TiVo Series3 HD DVR Page 3

Video Quality
TiVo boasts that the Series3 is the first and only DVR to have THX certification, which according to the marketing literature will allow you "to experience television like never before, with sharper and more vivid images, complemented with high fidelity surround sound." I don't know if the THX certification had anything to do with it or not, but the quality of recordings from the Series3 have been outstanding. It's built-in ATSC decoder was able to lock on to all of the HDTV signals that were available in my area with rock solid performance, even during a heavy rainstorm with high winds. My previous ATSC tuner from LG (LST 3410A), had frequent drop outs under those types of conditions, but the TiVo never dropped the signal once.

When it comes to the CableCARDs, they have worked great as well. The difference compared to the cable company's DVR is harder to evaluate. My eyes tell me that the picture isn't as "blocky" using the TiVo compared to the Motorola DVR (DCT-3412). This is really apparent in backgrounds with solid colors. Using the TiVo there is little to no macroblocking in these scenes, whether from a "live feed" or from playing back a previously recorded program. The same can't be said from the cable company's box. Whether this is due to the CableCARDs or the TiVo itself is the unknown factor, but the picture quality is marginally better by using the TiVo.

Using the "best" recording quality on the TiVo you can get about 32 hours of recording on the stock hard drive. But in early November, the TiVo software was upgraded to activate the SATA port on the rear of the unit allowing the user to install an external hard drive to the Series3. In storage terms, a 500GB hard drive provides about 96 hours of HD recording at the highest recording quality when you combine the internal drive with the external one. For avid TV watchers out there, this should be more than enough space for all of your favorite shows.

The Business Statement
For those of you unfamiliar with TiVo, it is a "pay to play" service. Not only do you have to buy your equipment; there is a monthly fee to use the service as well. For comparison sake, lets look at the three-year cost of a TiVo Series3 vs. a Comcast DVR. On the Comcast side, it's pretty simple. The DVR costs you $9.95 per month for 36 months for a total of $358.20 (barring any increases in cable rates). Now, to jump in with a Series3, the up front equipment is going to run you $537.85 (Amazon.com pricing), plus $299 for three years of prepaid service for a total of $836.85 (plus tax). That's a difference of $478.65! Searching around the TiVo website though, you can buy a factory refurbished Series3 for $449.00, so going this route would put the three-year cost difference under the $400 level, but not by much.

I also found a story by engadgetHD, that TiVo has reinstated a $399 product lifetime service until January 2, 2008. So, using this business model, you pay $449 for the refurbished Series3 plus $399 for a total of $848 (plus tax). So in a little over seven years, you are revenue neutral with the cable company's box. From that point on, you are in the black, assuming your box doesn't break down in that time or the Series4 comes along that will not only record a gazillion hours of HDTV but will also wash your dirty dishes!

The TiVo is an excellent DVR, the best that I have yet had in my home, in fact. But is it worth the money? The TiVo is more than just a DVR; it's a convergence device that connects you to other services over the Internet as well as the ability to access photos and music from your home network. If I take all emotions out of it, I have a hard time justifying the cost differences between the Series3 and a cable company's box. Sure, the cable box isn't as slick, is somewhat buggy, and is limited in its functionality compared to the TiVo, but the three year ownership cost on the Series3 is over twice the cost and for someone who doesn't watch a lot of TV, it's a pretty big investment. But, if I was more inclined towards watching TV, I may be more inclined to make the jump to TiVo.

But when it comes to the cost of this TiVo, I think they learned that the cost model on the Series3 isn't viable, so earlier this year they released the TiVo HD. The HD is essentially the Series3 with a smaller hard drive (20 hour HD recording time), no OLED front display and is non-THX certified for $299. Whether that unit works as well as the Series3 is unknown, but I certainly like the price!

So there you have it. I love this DVR and I have nothing negative to say about its software, its performance or its looks. I'm just not sure if the value proposition that the Series3 offers is enough to make me a fanatic.

Terrific User Interface
Excellent Recording Quality
Outstanding Remote

TiVo Inc.
2160 Gold Street
P.O. Box 2160
Alviso, CA 95002-2160