Review of TivoToGo

February 10 2005

It took a few weeks for TiVo to update the software release on my box to support TivoToGo.  Now that it's done, I've been able to partake in the portable TiVo experience.  Mike Lazar and I have been comparing notes, since he was pretty active in last month's initial TiVoToGo discussion here.

Image:Review of TivoToGo

True to TiVo's form, the software is very easy to use.  The codec problem I described when first installing TiVo's software seems to have magically repaired itself -- I never ended up having to buy a codec.  Selecting programs to download is straightforward and rather binary.  Video playback is done through Windows Media Player; TiVo didn't try to reinvent the wheel there.  Playback quality is fine... it's no HDTV or DVD, even though the first programs I've watched were recorded at "excellent" quality on the TiVo.

One thing both Mike and I have noticed is that the transfer time between TiVo and computer is dreadfully slow.  Over WiFi (802.11b), the transfer rate is <1GB per hour.  A program recorded at medium quality seems to take about 1 GB of storage per hour -- thus, the transfer rate is as slow as watching program playback.  An excellent quality program I recorded takes 2.3 GB of storage -- and took 2½ hours to transfer to my laptop.  The only upside is that the TiVo desktop software appears to run a background task, such that any time the TiVo is visible to it, it continues to transfer programs.  Thus, anytime my laptop has been on the home network, I've seen more TiVo programs being downloaded.  That's nice.

Mike has been doing some experiments with burning DVDs out of the TiVo Desktop software -- perhaps he can report on those in the comments.

This is a nice incremental feature for TiVo, but it's not a barn-burner.  There are other PVR solutions that allow PC playback without all this extra work.  My TiVo is a sunk cost (I paid the one-time subscription fee), so any new features are a nice bonus.  I'm just not sure I'd recommend anyone buy TiVo because of this specific feature -- though I still recommend it for overall ease-of-use and integration.

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