TiVo Series3 HD Digital Media Recorder Page 2

TiVo Series3 HD Digital Media Recorder

The Short Form
Price: $800 (plus $12.95 monthly subscription fee) / intellicontrol.com / 305-238-4373
Snapshot
TiVo's most advanced recorder yet will cost you, but it blows away DVRs leased by your cable company. Three thumbs up!
Plus
•Separate cable box is gone •Titles of shows on front panel •Viewer-centric guide and search •Backlit remote •Quick-skip commercials
Minus
•Cable visit required for CableCARD install •Requires monthly subscription •No FireWire port
Key Features
•High-def recording •Two CableCARD slots to record two shows at once off digital cable •250-GB storage •THX-certified •Inputs: antenna, cable •Outputs: HDMI, component-video, S-video, 2 composite video, optical digital audio, 2 stereo, Ethernet, 2 USB, phone •16.5 x 13 x 3.5 in; 10 lbs •Price: $800 plus $12.95 a month for TiVo service (less if prepaid 1-3 years or if you own more than one TiVo)
In contrast, I easily installed the TiVo box myself using its guided setup routine. First, I used my own cables to connect a DTV off-air antenna, an A/V receiver via optical digital audio, and an Ethernet link. The Ethernet cable allows access to your home network for broadband Internet - a much faster way to download guide information than the supplied dial-up phone cord. In lieu of a nearby Ethernet jack, the TiVo Wireless G USB Network Adapter ($60) lets you use your WiFi network to download guide info and stream music and photos from your computers. TiVo also supplies HDMI and component-video cables; I used the HDMI connection to hook up a bigscreen LCD TV.

Upon turning TiVo on for the first time, I was greeted by the exhilarating THX logo and signature audio. Once I typed in my zip code and indicated I'd be receiving channels from both cable and over-the-air stations, TiVo seamlessly aggregated a 14-day program guide from all sources. You can opt to see listings for only the channels to which you subscribe. Channels came in correctly ordered as they'd be on a regular cable box (which is not the case with the TV Guide Onscreen program guide provided free with some TVs and DVRs).

Choosing the best video output resolution in TiVo's setup will depend on how well your HDTV set supports multiple formats. Typically, you would use TiVo's "native" video setting. This passes through the program's native signal format, which would be either 1080i or 720p for HDTV, depending on the broadcaster. However, I had the DVR hooked up to a 720p display, and rather than let it convert 1080i programs, a TiVo technical manager suggested I go with the DVR's "720p fixed" setting. After much viewing, I agreed. You should experiment.

PERFORMANCE TiVo doesn't tell you how to reassign the remote's "advance-to-live" key as a 30-second skip button, but this "cheat" is widely available on the Internet. Once you've programmed it in, not having to fast-forward through commercials becomes an advantage TiVo users have over viewers with cable-leased DVRs. TiVo's main benefit, though, is its user-friendly program listings, unencumbered by ad panels. You can search not only by title or category (typical for cable company guides), but on words within the program description or an actor's name, and results snap to the screen more quickly. As you watch one channel, you can use the remote's Info button to find out what's on the other tuner.

Even with two CableCARD tuners, there may be recording conflicts. When programs overlap by a few minutes, you can set one to a lower priority so it's clipped rather than canceled. Cable DVRs aren't so flexible. Nor do they offer TiVo's ability to automatically record programs it "thinks" you might like based on past recordings and on "thumbs up" ratings you've given similar programs using the remote.

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