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Friday September 9, 2011 1:43 pm

TiVo Premiere Elite: TiVo’s swan song?

Posted by Andru Edwards - Categories: Editorial, Home Entertainment

TiVo Premiere Elite

I've been a TiVo fan for many years, and a subscriber for about ten of those years. I've had various TiVo machines and have been happy with the performance of my HD TiVo. But like any tech-geek, I'm always interested in what's new.

The TiVo Premiere, released last year, intrigued me because of its HD interface, improved UI, larger storage capacity, and 1080p support. The specs sounded great and I was ready to upgrade my system, but as it approached time to pull the trigger, I began hearing stories of sluggish UI performance. Threads posted on TiVoCommunity.com indicate that the second core of the dual-core processor is disabled for stability reasons, thus crippling its Flash-based interface.

This week, TiVo announced the Premiere Elite ($499), which features four tuners and 2 terabytes of storage. Will it have a better processor that will take advantage of the HD UI or will it be more of the same? Unfortunately, I have a hunch that it will be more of the same.

TiVo defined DVR with reliable recording, a sleek UI, smart suggestions (recording new shows based on what you watch), and season passes (recording every episode of a series). It deservedly reached that pinnacle of branding: people don't say "I recorded American Idol," they say "I Tivo'd American Idol."

Unfortunately, over the last few years, it has seemed like TiVo is merely staying afloat rather than innovating. There's only so much one can do to enhance a DVR and that's probably why it started marketing the Premiere as an "entertainment hub." But for us users, this requires spending a minimum of $100 for the equipment plus $20 a month for service. There are cheaper alternatives, such as a cable company DVR combined with Apple TV. In order to stay competitive with other product offerings, I'm sure TiVo has had to cut costs somewhere along the line. As seen from the performance of the Premiere, it appears to be doing this in the hardware.

Even if the Premiere Elite provides a responsive UI, I'm afraid that TiVo might be on the way out. Cable company providers are enhancing the UIs of their DVRs. Over time, it will become harder and harder for TiVo to convince customers to pay for its equipment and service on top of what users already pay their cable providers. I can see TiVo eventually becoming a much smaller, niche company providing a simple but reliable DVR for users who watch over-the-air TV rather than cable.

This article, written by Tim Smith, originally appeared on PCMag.com and is republished on Gear Live with the permission of Ziff Davis, Inc.

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