We've been hard at work on the kitchen, and will have quite a bit more to share with you next week. We really can't wait. Our fur babies have also been on the mend and are doing quite well. Thank you to everyone that has expressed concern for their well being. We're still waiting on the pathology results from their tumor removals, but they are healing up nicely from the surgery. But trust me, Mel is still uber grumpy.

Today I'm going to share my basic review of a new toy I just bought. I have a particular penchant for technology toys. This may be incredibly obvious from our various posts about such items as whole house audio solutions and DIY server racks, but techie toys often make me as giddy as a school girl. I'm not sure where or when this tech obsession began, but my career as a software developer and my hobby as a DIY renovator have fueled these flames for years.

One of the tech items that I'm particularly fond of is my TiVo. No, I'm not talking about a cable company DVR, I'm talking about the one and only, always imitated, never duplicated, TiVo brand hardware that I've been a loyal user of since early 2001. You know, the one with the little television icon that has antenna ears?

Now I'm sure this might sound like some sort of a sponsored post, but let me assure you, it's not. I'm just a little geeked about this new toy and wanted to give you my impression in case you're interested in one.

A few weeks ago, a fellow TiVo evangelist and friend of mine sent me a link to an odd web page. The page allowed me to "enter to win a chance to purchase a TiVo Stream." Enter to win a chance to purchase...really? I didn't much like the terms here, I'd much rather just win the item rather than pay for it, but I went ahead and put my email address in, primarily because I was intrigued by the idea of this new product.

So what is this elusive Stream that they were able to generate enough buzz about that I put in an email address? It's a small piece of hardware that sits on your home's network and allows you to stream live and recorded shows from your TiVo to your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch. In other words, it turns your mobile devices into another TV in your house.

I've long wanted the ability to watch a live TV show on my iPad, or easily transfer shows from my TiVo to my mobile device, but thus far, it's been either impossible or cumbersome. Sure, a Slingbox is an option, but you're limited to watching what is currently on the TV, and you can't record and take it with you. So if you'd like to watch the Nationals game in the office, but someone is watching HGTV 24x7 on the TV, you're stuck watching HGTV on the Slingplayer. (Ahem, not that this has ever happened in our house.) And if you want to transfer shows from the TiVo to your mobile device, it's a but of a process that involves transferring and putting the shows in iTunes, then syncing it to your mobile device. It's not a great solution.

A few days after entering to win a chance to purchase...yeah, it still sounds a bit ridiculous...I received an email telling me I had "won." I figured it was a bit of a scam, until several friends who also entered their name told me they hadn't won, so I decided to go ahead and go for it.

About three days later this little gem of a box arrived in the mail.

Like a kid on Christmas I opened the package to reveal a small, square, and simple network device. Yet another IP based device to add to our home's growing list of Internet connected devices.

The Stream looks strikingly similar to an Apple TV. Check out this side by side comparison to show just how close one is to the other (yes, the Apple TV is still sexier).

The "install" was as simple as plugging it into an outlet, then plugging it into the network. Easy as pie. I ended up putting it in our server rack so it would take up any other small space in the house. It has a nice home atop our battery backup and among the other tangle of wires. I really need to organize that rats nest a bit.

Once installed, I just fired up the TiVo app on our iPad and it automatically discovered our new TiVo Stream device. The app guided the iPad through the configuration and I was on my way to being able to watch live or recorded TV on my mobile devices.

The interface for the TiVo app on both the iPhone and iPad is quite nice. You get guide data, show info, etc. But now, with the Stream, it adds an option when you click on the "Watch" button for a show or recorded show. It gives two options, "Watch on TV" and "Watch on iPad". Clicking "Watch on TV" tunes to the show on the television, but "Watch on iPad" initiates a recording in the TiVo that then begins live streaming to the iPad.

Once the show is streaming, you can then pause, rewind, fast forward, and do all of the normal DVR type functionality, and all from a great interface.

I also setup the Stream to work on my iPhone. Though much smaller, it's a great way to keep track of a Nationals game while working on the house in a room without a TV. (Yes, this is the Nationals game that had three benches clearing melees.)

I think the best part is the fact that you can transfer recorded shows from the TiVo to the iPad or iPhone. It will come in very handy when I work well into the night on the house, miss a show I really wanted to see (like Mad Men, Breaking Bad, or Walking Dead), and then watch it on the bus on the way into work. An hour show can transfer from the TiVo to the iPad in about 15 minutes. Not too shabby!

There are two small drawbacks that I've seen thus far. The first is the occasional stutter in the stream. This gives a quick pause or skip when the stream gets bogged down a bit. It's not terrible (only happens once in a long while), and it may be something that will be solved in a future update, but it's something I did notice. The second is the fact that I can't watch premium channel content, like HBO or Showtime, that is restricted from being transferred after the TiVo records it. There's still HBOGO, but that requires an active internet connection. I can't just take the show with me.

There's also a few caveats for this device, if you're interested in picking one up (you know, when the non lucky people are able to win the right to buy one). The first is that the TiVo needs to be on a wired connection, not connected to your network via wifi. The wired connection offers more reliable and high speed network throughput, which is necessary for streaming video. The other big one is that this only works on TiVo Premiere or Premiere 4 based hardware. So if you are still on a Series 3, TiVoHD, or older, you won't be able to use one of these. Fortunately for my tech obsessed self, we didn't have to worry about either of these caveats.

In all, I'm glad I was a total sucker and plunked down some cash after winning the opportunity to purchase something. I'm very happy with the technology, performance, and solution. Sure, I wish this was something native to the TiVo box itself, and it will probably be included in future hardware versions of TiVos, but I'll take a small and inconspicuous device at this point.

Are you a TiVo fan like I am? Or do you look at it as a DVR is a DVR is a DVR? Or even better, do you not care about TV enough to even have a DVR or cable? Let me know what you think, I'm interested to hear.

Comments 14

Comments

9/7/2012 at 1:23 PM
I was almost sold on this, until I realized that I'd have to get a newer TiVo for it to work. C'est la vie.
9/7/2012 at 2:12 PM
We had a DVR when we moved back to the USA, but only kept it long enough to realize that we never watched anything when it actually came on TV. So we dropped cable and added a Roku box (with Hulu Plus & Netflix) ... between it and broadcast, I feel like we don't miss things and we watch a lot less TV in general.
Alex
9/8/2012
We have quite a few friends who follow almost the exact route as you, and they are quite happy with it. The main things I'd miss are ESPN and MASN (for Nationals games). Otherwise, I'm pretty sure I could get everything else streaming.
9/7/2012 at 2:37 PM
Sounds neat, but we don't have cable. Instead we hve our Blu-ray player connected to our home network and use Netflix to watch TV. If there is a live game or something like that, we walk to one of the many bars in downtown.

I do wish there was a device or something that would let me get live tv and pick only the channels I want. I mean come on, 6 channels of c-span, and 4 MTV's none of which actually play music.
Alex
9/8/2012
The wish of picking just the channels you want is a good one, I feel the same, but I know it is a LONG way off.
Dave Zachau
9/7/2012 at 6:51 PM
Cool device! Regarding the video stutter. I had the same problem recently with my new Blue Ray player playing Netflix films through the TV. I solved it via the Netflix setup allowing me to choose different speeds related to my Internet connection. By choosing a slower connection speed I was able to eliminate the stutter.
Alex
9/8/2012
Good thought, but there's no way in the device's setup that you can do that. Hopefully their next software version will correct either the issue or add the option.
Melissa
9/8/2012 at 4:29 PM
I am so glad you mentioned the Tivo had to be hardwired. I had only read article teasers, but I was ready to jump on board. I have 2 premieres and an HD. Only the HD is hardwired. I guess I will just have to live with Tivo to go for now. I upgraded my router, and the tivos stream on the 5ghz band. It has really improved my transfer speeds.
Alex
9/8/2012
Glad this helped. It might be worth it to swap your HD with one of your Premieres. This is a cool device that I'm really enjoying.
Mike B
9/9/2012 at 11:26 AM
"The first is that the TiVo needs to be on a wired connection, not connected to your network via wifi. The wired connection offers more reliable and high speed network throughput, which is necessary for streaming video. "

Yet, Netflix and HBO GO deliver superb HD streams over a 3G connection.

I love my TIVO, but this is indefensible. No way you can gloss over this point like it isn't utterly ridiculous.
Alex
9/13/2012
This really doesn't affect our situation since all of our TiVos are hardwired to our network, hence my ability to only mention it in passing. That being said, I can actually understand the justification, but I hope it's only a temporary limitation that the software can eventually overcome, or future hardware revisions can change.

Netflix, HBO GO, etc provide compressed streams that the software can decompress and provide HD-like quality or "near HD" quality (as most call it). These are not true 1080p streams, but are software accelerated. The main thing here is that the compressed stream is delivered and buffered already compressed, it's not doing the compression on the fly.

In the case of the TiVo Stream, the compression actually happens on the hardware. The video is stored in an uncompressed format on the TiVo hard drives, and the TiVo stream takes those raw files from the TiVo, compresses them, then delivers them to the mobile device in a compressed format that is able to be streamed over wifi. Since the uncompressed and original files are rather huge, and need to be delivered very quickly for on the fly compression, a wifi connection using the somewhat slow wireless hardware built into the TiVo probably just can't handle it. This isn't a design flaw in the stream, but rather a design shortcoming in the TiVo box hardware.

Realize this is purely conjecture and I'm not stating it as fact.

What I think TiVo will ultimately do is bundle the video processing chip in future versions of TiVo boxes, enabling the Stream as an optional onboard hardware component. If the compression can take place on the TiVo box itself then there is no need for a wired connection, and the show can stream via wifi directly to your device from the TiVo box.
9/9/2012 at 2:19 PM
I'm glad this worked so well for you. I'm having a completely different experience.

When I built my house I wired it for extensive network support. Since then I've upgraded my TiVo a few times.

Currently, I have a TiVo Premiere (on the wired network), two Apple Airport Extremes to expand my home wireless network & an industrial gigabit switch (Comcast modem, Apple Time Machine, some networked A/V equipment, etc.)

I bought a Tivo Stream today and it doesn't even work for me.

The iPad app constantly has errors (can't connect, incorrectly telling me that network control is turned off, and ultimately not being able to stream or copy content to my iPad).

I have an iPad3 and my wife has an iPad2. And yes, we have full signal . . . I can SEE the wireless router from where I'm sitting.

I wanted to love the TiVo stream . . . I don't have a problem with paying for the additional functionality, or the fact that it needs to be hardwired.

But I have a pretty close-to-ideal networking environment in my home. If it can't work here, then I can't recommend it . . .
Alex
9/9/2012
David, we have almost the same network configuration. This may sound strafe, but give it a few hours just sitting there and try again. I actually noticed similar errors right when I set it up, but was late to a baseball game so I left for the evening. By the time I got back later that night it was all working without issue. Good luck!
9/10/2012 at 12:40 AM
I just asked my tech-obsessed boyfriend if he had heard of this. He responded "It's arriving on Wednesday". I let you know if there's anything to report!
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