The TiVo Mini Review

Dave Zatz —  March 10, 2013

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TiVo’s been talking up their DVR extender over a year, since it was first introduced last February as the IP-STB. And, while we didn’t get the 2012 retail launch we were hoping for, the TiVo Mini ($150) has finally arrived. But is it everything we’d hoped for?

Instead of sprinkling a number of DVRs around the home, the TiVo Mini essentially leverages a 4-tuner TiVo Premiere as a central media hub – relaying both live and recorded content. This thin client approach features a variety of practical advantages including a lower total cost of ownership, via waived CableCARD and Additional Outlet fees, energy efficiency, and the simplicity of managing a single drive of scheduled recordings. Of course, TiVo isn’t first to this space,  joining very fine satellite offerings from DISH and DirecTV on one side… with years of Windows Media Center extenders at the other end of the spectrum.

TiVo Mini Unboxing & Setup

The TiVo Mini ships with a standard Peanut remote, including batteries, and TiVo has kindly included a HDMI cable. However, in order to keep the Mini’s size under control, TiVo passed on standard component jacks and folks reliant on them may have a difficult time connecting their TVs. So, perhaps, they should have provided that rather rare breakout cable instead. Monoprice to the rescue? Speaking of connectivity, to maintain solid performance while streaming high bitrate MPEG2 around the home, the TiVo Mini and the host Premiere must be fed via Ethernet or MoCA – no WiFi welcome here. (Unless you’re partial to TiVo’s $90 802.11n bridge, which we wouldn’t actually recommend for this scenario.) Once wired up, the TiVo Mini is virtually linked to the source DVR by permanently commandeering a tuner.

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TiVo Mini Guts & Performance

The TiVo Mini represents a significant processor upgrade over what’s shipping within the 3-year old Premiere line. And the Broadcom BCM7418 really delivers. Performance is so snappy, in fact, it actually feels quicker to browse remotely located content than accessing it directly via the source DVR. Although, that’s probably more an indictment of the TiVo Premiere’s insufficient processing power… which doesn’t actually meet Adobe’s minimum specs for Air on TV. Once recorded content is streaming, TiVo Mini’s transport controls respond as you’d expect with no noticeable hit in performance. However, those predisposed to channel surfing live television may find the tuning lag unacceptable – yet, as with recorded content, once the video gets rolling after 4-5 seconds the instant replay, rewind, etc functions perform well. Also worth noting, the TiVo Mini ships without a hard drive or fan – resulting in silent bedroom operation.

The Trouble With Tuners

At launch, TiVo has delivered the TiVo Mini without dynamic tuner allocation. And while not as limited as we’d initially envisioned, a TiVo Mini essentially downgrades a 4-tuner TiVo Premiere into a 3-tuner model in regards to simultaneous recordings. It’s probably not a deal breaker in most households, but it’s a detail worth contemplation. Further, TiVo has chosen to artificially restrict the TiVo Mini to TiVo Premiere 4/XL4/Elite hosts (of which investor Sam Biller estimates about 50k in circulation) – leaving 2-tuner TiVo Premiere owners out in the cold. For now? We assume this is partially a TiVo marketing strategy, encouraging folks to move up to their lesser subsidized DVR models, and also related to limitations inherent with the simplistic tuner sharing. While TiVo has alluded to a more robust tuner sharing model, we encourage potential customers to make their purchasing decision based on what the Mini does now versus what it may do down the road given TiVo’s history of delivering incomplete products.

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All About Apps

When the TiVo Premiere launched in 2010, it was touted as the “One Box” to provide all our meaningful linear and over-the-top content, tying it all together with universal search functionality. It was a lofty proclamation and TiVo has indeed provided a very competitive digital cable set-top alternative. Yet, TiVo’s app platform hasn’t kept pace with those of their non-cable competitors – delivering a tiny fraction of what a fee-free $50 Roku box provides. And, unfortunately, apps on the TiVo Mini remain a bit of a mixed bag. While performance is significantly improved over the TiVo Premiere’s sluggish response, OTT options have actually decreased – with both Netflix and Amazon Instant missing in action. We understand the Amazon experience has to be reworked, given the Mini’s limited storage. But Netflix remains a head scratcher and suspect licensing considerations or technical issues may be at play. Regardless, many TiVo owners will continue to collocate Roku or Apple TV units at their television for more expansive Internet options.

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Buying Advice

Despite the TiVo Mini’s shortcomings and onerous service fees, we whole-heartedly recommend the solution to existing 4-tuner TiVo Premiere owners looking to extend the TiVo experience to additional TVs in the home. The TiVo Mini is particularly compelling for those running multiple Premiere DVRs… at a higher cost. And, despite the live TV tuning lag and absence of Netflix, we’ve decommissioned the bedroom Premiere in favor of the significantly more compact and energy efficient MoCA-fed Mini. But the situation is far more murky for 2-tuner Premiere owners or those not yet in TiVo’s warm CableCARD embrace. Are you prepared to invest in digital cable as your primary source of television content, at significant expense, for the next several years? If so, you may actually just want to wait… as we suspect TiVo has new DVR hardware in the pipeline, powered by more suitable, modern chipsets with at least one sporting an even higher tuner count.

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TiVo Mini hardware runs $150, and no longer requires a service fee. Best Buy has begun to receive inventory and tivo.com direct sales have opened up.

This is a collaborative review composed by Dave Zatz, who’s been tracking TiVo Mini development the last year, and Chad Monroe, a newly minted Mini owner.

93 responses to The TiVo Mini Review

  1. Seems like a nice device, except for the lack of netflix.

    Pricing remains insulting.

  2. So is TiVo.com the only place to order these online right now?

  3. Still no integrated WiFi? Are they joking?

  4. If I get 2 tivo minis, does that mean my premier elite can only record 2 shows at once?

  5. The argument is that wifi isn’t consistent enough to stream HD mpeg2 content without stuttering/buffering.

    It needs to consistently transfer ~2 megabytes per second, and a great deal of home wifi can’t do that.

  6. Dave,

    Thanks for the review.

    Couple of quick questions:

    Does the Mini offer the older SD menus?

    Also, what happens if I’m watching live tv on the Mini and then all the tuners on the main dvr light up at the same time? Does the Mini just kick you out or does it give you the option to cancel the recording?

    Lastly, I’m guessing you can set up recordings/season passes from the Mini as well?

    Tom

  7. SK,

    TiVo isn’t going to include a feature that they don’t believe is supportable. If you really need WiFi then get a bridge, but for most MoCA is far more reliable.

    Rodalpho,
    As for the price, $250 is much less than another TiVo and the same price as Windows Media Center Extenders were when they first came out. It isn’t as cheap as I’d like either, but certainly still the best deal going if you are TiVo XL4 owner and want TiVo in another room.

  8. “TiVo isn’t going to include a feature that they don’t believe is supportable. If you really need WiFi then get a bridge, but for most MoCA is far more reliable.”

    Yup. “Supportable” is the key word here. I think I could accomplish the task in a reliable manner with a 5ghz bridge, a channel unoccupied by other traffic, and the contours of my particular abode, but I wouldn’t be expecting TiVo to provide support for my efforts, as support would be a nightmare.

  9. Michael Burstin March 11, 2013 at 8:45 am

    Given the talk about the MoCa/ethernet requirement, could they even support the 2-tuner box even if they wanted to — I thought only 4-tuner boxes supported MoCa?

  10. Michael Burstin March 11, 2013 at 8:48 am

    Oh, while I’m thinking about it (and Dave, I think you can’t test it), does it support Comcast On-Demand?

  11. I have three 2-tuner Tivo Premiers. I’d like to replace them with one Premier XL4 + three Tivo Mini’s.

    Does this mean the XL4 becomes fixed as a single tuner and can only record one show at a time ?

    or

    Does it mean the number of shows than be recorded at once depends on how many Mini’s are being used at the time ?

  12. I own a 4 tuner Premier and 2 other Series 2. I’ve been a long-time fan of Tivo. I think this thing is a dud. I don’t mind $99, but yet another monthly fee? I am streaming from my original boxes, which I pay the fee for. Something about this rubs me the wrong way.

    For extra content, my Roku seriously runs rings around the Tivo. I cannot believe that my latest gen Tivo lags so badly in the menus. If Roku would get a Sling client it would seriously blow the Mini out of the water.

  13. I have three TVs in my house… two of them have 2-tuner TiVo Premieres (one of them XL), and one TiVo HD.

    I’d like to consolidate by maybe selling the TiVo HD and one of the Premiers, then buying a Premier 4 and a stream. We really only watch one of the TVs, and it’s a bit annoying to have to schedule a third show to record from the TiVo app. I really wish TiVo would make all of that seamless so that I don’t have to know which TiVo is recording.

    Does anyone know of an option that will allow that to happen? Also, where can someone sell a used TiVo? I’ve noticed that Amazon Trade-In doesn’t take them…

  14. I’m on the move today and will try to answer questions this afternoon or evening.

  15. The following may be wrong, but here goes:

    “I have three 2-tuner Tivo Premiers. I’d like to replace them with one Premier XL4 + three Tivo Mini’s. Does this mean the XL4 becomes fixed as a single tuner and can only record one show at a time ?”

    I believe the 4-tuner DVR’s are limited to supporting only 2 Minis. This may change in the future when TiVo implements dynamic tuner allocation, but as Dave says, beware buying TiVo products based on what they can’t do when you buy them.

  16. Fred Beiderbecke March 11, 2013 at 10:20 am

    I do not understand the MoCa stuff. I have a Premier XL4 and would want a mini in another room. Is hooking up the mini to the cable in the other room enough for the MoCa or do I need to do something on the Premier or install an adapter or something? Could someone explain this to me?

    Given that comcast is going to zap any channels without a box (and a monthly charge) soon it looks like the mini might be able to get more functionality.

  17. What the heck?!? I love my TiVo and have really enjoyed owning it. I’ve even recommended it MANY times to friends as a great option, but this is just out there. In an age when just about everything is wireless or at least has a WiFi option, why not include that?? I don’t have an ethernet drop or coax in my bedroom, and thought this was a great option to access my DVR, but I’m sure as heck not going to go to all the trouble of running an ethernet or coax line from our router to the bedroom for this. And TiVo wonders why their sales are slipping…

  18. For those who don’t understand – TiVo when I called made it sound like you have to have one tuner dedicated to the TiVo mini for it to stream live TV. So with a 4-Tuner Premiere 4, you’d now have one tuner dedicated to the TiVo mini, and the other 3 available to change channels and record shows from the main TiVo box.

  19. As a 25 year IT guy, and a Tivo user for close to 15 years, I’m not blown away with this.

    However my bigger concern is not with the lack of compatibility or component outputs, etc. It’s with the whole product line.

    Tivo is releasing so many odds and ends and various models with different model names, I’m completely confused. I have an S3 and a 1st gen Premier, and after reading this article, I have to shamefully admit I have no idea how many tuners I have in my premier (two, I imagine).

    My point is, though, that imagine mom and dad, the ones that need to get on board. They’ll have no f-ing idea what they’re supposed to buy, how to hook it up, why wireless won’t work, blah blah blah.

    I know I’m a broken record, but Tivo is going to hurt themselves with this one. Hopefully someone will come along and they can sue for some more lifeline for a few years, but this is just another stroke of bad marketing.

  20. @Rich I’m not someone to give TiVo a pass, but as far as wi-fi is concerned, I understand.

    Most content is HD now, and streaming HD over wi-fi just doesn’t cut it. Better to not even offer the option.

  21. I hate to pile on with the questions … But I’m going to anyway.

    Can a Mini be setup such it can not show live TV, and thus does not use one of the four tuners?

    We watch almost nothing live (except Walking Dead and Talking Dead) – so if a Mini could just play back recordings (or shows already being recorded) that is all I want. Two minis could then replace two TiVo HD units.

  22. “I believe the 4-tuner DVR’s are limited to supporting only 2 Minis.”

    I’ll alter this:

    The 4-tuner DVR’s are limited to supporting only 2 Minis with simultaneous live TV.

    I now believe you can hook up 3 Minis to a 4-tuner DVR, but only 2 of the Minis can watch live TV simultaneously. However, I believe if you use all 3 Minis simultaneously, while only two can get live TV, the third can playback recordings.

    (Similarly, if you allocate only 1 tuner from the DVR instead of 2 tuners, then only 1 Mini can watch live TV at a time, but the other 2 Minis can simultaneously watch recordings…)

    When Dave returns, he can clean this all up with actual reality…

  23. “Can a Mini be setup such it can not show live TV, and thus does not use one of the four tuners? … Two minis could then replace two TiVo HD units.”

    I now believe this to be the case. You’ve got a choice of allocating zero, one, or two tuners from your DVR to the Minis, and that choice determines how many Minis can simultaneously play live TV. But no matter what your choice, all the Minis can playback recordings…

  24. “Most content is HD now, and streaming HD over wi-fi just doesn’t cut it.”

    IMHO, it is quite possible to reliably stream MPEG2 HD over WiFi. However, I do understand why TiVo chooses not to support it, as it relies on the end-user maintaining a somewhat tricky WiFi infrastructure in their home.

  25. “Tivo is releasing so many odds and ends and various models … I know I’m a broken record, but Tivo is going to hurt themselves with this one.”

    Meh. The alternative is holding the retail Mini off the market until they complete all the other odds and ends, which strikes me as insane, considering that there are plenty of loyal retail users who can make excellent use out of the Mini right now…

  26. Is the one time fee really only 150$ upfront? That would probably be a decent investment, it’ll never really drop below that price plus about 50$.

  27. Waiting for a discounted bundle.
    As someone who wants to return to Tivo, $999 is just not a very good upfront cost to get a P4+Mini. Especially considering the P4 is woefully underpowered(I had the RCN version when it was mostly SD menus)
    Sadly I think there is a lot of P4/P4xl inventory that Tivo is trying to get rid of before they introduce the P6. I guess I’ll be going Comcastic for now.

  28. “As someone who wants to return to Tivo, $999 is just not a very good upfront cost to get a P4+Mini. Especially considering the P4 is woefully underpowered”

    Agreed. I’m in a single-teevee household, and I’ve been content to sit out the whole S4 generation with my TiVo HD because the S4 hardware is so woefully underpowered. (I am quite excited about the next-gen DVR, however, and expect to quickly upgrade.)

    But for multi-teevee households, the nice Mini hardware does seem to begin to change the equation. For 2 teevees, you could buy a lifetimed Mini and a non-lifetimed P4 for much less than a grand, and then move up to the next-gen DVR later at your leisure, with your Mini not needing to be replaced. This kind of rationale is somewhat weak for only 2 teevees, but starts to become much more sensible if you’ve got 3 or 4 teevees…

  29. Like Chucky I expect to want to upgrade quickly once the new DVR hardware is out, but I’ll probably wait for some type of sale since TiVo seems to always get new hardware out AFTER the Fall TV season has begun.
    If I’ve already had to sit down and figure out which TiVo’s get priority to record which shows, and it’s been in place and working for at least a month (assuming a November announcement) there won’t be much pressure to rush out and pay top dollar unless I have a lot more recording conflicts than normal, which I don’t anticipate.

    I’ve always thought Tivo would do better releasing new hardware in July or August so that people like me, who don’t really enjoy plotting out the new season will have an excuse to buy immediately :-)

    I really hope the new DVR brings OTA tuners back – I like the idea of having one base DVR and Mini’s wherever else I want TV, but having to rely 100% on the Tuning Adapter is a deal-breaker for me. If the new DVR can’t do OTA I’ll keep at least one of my Premiere’s to record OTA shows faithfully, and be a backup for cable shows missed when one Tuning Adapter decides to stop working. Doesn’t happen nearly as often as it used to, here in Austin, TX on TWC, but it still happens a handful of times during the season.

  30. Looks like for me with a 2-tuner premiere, a Roku is thing to buy until the next generation TiVos come out. I’d consider buying a TiVo mini, if I could get it to work with my current 2-tuner premiere. I could completely forgo live TV. Ideally I’d like to stream stuff from my existing premiere. I have Time Warner so everything but the broadcast channels are marked as copy protected. I can’t see buying a Premiere 4 right now. At least the Roku will let me use Amazon Prime.

  31. I also skipped the S4, but not because it’s underpowered (although it definitely is) but because TiVo provided absolutely no reason whatsoever to upgrade over this entire generation.

  32. I’m back home after an unpleasant stay at the Hilton and had two quick notes to add before following up with hopefully some answers tomorrow.

    First, Chucky your theory to buy now and upgrade later is reasonable if you don’t mind a 1 year commitment on any new TiVo hardware – there is no initial month-to-month term. Also, I’m too lazy to mess with craigslist or ebay these days. But even if I weren’t, the resale value on non-Lifetimed TiVo units is probably not great.

    Second, Ben’s given us the green light to embed his Engadget TiVo Mini performance video (since he went to the trouble of narrating it, versus ours, and also does a fascinating Premiere/Mini speed comparison). We also encourage you to check out his review, as his has a rather well rounded perspective having spent more time than us with the Mini and decent time with the DISH Hopper/Joey solution, DirecTV Genie Mini, and Ceton Echo.

  33. Homunculus Speaks March 12, 2013 at 12:10 am

    Thanks for the great reporting Dave – as usual.

    If we want to use this as a set BACK box – so it is out of sight – can you?

    I don’t see an IR port … so it would seem that we have to overly-complicate things by purchasing an IR blaster to work with this … seems like a big oversight.

  34. I THINK one can also use the BT slider remote, there is a USB port for that on the back of the unit.

  35. Meh… to late TiVo. Switched to the Direct TV Genie back in December after being a loyal Tivo owner since 2003.

  36. @Rodalpho:
    “I also skipped the S4, but not because it’s underpowered (although it definitely is) but because TiVo provided absolutely no reason whatsoever to upgrade over this entire generation.”

    Except for the addition of two more tuners on the Elite/XL4, which made it completely worthwhile for me to upgrade. Otherwise I agree with you, the initial Premieres were not worth my time vs. what I had with the HDs.

  37. Charlie, officially yes – each Mini locks up a tuner (for now?) with two max per 4-tuner Premiere.

    Tom, yes you can set up recordings from the Mini. As the Mini essentially hijacks a tuner, I believe you won’t have any further conflicts on the host DVR but you’d be limited to a max of three simultaneous recordings if set up that way.

    Michael, a 2 tuner Premiere has Ethernet and TiVo sells a MoCA adapter. Again, this is an artificial limitation. And, yes, Xfinity On Demand is available in the areas that Comcast has lit up for TiVo access.

    John, I believe the max is currently two TiVo Minis per 4-tuner Premiere and officially you have to give up a tuner for each, which does indeed mean fewer tuners for recording on your DVR.

    Fred, maybe check out TiVo’s MoCA FAQ.

    Homunculus, The Mini has holes for wall mounting and there was chatter of a bracket and/or IR extension – but that hasn’t (yet?) materialized. The Slide remote has been discontinued, but should work – it’s how TiVo demo-ed the Mini to me at CES, with BT/RF USB dongle. Also, of course, is the option of app control.

  38. Thanks Dave.

    To clarify, using a Mini uses up one tuner indefinitely? So, with the use of a Mini the dvr will ALWAYS ONLY have the use of 3 tuners?

    If so, that’s a little bit more of a tough sell. Definitely won’t be getting two. (Will keep my lifetime HD)

  39. Michael Burstin March 12, 2013 at 10:52 am

    @Tom: I thought there was some other post from Dave that mentioned a 90 minute inactivity timeout. Note that you can set the Mini to NEVER be able to use a tuner therefore making it a non-issue. The Engadget review Dave referred to above makes it sound like that could be the work-around way to go to watch live TV in any case by setting the Mini to record whatever you want to watch live, therefore not allocating a tuner for “live”.

  40. It’s a weird and unclear thing. Look at the screenshot above where you can set the host DVR to give up 0, 1, or 2 tuners. I think the intention is to permanently link, but once setup it looks like you can delink. Related, I wonder if you could buy a 4-tuner DVR to setup a Mini, return it, and then access recordings on your Mini. Of course, we wouldn’t recommend that but I wonder if the 4-tuner needs to stay live on the home network. TiVo really needs to finish dynamic tuner allocation to reduce the confusion and enhance the experience.

  41. Arrrrrggghhh! It’s only available at a Magnolia Store in Mississippi. I don’t know if I want to order it online as I plan to use a credit card to enhance the warranty, and do not want any other charges besides the retail price applied. Can someone recommend another authorized re-seller (preferably one that I can complete the transaction and go home with the merchandise the same day.

    I’m already 4 units into the eco-system and while it makes sense to go with Ceton, I’d rather get a Mini than cringe at the thought of what a toddler will do to a 360 DVR tray.

  42. I have wondered that myself Dave. I wonder if TiVo will even allow a Mini on your account if they don’t show a Premiere 4, XL4 or Elite. I could see a market for someone buying and activating Minis and selling them to people without a tuner model if it is possible. Of course they wouldn’t be able to use live TV since the Premiere is missing that option screen.

  43. @2trill4925 once the 17th rolls around you might be able to order it shipped to your local Best Buy for pickup. At least you can do this with other Magnolia merchandise. It takes 3-5 days though to reach your local store.

  44. Per the troubleshooting truth table here -> http://support.tivo.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/2560

    If you removed the host Premiere 4/XL4 DVR from the local network you would lose a lot of functionality. Even if allocating zero tuners to the Mini is selected, the Mini still leverages host DVR services.

    I’m pretty sure I read on TCF from Chad that if you have two Mini’s on the network you aren’t required to allocate 2-tuners in the host DVR (i.e., the two Mini’s can share one Host DVR tuner).

  45. Sam I was thinking more if you sold and transferred a Mini to someone who doesn’t have a 4 tuner model, but has a regular Premiere. The only thing I can think is it would be a problem if the Premiere didn’t have the necessary host functions built in.

    Has anyone who has a 4 tuner and Premiere tested to see what happens to the Mini if the 4 tuner model isn’t currently connected?

  46. Bought mine. Went for the lifetime, though I was a bit conflicted. If they had dynamic tuner allocation I’d probably get a second one but I’d probably wait until I see how the first one works out.

  47. @brennok,

    I haven’t heard of this use-case being tested, but I’m guessing the base Premiere firmware doesn’t have the requisite host functions built-in. I’m sure we will find out soon! :) The truth table sure indicates that this would fail although the truth table doesn’t take into account other “hosts” on the network.

  48. What’s the green output on the back, the one labelled COMPONENT? TiVo’s FAQ says its a composite/component breakout cable, so presumably 1 RCA to 3 RCA (R, G, B) sorta like some video cameras use, though those usually have headphone jacks instead presumably ‘cuz they’re smaller.

    TiVo’s FAQ says the cable is available in their store, but of course it isn’t even listed, let alone out of stock. I clicked through on your monoprice link Dave and didn’t see anything. They did have some HDMI to audio/component that would likely be more convenient though.

  49. Ben managed to track down the cables, not sure where. Also Chad originally was using headphones or something – maybe he could chime in. I may have an old HAVA box that has them at least the SD/RCA/AV ones.

  50. Okay, more important question…

    If I pick a recorded program, and start streaming it, and want to quickly skip a bunch of commercials at the start, on the XL4 I just fast-forward. If I’m on one of my TiVo HD units and transferring a show from the XL4, I quickly run up against the limit of how much of the show has been transferred and I can’t fast-forward any more for a while. I don’t have multiple Premiere units so I don’t know now streaming works, but I wonder if its similar. If the TiVo had pre-canned high-speed trick files like a network DVR this wouldn’t be an issue, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t. So maybe jump to tick works immediately (starts a new stream from that point, and you won’t be able to rewind back beyond the tick perhaps) but fast-forward will get delayed.

    Dave/Ben/Chad?

  51. Streaming on TiVo works as if you were playing a local file. You don’t have the transfer buffer issues like you do between the TiVo HD and a Premiere. You can skip immediately to the end if you want.

  52. I didn’t realize the component cables were not included with the TiVo Mini. I need to get a couple to connect a SlingBox and a Hava Platinum. I ended up ordering two Minis from the local BestBuy store this evening. They are supposed to be there on Friday for me to pick up.

    I”ll try one out first to see how I like it. My plan is to put a Mini at the same location as one of my Elites. And viewing content from that Mini instead of from my Elite. If I like how it works I will open the second TiVo Mini box and both of them will share a tuner from that Elite.(If I don’t like it then I will just return the second Mini)

    My second Elite has too many days during the week that has four concurrent recordings. So I can’t lose a tuner on that Elite unless I switch Season Passes between boxes. Which I would rather not do. Well at least not until Summer.

  53. “Homunculus, The Mini has holes for wall mounting and there was chatter of a bracket and/or IR extension – but that hasn’t (yet?) materialized. The Slide remote has been discontinued, but should work – it’s how TiVo demo-ed the Mini to me at CES, with BT/RF USB dongle. Also, of course, is the option of app control.”

    @Dave, there is no support for the Mini in the TiVo app… Yet

  54. Maybe I got ahead of myself? The ‘What To Watch’ iOS app update is imminent and I’d expect Mini support, plus TiVo Design Margret indicated a mid-March Android update.

  55. It’s not very impressive and quite pricey. The refusal of TIVO to use wifi is perplexing. It doesn’t work well enough for video? Roku says otherwise.

  56. @Kayelle
    See comments above about WiFi. Basically it’s hard to stream a 20Mbps MPEG2 stream over WiFi reliably. I’ll be connecting up a mini via WiFi.

  57. “See comments above about WiFi. Basically it’s hard to stream a 20Mbps MPEG2 stream over WiFi reliably. I’ll be connecting up a mini via WiFi.”

    To be precise, it’s reasonably cheap and reasonably easy to assemble that kind of WiFi infrastructure for many abodes, if and only if you are technically proficient in the relevant issues.

    (It’s similar in that way to upgrading the hard drive in a S3 or S4 TiVo. Reasonably cheap and reasonably easy, if and only if you are technically proficient in the relevant issues.)

    But what that means in reality is that 90%+ of TiVo’s customers wouldn’t have a stable WiFi setup if they tried to connect a Mini that way. And due to that high failure rate, and the bad publicity it would all cause, I fully agree with TiVo in not supporting WiFi connections in any way shape or form.

    In a perfect world, if the BOM on the silicon of a 5ghz radio receiver were very low, (like less than a buck), it’d be cool if they included the radio, and left some kind of ‘secret’ but publicly known way to enable the radio for those few who wanted to accept the responsibility. But that’s semi-far-fetched, and the world where the Mini doesn’t do WiFi isn’t too far from a perfect one. You can always get a small ‘n’ cheap WiFi bridge if you really want that setup and know what you’re doing…

  58. Yeah, just to ground this conversation a little, 99% of the cable channels the TiVo Mini would be used with are transmitted using MPEG-2. SD at 3-4Mbps, HD at 12-20Mbps depending on the channel (a Comcast VOD HD stream is precisely 15Mbps in most cases for example). And since the Premiere doesn’t transcode to H.264 or anything that is exactly the stream you’d have to send out over Wi-Fi.

    An Apple TV however will decode an H.264 HD stream at perhaps 5 or 6Mbps. It isn’t as high quality as the best cable MPEG-2 HD streams–that would probably require 7.5-8Mbps since H.264 is about 2X as efficient as MPEG-2 (for the video part, which is about 90% of the stream). Until recently a lot of those H.264 streams were even lower bit rate 720p but are now moving up to 1080 and slightly higher rates. So your Roku box isn’t moving the same data rate over Wi-Fi as the TiVo Mini would have to.

    Now if/when TiVo introduces a Series 5 that includes transcoding from MPEG-2 to H.264, either before being recorded to disk or on-the fly to a Mini/iPad/iPhone/laptop or what have you. Or in 20 years when cable finally moves to H.264 after all the millions of MPEG-2 only STBs have been recycled. Or when 802.11ac finds wide acceptance and proves to be w-a-y better at all of this. Then something like moving this stuff over Wi-Fi in a typical household will be more reasonable.

  59. “Yeah, just to ground this conversation a little, 99% of the cable channels the TiVo Mini would be used with are transmitted using MPEG-2 … HD at 12-20Mbps depending on the channel … that is exactly the stream you’d have to send out over Wi-Fi.”

    Sure. I’m just asserting that I have reliably done non-buffered video at that speed cheaply and easily using 5ghz 802.11n. Just need the right gear, settings, and placement.

    5ghz 802.11n, properly done, can serve as a perfectly capable replacement for 100Mb Ethernet. It’s just not how the typical household is set up.

    “An Apple TV however will decode an H.264 HD stream at perhaps 5 or 6Mbps. It isn’t as high quality as the best cable MPEG-2 HD streams–that would probably require 7.5-8Mbps since H.264 is about 2X as efficient as MPEG-2 … So your Roku box isn’t moving the same data rate over Wi-Fi as the TiVo Mini would have to.”

    IMHO, après CableCARD, le déluge.

    We’re heading for the Dark Ages, in terms of PQ. Everyone can talk all they want about 4K, but the IP-cast future that we’re theoretically heading to is going to be all about pseudo-“HD”. Long live the multicast and CableCARD. Viva! Viva!

    “Or when 802.11ac finds wide acceptance and proves to be w-a-y better at all of this. Then something like moving this stuff over Wi-Fi in a typical household will be more reasonable.”

    Agreed. The wireless video LAN bottleneck for TiVo bandwidth in the typical household gets solved within a generation or two of WiFi tech.

  60. I received two Mini’s today and so far they are working great. No real issues to speak of. One replaced an HD, so I will be happy to eliminate a cable card fee.

    As far as the no wifi debate goes, I too agree it would be far too unreliable for tivo to have offered that as a connectivity option. For those comparing it to the Apple TV, roku, etc that does have wifi, I think the use case for each of the products may also be a decision point for tivo. In the case of both the ATV and Roku, for most people those are add-on devices rather than a replacement for their set top box, and since most people don’t have a wired network port at every TV, wifi would be the only other option. Since the mini would likely replace whatever cable box is currently connected to a TV, there is a coax connection there anyway to use for the moca connection.

    I realize this does nothing for those that intend to use the mini on a TV with no network or cable connection, but to me the decision makes sense. With all of the other wireless devices others have on their home network, it would simply be too much for the mini or mini’s to be reliable enough. Add to that newer tivo models that have more tuners for more mini’s and the issue gets further.

  61. OFF TOPIC: Can someone comment on which of the current TIVOS’ aren’t “underpowered”?

  62. @tivoboy, the Mini is the only box that isn’t “underpowered” from an HDUI and OTT App perspective.

  63. DailyPlanet, the TiVo iOS app remote DOES control the Mini. Just linked them up.

  64. The component, composite, and AV breakout cables are now available directly from TiVo for $14.99 -> https://www3.tivo.com/store/accessories-cables.do

    There is still no sign of an IR extender cable that supposedly will work through the USB port.

    Finally, one user on TCF reports that he has 3 Mini boxes connected via MoCA to one Host Premiere-4 DVR and all is working -> http://www.tivocommunity.com/tivo-vb/showthread.php?p=9573376#post9573376

  65. “Finally, one user on TCF reports that he has 3 Mini boxes connected via MoCA to one Host Premiere-4 DVR and all is working”

    I sussed that out upthread, but always good to have real-world confirmation…

  66. Dave, Did you have to do anything different to the app or mini, besides enabling network control? It still isn’t showing up on mine.

  67. “Dave, Did you have to do anything different to the app or mini, besides enabling network control? It still isn’t showing up on mine.”

    You might well want to check your router settings, especially if your Mini is connected to your LAN in any kind of different way than your DVR.

    I once experienced similar problems (on a non-TiVo device) that turned out to be related to how my (now happily departed) Actiontec router declined to connect it’s 2.4ghz antenna to the rest of the LAN in a completely adequate manner…

  68. Nope, didn’t do anything special as far as I know and I’m not running a beta update or anything. In the iOS app, I click the More tab and then Selected DVR to see both my Mini and my Elite in the list. I did have to enable the network control on the Elite – but nothing more. I will mention my Mini wasn’t recognized at first and I had to force connections on the Elite and reboot the Mini before getting access maybe an hour later. On the forums, someone said TiVo support suggested renaming the Mini to shake things free.

    While I’m posting, my wife has absolutely noticed the live TV tuning lag and isn’t digging it. On the other hand, our dresser is much less cluttered and I told her we’d put a framed wedding photo there… which seemed to buy me some time. ;) But we may end up moving the Mini to the living room and the XL4 back upstairs knowing where we do the bulk of our channel surfing.

  69. Homunculus Speaks March 16, 2013 at 11:49 am

    Chucky – had similar issues last night – it appeared MOCA-related as I rebooted my home router, then the Elite to be sure it grabbed a new IP, renamed the Mini and poof, it worked.

  70. Michael Burstin March 16, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    @DailyPlanet – as Chucky said, check your router. I know that my old D-Link router had all sorts of issues routing between even its wired and wireless interfaces for broadcasting Bonjour announcements without toggling some seemingly unrelated firewall settings. I imagine that the mini is being found via Bonjour so as he said, it could be router issues if you are using different networking types between the mini, the Tivo and the wifi iOS app.

  71. “I know that my old … router had all sorts of issues routing between even its wired and wireless interfaces for broadcasting Bonjour announcements”

    Yeah. Routers are bizarre. You can have a situation where you have a perfect connection from a device to your router, yet simultaneously not have that device discoverable through the router. Bizarre. Sometimes you just need to reboot, sometimes you need to change settings, and sometimes the router just isn’t capable.

    That’s reason #37 I was so happy to ditch my CableCo router and pick up a cheap ‘n’ highly competent gigabit router that seems utterly immune to such issues.

  72. Michael Burstin March 16, 2013 at 12:24 pm

    Mine was what should have been a pretty nice D-Link — though I ditched that for an Asus 5Ghz one which is much nicer :)

  73. “I ditched that for an Asus 5Ghz one which is much nicer”

    If what you’ve got works for you, that’s all that matters.

    And, nothing wrong with dual-band in the least, but, given that 5ghz is so precise placement dependent for high performance, I liked saving a few bucks on the non-dual-band router, and using a cheap 5ghz access point that could be physically separated from the router for convenient precise placement.

    (I was attracted the router I suggest, in part, because it runs DD-WRT, which gives me confidence that it’ll essentially Just Work Like a Router Should, plus confidence that it’ll let me accomplish any sane scheme I can come up with. No headaches. And that’s pretty much how it has played out.)

    PS. Dave is lazy today for not attaching his affiliate code to the Amazon link. Isn’t there a WordPress Go Terps! plug-in to automate this?

  74. I don’t know if this will post in its entirety (or if I will get flamed for such a large post), but this is a recent chat session I had with Tivo, when I was trying to understand the service fee for the Mini:

    (Tivo Rep): What can I help you with today?

    Robert : I’d like to know more information about the Tivo Mini. I understand that a service plan is required to use the Mini. What is the service plan for?

    (Tivo Rep): Everything that the Mini does is part of the TiVo Service plan. It won’t work without one.

    Robert : So I can just buy a Mini, and for $5.99 a month I can pause, rewind, and save recordings?

    (Tivo Rep): No, you need a host DVR: either a TiVo Premiere 4 or Premiere XL4 model. The Mini itself is $99 for the box and $5.99 per month on the service. It would allow you to watch recordings from your TiVo DVR.

    Robert : But the “host DVR” already requires a service fee, correct? So I have to pay a monthly fee for a “host” Tivo, and then pay again on the Mini just to watch what’s on the host?

    (Tivo Rep): Yes. The Mini is not designed as a standalone unit. It allows you to extend your TiVo experience into other rooms of the house without needing a separate DVR for each.

    Robert : I don’t understand why I would have to pay twice to watch one recording. I don’t understand what service I’m paying for if I get a Mini. I could use Apple TV to get the recording in another room without having to pay a fee.

    (Tivo Rep): Apple TV will not allow you to watch your TiVo recordings on it.

    Robert : Sure it will. I can definitely watch Tivo via Apple TV

    (Tivo Rep): We do not support any method of watching TiVo through an Apple Tv.

    Robert : So the $5.99 per month is so you will support the transfer?

    (Tivo Rep): $5.99 per month is the cost of TiVo Service to use a TiVo Mini. It is the cost to do absolutely anything with the TiVo Mini. If you do not have service on a TiVo Mini, it will not work. Even with TiVo Service, we do not support Apple TV.

    Robert : But that’s what I’ve been asking. What is the service? What would I be paying for? I don’t pay a “service” fee when I operate my Roku. What’s special about the Mini that it requires a monthly fee?

    (Tivo Rep): You are paying for the ability to use the TiVo Mini.

    Robert : So it’s like a monthly lease? I don’t really own it?

    (Tivo Rep): If you want to watch your TiVo recordings in multiple rooms of your house but do not want to buy a separate TiVo DVR for each room then you would use the Mini. Yes, you own the box, but it won’t work without service. It’s similar to a cell phone. You own your phone, but what would you use it for without cell service? Why do you pay your phone bill? To use your phone. It’s the same idea with TiVo devices, Mini included.

    Robert : I understand that. But with a cell phone, it is clear what the service is. I don’t pay a fee to use my DVD player

    (Tivo Rep): The TiVo Service is what allows the TiVo to access our servers where it downloads it’s daily Guide updates. The Guide Information is what the TiVo uses to record. Without that information, it cannot record.

    Robert : I thought it gets that from the host Tivo

    (Tivo Rep): It uses the service to link itself with other active TiVo devices so that they can share recordings via streaming. It allows you to access our applications for our partnered video provider services like Hulu Plus and YouTube.

    Robert : I can access Hulu and Youtube on my Panasonic DVD player. I don’t have to pay a month fee.

    (Tivo Rep): But can your DVD player record live TV?

    Robert : No, but neither can the Mini

    (Tivo Rep): That’s correct, but the Mini can transfer recordings from other DVRs.

    Robert : So can my computer. I don’t pay a monthly fee to use it. I still don’t understand what the service is. I understand on the main Tivo, it communicates with your servers to access schedules, etc… But all the Mini seems to do is talk to the main Tivo, where I would have already paid for service. And everything else it offers is stuff I get on other devices without paying a fee.
    (Tivo Rep): Because the TiVo Mini will not be able to communicate with and transfer recordings from the DVR unless it also has active TiVo Service.

    Robert : So the “service” is like a license? It doesn’t really sound like an actual service, like a cell phone or something. It sounds more like a license…kind of like a device CAL (client access license).

    (Tivo Rep): The bottom-line is that the TiVo Mini will not work without this service. I don’t know how to answer your last questions, but however you choose to look at it. If you would like to use this product and the features that it advertises, there is a monthly or Lifetime Service fee required.

    Robert : I know there are times that I go in the Den with the rest of the house is asleep, and even though that’s not very often, I would like the ability to watch a recording in there. I just wish I could get Tivo functionality on every TV in my home without feeling like I’m getting ripped off.

    (Tivo Rep): For $24.95 you can purchase TiVo Desktop Plus software for PC. This would allow you to transfer recordings from your TiVo DVR (as long as they are not copy-protected by your cable provider) to the PC and then convert them to most industry-standard video file-types for playback on mobile devices or burning to DVD. If you are only looking to watch in other rooms every once in a while, you might be more interested in something like that.

    Robert : Do I have to pay a service fee to transfer the recording to the PC?

    (Tivo Rep): You have to pay for TiVo Service on your TiVo DVR. But not on the PC. The software is a one-time payment of $24.95.

    Robert : I’m confused again. I thought I understood what the service was (like a license)…but if I can transfer to the PC without a fee, I definitely don’t understand the fee on the Mini. It’s very hard to understand. It’s like getting charged twice for the same thing.

    (Tivo Rep): The Mini is adding the ability to watch Live TV and recordings on another room in the house.

    Robert : If I already had several Tivos, then I can see why this might seem like a good deal. But it seems like the “service” should only be on the main Tivo that’s doing all of the work. Charging a service fee on the Minis…which basically, as far as I can tell, just lets you look at what the main Tivo has recorded and tell it what to record…doesn’t make sense to me. I’m going to have to weigh my options. It would cost me like $33 per month for whole house DVR…and that’s what I want – at all times, just in case I want to use it. But it’s just too expensive. I hope Tivo rethinks their fees. It’s just not reasonable.

    (Tivo Rep): The TiVo Mini is not a standalone unit. That is what I have been saying. If you are looking to start right away and cover multiple rooms in the house, then certainly look at the Mini. But you are going to need the DVR, Premiere 4 or Premiere XL4 first, in order for the Mini to work. We charge for service provided, not service used.

    Robert : I know it’s not a standalone unit…I get that, and that’s why it doesn’t make sense for it to have a service fee. It can’t function without a main Tivo that already has a service fee. You say it’s for “service provided” but it still isn’t clear what that service is. The additional functionality stays within my home network, without interacting with Tivo servers more than it would need to otherwise. I shouldn’t have to pay an additional fee for that. There are other ways to transfer recordings from Tivo to another room…but Tivo Mini is the only one that requires a fee. It’s arbitrary. Not really a service…more like a “use tax”

    (Tivo Rep): I don’t think I have anything further to tell you that you don’t already understand concerning this. I understand your opinion, but I cannot change the fact that TiVo Service is required for the TiVo Mini.

    Robert : Agreed. Thank you for your time.

  75. @Robert,

    That was an interesting exchange. Kudos to the CSR rep. I think he towed the company-line quite well. In fact, Jim Denney would be proud. :)

    I wonder if DIRECTV & Dish receive the same kind of feedback from their thin client extenders which both have an up-front cost plus a monthly fee for not really providing a service on a monthly basis.

    We’ve probably beat this to death but TiVo’s Mini does offer capabilities/features/services that are not really available to a non-hobbyist consumer at a price that is equal to or less than comparable offerings – including TiVo’s own offerings (e.g., multiple TiVo DVRs in the home). That is really the bottom-line. You can vote with your pocket-book and go elsewhere, choose not to upgrade, etc.

    Based on the feedback I’m seeing on TCF and elsewhere and Jim Denney’s early feedback on Engadget’s live videocast yesterday, it appears the Mini is selling quite well with the current pricing model.

  76. Yeah, I think we’ve beat it to death. Folks will choose to pay or to not pay. And if sales don’t meet TiVo’s expectations or they want to boost sales, they’ll run promos and bundles. If/when they get Amazon and Netflix, I imagine I’ll feel more positive about my purchase and the company – which no longer seems to give many folks the warm fuzzies if the evolution of the TiVo Community is any indication

  77. Cnet’s Josh Goldman (@superboxmonkey) does an excellent job of summing up the Mini at a high-level (First Look) in less than 2 minutes -> http://cnettv.cnet.com/tivo-adds-mini-piece-its-whole-home-solution/9742-1_53-50142929.html

    “This [subscription fee] isn’t entirely out-of-line with the cost of similar setups from other providers but still might be more than some TiVo users are willing to spend.”

  78. I imagine I’ll feel more positive about my purchase and the company – which no longer seems to give many folks the warm fuzzies if the evolution of the TiVo Community is any indication

    Dave, I really get a different sense from TCF. I see a lot of negativity, as expected, around the subscription fee but overall I think the perspective on the Stream and Mini are very positive. I see less complaints than I personally expected about the Mini shortcomings. I see a number of ardent negative posters changing their tune now that the Mini is available. I view it a a half-empty or half-full thing.

  79. @Sam

    “I wonder if DIRECTV & Dish receive the same kind of feedback from their thin client extenders which both have an up-front cost plus a monthly fee for not really providing a service on a monthly basis.”

    I’ve never been a customer of either company, but I thought I understood you can’t own their DVR equipment. If that’s the case, their customers probably don’t view it as paying for some ambiguous service – just a monthly lease for equipment.

    “Based on the feedback I’m seeing on TCF and elsewhere and Jim Denney’s early feedback on Engadget’s live videocast yesterday, it appears the Mini is selling quite well with the current pricing model.”

    I wonder how many of those sales are from customers that are extending Tivo into other rooms for the first time. My guess is that most of the sales are from customers that are trading out more expensive Tivo units that were mostly/only being used to transfer recordings between rooms.

    I don’t know if I’m a typical Tivo customer or not, but I think Tivo is missing a huge opportunity for growth. All they would have to do is charge a single fee on the host Tivo to allow unlimited Mini connections to that host. Currently, Tivo is getting $12.99 per month from me for my single Series 2 DT. If they changed their pricing structure, I would buy a new Premier 4, 3 minis, and pay $21.99 per month. $21.99 per month is a lot better than $12.99/$14.99, and since this so called “service” being offered by the Mini doesn’t really cost them anything, it’s 100% profit. Instead, I’m spending a decent portion of my free time researching Myth TV.

  80. Sam, I’m not talking the technology itself I’m talking the perception of and feelings towards the company. And in the 10+ years I’ve been lurking and contributing to the forum, the enthusiasm has waned. But perhaps this is the natural progression of things as companies, other than Apple, evolve from startup into something a bit more stuffy.

  81. I’m actually in agreement that Tivo should offer tiered plans for expansion instead of fragmented (since the Mini cannot be used alone).

    Of course if you plan on owning the equipment for more than two years lifetime makes more sense. The only reason I never opted for lifetime was due to SKU support shelf life.

    I’ll admit that I was really contemplating dropping Tivo all together, and going with Ceton. I already had the extenders but the cost of a HTPC, a tuner, and the idea that my toddlers might stuff objects into the 360 DVD tray put me off.

    I went Dynex for my Composite Video to 3.5 mm cable. I just can’t bare the thought of giving Tivo more money. So to get cartoons into my kids’ rooms, I’m going Wi-Fi with the 5 GHz band on a WRT600N to DDWRT320N. I’m doing this because the receiving TV output is in SD. I sure hope that it works. The map of the Tivo network is DDWRT320N (4 tuner) to WRT600N (2 tuner) to WGA600N (Mini). Streaming from the 4 tuner to the 2 tuner works fine.

    On that note this will give me the chance to finally drop 2 Tivos, and replace them with an additional Mini if the first set up works out.

  82. “If they changed their pricing structure, I would buy a new Premier 4, 3 minis, and pay $21.99 per month … Instead, I’m spending a decent portion of my free time researching Myth TV.”

    Of course, if you pay full-freight on the Minis, then you’d pay TiVo less than $21.99 per month. (And why buy a new P4 at this point? That’s for the newbies. If I were in your shoes and in a rush, I’d just buy a super-cheap used P4 to be a placeholder at the center of your Whole Home until whenever the next-gen DVR’s arrive. If you think you can handle Myth TV, you can handle upgrading a P4 drive.)

    But frankly, Robert, I’ve been baffled as to whether your hobbyhorse is pricing or semantics. Your writing here does seem focused on the semantics. If TiVo changed the buy-on-installment $6/month fee on the Mini from a “service fee” to a less euphemistic term, would you be happy? Or if they just priced it at $250 and did away with the $100+6 option, would you be happy?

    Or is it just that the TiVo price for Whole Home is more than you are willing to spend?

    If the latter, there are definitely cheaper ways to do CableCARD than TiVo if you’re willing to deal with the significant hassles. Though unless your projected needs are very slight, I’d advise researching WMC over Myth…

  83. “I imagine I’ll feel more positive about my purchase and the company – which no longer seems to give many folks the warm fuzzies if the evolution of the TiVo Community is any indication”

    Well, that’s what would be expected at the tail end of the whole S4 debacle, no? But the staggered rollout of S5 should bring back some of the warm fuzzies with, (what a concept), better products.

    “But perhaps this is the natural progression of things as companies, other than Apple, evolve from startup into something a bit more stuffy.”

    If one wants to measure loss of warm fuzzies by a company from the kind of gear-heads who populate TiVo Community, I’d say Apple over the past couple of years has lost far more warm fuzzies than TiVo…

  84. Sam, I’m not talking the technology itself I’m talking the perception of and feelings towards the company. And in the 10+ years I’ve been lurking and contributing to the forum, the enthusiasm has waned. But perhaps this is the natural progression of things as companies, other than Apple, evolve from startup into something a bit more stuffy.

    Unfortunately I don’t know if TiVo will ever get it back. Their customers know they are now second to the demands and wishes of the cable companies.

    While they have always been slow, the interaction of the old days I think helped the community ignore that. Also it was a new product so you felt you could get behind it. As they grow larger and even slower to implement, it is tough to stay positive. It becomes why haven’t they done this yet instead of man I can’t wait until they do something like this.

    I think it is also the fact they haven’t kept up with the pace of the tech world. This is unfortunately for them is the space they are in from the consumer view, but I would guess they feel they are on pace or faster than the MSOs development cycle. It is now commonplace to expect large releases with significant updates on a yearly basis if not more frequently. Obviously TV isn’t like this though.

    If one wants to measure loss of warm fuzzies by a company from the kind of gear-heads who populate TiVo Community, I’d say Apple over the past couple of years has lost far more warm fuzzies than TiVo…

    I would say Apple is more where TiVo was with the TiVo HD. Maybe I am misremembering but I think this is when the community started to turn.

    I have long said TiVo would do better off building a real forum. I can’t stand the forum software they use. They could have private forums where they could post survey like topics for the community to discuss. They could interact more with less worry of the attacks that seem to happen on TCF these days.

    I hope the S5/Premiere2 or whatever they call it brings a lot of goodwill back to the community, but I fear at this point it would take a lot. This new box should be what the Premiere should have been. It should launch with a fully finished HDUI and be even quicker than the SDUI on the Premiere. I would say beyond that I would even go so far as it should launch with new features like built in DLNA support at launch and additional codec support. It should make people forget the Premiere ever existed or was released in the state it was.

    Do I think it will happen? No. Will I still upgrade? Yes since I have a home waiting for my Elite.

  85. “But frankly, Robert, I’ve been baffled as to whether your hobbyhorse is pricing or semantics. Your writing here does seem focused on the semantics. If TiVo changed the buy-on-installment $6/month fee on the Mini from a “service fee” to a less euphemistic term, would you be happy? Or if they just priced it at $250 and did away with the $100+6 option, would you be happy?”

    You’ve read my objections (mostly) correctly. I guess it is semantics to an extent. Tivo say’s the Mini requires a “service” fee, but they’re obviously NOT providing a service on the Tivo Mini. They’re providing a product, plain and simple. However, the service on the host Tivo is much less vague so yes, as a matter of principle, I could get over paying more for the Mini if they increased the price of the “service” on the only Tivo that’s actually providing a service.

    Having said that, I also have an issue with the pricing. I mentioned before that I have 4 televisions in my home. 90% of the TV viewing takes place in the Living Room, where the main Tivo resides. It makes very little sense to me to more than double my Tivo bill so I can occasionally use Tivo on the other 3 televisions…but on the other hand, I WANT Tivo functionality on every TV in my home. I’m also betting that MOST Tivo customers feel the same way. Assuming I’m right, it would actually be in Tivo’s best interest to rethink their pricing strategy – doing so would probably increase their hardware sales, increase “service” revenue, and also increase customer satisfaction. The way it is now, I’d rather not extend Tivo to ANY other television, if I can’t justify extending it to all of them.

    “… there are definitely cheaper ways to do CableCARD than TiVo if you’re willing to deal with the significant hassles. Though unless your projected needs are very slight, I’d advise researching WMC over Myth…”

    I’ve worked in IT for 15 years. There was a time where I received quite a bit of enjoyment building, modding, overclocking, and tweaking home computers. But those days are behind me. Now, by the time I get home, I’ve exerted all of the brain energy I’ve cared to for the day, and the last thing I want to do is sit behind another computer. So yes, I’m willing to pay a premium for Tivo, knowing there are cheaper alternatives, but not to the point where I feel like my intelligence is being insulted. I remember “back in the day” when broadband internet first came available. The cable provider wanted a set monthly fee to provide internet service to a single home computer. If you extended that service to multiple computers by using a hub or router, they wanted an additional fee for each computer. It was nonsense – but more importantly – unenforceable. This Tivo mini “service” is basically the same kind of nonsense with the exception that it IS enforceable.

  86. Michael Burstin March 17, 2013 at 5:22 pm

    @Brennok – I guess to some degree, I agree with what you are saying — and I understand the frustration with how slowly their software/hardware evolves — I think that Tivo is surviving on the saying that I’ve heard tossed around here about Tivo being bad, except for every other DVR out there.

    I can’t understand how my Comcast DRV that comes “free” with my cable package and sits in my spare room can be dumb enough to allow me to schedule a manual recurring weekly recording and yet forget about it 2 weeks later when the existing programming data is gone — or forget 25% of its season passes if I need to reboot the box and not even to be able to do simple keyword recordings like Tivo’s wishlists.

  87. “I think that Tivo is surviving on the saying that I’ve heard tossed around here about Tivo being bad, except for every other DVR out there.”

    TiVo makes the absolute worst DVR’s in the world, with the single exception of all the other DVR’s™.

    (Every time you use a variant of that phrase in writing, I’m due a quarter in royalties. Every time you think a variant of that phrase, I’m due a nickel in royalties. ASCAP is handling collections for me. Please don’t ignore their letters, or additional fees will be tacked on.)

    The strangest thing to me is that, given the fact that the DVR market is “mature”, and all the investment dollars are chasing the Brave New OTT World that will get here far more slowly than everyone thinks, (at least in the lean-back), TiVo will almost definitely exit the CableCARD era many years hence as the undefeated champ, merely because nobody was competent and bankrolled enough to take on a reasonably vulnerable company.

  88. I got two TiVo Minis from Best Buy up and running this past weekend. Setup was quick and in no more than 15 minutes I could see my other TiVos on the network and stream and watch the content from my Minis. I returned one of my cable cards to FiOS Saturday and that Premiere became OTA only.

    The Minis have had no issues playing back the content from my OTA only Premiere. And since the Mini is much faster than my two Elites, I’m using one Mini in my main viewing area where one Elite is. So now I’m using the Mini to view my recordings instead of the Elite.

    Once a six tuner Premiere is released that Mini will go to the lcoation my second Elite is. And I will be selling both of my Elite boxes.

  89. Wait until network DVRs are rolled out by the major cable companies. A few years after those become commonplace, I predict that you’ll see restrictions on your ability to fast-forward over the commercials. If I’m right, and TiVo is still around then (probably still another 5 years away I’m guessing), you could see a resurgence in TiVo retail, both because cable companies may stop selling TiVo’s and there could be a resurgence (though small) in TiVo’s retail unit sales as people jump ship to the TiVo as an alternative when they realize what they’ve given up…

  90. Dave,

    Your experience with the wife not being thrilled with the live channel change times concerns me. I know my wife also watches a lot more stuff life, and won’t appreciate the finer points of why the Mini is better. This could be a problem. Appreciate any followup if/when this evolves…

  91. (How the heck do I respond to a specific person? In email copies of messages, there IS a reply button, but clicking on it just brings me to this page.. and ON this page, I see no ‘respond’ button to each individual post.. in Safari.)

    Robert: You say you’re willing to pay $21.99/month.. But if you bought the Premiere with lifetime and for some reason paid monthly on the Minis, that would be $17.97/month.

  92. @mattack

    The point is that I’m NOT willing to pay monthly for the Minis, since they don’t offer a real service. But since the “service” is attached to the Premier, I would be willing to pay more for it (within reason) to enable unlimited connections to the Minis. So:

    Lifetime on the Premier + $6 – $7 per month to enable it for Mini viewing, or

    No lifetime, $14.99 per month + $6 – $7 per month to enable it for Mini viewing ($21 – $22 total).

    I think that’s reasonable, and again, it’s in Tivo’s best interest, since it would encourage customers to buy more hardware to enable Tivo on sets they wouldn’t have if they had to pay a separate monthly fee.

    Of course, I’m pretty sure this is now a purely academic discussion, since I have no idea how Tivo would suddenly offer this to folks after some customers have already purchased several units with lifetime.