By now, if you don't know what TiVo is, I'm honestly not sure how you crawled out from under a rock to get online to read this. But for those who don't know, TiVo lets you record live TV shows for viewing at a later time. While TiVo is nothing new, we've been testing their updated TiVoToGo feature that copies recorded shows to a computer for viewing. It's a pretty sharp system for catching up on your recordings when time at home is limited. At no additional cost to the TiVo service, it's just one more feature to help differentiate TiVo from other choices in a perpetually crowding marketplace.
Setting Up TiVoToGo
Setting up TiVoToGo is very simple. Once the TiVo is connected to your existing cable box or other source, all it takes is connecting it to your network and adding the desktop client to your machine. To get it networked, we used a wireless USB adapter from Netgear. The TiVo has a wizard to get connected to the network, something that took only a few minutes to set up. On the notebook side, TiVo Desktop is an 11MB download that installs with little trouble. In fact, the only thing you need to know is the access key of the TiVo, which is available in the TiVo settings. Even those who are intimidated by networking or wireless will find the setup of TiVoToGo and the desktop software to be relatively easy and straightforward.
Once the application is set up, a single click will connect to the TiVo. While the most obvious use of this tool is to copy shows to your computer, the desktop also lets your computer act as a server to stream content to the TiVo. We viewed folders with hundreds of images flawlessly. The TiVo actually does a reasonable job as a photo viewer, making it a nice way to share family shots or whatnot on a large screen. Playing MP3s worked well also, though most TV speakers won't be much better than those in your notebook. Certainly a solid home theater system will make the experience better.
Recordings that are available to transfer to the PC (view larger)
Copying saved recordings to the notebook is simple as well. A button click reveals all of the shows available to copy. Each show has a show title, description, date recorded, show length and file size. The list can be sorted by date or show name to make it easy to browse. This screen also displays which shows are in the process of being transferred, but it doesn't show which ones you already have and it will allow you to download the same show more than once without warning.
Detailed transfer status window (view larger)
Transferring recordings takes a little while. An hour show runs about 1.6 GB and takes two hours to transfer over WiFi. It's an operation best suited for starting right before you go to bed. That way, in the morning you're ready to roll with whatever recordings you want, without having to wait. For notebook users, this might be the only viable transfer method, since most users won't be on the same network as their TiVo. At the moment the TiVo can't be accessed over the internet, but even if it were, the data transfer times would likely be prohibitive.
Notice the artifacts at the top of the frame (view larger)
Once the shows are transferred, the files can be played in a variety of players, though they're optimized for Windows Media 10. The resolution is 640 x 480, which is standard television format. Of course you can watch in full screen, but the quality suffers to the point where up close, it's not much fun. The standard resolution is pretty good though, I found it to be plenty enjoyable on my notebook. The sound is good as well and in sync, which is perhaps more important. The only problem I had during playback were artifacts across the top of the frame. We tested on a few machines with several programs and some were better than others. Half of the viewers we showed this to didn't even notice at first, so it's hardly a deal breaker and may be something that TiVo can work out in future updates.
TiVoToGo is ultimately a very easy to set up and use feature that differentiates the TiVo service from its competition. TiVo has clearly put a lot of work into the service, there are very few shortcomings. The only significant issues we had were the artifacts and slow data transfer time. The latter issue is hard to manage though, without shrinking file size. For mobile professionals, like me, I never have time at home to catch up on everything I record. Now I can take a few minutes when I don't feel like being productive, and catch up on my recorded shows. Right now the desktop client is designed to be used with PCs and Windows-based Portable Media Players, but TiVo is working on support for the Sony PSP, Apple video iPOD and PDAs.
The TiVoToGo service is not only a great value add for current subscribers, but is full-featured and useful enough to stand on its own.
TiVo is currently offering a $150 rebate with certain models and plans.
more than 100 focused websites providing quick access to a deep store of
news, advice and analysis about the technologies, products and processes crucial
to the jobs of IT pros.
All Rights Reserved, Copyright 2000 - 2013, TechTarget | Read our Privacy Statement