a tivo we will go, a tivo we will go...
February 29, 2008 1:47 PM   Subscribe

What's the best TIVO for me?

We're completely fed up with our cable company (Charter) and their DVR service. We just got a new Motorola DVR from them, and the interface is so bad its impossible to use...looks like they let the engineers do User Interface work. Horrible.

I'm looking at grabbing a Tivo to replace it with, but can't find answers to a few questions: will replacing the cable box affect the channels we can receive? I could ask Charter, but don't think I'd get a straight answer, somehow.

Also, what's the difference between the Tivo HD Series 2 and the Series 3, besides nearly $200? What's the Series 3 got that makes it worth the extra cash? In a situation where we've got one central TV room, and a (right now) non-HD TV (although that will change within the year), and both of us would love to be able to use Tivo-to-go...what's the right Tivo for us?
posted by griffey to Technology (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Welcome to Tivoworld. It's lovely here with the boopboops. ;)

Right. If you currently don't have HDTV, there's no reason to get the hd tivo. The regular old series 2 (go with the dual tuner if you can) should do you just fine. The channels you recieve won't change a bit because you are not replacing the cable box. In order to continue to recieve digital cable channels, you have to route them through the Tivo but I was able to scale back to the simpler digital box and all was fine. I never used my cable box for anything except OnDemand and now with Amazon Unbox through Tivo I don't even have a need for that. As long as you go through network access rather than phone access, you can use the Tivo-to-go.

I've got three tivo boxes, two very old series 2s and a new HD Series 2. All play nicely with my network and can sling shows to any computer on the network or each other using Tivo-to-go. There's a trick to getting that info to any old computer using the ip address of the Tivo, and that's quite spiffy. As far as I remember the Series 3 doesn't yet work with Tivo-to-go, but it has other swanky features.
posted by teleri025 at 2:04 PM on February 29, 2008

Satellite an option. I've had dish for almost 7 years and love it! i've also had tivo and prefer dish DVR over tivo.
posted by doorsfan at 2:22 PM on February 29, 2008

Best answer: Hi, don't bother with the Series 3 HD tivo, it is not worth the extra money IMHO. I bought one when they first came out, because I could transfer my lifetime subscription to it, and I was under the impression this was my last chance to do so (wrong!). The only extra features it has over the HD series 2 is THX sound (don't use it personally), better display on the front of the box, showing the currently recording program names and there's one other feature I forget because its also irrelevant :)

If you are planning to go HD within a year, then the series 2 HD is probably a good buy. You get rid of the digital cable box and instead get your cable provider to give you two cable cards (because its dual-tuner) or one M cable card. These go into the back of the Tivo, and it becomes a cable box and tivo in one. It doesn't make any difference to the channels you receive, since each cable card is basically a cable box miniaturized into a cute little package.

Tivo is great and I couldn't live without it. Enjoy :)
posted by Joh at 2:26 PM on February 29, 2008

Best answer: I'm under the impression that the Series 3 will be discontinued later this year. It doesn't offer significant advantages over the Tivo HD for the extra cost.

Engadget has a comparison chart between the Series 3 and Tivo HD here.

I don't know how well the cable company DVRs will play with a Tivo Series 2. Typically, a Series 2 will use an IR blaster and the cable box's control codes to change channels. I presume the cable company DVR will want to change channels on its own, and this may cause problems, as the Tivo won't know what channel it's really recording.

The Tivo HD won't have this problem, because it gets its signal through cable company-provided CableCards, as Joh notes. These resemble PCMCIA cards and slot into the back of the Tivo HD. In this scenario, you won't have a cable box: the coax cable connects to the CableCard, which is in the Tivo. The Tivo would then do the tuning through that, rather than the Rube Goldberg-ish IR blaster that the Series 2 uses. Two CableCards will give you dual tuners, to record two channels at once.
posted by chengjih at 2:33 PM on February 29, 2008

You absolutely want the TiVo HD. The Series 3 is basically identical, except it's THX-certified and it has a fancy display on the front. It's being phased out in favor of the HD.

TiVo to Go works great with the TiVo HD. You can even transfer movies from your computer to the TiVo.

Advantages of the TiVo HD over Series 2:
• Record & view HD (duh)
• Record 2 shows at once; scheduling conflicts are no longer an issue.
• Record direct digital stream; no re-encoding.
• Once you get Cable Cards, you don't need a cable box. That means no wonky infrared transmitters, which means more reliable and quicker channel-changing.

You should be able to get all the same channels with CableCards that you can get with your cable box. The only hitch is that On Demand video won't work.

I'm using a TiVo HD right now, and I don't even plan to get an HDTV anytime soon.
posted by designbot at 2:37 PM on February 29, 2008

There's some misinformation up above; there's no such thing as a "Tivo HD Series 2" or a "series 2 HD".

There are only two TiVos that record HD; the TiVo HD and the Series 3. Neither one is a "Series 2."
posted by designbot at 2:39 PM on February 29, 2008

The Series 3 has been discontinued (though there is a refurb on the Tivo site). The only major difference between Series 3 and HD was the THX sound, a cool remote and a larger hard drive.

Between the Series 2 and HD - the major difference I found was you could not record two digital cable channels at once with Series 2 (from Tivo on Series 2: Record from two basic cable channels, or one basic cable and one digital cable channel, at once. Does not support records from two digital cable or satellite channels at once. Supports recording from cable and satellite sources only; does not support recording from over-the-air antenna or high definition.)

I would go to TivoCommunity.com. There is an insane amount of info over there and a lot of people who will be willing to help you out.
posted by ml98tu at 3:23 PM on February 29, 2008

Tivo's site with all three boxes

Tivo series 2: Standard def. Now with two tuners; Works with basic cable, digital cable or satellite service - you'll need your box to get channels over 100 (and that may negate recording 2 shows at the same time.

Tivo HD (a paired down series 3.) If you're doing HD, this is what you want. It'll record two HD shows (you'll need to rent two cablecards) Great as long as you can get them to rent you the cable cards (should be cheap, but for example, my comcast people are idiots.)

Other cool aspect that the series 2 doesn't have - the ability to buy an external eSata Drive and use it for more storage.

Series 3. Has every feature in existence. Nobody wants this. Overpriced.

The Tivo home media options only work with the Series 2 (and not the HD or series 3) from what I understand. This allows you to stream music/pictures from a computer to your tivo, or download tivo shows to your HD (for backup or conversion to ipod/psp files)
posted by filmgeek at 3:33 PM on February 29, 2008

I couldn't wait to dump my Comcast HD DVR. What a piece of crap. HD Tivo is so much better, not to mention reliable.

Hey, don't forget Unbox from Amazon. You can download TV shows and movies directly to your tivo. One short-coming of this service is that you can't share downloaded shows between tivos for some reason, so download to where you plan on watching. (4 tivos in the house here)
posted by trinity8-director at 4:03 PM on February 29, 2008

I'll throw in my own question:
Anyone here had issues with Tivo Series3 not recognizing multistream cards from Scientific Atlanta? It treats it like a single-stream card and won't let me watch / record two things at once.
posted by charlesv at 4:41 PM on February 29, 2008

As far as series 2 controlling a cable box you have 2 options: 1 connect to serial port on cable box or 2 use IR transmitter from Tivo box. When setting up Tivo you'll identify your cable company and location. Tivo will do it's updates of the schedule and know what channel is what number. Moto cable box are not as reliable with the serial port connection, as we have seen with a series 1 and 2. The IR transmitters require some placement and adjustment, especially if you want them out of sight. Your UI will be Tivo looking at your scheduling, you'll make your selection (real time change or future record change), Tivo will tell your cable box what channel to be on. With either serial port or IR you'll need to set the speed for changing channels (setup will take you through testing the different speeds). You want as quick as possible, but if too fast the cable box will not change. Then Tivo is confused, thinks it's recording the correct channel but it is recording the wrong channel. Rarely is that a problem we have, but when we do it sucks.
You'll get the same channels you get with the cable box. Tivo will notify you of lineup changes, added/dropped channels.
posted by sailormouth at 10:24 PM on February 29, 2008

charlesv, that is correct, Series 3 tivos only support the S-type cablecards. You'll have to call your cable provider and ask them to bring you two S cards to switch out for the M.
posted by Joh at 11:49 AM on March 1, 2008

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