When I first heard of the TiVo, I didn’t really understand just how useful it would be. My spouse convinced me to give it a try when it first came out. After using it for a bit, I realized it was something that would be essential to anyone who enjoys indoor entertainment and TV watching. Following is a review of the TiVo, one of my favorite devices at home (written by one of our contributors, Millie Kay G).
TiVo is a top HD digital video recorder that can record both standard definition and high definition shows. It’s a great service that can record an entire season of your favorite shows. To help out those of us who want to watch lethal cyborgs on one channel and sports championships on another, it can also record two shows at once. And as some of my friends can’t help repeating, you get to skip a boatload of commercials each and every day you use this DVR.
Amazon + TiVo = Winning TV
In addition, TiVo boxes can take advantage of your home computing network and high-speed internet service to give you even more options. One thing I’m really impressed with is the TiVo’s ability to hook up with Amazon Video on Demand. For instance, if I want to catch up on episodes of Dr. Who, the TiVo would help me along. Amazon lets me rent or buy videos, and I can buy a TiVo DVR there.
If I needed more videos than what Amazon offers, then I can try Netflix, CinemaNow, or even YouTube. If I’m already subscribing to a video service or logging into YouTube daily, then the integration with TiVo might streamline my routine. As an added benefit, I wouldn’t have to make any hasty trips to the local video store to avoid late fees and I could find something to suit my tastes even when insomnia strikes.
Sharing Photos and Music
Getting the TiVo connected to my home network can give it access to the music and photos on my PC, too. If I want to share my content with family members or visitors, it’s easy enough to do through TiVo. I can even share photos from Picasa or Photobucket.
Sharing works the other way as well. If I want to take a show with me to watch anywhere, I can move it off the DVR and onto a portable media device with the help of some software, or I can burn some episodes to a DVD. That means I can watch my favorite detectives on my PSP, an iPod, or even at my granny’s!
Now here comes the reality check — the TiVo DVR I want runs about $300 and I’d need to sign up for a TiVo service plan. We can choose from a monthly plan of $12.95 per month, a yearly plan of $129, a three-year plan of $299, or the product lifetime plan of $399. Note that the box won’t work without a plan, so if you’re going to go with something immediately affordable, then the monthly $12.95 sounds pretty good. If you need to cancel, you’d have to watch out for an early termination fee, as the monthly plan requires a one year commitment.
Alternative DVR Options
What about other DVRs and software alternatives? If you’ve got a PC that can handle Windows Media Center and a TV tuner card, then you can record TV shows and other media. Another service that can help me record TV shows with my PC is Orb (check out orb.com), which I’ve used in the past to stream videos to my PlayStation 3. Bonus: Orb’s a free service and takes advantage of equipment you probably already have.
SageTV.com is another alternative. Its HD Theater, available for $199.95, can work with SageTV Media Center software so you can watch what you want, whenever you want. It’s Mac and Linux friendly, too. And if you’re into free, open source DVRs, then check out MythTV.org. And finally, DIYers can follow Lifehacker’s nifty how-to piece on building your own DVR (and it doesn’t sound too complicated to me).
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