Tivo Replacement options
June 6, 2012 12:39 PM   Subscribe

My TiVo Series 2 has finally died. The hard drive has failed. I could replace the hard drive, but I'd like to upgrade my general environment. What are my options if I still want to be able to watch live TV with PVR functions?

My current setup is digital cable feeding to my (dead) TiVo series 2 (and also directly to the TV), plus a Wii with the Netflix app, and an ancient (maybe 15-years old) DVD player.

I really like being able to schedule recordings and pause live tv. We watch a fair amount of Netflix, but have regular TV shows we like recording, including some sports (European soccer mostly). It would be nice to digitize my fairly small DVD collection, put them on my 1TB Synology server, and access them on demand. Occasionally, when all else fails we download something and watch it on a regular computer. Being able to push that to the TV would be nice too.

I use cable for internet with no reasonable alternatives, so I cannot ditch cable completely, but I've thought about going with satellite for TV and their PVR, or even using the cable company's PVR option (Comcast), but I don't like them, they keep raising their prices, and their stuff is typically poorly designed. Since I use the Wii for Netflix, I don't think I would get much out of a Boxee or Roku, would I? It looks like the Boxee can play network-stored videos now, so maybe I would.

Do I want something like XBMC with a MythTV backend (the differences between PVRs and Media Centers confuse me a bit)? If so, what kind of hardware do I need? I do not have any Mac OS devices (aside from an iPad). I do have wifi.

Or do I just upgrade to the latest Tivo or some other option that I've overlooked? Thanks in advance.
posted by idb to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Had my Series 2 in the closet collecting dust for 3 years after the hard drive started acting up. Decided recently to dust it off and replace the hard drive with one from Weaknees. The instructions were straight-forward and I seriously forgot just how great the Tivo experience was. Granted, I have a lifetime sub on the box, so the financial aspect of the decision was a little easier.

The Roku is another terrific choice for IPTV. I have one on top of my Tivo to supplement with Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Video.

I also have a Boxee and yes, it does handle networked audio & video well. Truthfully though, I don't use it much at all. Instead I just ran an HDMI cable to a nearby PC and use VLC instead.
posted by davidvanb at 12:53 PM on June 6, 2012

Best answer: If you care most about just relaxing when watching TV, and not screwing around with technology, just buy another Tivo. If you enjoy the screwing around with technology part more than the relaxing and watching TV part, or if cost is the top priority, then look at the other options (though tivo isn't really that expensive in the scheme of things, especially if you add up all the costs for other options).

I've played with all of the big contenders, and for my money Tivo is the only way to go. I work with computers for a living, and the last thing I want to do after work when I sit down on the couch is be faced with another computer, or any computer-type problem, which most of those other options seem to come with. And it goes double for my wife.
posted by primethyme at 1:03 PM on June 6, 2012

Best answer: You can have my Series 3 Tivo when you pry it from cold, dead hands (or if it's because it's getting replaced with the Premier XL4). I love that it records stuff it thinks I might like for me and I don't think any other solution will do that.

I also slapped together an HTPC to run XBMC and do basically everything else (including replacing the DVD player). I REALLY like having both of them together. I was flabergasted by how easy XBMC was to install and how easy it is to use. It just works and looks really slick.

I based the system off of an AMD A6 APU, added a motherboard and RAM. I had most of the other components laying around so it was a really cheap build. If I would have had to buy all of the components I think it would have cost just under $300.

I have a Windows Media Center remote that I bought for $15 and that handles most of our needs for controlling the HTPC but I also have a program called Synergy that lets me use my laptop's keyboard and touch pad to control the HTPC (like a software KVM switch). And it works really well.

It has more computing power than I really need and I think it would be okay for PVR functions too but I would need to add a tuner card and I think one of those would add another $100 and I have no idea how it would be to use.

I love having both and I'd love to have both the HTPC and a Tivo Prem XL4 even more. The TV gets recorded on the Tivo and if, for some reason, we miss something because more than two things were on at the same time, we'll download it and watch it via XBMC or stream it from Hulu or something.

We also have a disc-only Netflix sub and we will often rip a disc to the HTPC to watch it. Even if we watch it straight from the disc, XBMC can skip all the trailers and warnings and junk and goes straight to the main menu (which rocks my world). When we get a scratched disc that won't play correctly, we just torrent the movie and finish watching it instead of getting pissed off at having to send the disc back and waiting for a (hopefully) better one.

So I guess my recommendation would be to validate my decisions and get the same stuff that I have. The Tivo/HTPC-XBMC combo doesn't require a lot of dicking around other than putting the computer together and taking the time to install stuff (it wasn't hard it just took a while) and it does pretty everything I'll ever want it to do even if formats/standards change.

Get a Tivo and build an HTPC.
posted by VTX at 1:20 PM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

The current DirecTV DVR is basically a TiVo with different graphics. It connects to the Internet to download some on-demand programming and you can watch programs from the DVR in multiple rooms (the DVR video travels over the satellite coax cable, as does the Internet; you only need a network connection at the multiswitch). We quite enjoy the service.
posted by kindall at 1:30 PM on June 6, 2012

Can I piggyback on this? I've long been curious about ditching my TWC HD-DVR with a Tivo. Is there any functionality I'd be giving up? Will dual-tuner functionality (watch one channel, record another) "just work", or do I need to pay TWC extra for that?
posted by mkultra at 1:32 PM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

When we moved 18 months ago and had to ditch DirecTV for Fios we took the opportunity to get back to the Tivo brand/experience which we'd always loved.

If I had to do it over again I'd just get the Verizon DVR.

My feeling is that the quality of their product and the usability have greatly diminished over the years. The old DirecTivo which we'd been using since about 2005 was notably less buggy, had simpler menus, was peppier and more responsive. And it didn't show damned ads in almost everything.
posted by phearlez at 1:49 PM on June 6, 2012

Response by poster: Thank you for the answers so far. They really help. I'm not sure I want to build my own HTPC (thoroughly sympathizing with primethyme), but I like the sound of VTX's answer too.
posted by idb at 1:49 PM on June 6, 2012

In my experience there is nothing that matches a Tivo. I would get one of the new boxes if I were you.
posted by flyingcowofdoom at 1:54 PM on June 6, 2012

I've come to accept that Tivos just die after a few years. It sucks but their product is still the best option when it works. Just wish they would stand behind their hardware better.
posted by kdern at 2:00 PM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

For the record (kdern and others), for all my tivos that have died, I was able to to repair them pretty cheaply with parts from Weaknees.com. Hard drives and power supplies. It would be nice if it weren't necessary, but it's usually cheaper than replacing the whole unit.
posted by primethyme at 4:39 PM on June 6, 2012

Best answer: My Series 3 died a month ago, so I called in to cancel service on it and activate the Premiere we bought to replace it. That's when I found out that, hands down, Tivo's got the best retention department I've ever dealt with across any industry. It was so unscripted they must hire based on "primary qualification: I *am* the Tivo superfan buddy who gets all my friends and family hooked." Even though I'd already purchased a replacement, they offered a few very tempting options for repairing or replacing the out-of-warranty S3. Their options were much better than anything online. I don't know if it's their general policy, or if they work extra hard to keep people with failed newer devices, but they were super nice and it's worth talking to them to see if they have a low-cost option for you.

Going from an S2 to a Premiere is a big jump that would get you some neat stuff. The high definition menus are slicker, faster, and easier to navigate. You'd probably also dig the HD streaming from Netflix (and Hulu! and Amazon!)... and I don't think I can adequately describe how awesome it is to watch Youtube on Tivo. It sounds lame, but I find myself actually watching a ton of shows and full length documentaries from Youtube. It's also way easier to make friends/family watch the goofy little Youtube videos when you bring them up on your Tivo.
posted by Gable Oak at 6:18 PM on June 6, 2012

I wasn't terribly happy with my Premiere at first, but the last couple of software updates have made it much better. It's probably the least hassle of all your options. I'd recommend it if your main goal is to record and watch TV.

For streaming video, I strongly prefer XBMC over the other options. Depending on your cable provider, you may be able to use a combination of XBMC, MythTV, and the HDHomerun Prime for most of your channels. Any channel that doesn't have the copy protection flag set can be viewed using MythTV, or streamed directly to XBMC for that matter. On my provider, that covers the vast majority of the channels. They pretty much only copy protect HBO, which I no longer receive anyway. For channels that have the copy protection flag set, you have to use Windows Media Center as the stream is encrypted across the network.
posted by wierdo at 11:14 PM on June 6, 2012

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