TiVo's $300 HD player was fully revealed today, so it's a good time to explore TiVo's pumped up Unbox functionality that this and the Series 3/2 all have. TiVo has been working as a set top box for Amazon's Unbox movie rental and purchase service for a while, but only in the last few weeks has it been possible to buy movies on a TiVo without any intervention from a PC. Having used it for a week, I have to say it's imperfect, but nice.
•The Unbox functionality is buried under "Find Programs" (OK) and then again under "Download Movies and TV shows" and then TiVo Unbox. Unbox is placed next to podcasts. I feel like its important enough to go directly under "Find Programs".
• You can get lists of downloads under "Top Movie Rentals", "This Week's New Release Movies", "Special Deals", "Top Movies", "Latest TV Episodes", "Kids & Family", "Foreign Films".
•Movie rentals will range from $1.99 to $3.99, movie purchases from 9.99 to 14.99, and TV shows will cost $1.99 per episode.
• It's still impossible to tell when a movie will be downloaded, and you can't watch until the entire thing is downloaded (unlike on a PC using an Unbox client.) But there's a blue light on the front panel of the TiVo that means you're currently downloading. The best way to ensure a video is ready at night is to send it to your TiVo from Amazon's unbox website.
• Still no way to tell which movies are for rent or buy, from the UI.
• To search for shows, you have to go to universal swivel search, which is underneath find shows. There should be a way to search for content from the TiVo's unbox interface, but there isn't. This is my major gripe. The PC is still a better place for heavy movie searches, something you'll do often considering that Amazon has a lot of content, but not all.
•When content plays back, my TV enters 480 mode. It's below average TV quality, considering the compression. There are no HD movies on Amazon Unbox.
In the end, a pretty good way to rent movies, but don't forget about XBox 360's limited but HD video service. I tend to use TiVo's service more because its only a few clicks away while I'm already watching TiVo.