TiVo Series3 HD DVR Page 2
Next in the Settings menu, I moved to the "Displays" area in order to set the output correctly. Under this heading, you can configure the "channel banner" to display for the normal amount of time or disappear quickly. I tested out both settings and actually preferred the "normal" setting. The "quick" setting would cause my display to flash to a blue screen every time I changed channels, which was annoying, especially in a darkened room. Under the "Displays" area you can also configure your "closed captioning" options, which I kept in the off position.
Next up is the "Recording" setting, which allows you to set up the recording quality of the programs that the TiVo records. As the quality of the recording increases, the more hard drive space is eaten up. Since I don't watch a lot of TV, I set the recording quality to "best" option and have been very pleased with the recording quality. Also under this heading is the "TiVo Suggestions" area. This will allow the TiVo to record programs for you based upon your "thumb" ratings (either thumbs up or thumbs down). These shows do get a lower priority as far as recording goes, so the TiVo software will delete one of these programs if space is needed before they delete one of the programs that you have personally chosen to download.
The last setup item under the Settings menu is the "Video" Section. To start off, you have the ability to set your "Aspect Correction Mode", which will let you choose whether you want the shows to be shown in their native format or stretched to fit your screen. I personally chose the "Panel" setting, which doesn't stretch 4:3 material. If you own a display that is susceptible to burn in you may want to choose the "Zoom" or "Stretch" option if you watch a lot of SD material. Your next choice is to choose your "Letterbox Color" for both 16:9 and 4:3 material (gray or black bars). Then you need to choose your TV aspect ratio:
- 16:9 Widescreen: Choose this if you have a 16:9 screen.
- 4:3 Smart Screen (4:3 SD, 16:9 HD): Choose this if you have a 4:3 HDTV.
- 4:3 Classic Screen (4:3 only): Choose this if you have a 4:3 SD TV.
Last, but not least, is to set your output resolution from the TiVo unit to your display. This is one area where I am very impressed with this unit. On most cable boxes, you face limited choices, such as 480i or 480p for SD material, and either 1080i or 720p for HD material. But the Series3 allows you to choose seven different options: Native (will output native signal), 720p Hybrid (will output 720p on HD material, and 480p for SD), 1080i Hybrid (1080i HD and 480p SD), 480i Fixed (for SD displays), 480p Fixed (for enhanced definition TV's), 720p Fixed, and finally 1080i Fixed.
I tested out the Native and 1080i Fixed on both the HDMI and component connections running through my Denon 4806CI AVR to a JVC HD-D1 1080p projector. Utilizing the "Native" output over HDMI, I ran into a bit of a problem though. My Denon AVR will not pass a 480i HDMI signal through its HDMI port, so I was greeted with a blank screen when trying this setting. There are also a lot of displays other there that won't accept a 480i signal over HDMI as well, so if you want to utilize the Native setting, be sure that every component in your chain will accept this type of signal. I settled on the 1080i Hybrid setting when using HDMI and the Native setting if using component. In the end, there was little appreciable difference in the output quality whether running component or HDMI, which says a lot for the internal scaling capabilities of the Series3.
What separates TiVo from the pack is its software interface. First and foremost, it is damned easy to use. Within seconds of entering the software, I felt right at home and could breeze my way through each of the myriad of screens. First things first though, I had to set up some "Season Pass" recordings. While I knew which channel and what times the shows I wanted to record were, I wanted to test out the search function in the software. I entered the show title (Heroes) and "pop", all of the channels that the show comes on came up. Another nice function you can use is that if you only want a show in HD, no problem. Just go to the HD submenu before searching for the show. You can then choose the channel you want to record on, how many episodes you want to keep at a time, if you just want "first run" episodes or "all", and whether you want the particular show to have a higher recording priority over other recodings. It couldn't have been simpler to set up. Within five minutes, I had all of my shows set to record on Season Passes and in the month that I have been using the TiVo, I haven't had any issues with recorded programs. The same couldn't be said about the Comcast DVR that I have had experience with. In some cases, it would record a "rerun" when it was set to "new episodes only", or even worse, it would skip a new episode thinking it was a rerun!
Another nice feature with the interface is the "TiVo KidZone", which if you have young children in the house you will really appreciate. First, it lets you deem what is appropriate for your kids to record and watch. Second, it puts a fortress of solitude around your recordings that is password protected so the kiddies won't have access to any Sex and the City episodes that may be on the DVR. No fear of having Samantha scarring your kids for life!
The TiVo interface goes beyond the Season Pass Manager and protecting your kids, this is a cutting edge broadband device. You can access photos and music over your home network (you must install the TiVo Desktop software on your PC or Mac) or schedule programs utilizing the "online scheduling" function from any PC connected to the Internet, whether at work or at home. So if you forget to set the unit to record a show, you can program your own personal TiVo remotely. And within the unit itself, you have access to unique online services such as Podcaster, Live365 digital radio, game, Fandango as well as Yahoo! Photos, Traffic and Weather, and Rhapsody music service. But don't stop there; there is also TiVoCast, a service that allows you to download video programming via broadband to the DVR from outlets such as the New York Times, CNET, and the NBA. You can even download movies from Amazon.com and play them back on the Series3 (separate fees from Amazon apply). And finally, if you have more than one TiVo in your home and are all on the same network connection, you can share shows that are recorded on one device with another TiVo device in your home. Sadly though, you can't share HD shows unless both units are HD capable. Needless to say, this type of overall functionality goes above and beyond what you will find on your typical cable company DVR.