At this point I thought Tivo was all but dead in the water. But surprise, today the company announced their Series 4 hardware and with it a new UI called the Premiere. So what’s new in Tivo Premiere?
Well, for starters they’ve beefed up the processor, which apparently now handles searches at a much faster rate and the new Flash UI moves like butter. When the units ship next month you’ll have your choice of two skus: a base model with 45 hours of HD storage (320GB) for $300 or a higher end THX certified model with 150 hours of HD storage (terabyte of storage) for $500. If you were hoping that Tivo would lower their service fees, well, keep wishing; they’ve remained the same. The new boxes consume less power than their predecessors, which probably won’t be reflected in your home’s monthly electricity bill, but it’s a nice peace of mind. To cut some costs (on Tivo’s end) they’ve forgone the modem and S-video output, but there is a cable card on the rear of the box, but good luck wrestling one of those away from your local provider (I’ve hard it’s a nightmare to score one).
As for the UI, it’s a bit difficult to say without using the Series 4 box. Also, I’ve never been a Tivo user so I’m at a loss to what is exactly new in this box. There is a new Discovery bar at the top of the menu screen, which apparently is some sort of aggregation of online video and TV with tips and suggestions for shows – I assume it’s based on your previously watched program, an Amazon for TV and something Tivo has long been doing. Zatz seems to think we’ll see advertising pop up in this location as well.
The new search we saw 2 years ago at CES apparently renders and works much more smoothly thanks to the increased horsepower under the hood, which should make finding Youtube and other online content a snap. Also, suffice to say we should expect some apps to eventually roll out, such as Pandora and Netflix, which seem to be the catch all applications when any integrated device launches these days.
When the Series 4 boxes launch they’ll be a standard remote available, but the flagship box – perhaps available for a separate purchase or separate all together – will be a QWERTY keyboard remote that communicates over Bluetooth. Early reports peg it as a bit chintzy in feel, but nothing is finalized at this point so hang tight while the brains at Tivo finalize the design. As for WiFi there’s of course the step up to 802.11n for increased through put and range, but it’s a standalone dongle. Surprisingly, it will have to be plugged into the wall in addition to the Tivo’s USB port to operate, but according to Zatz there is a built-in Ethernet cord for daisy chaining the adapter to other non-WiFi boxes, such as an Xbox 360.
So, as the title states, is this the Tivo we’ve all been waiting for? I’ve never been a Tivo fan due to the high monthly cost. At this point in the game I’ve ditched my cable and subscribe to Internet only. I use a Mac Mini to watch all my content on Hulu and other sites, and the way I see it I’ll make my money back in 8 months. Tivo’s new boxes are most certainly a step in the right direction, but unfortunately I think it’s too little too late.