TiVo Stream 4K: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

After a month delay, the TiVo Stream 4K update arrived last week with a variety of fixes.

However, beyond failing to roll in HDR improvements, TiVo introduced a pair of issues. Notably: breaking some audio/video decoding and locking up developer options behind a PIN. Of course, being able to successfully playback audio and video is a critical feature of any streaming device. So it’s a pretty significant development when an A/V company can’t get such fundamental capabilities right.

I had been prepared to recommend the TiVo Stream 4K as the ultimate Channels DVR end-point, given its occasional solid performance (hey, flickering is supposedly corrected) and mappable, numeric remote. But given the current situation (filmed above) and TiVo’s ongoing quality control issues, folks are better served by the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K – it’s far more reliable, stable. Bonus: Amazon’s hardware often on sale for $10-15 less than TiVo.

In any event, TiVo is tracking these matters according to the Redditor tivopm:

Hi All, we’ve confirmed that the PIN lock on Developer Options was added and should not have been. To be clear, we will be removing the PIN code access to developer options and returning the device to how it worked previously. We’re working hard right now on providing a fix as quickly as we can but to set expectations I don’t know when that will be yet. As soon as I have more details I will report back.

16 thoughts on “TiVo Stream 4K: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back”

  1. Change the decoding from software to hardware (or is that reversed) and you are good to go on the playback. This device is STILL the best channels dvr device and I know tivo is working on updates and I am willing to stick it out, at least updates are rolling out in a weekly/monthly fashion.

  2. @James J, yes should have it reversed. You change from hardware to software decoding in the Channels DVR app settings. Do not use hybrid, that also doesn’t work.

    A problem for me is, when I switch to software decoding, it must tax the processor too much so I get contact stuttering and buffering so either way unless I down convert to 480p 2Mb I’m SOL.

  3. I did mention in the video that Channels allows you to flip from hardware to software decoding. However, software decoding is inferior on multiple fronts and not all apps provide that option. Beyond MPEG2 decoding issues, sounds like some hardware audio decoding has been dropped as well.

    James, we’ve yet to see a weekly update cadence and I doubt they have the capacity to make that happen. Monthly is probably the best they can do. And even a two month pace wasn’t enough time to release without introducing new issues.

  4. Unbelievable. That TiVo can release an update that cripples what was a strength of their system architecture (MPEG2 decoding) really makes me believe that DVR support, let alone development, is fading fast.

    It puts me very much in mind of the IBM OS/2 WARP days, where IBM announced that OS/2 development was “secondary” given the push by the retail side to sell IBM hardware preloaded with Windows. A robust, sophisticated and yes, complex PC OS was pushed to the background as IBM chased technology rabbits down other holes, leaving WARP 3 as the final update for legacy systems, such as bank ATMs and Point Of Sale systems.

    TiVo may fix this, or they may just see the self fulfilling prophecy that based on slow market acceptance, internal resources are better deployed chasing other rabbits.

  5. I’ve seen someone post that they’re still able to play DVD rips encoded in MPEG-2 on their TS4K after this latest update. So my guess is that the update borked the ability to handle the TS (transport stream) container inside which MPEG-2 encoded OTA TV is broadcast. TS compatibility is supported at the hardware level by the Amlogic chipset that the TS4K uses.

    Sling’s AirTV Mini dongle uses the same chipset, and also runs Android TV 9.0, like the TS4K. Apparently they’re better than TiVo at coding firmware for it though. I’ve not read of any major bugs/issues with the AirTV Mini other than the same forced/fake HDR issue that the TS4K also has.

    Hopefully Google has that fixed before they roll out their own Sabrina dongle soon — it will reportedly have almost the exact same chipset as these other two. If Amazon can do native HDR/SDR auto-switching with AOSP and basic hardware in their Fire TV Stick 4K, seems like Google should be able to figure it out too…

  6. I just purchased a Tivo Bolt ota and Live TV is very inconsistent. I recieve perfect signals for a few days and I am able to record 4 tuners at once when it works so I don’t believe it is an antenna issue as TIVO keeps telling me. It works fine and then suddenly it says no signal. I then connect my antenna to my antenna directly to my TV and have no problem receiving a signal. They sent me a replacement and still have the same problem

    Think twice about purchasing a

  7. How disappointing. TiVo has lost focus and is squandering what was once a fantastic brand. The aggregation of program sources in this new TiVo Stream 4K product is really only of secondary interest…to me anyway(!!) I mean once you’ve got a Season Pass (One Pass…or “whatEVER”) set up, who cares if it’s being recorded from a streaming source, OTA or Cable? If TiVo would make a hardware-box DVR that could set up a Season Pass and record from any source — YouTubeTV, Fubo, AT&T TV Now, Sling, etc., OTA or Cable, and then stream the programs out to portable devices both in-home and away-from-home, they would once again gain relevancy.
    With the exception of not having a dedicated hardware box, the Channels DVR really *does* seem to be everything that TiVo should have become.
    Three cheers for the Channels DVR folks for having the vision to make a DVR product that records well from streaming sources (via TVE) and OTA and Cable (via HD Homeruns, etc.).
    Three raspberries to TiVo for having lost their vision. As long as ANY programming is interrupted by ads, the DVR concept is still viable for the sake of recording to be able to skip commercials. Channels DVR’s Commercial Skip is about 95% accurate and I gotta say, I just LOVE watching HGTV programs with the Channels DVR automatic Commercial Skip enabled!!! I’m disappointed TiVo didn’t have the vision to be the product that does that for me.

  8. If I check the LinkedIn pages for the developers at Tivo, will all of their profile photos be pictures of a monkey? Seems like that’s who they hired to do their coding.

  9. Dave, seems unlikely to me that HDR controls are automatically there in Android TV just waiting on both TiVo and AirTV to expose them for their devices. OK, maybe a hidden control is there that would allow the user to set HDR to “always off” rather than “always on,” which is what both devices do by default if connected to an HDR-capable TV. But what folks want is a setting that automatically switches the output to the native dynamic range and color space of whatever content is being streamed from any app. And it sounds like both companies are saying that’s a fix/feature that they will have to engineer and not something trivial like just exposing a hidden setting in the menu. I know that was something that Nvidia Shield TV users asked for for a few years before Nvidia enabled it. And even after that, I’d read that subsequent software updates sometimes messed the feature up.

  10. Too bad this is just for streaming content. Had it been a full Android TV device with full support for other types of apps like games, I probably would have picked one up. Just as well I didn’t. Come on Google – release the new Chromecast already!

  11. What I am surprised about is no spring update for TiVo dvr. First time I think ever.

    Hmmmm is the TiVo sw updates dead?

    They got their priority’s straight with the TiVo stream. Not.

    Guess the time may be coming to an end. Been a TiVo customer over 20 years.

  12. Just noticed TiVo received update sometime in the last week,
    didn’t catch when it got applied,
    but was on Build PI.4800 and system is now showing Build PI.4896,
    haven’t checked Reddit to see if they left a Changelog,
    only obvious fix I noticed is now ‘Developer Options’ access is available again.

  13. I had a Fire 4k stick last year, and it had a problem of forcing content in 2.0 channel audio to DD 5.1, meaning any content in stereo couldnt have dolby pro logic applied via my AVR to get a center channel. Could only get stereo.
    This was a deal killer for me, so i returned it. Was on a Roku which worked fine, but no HBOMax. So i then went with Tivo 4k Stream and they cant get their software right. Why cant these companies get their crap together.

  14. I ended up ditching cable, and selling my TiVo DVRs. I bought and HDHomeRun and a couple of TS4Ks and ChannelsDVR, running the DVR off my existing NAS. Overall, the experience is pretty solid – it’s a good Android TV dongle, and I think better once the TiVo apps are disabled. I also have a new Chromecast w/Google TV arriving soon; it will be interesting to compare the two.

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