TiVo 160 Media Device

Despite missing some key features, the TiVo HD is a worthwhile investment if you don't want to pay for cable, and it poses no ongoing EPG fees.

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CNET Editor

Ty is a journalist with 15 years experience in writing for IT and entertainment publications. He is in charge of the home theatre category for CNET Australia and is also a PC enthusiast. He likes indie music and plays several instruments. Twitter: @tpendlebury

Editor's Note: The TiVo Media Device was launched as the TiVo HD in July 2007. It has been replaced by the TiVo 320 and received a pricing cut.

We waited 10 years for this thing. It better be worth it…

We're not going to mince words here: the TiVo HD is one of the ugliest set-top boxes we've ever seen. It's big, it's silver and black, and the front-mounted LEDs tell you almost nothing. It looks less like a luxury AV component and more like a network storage box.

The "display" isn't much help either — usually all you'll get is a small green LED — but there is a "Format" button on the fascia that lets you change the output on the device from 576i all the way up to 1080i with the resolution listed in orange.

For one reason or other, the remote gets a lot of people excited, but we can't see why. The "peanut", as it's nicknamed, is certainly friendly, but some of the buttons are on the small side and it's not backlit.

Like it sounds, the TiVo HD DVR is a dual-HD tuner recorder, and it comes with a relatively paltry 160GB of storage. We've spoken before about how the TiVo's been hobbled for the Australian market, and at present there's still very little functionality: networking, Video-on-Demand, and — until very recently — even remote recording were all MIA.

But the feature that looms largest on the "missing" list is the ability to record cable. Speaking to TiVo representatives at the launch, we were told that the box is "designed to appeal to the 70 per cent of people who've chosen not to use Pay TV". Game on, Foxtel!

Another feature which is slated for release next year is the much-lauded TiVoToGo service which lets you rip recorded shows onto portable devices such as iPods, PCs and PSPs. IPTV and movie downloads are also on the cards — eventually. Expect to pay about the same as the US for this feature — about AU$20 to AU$30.

Like the exterior of the unit, the user interface is fairly ugly, but it's straightforward, and most users will find it intuitive. The electronic program guide itself, on the other hand, is very easy on the eye and allows you to keep watching the currently running program while surfing for shows to watch or record. You can also search by favourite actor, director or genre if you like.

But where the TiVo demonstrates its dominance over the upstart iQ2 is in its attention to detail. For example, there are a wealth of options offered when you record any show, such as the ability to extend the recording time to offset missing the end of a program.

Of course, the box also features the famous "thumbs up, thumbs down" system which lets you rate programs and in turn gives the TiVo some ammunition with which to record similar programs you might like. Unfortunately, our box was a little reticent and never actually taped anything extra for us… We don't necessarily like this feature anyway due to the small size of the hard drive, but you can turn it off if you like.

While we're on the subject of storage, TiVo representatives tell us that there's 500GB and 1TB TiVo-branded drives "coming soon" which will let you upgrade your recording capacity. Unfortunately, it appears that you can't simply add an external drive with an eSATA port. Despite following the various tips found on a Web search (holding down Pause on start-up, and then pressing "62") we were unable to get the TiVo to recognise a Western Digital external drive.

In addition to the eSATA port, you also get a bunch of other connectors which include two USB ports (for attaching accessories like the optional Wi-Fi adapter), an antenna (of the F-connector type seen on cable boxes — oh, the irony!), a component connection, a single HDMI, S-Video, AV and an optical digital connector.

At present, you can only buy TiVo at Harvey Norman and Domayne as they have an exclusive three-month contract, but we have seen it available on wishlist.com.au as well.

It took us a while to warm to the TiVo HD, but we're developing some kind of affection we don't quite understand for this unit. It's easy to use, recordings are virtually identical to the broadcasts, and everything's just so damn cheerful!

The interface is easy to use, but we wish that there was a dedicated Now Playing button to instantly access your recordings. Navigating around is straightforward, and the on-screen EPG is one of the better ones. We've heard problems with freezing and other general weirdness but we didn't experience any problems.

While Director and Favourite Star searches can be useful, it can be a little frustrating if it can't find the person you're looking for. Especially if the person has a hard to spell name.

Of course, in some ways it will never be like the unit available overseas with no cable recording ability, and with so many other features not activated till next year. In fact, the box has been locked down fairly tightly, and not even the 30-second skip hack works. We also tried using the TiVo desktop application (essentially TiVoToGo) to no avail.

As Foxtel has had remote record for about 12 months, we were interested to see how it worked on TiVo. Setting up was unfortunately a convoluted process, and the feature only appeared to be activated on the day we wrote this review. Once you finally get it to work, though, TiVo's remote online scheduling is a good deal more powerful than Foxtel's. Not only can you specify whether you want a Season Pass or a single record, but you can also specify whether you want the recording to run overtime — useful for prime time programs. We were also puzzled to find quality settings as well, as nowhere in the main menus of the TiVo itself can you actually change this.

Despite the poorly worded and slightly unnerving response — "Your record request has been successfully sent to your TiVo! It would take an hour for it to reach your box!" — we were able to record programs running at the same time.

Having spent some time with the TiVo box, we can see how people can get addicted to it. It's a lot friendlier than the iQ2 and the fact that you can get it working out of the box without ongoing fees is a real boon. Of course, you also miss out on the extra channels of Foxtel HD+ but if you're just looking for a free-to-air recorder this is a very good option.

Though there's some features missing, we think that the Australian iteration doesn't suffer too much from what it lacks. It's a solid PVR, and it certainly ups the ante on PVRs like Topfield and Beyonwiz which rely on users to pay a fee every month for the EPG.

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embee posted a review   

The Good:dumbed down interface easy use

The Bad:device from techno hell!

We loved our TIVO until 6 months ago.Now it records obscure rubbish for no apparent reason and constantly needs clearing. Both picture and sound dropout intermittently and without warning despite numerous re scans and resets. Has reduced us to tears. Have diagnosed/checked everything from HDMI,signal strength, software and think it is a faulty tuner. Will never buy this product again and do not recommend. Get a Topfield instead as Tivos are both crippled and unreliable pieces of tech junk.


milanko posted a review   

The Good:Everything

The Bad:no 1080p support, unable to switch it off, size

Best thing since sliced bread, seriously. Easy to operate, everything makes sense. Constant updates of firmaware through internet, awesome picture quality, remote control is simple to use. My wife was against buying Tivo due it's ridiculuous price tag. Now she loves it and can;t imagine day without it. You can buy extra 1tb drives just under $200. Love it! Love it! Don;t buy anything else. All the Topfieds and DGTEC's are junk. $$ well spent.


sss posted a comment   

Too many to list but often records with no sound or the picture is completely scrambled or it does not record at all and all the season passes disapper. When I tried to get Tivo to fix this under warranty they have done nothing for 4 months (every week I call them or email them to follow up) its beyond a joke. It gets escalated and escalated but no one does anything and they refuse to take it back until I send them more diagnostic details. When I do the next email comes from Tivo 2 weeks later asking for more diagnostic info, and this just repeats. Worst product I have ever bought and worst customer service / refusal to honour warranty ever. Dont buy this product because you will spend approx $600 just to find out your favoritte show has not recorded again


Doco posted a review   

The Good:Fantastic on-screen guide

The Bad:On-line help is very patchy and broken up

On reading some of the reviews I nearly took my unopened box back to Dick Smith. Boy, am I glad I didn’t. Now that I have installed it, I am mystified as to why anyone would find it so repulsive as to send it back. We love it! It took just over an hour to install, and then once the home screen came on we were able to watch video clips of the features. Earlier reviews speak of missing features which certainly are on our box – not sure if they have changed since first being sold e.g we have been able to record what currently on screen instantly with one press of a button, and set a buffer to allow for the inevitable late running on commercial channels. The guide is fabulous and clarity is unreal on our HD TV. Best thing is we don’t have to get Foxtel and its gazillion channels of junk and endless repeats.
The only thing that really annoyed me is that we had to go back to Dick Smith to get the wireless adaptor, not realizing that Tivo was crafty enough to make only their adaptor compatible. Grrr. Still, considering 5 years ago we paid $1400 for a DVD HDD recorder (only 80GB), what we are getting with TIVO is sooooo much better. No more punching in the title for each recorded program. We have left the DVD recorder connected so we can record shows on there that we want to keep forever.

I agree with an earlier reviewer that comments from people who don’t even OWN a Tivo should be removed!


Jase posted a review   

The Good:Dumbed down for the masses and available free for some so should take off

The Bad:Should be able to write shows to other media and read other media out of the box.

No dvd Read or Write was a big shock to me. I was not expecting a digital set top box. Needed to by a cheap DVD player and a media tank since it has no external connectivity out of the box. If Seven tighten the screws too much on the tivo i will just use the media tank, since they've forced me to buy one anyway with the lack of media support the tivo has. If the tivo had been an "all in one" media solution then they might have had more leverage to grab us by the balls alter. As a set top box with PVR it does a fine job and is dumbed down enough for the masses so it should do well. Also i got mine free through credit card rewards, so this on it's own should see it overtake it's rivals for market share. No one who gets it free will be disappointed i think. The free EPG was the biggest winner over the BeyonWiz for me. Otherwise it would have been the closest to an all in one solution.


Stokster posted a review   

The Good:Cheap

The Bad:This a dumbed down product (no ad skip)

Freeview is a con.


Magoo posted a comment   

The Good:Good DVR

The Bad:Overpriced addons

How come everyone wants to stickit to Australians selling us a $120 WD plus a caddy for over $300 unjustifiable When they hack the esata they will probably be sorry and start throwing these at us and the usa ones work with normal wireless networks why cant ours ???


Kevin posted a comment   

Got my TIVO about 6 weeks ago and is the best recording device I have ever bought.

- Seasonal Pass
- Remote recording via Yahoo7 TV guide.
- Whish list
- Great on screen TV guide.
- Picture quality is excellent.

- Recording two shows at the same times is not recommended. Tivo stop recording half way. Was recording both Tour De France and Formula 1.
-Expensive and small hard drive space.
- HNP is pretty buggy.


Pete posted a comment   

Tivo is great i love it


SusieS posted a comment   

The Good:Easy to navigate menus

The Bad:Slow support

Have had TIVO for 4 weeks & only working for 1 week. No response from support as yet and they are now going to go to the US to see if they can fix it. TIVO service number listed on machine is different to one that shows on screen. Tried rebooting, reinstalling but nothing works.

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User Reviews / Comments  TiVo 160 Media Device

  • embee



    "We loved our TIVO until 6 months ago.Now it records obscure rubbish for no apparent reason and constantly needs clearing. Both picture and sound dropout intermittently and without warning despite n..."

  • milanko



    "Best thing since sliced bread, seriously. Easy to operate, everything makes sense. Constant updates of firmaware through internet, awesome picture quality, remote control is simple to use. My wife ..."

  • sss


    "Too many to list but often records with no sound or the picture is completely scrambled or it does not record at all and all the season passes disapper. When I tried to get Tivo to fix this under ..."

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