Tivo Series 2 DT Hands-On

I've invented a new hardware test—it's called the Carmine. Carmine is my neighbor. He's a former tattoo artist, rides a Harley, and rarely takes much of anything from anyone, so if he likes a product, you know it's good. Unfortunately, the DT scored a 3, at best, on the Carmine scale.

The DT, which stands for Dual Tuner, has thus far been under-hyped and under-reviewed, for good reason. It's just an 80GB TiVo with two tuners. "Well, duh," you say. "What were you expecting?" Nothing, really. Just a product I could foresee buying.

One-off upgrades are alright in the PC world—add Wi-Fi to this laptop and make it Centrino. Add... nothing... umm... to that PC and make it Viiv. But add another tuner to a piece of CE equipment and all you do is piss off current TiVo owners and confuse potential converts.

Tivo Series 2 DT Hands-On

When they talk about two tuners, they really mean you have two inputs—one from your cable box and another from the RF cable line. This means you have basic and cool cable-in. The use case is kind of hard to wrap your head around—you can record one basic cable channel and one cool cable channel at the same time, which means you can't, say, record something on Showtime and on HBO at the same time without two cable boxes. Fair enough, but extremely limiting.

Tivo Series 2 DT Hands-On

How does the DT handle these two inputs? It shows the channel number with a little "cbl" or "box" next to it. You can record one show from cable and one from the cable box. Wheee! No I can record the public access channel's "Teenagers Attempt to Rant" hour and the Sopranos. Lucky me. Intuitive? Hell no. This is not the TiVo I know and love.

Tivo Series 2 DT Hands-On

Carmine tended to agree. He tried to install the DT without my supervision and he ended up in the wireless networking menu by mistake—and he doesn't have a wireless network. When we finally got him out of the menu, we got stuck at the DHCP settings page. Carmine knows carburetors, but he doesn't know DHCP. Strike two. Finally, I was at a loss to explain how this box improves upon the Time Warner DVR he already has, except for TiVoToGo and a number of minor features that allow him to pull video off of the TiVo for later use, which is really all he wanted to do. All I could recommend was getting the HUMAX DVD burning TiVo. Not a rousing advertisement for the DT.

Sure, it has an Ethernet port and sure the little wireless adapter they sent us to play with is cool-looking, but I can't recommend this as an upgrade for current TiVo users nor can I recommend this to a first-time TiVo user—the analog RF cable tuner is just not useful enough to consider this an upgrade.

TiVo users are a long-suffering and patient lot. They accept buggy, annoying installs and land-line dial-up setups. They play with TV inputs so they can record one show and watch another at the same time. They change cable channels so they can watch HD content and record it at the same time. They work around TiVo's many limitations and still stand by the product, like a battered hillbilly yelling at the police on Cops to leave her man be, he wouldn't hurt nobody!

Give us Series 3 or give us death. For many—far too many, in fact—the cable company's HD-ready DVR is getting more and more tempting, and that is a sad, sad fact.