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TiVo HD

I admit it...I'm a sucker for good marketing, especially when it comes to electronics. TiVo has been advertising their new TiVo HD heavily during college football games,which piqued my interest. The TiVo HD is essentially a scaled-down version of the $799 TiVo Series 3. The only differences are a smaller hard drive (160GB v. 250GB), a non-lighted remote, and a boring front panel display (the Series 3 has an OLED display). The latter two items are completely inconsequential to me, and the difference in storage space wasn't a big deal, especially since the storage capacity eventually will be expandable via the eSATA ports on the back. Like its more-expensive sibling, the TiVo HD uses CableCARDs to decode digital cable transmissions. This was somewhat of a concern, as CableCARDs are reportedly difficult to set up. However, a close friend of mine got his up and running, and he raved about how much he enjoyed his TiVo.

So, I took the plunge. Amazon had a good price on the unit at just over $250. Once I had it ordered, I called Time Warner (Austin) to set up an installation appointment. The CSR went through his little spiel about how the CableCARDs don't provide the same level of functionality as their digital set-top boxes, but I told him I was aware of the shortcomings. A couple days later, two techs showed up to install the cards. Upon arrival, they readily admitted that they hadn't done many TiVo installs, which probably was a harbinger of things to come. After about 30 minutes, they got the CableCARDs up and running (seemingly). I wasn't receiving all of the channels, however. They explained that it sometimes took a couple hours for all of the channels to "download," which didn't really make sense. But, I didn't really have much to go on, so I took them at their word. Fool me once.

After a couple hours, I still wasn't receiving a large percentage of my channels. In fact, none of my HD channels (outside of the local QAM channels) were being received. After a couple of calls to TW tech support (the first guy hung up on me after failing to get the cards working), I made a second appointment for a tech to come out to troubleshoot the install. I also posted my installation experience over at the TiVo Community forum. There I received a message from a TW tech who offered to get me up and running if the on-site tech wasn't able to.

On the day of the install, I got another message from the TW tech from the TiVo Community stating that their billing system had been down, and that it was unlikely the tech would even make it out to my house that day. By 4pm, I decided to take him up on his offer, as it didn't look like the on-site tech would show (he did finally call 30 minutes after he was supposed to show, asking if we still needed him). The inside tech got me up and running in about 10 minutes. Now I have all of my channels, and the TiVo is busily recording shows according to my preferences.

I haven't had a lot of time to really dig into all the features of the TiVo HD, but I really like the fact that it can download video podcasts like DL.TV and Cranky Geeks. Hopefully more will be added as time goes on. The recording quality is quite good, especially for HD broadcasts. The only downsides for me right now are the lack of placeshifting options (i.e. being able to view on computers around the house), and the lack of hard disk expansion (the eSATA ports are supposed to be activated later this year). But, outside of those minor issues, I really enjoy it. Even though we don't watch large volumes of television, we are now free to watch what we want, when we want. Good stuff.

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