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TiVo Digital Video Recorder
TiVo Digital Video Recorder

MarksFriggin Review of the TiVo Digital Video Recorder - 12/19/2003

So what's a TiVo? You've probably heard the name, it's been mentioned on many TV shows, by Howard Stern and Robin Quivers, and maybe even your friends. TiVo is a Digital Video Recorder. It's basically a computer with a hard drive that's about the size of a VCR. It allows you to record TV shows on a hard drive and play them back.

TiVo constantly recording so you can actually pause a TV show while you're watching it to answer the phone, take a crap, grab a cup of coffee... whatever. You can also hit a button to do an instant replay. It'll ''rewind'' about 7 seconds to allow you to see a fumble during a football game, the flash of a breast on the Howard Stern Show anything you want to rewind to.

You get a nice on-screen schedule to search for the shows that are on or scheduled to come on. It has 2 weeks worth of schedule information. You can hit a ''record'' button on the TV remote on that screen to pick shows to record. You can also go to an on screen search menu that will allow you to find specific shows, actors, sport teams or movie titles. There's also the Season Pass feature that allows you to record every episode of your favorite show whenever it's on. You can even tell TiVo to record only new shows, reruns or both.

The best part of this thing is that you can record shows while you're watching a program that's already been recorded so you can blast through the commercials. It'll literally change your life. It's allowed me to watch more TV than I ever thought possible. I'm able to blast through some hour long programs in about 40 minutes or less depending on how much nonsense there is during the program.

I've owned a TiVo since 1999 so I've had quite a bit of experience with them. I started with a Philips ''Series 1'' TiVo unit with 12 hours of recording capacity that lasted about a year. You have to have these things hooked up to a phone line or a home network to allow it to get the TV schedule info and the old units were very sensitive to power surges. Mine got fried. I got another one and it lasted about the same amount of time before it had some problems of it's own. By that time, TiVo had released the ''Series 2'' units. They added some features like USB ports and larger hard drives. They also made them smaller, closer to the size of a VCR. I grabbed one of those since I wasn't able to watch regular TV without going crazy not being able to zip through the commercials with ease.

The unit I got was a special AT&T Broadband unit that was cheaper than the others that TiVo offered at the time. TiVo upgraded their software to have some new features that allows you to network the units in your home together. What that means is that you can record shows in one room and transfer them via your home network to another unit in your home. When I heard about that, I had to have another TiVo. That's when I got an 80 hour TiVo making it the second unit in the house. Add a couple of USB wireless network adapters and you're done. The downside to that is that you have to pay a little extra for those features (the Home Media Option).

I'll admit, the TiVo isn't an inexpensive investment. It is awesome though. The quality of the recordings from cable or satellite is great. You can choose from a few different quality options when you record. The better the quality, the more space it takes up. I haven't run out of space yet, even with the 40 hour unit I have. You'll pay about $200 for 40 hour unit or about another $100 for an 80 hour unit. To get the schedule info and updates, you'll have to pay a monthly fee of $12.95 or a lifetime subscription that will run you about $300 (Ouch!). Like I said, it's not cheap, but it's worth it if you like watching TV.

There are other TiVo units out there that combine DVD players or DirecTV functionality to them. There's even a couple out there that allow you to record your TiVo recordings to recordable DVDs. I haven't saved up enough for one of those... yet.

I have had a couple of problems with my TiVo units over the years. Like I said earlier, the modem died in my first Series 1 unit, the second Series 1 unit had a strange sound problem that I didn't bother getting fixed. The Series 2 units seem to be a little tougher. I did have a problem with my 40 hour unit. The hard drive got fried somehow. I had to replace it wih ta take-out unit from a company that sells TiVo upgrades.

After reading some online forums I was led to believe that the problems could have been caused by power surges which did seem to be an issue at my home. People suggested putting the TiVo on a UPS (Uninterruptable Power Supply) to ensure the unit does not lose power. I now have both TiVo units on their own UPS. My computers are also on UPS's for the same reason. The power in my house is kind of questionable and seems to go out at the worst time.

So TiVo has made it just about impossible for me and my girlfriend to watch regular TV. If something is on at 8:00pm, we'll pick something we had recorded the night before and what that while the live program is recording. We'll finish that up and tune into the live program while it's still recording and start from the beginning. If you time it right, you can skip all of the commercials and catch up to live TV by the time the program is ending. It's great!

Every chance I get, I tell people about how great these TiVo's are. Check one out at your local electronics store and see how it can change your life. You don't even have to set the clock on the thing, it does it automatically when it dials in to get the schedule information. No more blinking 12:00 like on your VCR!

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