TiVo

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TiVo Roamio OTA

TiVo Roamio OTA

Big news from Engadget about the new model of the TiVo Roamio OTA:

TiVo’s cord-cutting DVR gets more storage and drops subscriptions

The original model OTA was our cord-cutting choice for broadcast TV/DVR due to its user(wife)-friendliness.

The new one has 1TB of storage, double the original.

But now, there is no $15/month subscription fee. You pay $400 upfront and one time. Considering the cost of the device to be $49 as before, you break even with the original OTA pricing after less than two years! Pure savings from then on.

This makes it a near no-brainer, as other cord-cutting options (Channel Master DVR+, Tablo, Windows Media Center) are nowhere close in ease and slickness of user interface, expandability (using TiVo Minis), and free apps (especially Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, and PLEX).

And, as with its predecesssors (the original OTA and the newer BOLT), it allows commercial skipping on some shows, and 30% faster speed-watching.

The article notes that the new OTA will be available on May 2 through Amazon, Best Buy or TiVo.

If our original Roamio OTA ever blows up or is hit by lightning, this is what I’m getting.

If you have been thinking about cutting the cable cord, a new OTA and a simple, cheap antenna (like a refurbished Mohu Leaf) may be all you need.


Two items might well be all you need to cut the cable TV cord.

It can be very easy, and a great gift for your family to not be paying a high cable bill every month.

First, I recommend the new TiVo BOLT (as of 2016, I recommend the new Roamio with one-time pricing, above. It has all the features of the BOLT I describe below.). It supercedes the TiVo Roamio series, includes all its features, and has a couple of new ones of its own. The above price includes the remote and a year subscription to the TiVo service ($150/year thereafter).

Depending on the antenna you use, the BOLT can give you most or all of your local channels and subchannels, with current and future program listings shown in a convenient grid display. (An internet connection is needed to download and update the listings.) It also is a full-featured, easy-to-use DVR, easily as good as the cable or satellite company’s.

In addition, it has useful apps including Netflix, Amazon, Hulu Plus, VUDU, YouTube, Pandora, Plex, and iHeart Radio. You might not even need a Roku, Chromecast, Apple TV or Amazon Fire TV Stick to view your subscription and other content!

If you want access to all this in other rooms, add TiVo Minis. They are an easy way to get more out of your TiVo at a one-time-only cost. Each comes with its own remote. You can also use the free TiVo smartphone app to control a BOLT or Mini, and to easily set up recordings.

Read more in previous posts New product: the TiVo BOLT and Cord-cutting: What DID work for us.

Second, you will need an antenna. The Mohu Leaf Paper-Thin Indoor HDTV Antenna (Refurbished) might well be all you need. Try it. If you decide to upgrade to a powered and/or an outdoor antenna, you can still use this one with another TV.

Read more about antennas in these previous posts: Placing an indoor TV antenna, High winds can affect TV reception and Mohu Sky 60 antenna review.


In addition, if you are ready to replace your landline or cable phone service (and don’t want to rely entirely on your cell phone), the Ooma Telo internet phone can make it happen. See previous posts Ooma internet phone moves from office to Tiki room and Cord-cutting: Hold the phone!

After losing the cable/satellite box, you may need a new clock for the set-top. The one at the top of this post does the job quite nicely for us.

I wish everyone a Merry Christmas, with no cords attached!

TiVo...

Top, L to R: Clock, TiVo Roamio OTA, Roku N1000. Middle: DVD/VCR, infrequently used remotes.

Our cord-cutting arsenal:

Ooma Telo internet phone device

5 TVs: LED (2), plasma, flat-tube, ’83 CRT
TiVo Roamio OTA 4-tuner DVR
TiVo Mini extender (2)
Mohu Sky 60 powered outdoor antenna
Winegard FlatWave indoor antenna (2)

Roku streaming media player (3)
Chromecast streaming media player
Blu-ray player

TiVo “Peanut” remote (3)
Logitech Harmony 890 remote
X10 universal 5-in-1 learning remote.
Smartphone

Netflix & Amazon Prime subscriptions

Windows 7 PCs / free Plex &
Emby software to serve
music/TV/movie libraries.
Windows 7 PC / free Windows
Media Center DVR with
recordings on external drive.

Raspberry Pi computer w/ free OSMC, PleXBMC, & ServerWMC software
to access content on Win 7 PCs

X10 analog video sender / receiver
Powerline network adapter (4)
Gigabit Ethernet switch (2)
Kinovo HDMI switch
Powered USB hub (2)

(A list entitled “Our cord-cutting arsenal” appears at the bottom-right of this blog. It shows the hardware and software we use for all five of our TVs. But since you can’t tell which items are in each room, I am breaking it down by room, highlighting the hardware in light yellow, content in white. This is number 4 of 5 rooms.)

The den being my wife’s base of operations, it was critical to get it right.

Getting it right mostly entailed putting in a TiVo Roamio OTA with a good antenna. (See Cutting the TV cable with TiVo Roamio OTA and Mohu Sky 60 antenna review .)

Although there is a 1st generation Roku, it is hardly needed now that the Roamio has Netflix, Amazon Prime, VUDU, Plex, iHeart Radio and Pandora. The Roku does have a few channels I like in addition to the aforementioned.

Also rarely used now is a DVD/VCR combo. but it’s there.

Without a cable box, a clock was needed. I ordered this one: Gearonic LED Digital Cube Clock.

Other details of the final configuration:

In order to view the HD programming from the TiVo on our 2002 tube TV. which can only accept component input, an HDMI-to-component converter was needed. (See previous post, Replace the old TV?)

A gigabit switch connects the TiVo Minis in the kitchen and the theater room to the Roamio, using Ethernet cable. This is the switch that was a 5-port model until the lightning strike turned it into a 4-port.

Internet is provided by a Powerline adapter (also connected to the gigabit switch). It talks to its counterpart in the office where the modem is located. (See previous post Powerline vs. Ethernet wiring.)

X10 video sender

X10 video sender on the den TV

We still have an X10 sender hooked to the TiVo’s composite output. (See The workout room TV setup for my wife)

The TiVo’s Netflix & Amazon apps stream subscription content. Plex media server software running on our Windows 7 PCs with TV/movie libraries streams our own content to the TiVo’s Plex channel.

She uses the TiVo remote, and her iPhone to control X10 automation; I use the X10 universal 5-in-1 learning remote and an Android smartphone. (See previous post Den: wifi smartphone & learning remote.)

Coming soon to complete the tour: the theater room. Lots of stuff in there.

TiVo BOLT

Brand new offering from TiVo, priced at $300.

New features:

  • SkipMode: One click of the remote skips an entire commercial break on recorded programs.
  • QuickMode: Speed up recordings by 30% using pitch-corrected audio. (Some cable networks are doing it at their end so they can shoehorn in more commercials).
  • 4K Ultra High Definition.

Includes 1 year of prepaid TiVo service.

After the prepaid year, the service cost is $150/year (average $12.50/month). So effectively, you are paying $150 for the BOLT and $150 in advance for a year of service. The yearly $150 charge is auto-renewed unless you cancel before the renewal date by phone.

A $15/mo option carries a one-year commitment and a $75 early termination fee (not very attractive compared with the yearly option).

We bought a TiVo Roamio OTA eight months ago for $50, with a one-year commitment to pay $15/mo ($180/year) for service. It was a bit of a gamble since I didn’t know for sure how well it would go over. But my wife was so sold on it, we were able to cut the TV cable, and have saved a lot of money already. (See previous post Cord-cutting: What DID work for us.)

From our savings, we bought TiVo Minis for the kitchen and the theater room. Our Minis would work with the new BOLT at no additional charge, same as the OTA and other Roamio series DVRs.

The BOLT’s new SkipMode and QuickMode features are very tempting. I believe my “client” would love them. But our one-year commitment on the Roamio OTA won’t be up until 1/30/2016, so I may need to wait until next year to consider buying. I am checking with TiVo about this, and will report back here. (Later note: I was correct; we must complete the year.)

If you don’t have such a commitment in effect, you are free to jump right in.

The Complete Service Plan Terms and Conditions (see 4th question in TiVo’s FAQ) state that buying from a non-TiVo retail outlet such as Amazon gets you an additional option, the “All-In Plan”. This is a one-time payment of $600 for lifetime (the life of the box, that is) TiVo service. However, TiVo has available product and free shipping for orders placed directly with them.

With the All-In Plan, you would begin to save $150/year after 4 years of use. (Make that 5, per reader JM; see his comment below.) But here we are, thinking about switching boxes after less than a year. You should consider the probabilities that you will want to stay with the same product long enough to start reaping the savings, and that the box doesn’t conk out on you.

On the other hand, a BOLT on a monthly or yearly service plan comes with a Continual Care warranty, so your box is backed up to a degree should anything ever go wrong (unless due to misuse or force majeure, e.g., lightning; see our own lightning saga). The warranty will replace a non-working BOLT for $50 (plus shipping and any applicable taxes) as long as continuous, active TiVo service is maintained.

Our $50 Roamio OTA was the cheapest way to try TiVo. I now believe we will be using TiVo products to save money on cable TV for a long time to come.

Read more about the BOLT at Amazon and TiVo.

Our kitchen TiVo Mini

Our kitchen TiVo Mini, LG 24″ LED TV, TiVo remote.

Our cord-cutting arsenal:

Ooma Telo internet phone device

5 TVs: LED (2), plasma, flat-tube, ’83 CRT
TiVo Roamio OTA 4-tuner DVR
TiVo Mini extender (2)
Mohu Sky 60 powered outdoor antenna
Winegard FlatWave indoor antenna (2)

Roku streaming media player (3)
Chromecast streaming media player
Blu-ray player

TiVo “Peanut” remote (3)
Logitech Harmony 890 remote
X10 universal 5-in-1 learning remote.
Smartphone

Netflix & Amazon Prime subscriptions

Windows 7 PCs / free Plex &
Emby software to serve
music/TV/movie libraries.
Windows 7 PC / free Windows
Media Center DVR with
recordings on external drive.

Raspberry Pi computer w/ free OSMC, PleXBMC, & ServerWMC software
to access content on Win 7 PCs

X10 analog video sender / receiver
Powerline network adapter (4)
Gigabit Ethernet switch (2)
Kinovo HDMI switch
Powered USB hub (2)

(You may have seen the list entitled “Our cord-cutting arsenal” appearing at the bottom-right of this blog. It shows the hardware and software we use for all five of our TVs. But since you can’t tell which items are in each room, I will break it down by room, highlighting the hardware in light yellow.)

The kitchen is now a simple TV room. The TiVo Mini is responsible for that change.

Years ago, because of my wife’s need to watch “General Hospital” recordings while cooking, I put together a too-complicated Rube Goldberg setup. But it was either that, or renting a cable box with DVR dedicated to the kitchen.

She had to switch the den TV to VIDEO1, change its audio setting to SPEAKERS OFF, FIXED AUDIO OUT, and turn on the den X10 video sender. Then she could control the den cable DVR box via the kitchen X10 receiver’s IR extender. (The extender relayed the Cox remote’s commands to the sender, which converted them to pulses from its IR emitter, which was attached to the Cox cable box.)

Then she (or I) had to switch it all back to watch in the den.

Whew!

Since X10 is old analog technology, it looks best on a tube TV rather than a new flatscreen. We bought a new 13″ tube TV back in 2006 from Best Buy. The picture tube eventually faded, and it had to be whacked sometimes to make the sound work. The microwave fritzed the X10 radio frequency whenever it was used, so the TV had to be muted.

Not great, then barely serviceable.

Enter the TiVo Mini and a new LED TV.

Now all she has to do is turn on the new LED TV and the TiVo Mini, both with the kitchen-dedicated TiVo remote, and select episodes recorded on the TiVo Roamio in the den.

She is much happier now. The 13″ was carted back to Best Buy (Best Buy accepts 3 dead electronics items per day).

The outdated X10 technology still has a place, though: The workout room TV setup for my wife. The TiVo Roamio in the den even simplified it considerably.

(A few additional details from a slightly different angle in the earlier post The fruits of cord-cutting: new TVs, TiVo Mini.)

Two rooms to go: the den and the theater room.