TiVo Premiere DVR Page 2

Hookup is relatively simple with an HDMI-compatible system. All you need is the one cable, an Ethernet connection (or wireless), and the CableCARD. There’s no on/off switch, so once you plug it in, a prolonged bootup sequence begins. In nearly six minutes, you’re ready to begin the guided setup. Budget about an hour to answer the various questions (zip code for guide data, audio/video parameters, etc.). The unit will then contact the TiVo servers to register the unit and download your local programming guide.

I would love to say the process of setting up and registering this TiVo with my local Comcast provider was fast and painless, but it wasn’t. I called Comcast’s 800 number and waited nearly 30 minutes to speak with a customer support agent who had no clue how to set up a CableCARD. Eventually, a supervisor came to help, and I was up and running after another 15 minutes. Your experience with your local cable provider will undoubtedly vary; I just hope it’s less painful than mine.

Since I’d owned a Series3, I was hopeful that TiVo had created an automated process for current users to migrate channel preferences, Season Passes, and even archived shows from an old unit to a new one. Unfortunately, you have to start from scratch. It was easy enough to set up Season Passes for my favorite shows, but it was very time consuming to go through 900 cable channels and customize a channel guide. I managed to transfer my recorded shows from my Series3 TiVo to the Premiere without any problems or difficulties, but it took quite a while (especially my HD recordings).

Digital Facelift
At the turn of the century, the TiVo interface was a best-in-class experience compared with the competition. However, as we enter the second decade of the new millennium, a facelift is long overdue. The new Flash-based 720p HD interface is much easier to read thanks to its sharper fonts. It also includes a PiP video window in the upper right corner that shows either the live TV channel or recorded program you’re currently watching. This is much better than watching the program material go dark while you search for another recorded or live show. The interface also has TiVo’s Discovery Bar, which occupies the top 20 percent of the screen. It shows recommendations for TV shows, movies, Web videos, favorites, categories, and sadly, unwanted advertisements from Best Buy and others. The new interface is beautiful and easy to read, but it’s painfully slow—think dial-up Internet slow. To change from one screen to the next, all of the graphics have to reload, which takes a minimum of five seconds (sometimes much longer). Furthermore, if you go back to a previous page you’ve already viewed, it also has to completely reload. With 512 MB of RAM, you’d think there’d be plenty of memory to include a cache.

TiVo is aware of the new menus’ sluggishness and has been working on a firmware update to fix this. In fact, this review was initially slated and completed in time to make the July 2010 issue. However, Home Theater’s editorial team decided to wait for a firmware update that TiVo claimed would address this issue, add some more features, and was only days away. As I’m finishing this review in early June, it’s been over two months since I started using the Premiere. While TiVo has updated the system’s firmware three times, the speed issue is far from solved. If I were a paying customer, I wouldn’t be a happy camper right now.

In many ways, the Premiere still feels like an unfinished product. TiVo has only updated the most used menus. So there are times when the TiVo will go old school and load a classic menu, which doesn’t happen instantaneously. There’s a painful pause, then you enter Live TV, then finally arrive at your desired location. Once you’re in the classic menu area, the subsequent screens load instantaneously, but they aren’t very attractive. The fonts are also fuzzier. If you find the new menu system too clunky and slow, TiVo offers an option to use the classic menus exclusively.

The Premiere boasts an advanced search feature that allows for speedier lookup of any program from your channel lineup and TiVo content partners Netflix, Amazon, and Blockbuster. Netflix downloads are free with an active Netflix account ($9 per month), and you can rent or buy Blockbuster and Amazon content on a per-title basis. The new Browse menu finds shows you may like and organizes them by category, topic, or provider. Other content partners include YouTube, Music Choice, and Rhapsody. Pandora Internet radio is coming soon. This will let you listen to your personalized Pandora stations directly through your TiVo Premiere or Series3 DVR.

In the Premiere, TiVo has addressed and fixed some minor complaints from the previous-generation TiVo boxes. There’s now an onscreen disc space meter that shows you how much harddrive space is available for recording. There’s also a builtin 30-second scan—although you could hack previous-generation devices to do this. The hack would skip 30-second increments, but the new included scan function keeps an image on the screen, presumably to keep advertisers off TiVo’s back.

If you’re a big user of your local cable company’s on-demand services, you’ll have to give those up if you make a switch to TiVo. The multistream CableCARDs required for the Premiere are one-way devices. My experience with the quality of Comcast’s VOD has been quite poor, so I don’t think you’ll lose much unless you’re a boxing or MMA fan. There’s no pay-per-view support.

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