 1 week of calling someone finally told me that certain areas are having problems receiving the signal and that their engineers are working diligently on the problem. That doesn't help me and my wallet in light of the price that I paid. Want some advice? Wait for a year for the prices to come down, and for them to work out the bugs!
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on September 21, 2001
I chose 1 star only because zero was not an option. I bought this product May 18th of this year (2001). I have had problems with it starting this month (Sept 2001). The reciever 1)has a faulty power supply 2) will not allow me to view local channels, and 3) randomly deletes hard drive recordings when the hard drive is not even close to being full. I called customer support to have the product replaced since it is only 4 months old. Believe it or not they asked me to pay more money to have this done. I originally spent close to $... on this product, which includes the dish. This is not good customer support. In fact, it is a complete joke, and i'll never buy an RCA product again. I strongly advise anyone thinking about purchasing RCA products to think again. You'll definitely be sorry in my opinion!
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on May 21, 2001
This is the best you can get for digital video recording. There's no question in comparing this product to Tivo. UTV has a dual tuner, which allows you to watch/record two shows that are on at the same time and it has WebTV integrated with the system. Tivo has none of that, and is about the same in price. Ultimate TV has all the other features Tivo has, including Live TV controls (Pause, rewind, instant replay, slow-mo, frame-by-frame) and 35 hours (5 more than Tivo) of Digital Video Recording. The only drawbacks are that this only works with DirecTV through an exclusive licence, and this unit currently does not have an HDTV converter (although future product upgrades might). Tivo is not compatible with HDTV either. Also, the screen is much more attractive and easier to use that Tivo's. As far as what is currently available on the market for Digital Video Recording and Live TV controls, Ultimate TV has it all and much more.
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on July 28, 2002
Bought the Ultimate TV for myself (w/ DirecTV) and helped a friend buy a Tivo (she knew the name and wanted Tivo, not any knock-offs).
The UltimateTV compression algorithm seems a lot better than her Tivo (it's working with digital cable). She has a lot of pixelation, and even at the lowest quality setting, her 35 hour Tivo can't record as much as my 35 hour UltimateTV (?? why I don't know)
I can't speak highly enough about UltimateTV.
The graphics aren't pretty, but the UI is good.
Hope this helps you make a buying decision. I'm back on the site right now buying another unit for my dad. That alone proves I'm a believer.
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on January 4, 2003
Worked fine for six months, although the only feature I really used was recording on the hard drive. Then the unit quit. I called RCA and after describing the symptoms - continuously blinking power light, no signal - they said the unit was not repairable and, of course, the warranty had expired. They said they would send me a replacement unit for ($$$), to which I reluctantly agreed. They charged my credit card but two months later they still had not shipped the unit. I canceled the order and I'm now looking into buying a DirecTV TiVo. I'm happy to see that no longer carries the RCA product - probably too many complaints.
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