While you can’t get your hands on the TiVo Stream just yet, I have. And I can tell you it’s pretty killer. Of course, it helps to understand my perspective — This site exists because of my interest in mobile video, having launched with the TiVoToGo tutorials and leading to a stint with the Slingbox folks. So I’m all about watching television on my terms… which doesn’t always involve a TV.
The TiVo Stream ($130) is essentially a small network-connected companion box that relays video from a wired TiVo Premiere DVR to an iPad or iPhone. An (upcoming) update to the already highly functional and attractive TiVo iOS app enables Stream connectivity and playback — making for some seemless integration via new “Watch on iDevice” and “Download” buttons. And setup is pretty trivial… Once the Stream is hardwired, the iOS TiVo app will discover it on the network and prompt for a personal media access key to link everything up.
After configuration, merely clicking on a show from the guide or your bucket of DVR recordings brings up the ability to stream that content to your iPad. I found the 720p video streaming to be very smooth and of nice quality. So while Verizon has yet to deliver an app to stream my FiOS “cable” content around the home and providers like TWC don’t offer your full channel lineup, the TiVo Stream provides a CableLabs-blessed end-around to view all the programming I pay for in any room of my new house. Basically, my iPad is my TV. In the kitchen, in the bathroom, and in the garage.
In addition to streaming content, the Stream also enables video downloads to take on the road (or in the air). Unfortunately, only “copy freely” tagged digital cable (or OTA) shows can be moved to your iDevice. Which means HBO subscribers and TWC customers may not find the Stream quite as compelling. However, these are the same anti-consumer limitations that impact multi-room viewing and TiVoToGo. On FiOS and having foregone HBO, I don’t find myself limited. And it took me about 22 minutes to download a “high” quality 64 minute Breaking Bad episode. A “standard” quality recording (lower resolution, lesser bitrate) could be conceivably downloaded in less than 1/4 real-time. Although, as efficient as the transfers are, the app must remain open to continue downloading.
In addition to controlling video playback via an iOS app scrub bar, TiVo has also kindly provided thirty second skip ahead and 8 second replay buttons – with corresponding swipe right/left gestures. Obviously, the experience is a smoother on downloaded, versus streamed, content as the Stream has to adjust on the fly. But it’s (mostly) quite polished given its duties, potentially transcoding and streaming four simultaneous streams. As to the “mostly”, I did encounter a few connectivity errors… running pre-release TiVo software on an unsupported version of iOS (v6b4). Pulling the plug on the Stream resolved them and I expect these anomalies to be ironed out in short order.
The TiVo Stream goes on sale next week, but you can probably order yours right now for $130, plus tax and possibly shipping. If you have an iPad and any variant of the TiVo Premiere, I can’t think of a reason why you wouldn’t. In terms of price, the Stream is equivalent to the Slingbox SOLO placeshifter — which streams content both within and beyond the home. Yet, for TiVo owners, the Stream experience is way more more unified and polished. And for you Android owners, TiVo tells me they’ve got something in the pipeline…