Giving Up On TiVo

My TiVo experience was a disaster from day one.

Whether I characterize the TiVo as a computer or a piece of consumer electronics, TiVo is the most disappointing purchase I’ve ever made in either category.

Here my complaints with TiVo, in no particular order:

  1. As previously discussed, the TiVo does not have built-in Ethernet and is very difficult to connect to a wired or wireless network.
  2. TiVo frequently (about once per month) forgets that is is connected to our cable box via the serial cable, resulting in the TiVo (1) remote not being able to change channels and (2) recording the wrong programs. In order to fix this problem, you have to reboot both boxes and then reconnect them, but it matters which order you do this (and I can’t remember the magic “correct” order). Sometimes the “magic reconnect” works, sometimes it doesn’t. Today it didn’t. I gave up on the serial cable and switched the the fugly IR cable.
  3. Even though I told TiVo during the guided setup that we don’t get premium channels, it continued to record movies from those channels, which resulted in hours of blue screens being recorded.
  4. We primarily use the TiVo to record movies using the WishList feature. We’ve entered many of our favorite actors, actresses, and directors (itself an unnecessarily tedious process – seriously, how hard would it be to provide a list of the top 10 actors and actresses?). TiVo will record a movie regardless of how small a part an actor/actress plays in it, so we get a lot of movies that we don’t want.
  5. Another complaint with the WishList feature is that it will record movies in foreign languages featuring out favorite actors/actresses. There should be an option to limit recordings by language (so that we don’t have to manually remove channels, which itself is tricky, since the channel lineup changes frequently).
  6. Yet another complaint with the WishList feature is that it will record all movies, good and bad, featuring our favorite actors/actresses. There should be a way to limit recording by rating, and not just by TiVo’s rating (which we don’t always agree with).
  7. The TiVo box we purchased was advertised as a 40-hour box. While this is true, it’s only 40 hours on the worst quality. As it turns out, we don’t mind watching movies at the worst quality, but we prefer watching live TV at best quality. So when we watch live TV, we switch the video source to line 5 (in our case) while TiVo is on line 3. This means we don’t use any of the live TV features of TiVo.
  8. We can’t watch one channel and record another. On more than one occasion, we’ve started watching a recorded movie, only to have the second half be an hour of channel surfing.
  9. There is no “stop recording and delete this recording” option. Since we can’t watch one channel and record another, we have to look at the lights on the front of the box to determine if the TiVo is recording a movie. If it is and we want to watch live TV, then we have to stop the recording and delete the partially recorded movie, which is a multistep process.
  10. There is no explanation about what the lights on the front of the box mean in any of the documentation. We had to figure this out through trial and error.
  11. When listening to our MP3 collection through the TiVo, the TiVo frequently crashes and reboots. We only have about 6000 songs in our collection.
  12. When listening to music, there is no way to quickly access an artist by the first letter of the last name. If we want to listen to U2, we have to scroll through hundreds of artists to get to the “U” section. Once you’re there, you can’t go “forward” from Z to A (or “backwards” from A to Z). I you want to go from U2 to Bon Jovi, you have to scroll back up through hundreds of artists.
  13. When listening to music, the first chunk (sometimes up to a third) of a song is frequently cut off. This is more the rule than the exception.
  14. I used TiVo Central Online to program my TiVo from the Internet. Three times I tried to record a program, three times I got the confirmation email, zero times did the TiVo actually record the program.
  15. The TiVo box takes a long time to boot, longer than my first computer, a Macintosh SE that I purchased in 1988.
  16. Many of the early movies that we recorded had Verizon’s channel info screen occupying one third of the screen for the entire movie. I think this problem is related to the flaky serial cable connection, but frankly I don’t care anymore.

Some of these things, many will argue, are not TiVo’s fault. Others can be explained away or worked around. But you know what? I don’t want to have to work around, fiddle with, hack into the Linux OS of, or reboot my TiVo box to get it to work in a logical, predicable, and user-friendly manner. It should just do this out of the box. It does not. The user experience begins and ends with the user’s experience. It’s all TiVo’s fault.

Every time we use the TiVo, we wonder what new creative way TiVo will have failed. We’ve simply been burned too many times by TiVo and have lost faith in the technology.

Part of the larger problem is that we have too many boxes. The function of the cable TV box and the DVR should be in the same box, so we’re going to replace the TiVo and cable box with a combination box from Verizon FiOS TV. This will be the death of TiVo, I predict. When people start to realize that they don’t need TiVo because they can get an integrated DVR/Cable box from their Cable (or satellite) TV provider.

I have also been considering getting an AppleTV box, but that seems woefully underpowered for our needs. In particular, the 40 GB hard disk is about a tenth the size of what we’d need. We have 40 GB of MP3s, which would leave zero room for movies. I’ll wait until Apple offers a bigger better AppleTV box.

Goodbye, TiVo, I hardly knew ye.

One Reply to “Giving Up On TiVo”

  1. Completely overlooked the cable companys’ combo box. Thanks, will be switching immediately. Tivo has screwed me for the last time.

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