Sunday, July 31, 2011

TIVO Set Top Box, Recorder, and Online Player - Evaluation

Many of us are looking forward to big improvements and changes in TV and internet: Medford Leas Lumberton campus with fiberoptics, and Willow Valley with SeniorTV, and elsewhere as more and more programming media moves online.

So, with new choices and TV changes coming everywhere, it is time to evaluate the TIVO set-top box.   The reason is that more and more TV, even recorded network TV, is coming to us online.

The TIVO box has been around for 10 years as a TV recorder.  The latest box is far more than a recorder.    With the latest TIVO box, it does not matter where your TV is, cable, satellite, or online.     The TIVO accesses it.    The TIVO merges cable and internet.    Really, to many, it does not matter where the program is coming from---you just need to be able to access it.

What sets TIVO apart from other recorders is ease of use and a search capability,   A slide remote (optional) includes a keyboard, but if you have an iPad, TIVO is controllable from the iPad’s screen keyboard, also from iPhone, Touch..    

It is over the recent year, especially, that much more video programming media has become available online, far more than on TV.   You could ask whether this is really appropriate.    Isn’t the TV a better access device for many?      Well, the TIVO box simply brings online media to TV, and that makes a lot of sense, especially for those not so computer-literate yet.

The basic TIVO costs $100 plus $20 a month.   As always, the device records TV so that you can play it back at any time.   Installation is a snap---just plug it in.

Used with Comcast cable, and other such coax cable services, you probably will need a so-called cable card which lets you plug your TV into the service without any other set-top box, just like an antenna..    Service providers are required by law to provide the card to you.   It looks like an old PC card.

Now, to the major benefits...

TIVO accesses services like Netflix, Amazon, and others.     It access the internet “cloud” newly for your music and photos.   It accesses iTunes libraries on your computer, using your computer as a holding tank, though Apple is now starting to shift activity to the “cloud” with its huge billion dollar cloud data center in North Carolina.

For this access you need a router, and probably a  wireless adapter such as used for computers.   TIVO offers its own adapter at about $80.   I found an old adapter worked well, but was challenging to set up (it was listed as incompatible, though it was compatible once configured).

All this brings far greater choices.    HULU newly brings network recorded TV to your television, even in HD up to 720p: NOVA, Nightly News, etc.   With NOVA, 50 past shows are accessible.  Typically, you must watch a short commercial at the start, and pay about $7.99 a month.

Amazon and Netflix offer similar network programs, usually free or at $.99 per episode.    NBC Nightly News is free.

To activate some of these services, you may need to login with your TIVO account information or login name, or simply access a code from TIVO and use a computer to activate that code.

TIVO makes it easy to access podcasts (pre-recorded broadcasts and telecasts, or recorded audio and TV).    Anyone can create a podcast, so that there are a huge number out there as compared with bTV programming.    TIVO accesses the massive classical music videos of YouTube.

To access the cloud and your computer takes a little effort.    To pick out standard “channels” with HULU you will want to go to a computer for that and choose them---that’s all.

There are more capabilities for computer users.

To access your computer’s iTunes (iPod) library, TIVO gets them currently directly from your computer.   There is a simple TIVO option to create a network connection automatically.

Once this network connection is set up, (automatic) all items set up for iTunes can appear on TIVO, both video and audio broadcasts.     Also, of course, yout MP3 music converted from CDs

I wanted to record radio broadcasts.   (Why not have ALL media available on TV?)    Newly, then,  The DAR.FM service (Google it) is newly recording radio broadcasts for you online to access later.    They will also stream the those broadcasts to your computer via iTunes, so that they, too, are also available on TIVO.

DAR.FM is downloaded and installed and offers a check-box to send broadcasts to your computer and thus to TIVO.

TIVO also has capabilities to transfer from TIVO to computer and the reverse.   TIVO has a straightforward downloadable TIVO desktop for the purpose.   Thus, TV recordings can be sent to devices such as the iPad.    Hulu is also directly accessible on iPad.  

iPad is, of course, starting to cut into laptop sales, and even, unexpectedly, TV sales.        The iPad will even send selecte videos to your TV!!

One more thing.     Your internet “pipeline” needs to be wide (fastflowing) enough to handle TIVO if you use TIVO for more than just recording.   This capability is measured in mbps (just remember the mbps number (---forget what mbps is--just a speed measurement).   For HD 1080i you will probably need more than 3 of these “mbpses”.       Older non-HD TV requires .6 to 1 mpbs.    Internet 720p 2 mbps.      For safety it is better to have 6 mbps.     Telephone-based DSL services have fairly constant speeds; Windstream 3 mbps, cable variable and are rated “up to” but with no guarantees!!   HULU lets you adjust to your needs.

Google TIVO for the full story.

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