TiVo 320 Media Device

The TiVo 320 Media Device has received a little storage bump, and despite competition from Sony's PlayTV it is still one of the best value-for-money PVRs on the market.


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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


More than 12 months ago, TiVo finally launched in Australia, and while we were impressed with it we bemoaned the fact that a lot of features active in the US version were missing from the local product. For a limited time, distributor HybridTV has fixed all of that.

Design

Let's just start off with the cosmetics: the TiVo is still 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.

But it's the remote that gets a lot of people excited. The "peanut", as it's nicknamed, is certainly friendly, yet some of the buttons are on the small side, and it's not backlit.

Features

In the year plus change since the TiVo was launched, HybridTV has shifted the device from a "DVR" — which is a dying category, it says — to a "media device". Hence the name change. The TiVo 320 Media Device is a dual-HD tuner recorder, and it now comes with double the amount of storage at 320GB.

At launch, the TiVo was hobbled for the Australian market, and a whole wealth of functionality has been opened up, including the new on-demand service called CASPA due to go live on 1 December 2009. CASPA incorporates the Blockbuster movie downloads from before and adds TV and other on-demand footage. Music videos and associated materials are available from a partnership with Bandit FM, and next year users will be able to download MP3s (or more likely WMAs).

Previously available as a separate download, the TiVo Home Networking package will be included in the box from launch until January 2010. This software allows users to transfer their recordings to a PC, portable device or second TiVo, and enables media streaming from a DLNA compatible device.

One feature that still looms largest on the "missing" list is the ability to record cable — something which the overseas version can do but sadly the Aussie version never will. HybridTV says 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!

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 in the short time we had it for testing it never actually taped anything extra for us... You may or may not appreciate this feature as it could fill up your hard drive quickly, but you can turn it off if you like.

While we're on the subject of storage, Western Digital offers the 1TB My DVR Expander which lets you upgrade your recording capacity. Unfortunately, it's currently the only drive that will work, so you can't simply add any old external drive with an eSATA port.

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.

Performance

It took us a while to warm to the TiVo, but we developed 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 these ourselves.

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

While we haven't tried using external scheduling on the 320, we did use it on the original TiVo HD. As this was a new feature, at the time we found it to be a convoluted process. Once we finally got 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 we received back then — "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 almost instantaneously.

Conclusion

The TiVo now offers a larger hard drive for the same price, and if you get in quick you can also score the networking package for free as well. The TiVo is 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 Freeview recorder this is a very good option.

The TiVo 320 Media Device is a solid PVR and IPTV solution. It has once-again upped the ante on PVRs like Topfield and Beyonwiz, especially as you don't have to pay ongoing fees to access features such as remote recording.

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workergirl
2
Rating
 

"Awful service - all talk, no action"

workergirl posted a review   
Australia

The Good:idea is great, reliability isn't

The Bad:Tivo has abysmal customer service for Australians

Bought a tivo two weeks ago, worked first night, but stopped thereafter. ONLY tivo support in Australia is via email - no phone number. OK, so emailed and got a nice reply, followed instructions and still nothing worked. Emailed again, another nice reply telling me I have a dud machine and they'll be in touch if I give them my number. Did so, and then - NOTHING. Emailed again after a few days, got an apology and a promise that they'd be in touch - then NOTHING. They haven't bothered replying to my last 2 emails. I'm now seeking a refund for my lemon. Telling a customer that something will be done and then not following through is pathetic.

Unfortunately, they also didn't seem surprised that I had a lemon. The idea sounded good, unfortunately, I have no idea whether it's a decent machine or not but it's certainly not reliable and from what I saw of CASPA I'd suggest looking at Telstra's T-box ahead of this.

great white
9
Rating
 

great white posted a review   
Australia

The Good:easy to use, great picture quality

The Bad:external scheduling not reliable, no ad skip

It's great. I can easily record all my favorite shows and store them, set season passes and when it works I can record shows while traveling using my laptop. It's so easy to use and to set up.

 

Pottumpuss posted a comment   

The Good:Fabulous, when it works!

The Bad:No support

This is our 2nd TiVo, we returned the first, as it wouldn't work! They had phone support then. 6 months later are having same issues as first TiVo, TiVo emails state theybhave no fault. I am having to return to place of purchase, fortunately they are good to deal with. Go dick smiths!
So I want a TiVo that's not a TiVo, an suggestions?

 

Gary posted a comment   

The Good:Reliable, simple to use

The Bad:No ad skip

I've had Tivo for about 3 mths. Had a basic Topfield PVR before that and a T-Box for about a month in between (it went back to Telstra because it was junk). Tivo worked straight out of the box, no technical issues, user interface is really easy. Brilliant product.

Ad skip would be good but it fast-forwards very quickly (30x?) so you can skip through breaks very quickly.

Gong
3
Rating
 

Gong posted a review   

The Good:Seasons P****

The Bad:No Picture in Picture, No skip forward over adds, slow fast fwd

My old LG twin tuner PVR is around 4.5 years and I have been really happy with it other than the fact that it could not record two channels at the same time using the timer. I finally decided to invest in a TIVO as the reports were so good. I was excited about getting it and the fact that it would be connected to the internet and all the wiz bang features.
What I received was a box that could do much of what it states, however very frustrating to operate. To achieve just about anything you need to go to TiVO Central. In doing this, whatever you are watching disappears rather than the menu ghosting over the top so you can still hear and see what is going on. When you want to record something you are watching and you press the record button, what you are watching disappears and you can't hear it. You then get asked "do you want to record' YES, "just this episode or a seasons pass" A SEASONS PASS "are You sure" YES I just want to record the damn thing. Meanwhile you are not seeing or hearing anything. This also goes on with deleting something. You get asked around 4 times, and meanwhile you can't see what is occurring on live TV or hear anything.
I tried programming video out to 1080, 720p and a couple of the hybrids etc and every time I went to TiVO central form live TV or visa versa, I got a large zoomed up Tivo Central on my screen for a second and a green screen and flickers etc while it sorted itself out. The only way to stop it was to go back to and 576p which was out of the box, however the picture quality was not that good.
Several recordings were all pixelated and were not viewable. Then it happened while watching live TV. I assumed this was the station. I went to my other TV and it was all ok while still occurring on my TiVO. This is all with the antenna cable plugged directly from the wall into the TiVO and has not happened to my old box or TV’s ever
Some other frustrations are:
1) There are two tuners yet there is no picture in picture,
2) there is no skip forward over commercials, (probably as Channel 7 imports the TiVO and don’t want their adds missed)
3) to use Close Caption subtitles you need to press info, scroll down 3-4 items press select and do again to take off. My old box has a caption button. One click it is on, another click it is off. Pretty simple I think.
4) if you scroll down to an item on a menu, and then need to go to the top again, you can't scroll down again which jumps to the top of a menu, you need to scroll all the way to the top again.
5) connected to the Internet allows TiVO to download what they like to your box and use it for advertising their CASPA movies etc. It’s my box and I should be able to control what is on it.
6) To switch off or standby, you need to go to TiVO Central, scroll down to settings, click on that, then scroll down to standby and click on that. I would think a power on/off button would do the trick.
From a box that promised the world, I found it frustrating, controlling and clunky. I took it back and thank goodness for the great sales person Wayne at Harvey Norman he swapped it over to a Beyonwiz DP-P2 which I will be trying this weekend. I was going to go with the new LG HR598D which also has a blueray player and twin tuners, only to find on research that 4 years later LG have still not fixed the issue where you can record two channels at the same time using the timers. One has to be recorded manually and they only have 10 speed fast forward while their old box could do 50x and 300x. Looks like LG have gone backwards there. I am starting to think the ultimate twin tuner PVR is still to come. My old LG box with a few enhancements would be close to the perfect box as it has great picture quality is easy to use and many of the features are at the touch of a button which may have set my standards high and everything I get from here will be compared to that.

 

loveit posted a comment   

I have had mine since they came out, I love it, couldnt live without it :-), thinking of getting another one for the other room, have never had a problem with it freezing?

 

bear85 posted a comment   

The Good:easy to use

The Bad:keeps restarting itself, freezes, tivo support is ****

i have been without a properly working tivo since april, I'm on my third tivo box and still problems. No one seems to help. I can't even have an antenna plug into it now. So it is pretty much useless can't record a thing every half hour or more reguarly it reset itself. So over it wish we had never brought it. $700 waste of money.

 

george posted a comment   

Can anyone who has a tivo give me some pointers on how to get the bloody thing working. tells me the network cabl is disconnected but it is wireless. anyone with some advice???

 

gameman posted a comment   

The Good:Good for who,... do not know much about other options on the market.

The Bad: Its quality is very bad it freezes too many times. not a friendly user for every one.

It should be over viewed again , for all the functions. Processor is not a very good one.

320 gb is too small , should be 1tera bite plus. For price it is not worth it.

Better of buy Top-fields HD 500gb which nevr freezes at all and functions are much easier to use.


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User Reviews / Comments  TiVo 320 Media Device

  • workergirl

    workergirl

    Rating2

    "Bought a tivo two weeks ago, worked first night, but stopped thereafter. ONLY tivo support in Australia is via email - no phone number. OK, so emailed and got a nice reply, followed instructions ..."

  • great white

    great white

    Rating9

    "It's great. I can easily record all my favorite shows and store them, set season passes and when it works I can record shows while traveling using my laptop. It's so easy to use and to set up."

  • Pottumpuss

    Pottumpuss

    "This is our 2nd TiVo, we returned the first, as it wouldn't work! They had phone support then. 6 months later are having same issues as first TiVo, TiVo emails state theybhave no fault. I am having..."

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