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Thursday December 5, 2013 3:51 pm

TiVo Roamio Pro review


TiVo Roamio Pro review

What's exciting about the new TiVo Roamio DVR line is that it's been a while since TiVo last released some new hardware. Three and a half years, in fact. That's when the TiVo Premiere debuted, promising an HD interface and dual-core chip that was supposed to bring about speed and efficiency. Well, the Premiere failed to live up to the hype, and TiVo went back to the drawing board and spent a few years building Roamio.

TiVo Roamio is actually a line of three DVRs that range in price from $199 to $599, with four tuners built-in to the standard Roamio, and six tuners in the Roamio Plus and Pro models. The Plus and Pro also have integrated TiVo Stream functionality, too, allowing you to watch TiVo content on your iOS devices wherever you have Wi-Fi. Has TiVo done enough to earn your attention and hard-earned dollar with the Roamio DVR? Join us for our full TiVo Roamio Pro review as we answer just that.


TIVO ROAMIO PRO UNBOXING

In the box:

  • TiVo Roamio Pro DVR
  • TiVo remote
  • HDMI cable
  • 2 AA batteries
  • Quick start guides & Instruction manual

Configurations:

TiVo Roamio DVR review

TiVo Roamio: $199 ($149 on Amazon)

  • Records 4 shows at once
  • Up to 75 HD hours
  • Compatible with TiVo Stream
  • Built-in WiFi
  • Supports HD antenna or digital cable

TiVo Roamio Plus: $399 ($395 on Amazon)

  • Records 6 shows at once
  • Up to 150 HD hours
  • Stream TV to mobile iOS devices.
  • Built-in WiFi
  • Supports digital cable

TiVo Roamio Pro: $599 ($573 on Amazon)

  • Records 6 shows at once
  • Up to 450 HD hours
  • Stream TV to mobile iOS devices.
  • Built-in WiFi
  • Supports digital cable

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

TiVo Roamio Pro review rear

First things first: the Roamio Plus and Pro share everything, with the exception of hard drive size, so anything we say about the Pro will apply to the Plus as well. If you're familiar with the TiVo Premiere, then you have a good idea of what the TiVo Roamio Pro form factor looks like. However, that doesn't mean that TiVo didn't bring some nice visual upgrades to the box. There's now a more refined fascia, with a faceless TiVo logo front and center on a piano black and white glass-like design.

Around back are all your ports and connectors. you get a CableCARD slot, coax, a pair of USB ports, Ethernet port, eSATA for storage expansion, Toslink, component, analog audio, and HDMI.

On the inside, you'll find some new hotness as well. Finally, TiVo has Wi-Fi built-in with support for 802.11a/b/g/n. 802.11ac isn't included this time around, but we'll take what we can get. A Broadcom BCM7241 processor is the workhorse here that hums along and is supposed to be much speedier than the previous-gen TiVo chip. As for storage, with the standard Roamio you get 500GB for 75 hours of recording capacity. The Roamio Plus bumps that up to 1TB and 150 hours of storage, and the massive Roamio Pro sports a 3TB hard drive and 450 hours of HD storage. The standard Roamio also supports ATSC antennas, which is great for cord cutters.

USING THE TIVO ROAMIO PRO

TiVo Roamio Pro tuners

Well, we covered the hardware, but with a DVR, it's really all about the software features and performance. Visually, TiVo gave the interface a nice refresh. It's a bit darker on the background, almost a midnight blue, with white text and yellow accents. There's also a new What to Watch Now menu, brought over from the smartphone and tablet apps.

These are all nice little changes, for sure, but the best change of all? TiVo it now fast. There's no waiting between button presses on the remote control and seeing something happen on your display. The TiVo no longer has to play catch-up when you are inputting text on the on-screen keyboard. It just beats the TiVo Premiere, hands down, in any speed test that you can throw at it. This includes launching video streaming apps like Netlix and Hulu Plus--it's five times faster on the Roamio Pro. Yes, the TiVo Premiere Elite was faster than the Premiere, but the Roamio makes them both look like slowpokes.

As we said, the Roamio Pro sports six tuners, which means you can record six different things at the same time, while watching one of them, or while watching a previously-recorded piece of content. In our test we never ran into a recording conflict. Each tuner will keep a live buffer of what's being watched, and you can swap between them by hitting the Live TV button on the remote control.

The Roamio Pro also allows you to stream your content from the box itself over to your iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch thanks to TiVo Out of Home Streaming. TiVo does sell a separate unit, called the TiVo Stream (see our TiVo Stream review,) which enables this functionality for TiVos that don't have the functionality included, and it's nice to see it just built right in to the Roamio Pro. Streaming requires a simple, quick setup on your iOS device, and from there, works great as long as you're on a Wi-Fi network. Streaming to LTE will be coming early next year.

CONCLUSION

TiVo Roamio What to Watch Now

When looking at the price of the TiVo Roamio Pro, we'd wager to guess that the average consumer will balk, believing it to be too expensive when their cable DVR is "good enough." We'd let those people know that the Roamio Pro is for those who want the absolute most storage for their recordings. The Roamio Plus is $200 cheaper and offers 1TB of storage, which is more than enough for most users. Secondly, any TiVo can save you money in the long run when compared to your cable DVR, especially when paired with a TiVo Mini in a multi-room environment. Last? The TiVo Roamio DVRs blow away your cable DVR. You know, the one that has two tuners, costs between $12-20 per month, and holds 20-30 hours of HD content?

Having six tuners at your disposal means it's nearly impossible to see a recording conflict with regular usage, even on nights where you have multiple shows to record. Having the extra space is nice too--150 hours on the Plus and 450 hours on the Pro just can't be beat.

We often complain that it takes TiVo forever to iterate between new hardware generations, but this time it was worth the wait. The TiVo Roamio Pro meets almost every expectation that we have for a modern DVR (our main gripe remains the odd mix of HD and non-HD menus, depending on where you navigate.) The speed is great, and is a leap ahead of the previous TiVo Premiere box. If you're still running a Series3, you'll want to give this a close look. After all, it's the best DVR on the market.

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