So, I finally bought a used Tivo just to see what it was like.  I don’t know why I never got one before, honestly… I think the whole idea of the subscription service put me off.  Since I’m already paying $13 a month for a Comcast HDTV DVR though, I figured I’d be interested in seeing what a real DVR looks like.  Short answer: I’m impressed.

I’m really not big into DVRs per se, so I still don’t know what I’m going to do with this thing … recording tv shows is actually a bit of a phase with me.  I’ll be interested in it for a while, then go months without, then want to do it again.  Pretty much the same thing with computer games.  I always love watching movies though. :)  So the fact that I have to consistently pay a monthly service fee whether I’m using it or not kinda bothers me.  Of course, I’m interested in doing it right now, but that’s because it’s still a novelty, and quite honestly, it’s worth it… Tivo is nice.

I am really anal when it comes to my user interfaces, especially menu navigation.  Tivo gets it right in every place.  In fact, the only even minor gripe I have with it isn’t related to main menu navigation at all (it’s the fast forwarding, which kind of flips out on me sometimes … but it could just be that my remote is so sensitive, who knows … still researching).  One thing I really like is it always remembers what position you were last on whenever you enter a menu, be it the Now Playing list, or the Settings menu.  It’s a small touch, but nice.

Overall the presentation is really professional too.  The menus, backgrounds and animations are well designed and easy on the eyes, and the remote is extremely well done.  I’m having a really hard time switching over to using my universal remote to control the Tivo because their remote is so comfy.

Another reason I got one is because I wanted to see if it could decode the Hallmark Channel for me.  I’m convinced now that Comcast is encrypting it or something, since Tivo won’t pick it up, even with its digital tuner.  Of course, my HDTV had a digital tuner and didn’t pick it up either, but I figured maybe throwing a DVR into the mix might do it.  It didn’t.  My Comcast box is the only one that is able to pick it up.  Very strange.

I’m still going to hold onto my new Tivo though, and I’ve already decided that I’m going to use it to navigate through my channel surfing instead of my TV.  In that regards, it has one feature that I really like, which, while it should be standard in my opinion, it’s still a nice surprise to see it in action.  In the channel setup for the Tivo I can select which channels I receive, which I really narrowed down to the ones that I’d ever actually bother to watch, so that any possible listings or recording options only show what I’d be interested in.  On top of that, I can also mark a channel as my favorite.  Then, when I’m watching TV and use the program guide to display the channel lineup, I tell it to only display my favorite channels.  It remembers the setting, and when channel surfing only flips through those.  Here’s the cool thing though — when I want to go browse possible shows to record, it shows me all the listings from all the channels I receive.  Very cool.  So what happens is I don’t have TNT on my favorites list so I don’t see it when I’m channel surfing, but it still records all my Cold Case and Without a Trace episodes for me.

Another thing I really like is being able to mark shows I like or don’t like with the thumbs up or down option.  I’ve always been really specific about my own personal ratings systems, and I scrutinize my ratings, so that’s fun that I can do that on TV shows too.  In fact, it had another unintended bonus — when I’m channel surfing, the info bar displays the thumbs up or down icon in the top left, and before I process what’s actually showing, I’ll see that icon and just know whether to keep flipping or not.  Kinda cool.

One thing I was really interested to see how it works, and this is something that I’d heard about from the beginning since Tivo came out, is that it will monitor what you are watching and recording, and record suggestions for you.  I’ve only had this thing for two days, so I might be getting lucky, but four out of the five recommendations that it recorded for me, I’d be interested in watching.  So that’s pretty cool.  I love anything that takes my preferences and helps me find stuff … I get a big kick out of Netflix and Amazon finding stuff for me, since I’m always looking for something new and interesting I might have missed out on otherwise.

Last but not least, this thing is freaking quiet.  That’s one area where the Comcast box drives me insane and I want to chuck it out into the street.  Mine is so noisy that it drives me nuts.  I work with computers all the time, so naturally I’m used to some background noise, but I think my box might be broken since it is constantly whining.  The Tivo does make some noise when it’s recording stuff, but when its just sitting there, it’s quiet as can be.  It’s really nice.

The only problem I’m going to have in giving up my Comcast box completely (which is odd, since I’ve only had it … what, two weeks?) is the On Demand service.  I really like the free shows it offers, which is always a random collection of old movies and TV shows that nobody would really want to watch to start with.  I have no idea why, I just like it.  Tivo has the Amazon Unbox, which I looked at once and mostly shrugged off.  If I want the latest movies, I’ll just rent them on Netflix, and if there’s a TV series I want to watch I just buy the DVDs.  I don’t follow the whole buying a digital copy thing, since they always get lost.

I do believe though that Tivo has everything built into it (including market share and brand recognition) to do video downloads directly, so maybe things will change in the future.  I’m sure they can only get better.

Anyway, I like my little Tivo.  It’s been a lot of fun playing with it.  I think I’ll hang onto it for a while. :)

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