Peer Review: TiVo does high-def for less

A new Series 3 HD TiVo went on sale this week — it's a pared down version of the first HD DVR that TiVo started selling last year, and sells for $300 instead of $800. The critics are convinced; reviewers love the new price, and, as always, love the TiVo interface. The eternal TiVo question is whether consumers can be convinced that it's worth the extra monthly fee (and purchasing a box instead of renting one) to go with TiVo instead of their cable company's DVR. After the jump, some reviews, and some contrarian comments to put them in perspective.

"The new TiVo HD isn't quite the set-top box of my dreams, but it comes pretty close. And it is a harbinger of better things that will be here soon…. It's a source of endless astonishment to me that in the eight years since the first TiVo box hit the market, the cable companies and the two makers of most of their set-top boxes, Motorola and Cisco's Scientific Atlanta, have never come close to matching TiVo's ease of use." , Business Week

"When I reviewed the TiVo Series 3 HD last year, I loved it — except for its astronomical, early-adopters-only $800 price tag. The new TiVo HD has most of the Series 3's features, but with a $300 price tag. I love it even more…. True, the TiVo HD's $300 price is $300 more than most cable companies' DVRs, and TiVo's $13 to $16 monthly subscription fee is a bit higher than most cable companies' box-rental charges. But if you're hooked on TiVo, the new box is still a bargain." , PC World

"I think $300 is the sweet spot that will push current TiVo subscribers into the HD fold and lure new users away from the plain-vanilla boxes offered by most cable companies." , PC Magazine

"To reach the low-low price of $300, TiVo only cuts the corners we'd cut ourselves. It is functionally a Series 3, minus the fluff." , Gizmodo

"I think this amounts to a smart business move for TiVo. While competitors, including Apple, are selling boxes more suited for standard definition (Apple TV costs the same initial $299, but comes with a quarter of the storage at 40 GB), TiVo can start to grab mindshare from the HD junkie crowd." , Business 2.0

"The other big drawback we noticed when using the TiVo HD was generally slow overall performance when transitioning between menus. The 'Please wait' splash screen was all too common, and the background screens often stayed a dull gray before the colorful animations would eventually pop in several seconds later…. It gave us the feeling that the TiVo HD — which is, after all, just a supercustomized Linux computer — needed a faster processor, more RAM, or a combination of the two." , CNet

However, users at CNet (and elsewhere) complain about the TiVo's incompatibility with Video on Demand and with satellite TV. In general, the user comments indicate that although the box itself and TiVo's software is loved by professional tech writers, it is of little use to the man on the street. While CNet gives the box a 7.7 out of ten, the average use review is a measly 4.2. Here are some excerpts from the users' opinions:

"My dual-tuner high-def DVR that I get from my cable company costs me an extra $12.95/month. Why in the world would I want to lay out hundreds of dollars for this thing and then pay $60 more per year in user fees that I'm already paying?" , CNet user review

"I was all excited when I learned about the new HD Tivo, but I refuse to buy the pretty interface for a monthly fee…. Why cant I record HD over the air, VCR style? No program guide, just FF, RW, PAUSE…" , CNet user review

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