Tivo Roamio Review

A shocking admission is that I was not an early adopter of DVR technology. I was certainly aware of the products, and the capabilities, but for some reason, I didn’t take the plunge until they had matured.

The early leader, Tivo wasn’t even my first DVR, but instead, since I had Dish network, I got their bundled DVR, and was satisfied.

It wasn’t until we relocated to Arizona when we “splurged” on a Series 2 Tivo. The UI was intuitive, the way of finding programming was impeccable, and the integrated guide was a wonderful experience. We were hooked.

In 2006, we took the plunge, and went HD, with the purchase of an excellent Pioneer Plasma display, and a Series 3 HD Tivo. Cox cablecards, and we were in HD heaven. With one failure of the box (replace under warranty), and a HD swap when the original drive failed (thanks to Weaknees) 10 years later it was still going strong.

Tivo Series 3HDAlas, in January, we were notified that our cable provider, Comcast, was switching to MP4 encoding for the HD channel lineup, and that the Tivo Series 3 supported only the Mpeg2 codec, we would need a new device. Fortunately, Tivo mailed me an offer for a refurbished Roamio unit with lifetime service for $280. I called and took them up on the offer, as while I spend most of my time with streaming video (netflix and amazon prime), we do capture enough normal TV to want the Tivo service.

It arrived promptly, and it was trivial to setup. The interesting thing was that it only has one cablecard slot, and that puzzled me a bit. The Series 3 had two, and could record 2 streams. This supposedly could handle 4 streams at once, with an Multi Cablecard. Turns out that I shouldn’t have been worried, as moving one card to the Roamio, and calling Comcast to pair it with the new Tivo was trivial.

The guided setup was a snap, and within an hour, I was up and running, having moved a few programs we wanted to save from our old Tivo to the new Tivo, and put in a couple of Onepass programs (I gotta have me my MotoGP feeds…) we were up and running.

One unexpected benefit is the fact that the major streaming services are built in. I had been using my smart-TV’s app for Netflix, and it has been satisfying (prior to the smart-TV, we used my X-Box 360, a cumbersome process). But now, Netflix, Amazon (prime and non-prime) video, Hulu, and others are all integrated. Thus when I am looking for something to watch, I can search across all the services I have subscriptions to. Cool.

The new remote isn’t a IR transceiver, but a RF wireless (it also has the IR bits to control the audio system and the TV). Nice touch.

For programming that has the proper bits encoded, it allows you to completely skip the commercials with the push of a button. No more 30 second whacks, or fast forwarding and relying on your reflexes. Pretty darned cool.

The ability to show both streaming and recorded options for your onepass programs. An example is Archer, an animated show that I am a huge fan of. I can stream the first 5 seasons via Netflix, or record the unreleased episodes, but in the past they were not visible together. Now they all appear in one folder, and I can select what I want to watch, and it just works.

I have had the iPhone app for Tivo for a long time, but it was really pretty useless for the old Series 3 box. Now, I can browse, search, setup recordings, and even mirror the remote all from my iPhone. Really cool thing.

4 stream recording. The multi stream enables cable card is a lot cooler than I thought it would be. We never really needed more than 2 streams being recorded before, but with 4, it is a nice touch. Furthermore, the interface gives a lot of flexibility for switching between tuners.

Video quality. This is very subjective, but it appears that the tuner quality for streaming is a bit crisper than the built in to the Smart-TV. Not sure I can quantify this, but is just is noticeable.

Comcast VoD support. One of the downsides (or benefits) of the old Tivo was that it couldn’t stream the on demand programming from Comcast. no PPV, or other things as we didn’t have a set top box. Now, that is an option (although, looking at the Comcast pricing for movies and shows give me heart palpitations. Way too expensive for my tastes, and usually much less expensive to rent/buy through Amazon.) But it does level the playing field.

Speaking of the user interface, I had used the old interface for so long that I was worried that Tivo would screw up a good thing. Alas, that isn’t the case, It is just as intuitive, and easy to navigate. No need for a manual, as you quickly figure out the workflow, and keep discovering shortcuts and tricks. A nice benefit is adding the Picture in picture panel showing what is currently playing on the tuner, so you can keep an eye on what is playing.

We got the base version, which is 70ish hours of HD recording or 660 hours of SD recording. More than enough to keep us in fat city.

The one negative is that the Roamio doesn’t have a clock display on its front panel. We got used to that clock being there to read. Trivial, but a nice to have.

Once again, my loyalty to Tivo remains, and we are still in the fold. A bonus is that we can still get some real money for our Series 3 box with lifetime subscription attached on E-Bay.