I’ve been a fan of TiVo DVRs for years, having bought my first box in 2004. TiVo was smart, easy to use and personable, much like another company I blog about frequently. Sometime in 2008, I think it was shortly before the Summer Olympics, I bought my first HD TV and with that upgraded to a TiVoHD. I’ve used that same TiVoHD, and another I bought a few years later, until just recently when I finally took the plunge and upgraded to the TiVo Roamio last month.
Before I go any further, this is not intended to be a comprehensive review of the TiVo platform or the new Roamio. If you’re looking for that, I can suggest Jason Snell’s original Review with an update here or David Pogue’s review for Yahoo tech. These are simply my views as a long-time TiVo user who is upgrading from an HD to a Roamio.
Why I Upgraded Now
It took me almost seven years to upgrade my faithful TiVoHD to the new Roamio model, and quite a bit of convincing. I use my TiVo with a an HD antenna to record digital over the air (OTA) broadcasts. Over the years, as TiVo upgraded their platform with the Premier and then the Roamio, my TiVo HD (sometimes called a Series 3 TiVo) still worked fine as a DVR, but didn’t gain any enhanced functionality and sometimes lost a few features. While annoying, it wasn’t a deal breaker. I used the TiVo solely as a DVR and looked to other devices, primarily an Apple TV, for all my online entertainment needs. As a DVR, my TiVo still worked and, thanks to investing in the lifetime service option, my TiVo wasn’t costing me anything in monthly service fees. It was hard to justify the price of a new DVR compared to the features I gained. I did have to replace a hard drive in one of my TiVos a few years ago, but it was a fairly painless procedure.
Every so often, TiVo will run a special to try to entice owners of “legacy” TiVo boxes to move to a new model and I was fortunate to be able to purchase a refurbished Roamio with Lifetime service for a significant discount. Because only the entry-level Roamio (with a 500GB hard drive) supports over-the -air TV I choose to upgrade the hard drive, but found this was a fairly easy procedure to do myself with a stock hard drive. (Caution, doing so will likely void your warranty.) I also picked up a TiVo Mini so I could watch the content on my TiVo in my bedroom. The special pricing from TiVo, along with a few Amazon Gift Cards made the my out of pocket costs much more reasonable and the decision to switch much easier. I was also fortunate that I was able to recoup almost all of my out of pocket expense by selling my two TiVoHDs on eBay as TiVo units with lifetime server are still fairly valuable.
TiVo has done a lot over the years to make the process of switching from one TiVo to another easier. As soon as my TiVo Roamio arrived I promptly ripped the stock hard drive out and replaced it with my a 3TB drive. Thanks to the TiVo software being loaded in firmware the TiVo took care of formatting and initializing the drive. After downloading a software update (a process that still takes too long) I was in business and ready to begin.
My first concern is I was setting this new TiVo up during the summer when most of the shows I regularly watch were on hiatus. Thankfully a few years ago TiVo introduced an online Season Pass manager which meant my season passes were already associated with my online account. Once my new TiVo was registered with my account and synced up with the TiVo service I was able to log in and copy season passes between boxes. The process was fairly painless and even shows that didn’t have any episodes scheduled transferred over without the need to setup my season passes again.
Transferring shows on the other hand was not so easy. I had about 60 shows saved up on my old TiVo that I wanted to transfer to my new Roamio. (I tend to record shows during the Fall but am too busy to watch them so I save entire series for watching over the summer.) I setup my old TiVo in a spare bedroom and had all the boxes connected to my home network via Ethernet. Once I confirmed the boxes could see each other it was a manual process of one-by-one transferring each show from the old box to the new.
It was painful! I had to manually navigate to the show I wanted to transfer, click through several different menu options, choose to initiate the transfer, wait several seconds, click through a confirmation screen, then start again. Each step had a lag of several seconds while the command processed. For each individual show to be transferred it took 45–60 seconds to queue the show up. Even with a Cat 6 wired Ethernet connection an hour-long program would take between 30–45 minutes to transfer. Worse yet, it took me more than an hour one evening to manually queue up all the shows to transfer and another two days before all the transfers were completed. Thankfully, once the shows were queued up, the transfer process completed without errors.
I’ve heard the reason TiVo hasn’t simplified this process is concerns about illegal content sharing. However, there still has to be a better way. Perhaps a way to queue multiple transfers through TiVo online to authenticate that the owner of the box is only transferring to another registered box. Or perhaps a way to transfer all shows in a group or folder. Either way, the process as is was tedious and outdated. But, it worked and once it was done, I was setup on my new Roamio and ready to go.
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