Archives For Reviews

tivo-roamio-box

So the plan had been wait until the new year, supposedly when Android streaming and Opera apps arrive, before considering a TiVo Roamio upgrade. Yet a highly compelling discount came my way via an industry pal and, as you can see above, I was motivated to take action.

My initial Roamio Pro experience is quite positive, starting with the lovely packaging which is in a very different league than my Premiere Elite’s nondescript cardboard marketing. Set-top box build quality feel goods and, while it won’t matter to most, the connections around back are better positioned for installation into my very tight, minimalist TV stand. Unfortunately, I’m not (yet?) digging the new RF/IR remote Continue Reading…

The Slingbox 500 Review

Joel Ward —  September 16, 2013 — 8 Comments

Fellow tech enthusiast and DC neighbor Joel Ward continues his role as a Features contributor here at Zatz Not Funny. Beyond ZNF, Joel can be found at Joel Explains It All and @joelsef on Twitter.

slingbox-500

We’ve been evaluating the Slingbox 500 ($300) at the Ward household these last few months. And the timing was good: We went on a week-long vacation, giving us the perfect chance to try out the truly remote access features of the Slingbox. We also played with it while traveling around town, which was fun—including watching Bill Maher at the pool and catching a preseason Washington Capitals game while at a Nationals game.

However, the best use case is travel. This thing is made for travelers. I’d say we probably aren’t the key demographic for a Slingbox as we don’t travel too much. Yet it’s still very nice to have this option available when we are on the road, or even just traveling around town and finding ourselves—or our kids—bored out of our minds. Continue Reading…

tivo-roamio-hero

Models
After nearly four years, TiVo has retired the tainted “Premiere” hardware and moniker in lieu of the new TiVo Series 5 platform that goes by Roamio – given the DVR’s current and expected mobile capabilities.The TiVo Roamio line consists of two hardware models, three configurations:

roamio-lineup

  • TiVo Roamio (TCD846500) $200
    4 Tuner, Digital Cable & OTA
    500GB HD, WiFi, IR/RF Remote
    Smaller Form Factor STB
    (Broadcom 7429)
  • TiVo Roamio Plus (TCD848000) $400
    6 Tuner, Digital Cable
    1TB HD, WiFi, IR/RF Remote w/ Audible Alert
    Traditional Size STB
    Stream capabilities
    (Broadcom 7425)
  • TiVo Roamio Pro (TCD840300) $600
    6 Tuner, Digital Cable
    3TB HD, WiFi, IR/RF Remote w/ Audible Alert
    Traditional Size STB
    Stream capabilities
    (Broadcom 7425)

backview-roamio

The 4-tuner model (picture up top and above) may feature a unique restriction in that it can be configured for digital cable, via CableCARD, OR for OTA, via antenna – but not both simultaneously.

Of course, all TiVo hardware requires a service fee — either $15 on a monthly basis or via a one time $500 lump sum payment. Although, there are discounts available to households with multiple units.

Software & Apps

tivo-roamio-ui

Somewhat unexpectedly, TiVo has undertaken a fairly significant overhaul of their software platform. Along with that, we’re treated to improved performance over the Premiere line given a hardware platform that finally exceeds Adobe Air’s minimum requirements. Beyond Adobe, TiVo is also implementing DIAL, HTML5 and ultimately Opera’s TV app store. We’re hopeful this will spur third party development, including a potential refresh of the dated Amazon Instant experience, and Roamio units launched with refreshed YouTube and Netflix apps – featuring more sophisticated screen elements and menuing than present on Premiere hardware. Further, the “What to Watch NowiPad recommendation engine makes its way to big screen via TiVo Central (as pictured above) and WishLists are finally rendered in HD. Sadly, the settings screens remain SD. Duke Nukem’ Forever!

Beyond launch capabilities, rumor has it TiVo’s Roamio roadmap suggests some sort of personal media cloud or wireless access and playback – possibly to include updated TiVo Desktop software.
Continue Reading…

vizio-soundbar-tivo

Since dismantling our projector-based home theater in 2005 and embracing something of a nomadic lifestyle, we’ve been sadly lacking in the surround sound department. But, having recently purchased a new home (and new television), we’re finally ready to get a bit more serious with our audio. Yet, I wasn’t motivated to recreate the elaborate config we once sported and have been fixated on soundbar-esque solutions — improved acoustics over the TV’s speakers, yet minimal clutter without fishing wires through the walls.

Of CNET’s top 2013 pics, I went with the (horribly named) Vizio S4251w-B4 for several reasons. Continue Reading…

Fellow tech enthusiast and DC neighbor Joel Ward joins ZNF as a Features contributor. Beyond ZNF, Joel can be found at Joel Explains It All and @joelsef on Twitter.

We at the Ward household like trying new things—or at least my wife and kids tolerate me periodically tinkering with our home computing, entertainment, and networking configurations. Entertainment-wise, we’ve been using Roku for years and enjoy the Verizon FiOS TV DVR system quite a bit. Back in the day, before Verizon and HDTV, we enjoyed our networked ReplayTV DVRs and Netflix DVD subscription. So we’ve appreciated time-shifted TV and renting/streaming video for a long time.

Recently we got the opportunity to test out the Boxee Cloud DVR thanks to Zatz Not Funny’s very own Dave Zatz. I ended up replacing our living room Roku with the Boxee so we could get some real-life experience, including input from the kids who are the primary users of the now-removed Roku. We didn’t replace the FiOS cable box, mainly because we rely on a myriad of cable channels that the Boxee can’t yet support. But that’s a discussion for a little later.

Boxee Cloud DVR hardware

The Boxee Cloud DVR ($99) is a standalone device that has the following features: ATSC over-the-air (OTA) and Clear QAM cable tuner, the “cloud” digital video recorder (DVR) for OTA channels, and a small selection of network and online services.

After using the Boxee for a few weeks, Continue Reading…

The TiVo Mini Review

Dave Zatz —  March 10, 2013

tivo-mini

TiVo’s been talking up their DVR extender over a year, since it was first introduced last February as the IP-STB. And, while we didn’t get the 2012 retail launch we were hoping for, the TiVo Mini ($100, plus service) has finally arrived. But is it everything we’d hoped for?

Instead of sprinkling a number of DVRs around the home, the TiVo Mini essentially leverages a 4-tuner TiVo Premiere as a central media hub – relaying both live and recorded content. This thin client approach features a variety of practical advantages including a lower total cost of ownership, via waived CableCARD and Additional Outlet fees, energy efficiency, and the simplicity of managing a single drive of scheduled recordings. Of course, TiVo isn’t first to this space,  joining very fine satellite offerings from DISH and DirecTV on one side… with years of Windows Media Center extenders at the other end of the spectrum.

TiVo Mini Unboxing & Setup

The TiVo Mini ships with a standard Peanut remote, including batteries, and TiVo has kindly included a HDMI cable. However, in order to keep the Mini’s size under control, TiVo passed on standard component jacks and folks reliant on them may have a difficult time connecting their TVs. So, perhaps, they should have provided that rather rare breakout cable instead. Monoprice to the rescue? Speaking of connectivity, Continue Reading…

Roku-3-with-Headphones

As we’d previously reported, the new Roku 3 has indeed launched with a refreshed UI and audio-capable remote control. The 3 takes over the Roku 2 XS‘s top slot in their lineup, running a competitive $100. In fact, the Roku 2 XS is no longer present in the company’s model comparison chart. Like its predecessor, the Roku 3 remote incorporates Hillcrest Labs Wii-esque motion control capabilities for gaming purposes – such as Angry Birds Space. But, the ways in which the remote communicate are new to Roku’s set-top box line. In place of Bluetooth, Roku is now using WiFi Direct – a similar and possibly ascendent technology that we’ve been tracking and potentially one piece of the Roku Miracast puzzle. Another remote innovation is the inclusion of an audio jacks (and pair of bundled Roku-purple earbuds) for “private listening.” The way I understand it, inserting a headset (theirs or yours) into the remote will redirect audio output from television to the handheld, with volume controlled via rocker buttons. It’s an innovative feature, but probably not one that would be appreciated in our household – especially given the duplicity of Roku and tablet apps/channels.

On the hardware front, as Roku’s high-end model, they’ve decided to do away with analog and standard def connectivity options… leaving a sole HDMI jack to handle both video and audio transmission duties. And, speaking of transmission, both Ethernet and dual-band 802.11n are provided for connectivity. We’re told this is the most powerful Roku ever… although the company didn’t get into component details, so we’ll circle back once someone cracks one open. Aesthetically, the Roku 3 is certainly the most beautiful one yet and they’ve come such a long way from the original single-channel Netflix box sourced from off-the-shelf parts. While we can’t say for certain, we suspect that Bould Design was once again tapped to move the product forward. But, beyond visual design, this Roku model is also somewhat heavier to prevent HDMI cables from pulling it across the television stand. And, perhaps, to inspire a higher quality feel.  Continue Reading…