TiVo HD DVR Page 2

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PERFORMANCE TiVo offers some features that I've yet to see in a cable-leased box. One is remote scheduling by computer. For example, one day at work I realized I had forgotten to record the AMC series Mad Men, and I knew I wouldn't be home in time to do it. By logging onto MyTiVo, I was able to view my program guide and set the recording. TiVo even sent me a confirming email.

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What I find most intriguing is that unlike the proprietary boxes leased by your cable company, TiVo HD isn't just for cable. It enables you to tune and record over-the-air analog or digital stations, download content from the Internet, and serve as a media receiver to stream photos and music from a networked computer. Considering that both cable operators and broadcasters may overly compress programs in order to squeeze in more channels, it's enlightening that TiVo's ability to buffer or record a cable and over-the-air source simultaneously lets you see for yourself who delivers the better-looking pictures. Incidentally, just because a DTV station is multicasting channels doesn't guarantee your cable system carries them all. In that case, TiVo's inclusiveness makes you less dependent on cable.

Another convenience feature I haven't seen on cable-leased DVRs with dual tuners: When you call up the info screen while watching either tuner, you can see what program is being buffered or recorded on the other. That's a nice touch, especially if you've accepted the default setting of letting TiVo record its suggestions and you're wondering why one of the red front-panel LEDs indicating recording-in-progress is lit up. (If you're not familiar with this classic TiVo feature, you can set any TiVo box to temporarily fill up the hard drive with programs based on types of shows you've instructed it to record or by rating shows using the thumbs up/thumbs down buttons (up to three presses each to express intensity of feeling). I've never been a fan of what I liken to a demon recorder, and I usually shut it off, but occasionally I unleash the feature and TiVo grabs something that I'm glad I didn't miss. In a multi-person household, he or she who applies the thumbs will most likely be pleasantly surprised by the genre of programs recorded automatically. (My wife never presses them and as result spends more time playing Wordsmith, a Scrabble-like game that comes with TiVo, than watching the sci-fi fare that TiVo has assembled on its own.)

Another great feature of special interest to extended families is home-movie sharing. Rather than burning a DVD of your son's home run and mailing it to your parents, for example, you can share home movies with them via the equivalent of a private TiVo channel. You upload your videos from a computer to TiVo partner One True Media (www.onetruemedia.com). Anyone with a broadband-connected TiVo whom you'd like to make part of the audience will find your videos ready to watch on his or her Now Playing list. One True Media memberships start at $3.99 a month.

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