TiVo Series3 HD Digital Media Recorder Page 3
An "Aspect" button on the remote let me cycle through three modes when the aspect ratio of the program I was watching didn't match my 16:9 display. Full stretched the picture to fill the entire screen, panel flanked a 4:3 image with columns, and zoom stretched a letterboxed picture without distortion by cropping the edges. Very convenient.
I was thrilled with the video and audio from the Series3. Unlike previous standalone models without digital CableCARD, the Series3 doesn't need to convert the analog output of a cable box into digital bits before recording. That translates to excellent picture quality. I detected no DVR-generated artifacts, even on slow motion: Doing my own replays of a home run from a Mets-Giants game was sweet. While watching ABC's high-def presentation of the movie Pearl Harbor, my digital surround sound system fed by the TiVo put me in the middle of the action, complete with flyovers and thunderous explosions.
TiVo still offers four recording qualities for analog channels, but with all the digital channels I received via antenna and cable, I had no reason at all to go analog.
Connected to the Internet through my home network, I could listen to dozens of streaming radio stations and on-demand audio programs. Two computers on my network served up a slide show of photos from my vacation in Quebec and MP3 tracks, though you can select only one computer at a time, and can't stream music and photos simultaneously. The TiVo Desktop software you download to each computer to turn it into a media server hadn't yet had its TiVo2Go functions implemented for the Series3. This would let you copy recorded programs to a laptop PC or handheld video player. Also missing was the multiroom function introduced with Series2 models that allows you to watch recorded programs on a networked TiVo in another room. A TiVo rep couldn't say when these features might be available, but networked TiVos do allow you to schedule recordings from any computer with Internet access via the TiVo Web site.
One other disappointment is the omission of a FireWire (a.k.a. IEEE 1394 or i.Link) port. Though the Federal Communications Commission requires cable operators to provide this connector on cable boxes to those who request it, Series3 owners don't have that option. I've copied HDTV shows to a DVHS digital videotape recorder from the FireWire port on a Motorola DVR box leased from my cable company, but TiVo owners will only be able to copy an HD show from other outputs, at reduced resolution. Practically speaking, the inability to archive in high-definition isn't a reason not to love TiVo. Still, you'd think the company would be driven to do better than any leased cable box.