TiVo Series 3 Review

Welcome to TiVo Series 3, the high definition successor for those who have grown accustomed to watching and managing recorded television shows with TiVo Series 2. This stylish unit offers additional storage space and more ways of recording what you want. Series 3 supports analog and digital cable sent in the clear, but requires a CableCARD for protected digital channels. In accordance with the FCC mandate that all digital cable systems in the United States support CableCARD, Tivo Series 3 has CableCARD slots that will work with any cable system. Unfortunately, TiVo Series 3 does not support satellite television. Series 3 also has an ATSC tuner so it can view and record HD over-the-air (OTA).

The TiVo Series 3 unit and remote have a sleeker, handier design and the new remote is backlit. Series 3 still encodes analog content as MPEG2 and now supports playback of advanced codecs such as MPEG4 AVC/H.264. With TiVo Series 3, you have greater recording capacity and the ability to record two shows at once.

Unpacking and Setting Up

TiVo Series 3 RemoteThe Series 3 is a shiny black unit with an alloy aluminum face plate. Smoked plastic conceals the amber OLED (organic light-emitting diode) display that exhibits a clock, displays video output details and shows the titles of shows currently recording, even when the television is off. The remote is still shaped like a peanut but now it is backlit and all the buttons are directly labeled. Another cool new feature of the remote is the textured rubber grip finish on the lower rear half that helps you keep it pointed in the correct direction. The navigation capability on the remote was also moved to the middle of the directional pad for ease of use.

The networking and A/V connections for the Series 3 are on the rear panel. HDMI connections and component-video offer HD video output and the corresponding cables are included in the box with the unit. There are two RF input supply ports for cable television and antenna. There are also two analog and two digital tuners for handling television broadcast feeds. You have the ability to choose from one of four setting for video quality.

The TiVo Series 3 not only still has the standard telephone jack, but also has USB ports and an integrated Ethernet jack that can be used with optional wireless adapters. The TiVoToGo and multi-room viewing features have been disabled, but there is TiVo Desktop Software and TiVo Online Services.

Getting Ready to Go

TiVo Series Front and BackYou will need to get the proper CableCARDs from your cable company because a cable box cannot be connected to the Series 3. It is best to consult with your cable carrier before you even buy the unit, which is what we did. The cards need to be activated and some cable companies even require a technician to come and “install” them. Our cable company was happy to provide them but some folks had to order the CableCARDs, as well as wait for an installer. You should note that with CableCARDs you will not be able to get PayPerView, OnDemand or SDV (switched digital video) channels.

Because of the new configuration options for additional tuners, the guided setup for Series 3 is a bit different from the models that came before it. The CableCARDs are simply plugged into the right part of the box during the prompt in the guided setup, you call cable to have them activated and then finish the guided setup. There are numerous output resolution options with Series 3, including a native mode (that keeps the resolution of the program while it is delivered to the television), hybrid and fixed modes. The Series 3 is able to store 300 hours of standard definition programming and about 30 hours of HD content as opposed to Series 2, which holds anywhere between 80 and 180 hours of programming recorded at standard quality.

Summary

The TiVo Series 3 can offer a pure digital connection between your HDTV and the unit by displaying all video through HDMI for an unbeatable viewing experience. The backlit remote and OLED display really improves on the everyday experience of using TiVo. The Series 3 offers a vast amount of recording and storage capacity, as well as the ability to record two shows at one time.

With TiVo Series 3, the picture quality is excellent and the ease of recording and reliability are unsurpassed. The front display is legible and the remote is photosensitive and greatly improved overall; however, the Series 3 menu graphics look terrible on an HD display. The icons appear distorted and stretched out, which was surprising for such an otherwise innovative unit. Also, at this time, the Series 3 does not offer the option for storage expansion through an ESATA port (such as attaching an external hard drive).

Some users may miss the TiVoToGo option that allow you to export shows to your iPod or PC as well as the multi-room viewing option. Also, the unit is rather expensive at $799, although you can find it for less. The cost of the Series 3 may put off some dedicated TiVo users, but once they see it in action, they are certain to be hooked.

Specifications:

Model No. TCD648250B
Dimensions: Height is 3.375 inches, depth is 12.625 inches, width is 16.5 inches and weight is 25 pounds
Audio Outputs: Stereo RCA, HDMI, Optical (Toslink)
Video Outputs: DVI, HDMI, SCART, VGA, S- Video, Component, Composite
Ports: USB 2.0, External SATA (eSATA)
Supported HDTV and EDTV resolutions: 480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i

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