TiVo Premiere is a Disappointment

I’ve long been a huge fan of TiVo. I first bought a Series2 when they first came out and have had the old DirecTV TiVo and had delivery of the Series3 HD TiVo the first day they shipped. Yesterday, TiVo announced the new Series4 “Premiere” model.

I’m disappointed.

First, they keep touting the new, all HD UI. I’m not sure why the Series3 didn’t get a fully HD UI, and I would have hoped that it would get the new one pushed to it. But no. And one reason I’ve heard is that the existing TiVos don’t have the horsepower to push the new UI, as it’s been entirely implemented in Flash.

Now, I can understand the allure of developing the UI in Flash: there are good tools for Flash; it’s easy to find developers with Flash experience; Flash is mature; and there’s a lot of content on the web, particularly video, in Flash. But if your installed base’s devices can’t run the UI because it’s so resource-intensive, is it a good choice? I’d say no. And it’s not like you can’t make a good UI with other technology. The Boxee box has a great looking UI in a small package. Anyway, perhaps this explains why the TiVo Search beta and the Netflix apps on the current TiVos is so terribly slow.

So the new experience requires a new box. My TiVo’s been making a clicking sound which I assume is the hard drive. I was just hoping it lived at least long enough to see the release of the new stuff. So what else do you get over the Series3 for the money?

Sadly, it doesn’t appear like you get much. The storage options are still pathetic for the cost of the device: 320 GB in the $300 model. The emphasis on the Premiere’s internet content is all well-and-good, but you have to buy a $90 adapter to get WiFi. Even on the $500 model! WTF?

“Hey,” I initially thought, “that remote looks cool.” The one with a keyboard that slides out to help with all that searching you’re going to be doing in the fancy new interface. Turns out it’s not in the box, either, but will be an extra add-on. Fuck. Oh, and Engadget says it’s not well-built (at least the pre-production model they had their hands on).

It doesn’t have any new two-way cable box functionality, so there’s still no on-demand or other tight integration with your cable company’s content. No gain there. Same number of tuners. No gain there. I’m not finding anything to get excited about.

There’s one small bright spot in all this: they’re offering a discount to existing TiVo owners, so I can get the $300 box for $230 or the $500 box for $400. That’s better than a kick in the teeth, but I think I’ll still stick with my Series3 until it dies or until the price on this new series drops to something reasonable and I can get more storage along with the upgrade.

TiVo should see that decision as a loss. I’m definitely the target market for their $500 box, and I’m sticking with my 5-year-old one instead, because it does most of what the new one does. Like I said: disappointing.