Perhaps spurred on by the Moxi HD DVR, TiVo has finally given its interface a high-def makeover, and the new look makes its debut in a pair of new HD DVRs: the TiVo Premiere ($300) and the TiVo Premiere XL ($500). These new models will replace the TiVo HD DVR and TiVo HD XL DVR. We have not performed a hands-on review of the TiVo Premiere, but here is an overview of its features. This two-tuner HD DVR has a 320GB hard drive (twice the size of the basic TiVo HD DVR), for up to 45 hours of HD recording, and it supports both digital cable and over-the-antenna HDTV reception. It has built-in ATSC tuners for over-the-air content, and it supports a multi-stream CableCARD to view premium HD cable channels. The dual-tuner design allows you to record two shows simultaneously or watch one show while you record another. This HD DVR is compatible with Verizon FiOS service but not satellite TV or AT&T U-Verse services.
In addition to providing the DVR service we've come to know and love, the TiVo Premiere also offers a ton of Web- and network-friendly features. TiVo is touting access to the "world's largest on-demand video store," and indeed the box provides easy, direct access to VOD platforms from Netflix, Amazon, and Blockbuster. Other Web services include YouTube, Picasa, Rhapsody, Music Choice, and Live365. You can stream music and photos from a PC or Mac to the TiVo box, and you can transfer recorded content from the TiVo box to a laptop, iPod, iPhone, PSP, or other mobile device. You can also schedule recordings remotely via a Web browser or mobile device. As with previous TiVo models, the TiVo Premiere allows for multiroom viewing with other TiVo HD DVRs on your network.
According to TiVo, the new Premiere model is 30 percent faster than the TiVo HD DVR; it's also slimmer and Energy Star-compliant. The box supports 480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i, and 1080p resolutions. Back-panel connections include HDMI, component video, composite video, optical digital audio (no coaxial), and stereo analog audio outputs, as well as the CableCARD slot and two RF inputs for antenna and cable signals. A phone jack is no longer included, but an Ethernet port is available for connecting to your home network; this product does not offer built-in wireless network connectivity. The back panel does include two USB ports, to which you can attach a Wi-Fi adapter for wireless connection to your home network. A rear-panel eSATA port allows you to attach an external hard drive for additional storage.
From the photos I've seen of the new HD interface, it retains the vertically oriented menu along the left side and has similar navigation as the classic TiVo interface, but it makes better use of the wider 16:9 screen by adding cover art, show information, more search levels, and other colorful graphics to the top and right of the basic menu. You can view live TV in a window while you browse the menus, and the video-on-demand pages appear to be well laid out to improve the search and navigation experience. Recording options still include the ability to set a Season Pass with first-run-only recordings, overlap protection, and overtime scheduler for live recordings. You get a 14-day program guide and a 30-minute buffer.
The higher-end TiVo Premiere XL has a 1TB hard drive that supports up to 150 hours of HD recording, adds THX certification, and comes with the backlit, programmable TiVo Glo remote that features a slide-out QWERTY keyboard for easier searches.
Read about the high points and the low points of the TiVo Premiere on Page 2.