The TiVo Premiere Review Roundup


The TiVo Premiere ($300) reviews have hit the web, ahead of the March 28th ship date. Unfortunately the coverage isn’t glowing, ranging in tone from decent to disappointment. In fact, some TiVo Community members are re-evaluating their pre-orders. Also unfortunately, I can’t say any of this comes as a surprise. As I wrote a few weeks ago, “The TiVo Premiere isn’t the home run I was hoping for. […] I expect to see a variety of improvements and additions over the next 12 months. Also, as a brand new platform, early adopters may find themselves in for a slightly bumpy ride.”

Current HD TiVo owners who want to see the platform evolve first-hand and who have tolerant spouses could get on-board with the Premiere now. Especially given some of the nice upgrade offers. Everyone else, upgrader or otherwise, should probably wait the 6-9 months it takes for the Premiere to get a few software updates under its belt.

As for me, I didn’t pre-order a Premiere and have no imminent purchase plans. Additionally, I’m still awaiting review hardware. Supposedly, TiVo had a limited supply of units to dole out and they appropriately prioritized the mainstream media and top tier blogs. However, I am left wondering if my lukewarm launch coverage made their decision that much easier.

Without further ado, here’s a sampling of TiVo Premiere reviews, featuring the last two sentences of each story:

TiVo Premiere review

The problem is that moving at such a snail’s pace has allowed the cable companies to catch up and consumers to move on; if cheap / free cableco DVRs were TiVo’s greatest existential threat of the past decade, the combination of cheap / free / good cableco DVRs and the online-only content customer might be the fatal blow of this one. The Premiere is the DVR we wanted two years ago — TiVo’s challenge will be to make it the DVR we want two years from now.

Wall Street Journal
New TiVo Mixes TV and Internet, but Falls Short

All in all, TiVo Premiere looks incomplete. It seems more like a platform for a future set of offerings TiVo hopes one day to have, rather than a way to deliver new content right now.

TiVo Premiere Review: Where’s the Razzle Dazzle?

I can’t wait until the DirecTV TiVo comes out (specific model still unconfirmed) as the Premiere is still a definite step up from what most of our cable/sat providers offer. And I’m too damned lazy to set up anything more complicated.

TiVo Premiere: First impressions

In the past, TiVo has been good about continually upgrading the software of its products. We’re hopeful that trend will continue, and that some of the nonhardware issues we’ve pointed out here can be addressed via future firmware upgrades.

TiVo Premiere

Also, FIOS DVRs, for example, integrate Web widgets like Facebook, Twitter, ESPN, and WeatherBug that you won’t get with TiVo. In the end, while we really like TiVo, and the Premiere offers the richest TiVo experience yet, it’s not exactly a no-brainer upgrade for current users, and it’s an even tougher sell for new users.

USA Today
New high-def TiVo Premiere combines host of features

Whether this slows TiVo’s subscriber drain remains to be seen. TiVo Premiere is better. It’s just not a game-changer.

TiVo Series 4 Premier XL

If you’re a no-frills TV-archiving fiend, then this device definitely has you covered (and then some). But if you’re looking for a truly scalpel-edged, seamless, all-in-one entertainment box, the Premier falls a little short. But only a little.

PC World
TiVo Premiere: Still the Best Way to Watch TV

Despite the cost of entry, I can highly recommend TiVo Premiere to anyone fed up with the sorry functionality of their cable DVR, especially those who make use of Web services like Netflix or Amazon Video on Demand. It’s a small price to pay for a vastly better TV-watching experience.

17 thoughts on “The TiVo Premiere Review Roundup”

  1. I have a pre-order in place. I sold my s3 with lifetime for the price of the new Premier with lifetime, so it was a wash.

    All in all I am more curious than anything else. No excitement, no apprehension, just curious what the new experience will be. It would be great it the actual units are better than the reviews, nothing like setting the bar low.

  2. No orders planned, even though I have three Tivos in the house. The only compelling reason to upgrade that I can see might be the Ethernet transfer rates, since multi-room on my existing HD units is still slower than I’d like.

    To me the telling review quote above is the one from PC Mag. As of now there are significant features on the Fios and AT&T DVRs that Tivo doesn’t offer. Multi-room with copy-once content for example. Or widgets. Or the upcoming built-in sling capability. Or better remote scheduling using an actual (gasp!) iPhone app that Tivo has yet to offer. I’m not even sure what the complete list is. Starting to get a little scary…

    BTW Dave, do you have any idea how this AT&T built-in sling capability is going to work? Apparently they’ve only announced it for WiFi, but even then an SD recording on AT&T is 2.7Mbps, even using h.264. Sure that’s lower than cable/MPEG-2 at 3.75Mbps or so, but still… are they building in an at-rate transcoder into the STB? That seems unlikely doesn’t it, unless the hardware has more capabilities than I’m aware of (like a built-in h.264 encode accelerator, which seems unlikely).

  3. Glenn, I don’t know on the U-Verse transfer to portables. I’m going to look at my Microsoft Mediaroom briefing notes from CES. Maybe there’s something there. Although what I remember was something like a Silverlight client for mobiles that handled streaming from a cloud-based recording. Hm.

  4. I posted this on the Engadget review as cypherx (that’s my account name over there). I don’t mean to cross post… but after posting and re-reading it… here’s my attempt at a first edit, plus I love ZNF, I have to post on this topic!

    I’m surprised that Tivo is rushing this unfinished product to market. What’s their rush anyway? Why not wait until they can release a FINISHED product. It only took them 10 years to redesign “part” of the UI. Really, what’s going on at Tivo? From following the Engadget Podcast and all the press release comments, it appears as if everyone is left talking about what Tivo “should have” done, rather than what they did. Right there, that’s indication of some kind of failure, maybe not on all levels… but on some. Granted, the new processor and Flash UI is a step in the right direction, but not enough to differentiate and “reinvent the DVR”.

    Let’s talk about how this relates to me, as a potential Tivo customer. Right now I have Comcast as are the only provider available to my residence. Say what you will about Comcast, but they have an extensive library of HD-VOD and SD-VOD, which I have to say we’ve been using more lately. The VOD is content we’ve already paid for, as part as our high tier premium subscription. We have the top subscription which includes HD-DVR, Phone and Internet under one package price, along with the big 4 premiums.

    So their DVR UI looks like it was designed in the early 90’s. Yeah, that’s one huge negative. However, functionality wise, it’s easy to use and they’ve added a few new features recently. My IPhone can now program the DVR from the new Comcast app. Our recordings are now organized in folders. It finally remembers the last 28 days of recording history to prevent re-recording shows you may have already watched and deleted. Caller ID information shows up on my TV screen. Interactive TV applications are on the way from Comcast Media Center. I’d have to say it’s getting there. While being just about “good enough”, the biggest gripe is the ugly 4:3 user interface. So naturally I’m looking at alternatives. What are my realistic alternatives?

    First there’s Moxi. It’s a very Interesting concept. Not sure how I feel about the heavy push on that crossbar interface. There’s a ton of confusion as to how the “Moxi” button operates. Sometimes it’s a back button. Sometimes it’s more like a home button. It’s just awkward. The multi room bundles sure cost a decent chunk of change for something you don’t know how long it will be around. Really, will Arris keep the product going strong in the next 5 years? Will they continue to innovate and push new and exciting software updates? From the early EngadgetHD review, I just can’t get over the few shortcomings. I guess you can call me hard to please… that’s ok when it’s my money I’m throwing out at a product.

    Next off is Windows Media Center, along with extenders (if you want multiroom). This looks promising once the Ceton and SiliconDust cable card tuners are available. Still a bit of an upfront cost for me personally (need to upgrade some hardware and also buy the $400 card). But one concern is, say the wife is watching TV on the 360 extender and I’m working on the PC where the tuner card is and need to reboot it. There goes her TV and any current recordings in progress. You know Microsoft after all these years hasn’t figured out how to install updates or certain programs without requiring a restart. Plus this is the most complicated and costly of the solutions. I guess the solution to that is to build a dedicated box. I priced out some hardware, and if I relocate my 2TB drive from my desktop, I can get everything in a nice HTPC case with a legal Windows 7 OEM copy from Newegg for about $850. Hmm, $850 for a new PC that just sits under the TV. I’d rather spend that money and beef up my main PC and use my 360 as an extender. I have decisions to make here, but I’m leaning towards some kind of Media Center solution (It has the nicest UI). I just hope it’s not overly complicated or buggy. I don’t need the wife complaining about spending all of this time and money in something that doesn’t work correctly. If only Microsoft released a low cost Media Center box. Just that; a set top box with Media Center on it, a coax input and a cable card slot in the back. I don’t need an $850 computer that can run Windows 7, do Photoshop, Word and Excel. I just want a nice looking home entertainment hub / DVR.

    Tivo Premiere – I can’t see why I should pay $299 for something that’s still as slow as my Motorola DCX3400 DVR, PLUS have an additional monthly fee for Tivo service, when this is just not feature complete. It’s a lot to ask for to get an unfinished product. I’ll continue to watch how it evolves, but as of right now, Tivo Premiere is not going to happen in my household. Maybe Tivo will come up with something that changes that… and I encourage them to try and do so. But sorry Tivo, right now you’re not getting a dime from me.

    I just don’t see much in this 3rd party DVR, media center market at this time. Maybe the market will open up a bit when software developers no longer have to pay the $80,000 to CableLabs to certify their UI, when the hardware developers already paid their $80,000. Maybe the proposed home gateway solution will be the answer to open things up for the end users. Maybe if Tivo would of provided more tuners and DLNA, that would have been a solution. But we can’t keep focusing on the “what if tivo did this…”. The truth is they didn’t innovate in ways we would have wanted them to.

    I just want one box that does cable Video on Demand, HD recording with a beautiful easy to use quick interface. Is that too much to ask for? Ideally I want to get this from my provider. That way if it breaks, I can swap the unit out for a new one – no questions asked. The current cable DVR has come a long way with the features I’ve mentioned above, and my latest one has 320GB hard drive in it. It’s just *not* quite there yet… much like the Tivo. So I might as well stick with what’s included in my premium package deal. Anyway, Mari will back up the Motorola DCX3400… she has to ;-)

    Come June time frame, I’ll seriously consider the Ceton route. As long as it sounds to be a dependable solution that has wife acceptance factor built in. But this will be in addition to the tried and true, easily replaceable and supported Cable Company DVR. Until then I’m stuck with the Cable DVR and BOXEE off of my laptop. Thanks Dave!

  5. I’m with you cypher – there’s no one perfect, obvious solution for all. We’re not quite there. Ben D and I chatted about this a few weeks ago, saying we wish the set-top box platform market was as mature and polished as the mobile platforms where we’re seeing all sorts of amazing options. And, yes, the STB competition is catching up. In and some cases lapping TiVo.

  6. Yeah but even the 2.7Mbps upload from an AT&T DVR to the cloud would probably be out of bounds for a lot of people, especially I would think AT&T U-Verse DSL customers. To get over 1.5Mbps up you have to go up to AT&T U-Verse Max Turbo which offers “up to” 3Mbps. And I assume is so distance limited it can only reach a small number of people…

  7. I thought TiVo’s announcement was very blah and unexciting, but reading Engadget’s and Gizmodo’s reviews makes me worried about the direction of TiVo as a company.

    It’s bad enough Premiere is a mediocre all-in-one box (that’s how they want us to think of it), but they failed to execute it as well: not only is the new design slow, but it’s not even fully done. Engadget says that often it falls back to old non-HD 4:3 UI to do stuff like organize Season Passes. Speaking of which, they still didn’t give us a simple ability to reorganize them and THEN apply the settings and let TiVo lock up the system for a few minutes.

    Really, really maddening stuff :( If I were looking for a CableCard solution, Ceton’s tuner would be it (SiliconDust not likely to make it until early 2011). Plus, with Media Center, you can playback any video files, do Blu-Ray/DVDs, and even experiment with things like Boxee.

  8. Glenn, the way it was described to me is that there’d be a copy of shows/recordings on AT&T’s servers. You’d never pull the content from your own boxes. Of course, something of that nature that could land them in court as it did Cablevision.

  9. Yah, I believe they did. And there was something different about Microsoft’s solution. I can’t remember the details (and haven’t found my notebook yet). But that doesn’t mean they won’t end up in court.

  10. TiVo just doesn’t have enough resources internally to bring the box where it needs to be. They need to leverage the power of the community. They somehow need to open up the platform and get folks to write apps for it. I know HME was an attempt at this but it never seemed to go anywhere.

    It would be interesting if they could build their own app store and serve up ads.

    I feel like the battle for the TV screen is so far from being over

  11. For those that are satisfied with the current TiVo “Classic” interface — still an option — the Premiere represents a major upgrade in performance, with much faster TTG downloads, TTCB transfers, multi-room transfers, and more robust video decoding.

    The new hardware provides more than sufficient performance to implement robust multi-room streaming, robust DLNA video playback, and a HD UI. TiVo opted to prioritize the HD UI above anything else.

    With the HD UI running behind schedule, TiVo is left in a bad spot because it can’t effectively market a new product–which they’ve had sitting in warehouses since late December–with much faster hardware and no other new features. Without a finished HD UI, they are left with nothing new to sell the product, hence the decision to roll out the new HDUI, a few pieces at a time.

    TiVo should’ve implemented DLNA and multi-room streaming for launch, with the promise of a HDUI later this year when it it was more mature. Of course, that’s easy to say with 20/20 hindsight; when TiVo started prototyping the new interface a year ago, I’m sure they thought they’d have most of it done by now.

    Having reach this point, if I were TiVo marketing, I would’ve talked up features like DLNA and multi-room streaming, with a promise to deliver that functionality later this year. As it is now, people who are sour on the new HD UI have no [publicized] reason to buy the product.

  12. Yep, TiVo needs to telegraph their moves to keep more folks interested. They’ve had several defections from their marketing team recently and a few years of rotating CMOs, which probably hasn’t helped them. Plus, whomever choose “Inventing The DVR Was Just A Warmup” set them up. TiVo is not Apple, the hubris won’t fly without something solid to back it up.

  13. I have two TiVo’s. I’ve said this before, I convinced the wife to let me buy a TiVoHD about 2 years ago. I’m not replacing that anytime soon.
    Also if I could transfer my lifetime sub from my Series 1 to a TiVo Premiere, I would seriously consider it. So I don’t see a Premiere in my future.

  14. I”m seriously considering dropping my dish tv subscription and going with tivo premiere with rabbit ears.
    my question is: can I buy this tivo premiere, record two OTA HD shows simultaneously from the 4 broadcast channels?
    looking back at our tv watching habit, we just don’t watch anything that is not on the national channels.
    does the tivo have two atsc tuners?

  15. Its possible that at some point a Tivo Premiere using the Classic UI will appeal enough to get me to jump. The big problem is going to be that the main reason to do this would be to get multi-room working better, and I’m *not* going to suddenly buy two of these things, so unless it works significantly better between Premiere and Tivo HD than HD to HD, I’m not going to jump. Anybody know how all this performance stuff works out?

    Yes the marketing guy at Tivo who decided to brand the event “Inventing the DVR was just a warmup”. Should be fired. And yes, Tivo clearly needs to telegraph their moves more at this point since what they’ve got isn’t good enough.

    As far as the AT&T iPhone viewing though, I’ll state the obvious:

    – Cablevision won. But they won THEIR case, not all possible remote recording cases. The Cablevision remote DVR was built as much like a DVR that just happened to be remote from you as possible–separate disk space for each user, no shared copies of anything, etc. The fact that Cablevision won that case doesn’t mean AT&T wouldn’t immediately be sued for deploying this feature.

    – AT&T *will* be immediately sued for deploying this feature if its done as you describe Dave, e.g. streaming recordings of shows from an AT&T central repository. I’d say that they’ll lose if they only have one copy of the show at the repository, but that’s just a guess. If they make recordings optimized for a cell phone on their central computers in parallel with the ones on my local DVR they might win the case, but it would take YEARS. Cablevision hired Arroyo to build the test system in 2005, and the Supreme Court didn’t weigh in on it until 2009 after Cisco had bought them. And the system STILL isn’t deployed. If this is what happens AT&T customers better not be holding their breath waiting for this feature…

    There are technologies that WOULD allow this sort of thing to be done efficiently, e.g. using scalable video coding, but AT&T would have to change out all of their encoders, and maybe even all of their STBs to deploy that. Doesn’t seem likely to me… Anyway, this would allow a low-rez lower-bitrate stream to be extracted from the full-rez stream very easily. Probably going to be possible someday, but not enough broad deployment for this tech just yet…

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