The Tivo HD is the product were waiting for but beginning to doubt. Because Tivo's Series 3 model successfully brought HD to the platform, but at a price reserved for high-end home theaters. So when news of the $299 Tivo HD broke, we were elated.
But how does it perform? Hit the jump for our Frankenreview: a promised consensus, once and for all, on whether or not the new Tivo HD is pants-worthy.
Here's the relatively minor downside: The system lacks the premium THX audio output. It stores just 20 hours' worth of high-definition programming, compared with 32 hours on the Series3. And like all third-party Cablecard products, it cannot handle on-demand or pay-per-view programming.
Users of older, standard-definition TiVos and some DVRs may find the TiVo HD a bit slower, particularly when the system is updating its two-week programming guide. This is a consequence of having to draw much more information for an HD screen. But common searches require fewer clicks on the remote than with the sometimes clunky interfaces seen on cable-company DVRs.
...the 5.1-channel Dolby audio that the TiVo HD captured when recording HD channels sounded really nice, even though the new model lacks the Series3's THX audio- and video-quality certification. I noticed, however, that the audio on a couple of HD recordings was slightly out of sync with the video.
...hard-core couch potatoes may be chagrined to realize that the TiVo HD can toggle between only any two live sources. So while you can record two programs simultaneously, you can't switch to or record a third live program, even if it's coming in off the antenna. You can, however, view a previously recorded program while recording two others.
Interestingly, this chip seems to be quite capable. It can also do transcoding of digital content between MPEG-2 and MPEG-4, as well as other formats...There has been a lot of speculation since this was uncovered yesterday that the chip could be used for other tasks, such as transcoding HD video to SD video for MRV to S2 units. It could possibly transcode other video formats for playback on the TiVo, or even conceivably handle built-in place-shifting. It is certainly fuel for speculation.
Everything we've discussed in the recent past is there: Amazon Unbox downloads, One True Media video and photo sharing, Yahoo! and Fandango. But most of all, it's a $300 way to unlock the HD cable subscription I pay a ridiculous amount of money for but can't navigate using standard cable boxes.