This article is old referencing the Series 3 HD DVR. The underlined statement is incorrect about the 8300 HD not being able to tell if a show is a repeat. There is a menu option to record "First Run only on this channel". There may be some cable companies that still use an old EPG that doesn't have the First Run Flags enabled.
TiVo Series 3 HD DVR
By Dawn Gordon Luks
I’ve lived with one Digital Video Recorder of one kind or another for the past eight years. My first experience with automated time-shifting came with ReplayTV, a single tuner device that ran rings around even the smartest VCR. My husband and I loved the Replay because it automatically taped our favorite shows, and had this cool 30 second skip that had us zipping through commercials at light speed. Of course, in deference to its namesake, it could also replay the past 8 seconds of live TV at the touch of a button, or even pause live TV -- a great convenience for those times when a phone call from Grandma came in during a favorite show. At the time we bought the ReplayTV, the company was offering lifetime program listings for an extra $200, and we figured that was a good deal to avoid the monthly service fees. The little ReplayTV did it’s job well, and is still chugging along in our media closet, so we definitely got our money’s worth out of that purchase.
Enter HDTV. Like many people, once we were able to receive HDTV we became hooked, and searched out even the most obscure programming just because it was high-def. The wilds of Patagonia never seemed more interesting. However, soon enough, more and more prime time shows had begun their move to the rectangular screen, and we didn’t have a way to record them in their full HD glory.
Our cable company eventually came to the rescue with the Scientific Atlanta Explorer 8000HD, soon to be replaced with the 8300HD. It was a love/hate relationship from the very beginning. The dual tuner box gave us HDTV picture quality, and TV never looked better. Only one problem, the thing was unimaginably unreliable. Out of 16 shows we recorded for the week, the machine somehow managed to record only 11 of them. I figured that we had a lemon, so I returned the 8300HD to my cable provider and got another one. Same problem, different shows. Then I exchanged the latest box for another, and another, and another. It soon became clear that there was a trend emerging. The ReplayTV got even more use as a backup device for those inevitable times when the 8300HD coughed up a furball. I decided that no matter the cost, I was going to have to find an HD DVR that was reliable and operated at least as well as our trusty little ReplayTV. I also wanted my 30 second skip back, and a more advanced program search system. I didn’t have to look very far, as all the AV message boards pointed me in only one direction -- the TiVo Series 3.
The TiVo Series 3 DVR can record two high definition channels simultaneously, while you’re watching a third off the hard disk. To get the most out of your TiVo you’ll need HDTV cable service. The unit can record HD from a terrestrial antenna, but you’ll no doubt want more than just a few off-air channels. Satellite reception is not available with this box.
The most difficult part in setting up the Series 3 is (a) Getting your cable company to show up and (b) Having them bring multiple cable cards just in case. We were very lucky that our particular technician knew what he was doing, and out of the 6 cards he brought, 2 of them worked - one for each tuner in the DVR. Even if you don’t have the smartest cable tech don’t worry, if you follow TiVo’s instructions to the letter, the install should go perfectly.
After the cable guy left, I started the TiVo setup procedure and it went very smoothly. To connect to the TiVo service you must have either an internet connection (wired or wireless) or a standard telephone jack to connect to the rear of the DVR. Luckily, we happened to have a wired Ethernet switch in our media closet, and the TiVo was able to download the 2-week program guide extremely quickly.
Now came the fun part: telling the TiVo which shows to record. There are several different ways to search for your favorite shows, via a program grid, through a keyword search, or you can have TiVo find programs of interest based on what you’ve recorded in the past. TiVo will also record a season pass of your favorite shows so you don’t have to tell the unit to record them every time they’re on. You can even tell TiVo to record only first run shows (no more repeats!), a great feature lacking on both my 8300HD and the Replay. To view pending recordings you have to go to the ToDo screen, which requires a couple of button presses. While this is very easy, it would be even more convenient to additionally see scheduled recordings right on the program grid. Many other DVRs put a small symbol on the grid or change the grid color to indicate a show that is to be recorded. I’m hoping that a software update from TiVo will add this capability in the future.
After a while, you’ll acquire a lot of programming on your TiVo. And unlike the 8300HD, TiVo will remember your place in any show should you not finish viewing it. Simply go back to the recording and TiVo gives you the option of starting over from the beginning, or from where you left off. The Series 3 has a large 250 GB hard disk that can record about 25 hours of high definition or hundreds of hours of standard definition programming, or a combination of the two. There’s also a SATA jack on the back of the unit allows you to add an external SATA drive for even more storage. Slightly puzzling is that there’s no indication of the remaining space left on the hard drive. I’d settle for a little bar graph, but at least you have a deleted programs folder which will be depleted first, so you’ll have some indication of how much space is left.
Of course, the TiVo excels at controlling live TV. The box has instantaneous control of pausing, and replaying the past 8 seconds of live TV. There’s even the most welcome 30-second skip, but you have to know how to enable it, as TiVo doesn’t ship the Series 3 with this feature enabled. Just go to the internet and go a Google search, and you’ll find out how to turn it on.
There are many other features available on the Series 3. For example, you can wirelessly connect your TiVo to your network and stream music and photos from your home PC to be played back on the DVR. You can also connect to the internet and download content and product info, get weather reports and check local movie theaters for movie times. One of my favorite sites is the Onion, which features an hilariously funny daily clip. You can use the internet to connect to your TiVo and tell it to record a show from anywhere.
Most recently TiVo has added Amazon Unbox connectivity, and it’s really cool. You set up an account with Amazon, and you can download TV shows and movies to buy or rent. I was amazed at both how fast a movie downloaded from via our broadband connection (less than 15 minutes) and how good the picture quality was.
The TiVo Series 3 is easily the best DVR on the planet right now, and at $799 plus a monthly service fee ($8.31 - $12.95) it’s not cheap but you get what you pay for. Like anything else, though, it’s not perfect. I would love to see a PIP window with a live view during program grid and menu viewing, a speedier fast forward and rewind, as well as some of the other suggestions mentioned previously. But these are relatively small gripes that are outweighed by so many truly wonderful features. The Series 3 has fantastic picture quality, is easy to use, and offers so much more than anything else available today. I love my TiVo.