It has been a long time since I have been as excited about a "big boy toy" as I've been about the TiVo. Even better -- my wife likes it too!
TiVo is easy to understand, but hard to explain. The simple description is that it is a digital VCR. But that doesn't even come close to adequately defining the machine. Here's how it works:
The TiVo's input connects to your antenna, cable box, or satellite box. It can control the cable or satellite box. The TiVo's output connects to your TV. Once it is turned on, the TiVo constantly records something on its hard drive.
Picture this: You are watching ER on Thursday night. The phone rings. This always happens, right? So just press the pause button. Since the TiVo is always taping, it will pause right where you are. You've now got 30 minutes to get rid of that telemarketer (or your Mother in Law). Forgot what was going on? Rewind it a little before you press play. You won't miss a thing. Even better, since the show is now delayed, you can fast forward through all the commercials! We've gotten where we always wait 5 or 10 minutes before we start a show just so we can skip the commericals.
Watching sports? Make your own instant replay or slow motion. There is a button that jumps back about 8 seconds so you can see that play or hear what was said.
But that's just the start. TiVo also connects to a phone line. Once a day it makes a free phone call to get program data for about the next two weeks. It knows what channels you get and what's coming on. You can search for programs you want to record in the future by name, channel, time, or type of program. If a show comes on all the time (like ER or Survivor) you can get a Season Pass -- the TiVo will always record it.
If the TiVo is not busy, it will record things it thinks you might like. It knows by what you've recorded in the past, plus you can assign thumbs up and thumbs down to shows you enjoy (or hate).
The TiVo uses MPEG compression to store up to 30 hours of programming. The quality is great, but at the lowest setting, fast motion tends to get a "digital" look. At the highest setting (about 8 or 9 hours of programming) the image is just like normal TV.
The kids, my wife, and even my Mother can operate the unit. There is a very simple remote control -- everything is on screen with very colorful Web page-like menus. You'd be amazed how much stuff comes on early in the mornings that you are missing now. For instance, I watch Star Trek Deep Space 9 (comes on at 2 AM) and the excellent animated Starship Troopers: The Roughneck Chronicles which comes on at 5 AM. Of course, if you work shifts or you are usually busy in prime time, you can tape that too.
It used to be that we'd turn on the TV, flip around, and then finally settle on something we really didn't like. Now, we all sit around and pick shows to tape for the next week or so. Then there is always something we want to watch.
TiVo is not cheap, but the money we've saved by not going to Blockbuster 5 times a week has probably paid for the unit. Unlike a VCR, you'll really use a TiVo. If you want to save a show more permanently, the TiVo will roll it out to a VCR for you.
Buy TiVo Now!