Review of TiVo - The World's Smartest PVR January 31, 2019 · 11 min. readWhile the thoughts and opinions are my own, this article was brought to you by a third party. Also, this article may contain affiliate links.
Last month I wrote about Access Communications' new TiVo system. As the month has gone by, I've used it more and more and in return it's learned more about me. TiVo is known as "the world's smartest PVR" because of its artificial intelligence. You can vote content up or down to give TiVo a hint, or you can just watch the content you enjoy, and TiVo does all the algorithmic work in the background.
But what does that mean for user experience? Well, let's talk about it.
Accurately Predicted Interesting Shows
One of my lesser-known passions is urban planning. I love learning about how to house, transport and feed people more effectively. Not to get all hippy-dippy, but I believe we are at cross-roads between a dystopia like Kowloon Walled City or a utopia like Orbit City.
I could write a whole article about this topic, but it's something I shy away from because it doesn't fit my niche. So, imagine my surprise when The Great Guide to the Future: 'Housing' popped up in my predictive shows. TiVo recorded the first episode for me to watch and I was enthralled by it the moment it started.
Urban planning is a topic that a lot of my readers don't know I have, so TiVo knowing this after a month was not only very unexpected, but also very cool.
Like Saskatchewan, there's a lot to see on TiVo. So much so you might be tempted to skip some of it too. Of the 700 channels I get, 90 of them are Stingray Music and 30 are radio stations. That is over 1/7 of my channels dedicated to music. Sure, I enjoyed the Christmas music channel during the holidays, but most of the time I have no need for them.
Thankfully, TiVo knows this and offers a way to hide these channels from appearing all together. But be careful: if you don't stop to look, you'll never know what you might miss.
Offering Exclusive Content
I like YouTube and Netflix, but they don't have access to everything. One example is Samurai Jack, an animated television show from 2001. Samurai Jack revolves around Jack, an ancient warrior and his conflict with the demon Aku. In the first episode, right before Jack slays the demon, Aku rips open a time portal and throws Jack into the distant future. From here Jack is forced to transverse a harsh, broken world hoping to find a way back to his own era.
I remember watching this show and being fascinated by it. Time travel, demons, apocalyptic worlds... Gee, those themes seem familiar! I really enjoyed this show as a child, but eventually I lost track of it.
Almost two decades later I found Samurai Jack on TiVo. The moment I saw it, I set up a One Pass to record every episode. Now I have dozens of episodes to watch and relive. This show is not on Netflix and is only available in low resolution on YouTube, so being able to watch it in all its glory on TiVo was pretty awesome.
Samurai Jack isn't the only show that fits in this category. TiVo also has access to local shows too, like P.A.S.T., Knights of the Dark and Pinoy Talk. These shows are produced by local talent I would otherwise not be able to find.
Recording Your Favourite Show
Like my previous point, TiVo allows users to record shows and watch them whenever it is convenient. I do this with Samurai Jack all the time, but I recently had an unexpected issue.
In one episode of Samurai Jack, Jack finds a time portal in the centre of a battle arena. In front of the portal is a guardian who has never been defeated in combat. Jack challenges the guardian to battle, but there is no way he could win. If Jack loses, he joins the pile of fallen warriors, but if he wins, his adventure concludes.
(And since this is only season three of a five season show, neither of these can happen… right?)
The battle goes back and forth, with each warrior getting the upper hand. They fight for the entire show, but Jack ultimately falls. The guardian picks up a bolder to crush the samurai but is interrupted by a rumbling from within the time portal. The guardian acknowledges the message, puts down the bolder and whistles. A moment later a large dragon appears from the sky and lands in the arena. The guardian and dragon look at the broken body of Jack and then…
The recording stopped.
I was sitting on the edge of my seat. What happens next? What did the gate say to the guardian? Was this a two-part episode? No. Instead, it turns out the episode had just run late and TiVo ended my recording early.
Access Communications knows this is a limitation with PVR technology so TiVo has an option to set the recording to end minutes, or even hours, after the show's supposed completion. This is great to know now, but I wish I had known earlier.
Solving the Commercial Problem
It might seem strange to some people, but in other parts of the world, commercials aren't a part of everyday life. For example, Germany has a "radio-tax" to keep the airwaves free of commercials. This means whenever you want to listen to music you can toss on your favourite station and hear actual music, not a mattress salesperson.
This is where, I feel, traditional television is falling behind. As somebody who hasn't watched television in years, I find the commercials infuriating. I made myself a bowl of popcorn, sat down on the couch and flicked through advertisements for over an hour while trying to find something to watch.
Although TiVo can't control commercials, it offers a way to skip past them. When you record a show, you can fast-forward over commercials and get to the content you enjoy sooner. You can't speed up shows that are "live", but you could record it and come back to it once it is complete.
After realising TiVo knew I liked urban planning and samurais, I taught it about one of my other favourite topics: aliens. I wanted it to show me everything it had about aliens, UFOs, secret military exercises and livestock abductions.
And TiVo delivered! TiVo's universal search option searches not only their own network, but other platforms like Netflix, Plex, Yahoo, HBO and their own view-on-demand programs. I spent about a half hour scrolling through shows about aliens, conspiracies, government espionage, terrifying creatures, investigations and political assassinations. I fed all this data to TiVo and now it shows me exactly the kind of anxiety-causing shows I know and love.
(And if you're listening, aliens, I know everything about you too.)
It Doesn't Spy on Me
On the topic of being freaked out, TiVo has voice controls that could be eerily like "1984's" Big Brother. When I got TiVo, I was worried it would spy on me and listen to me talk to my cat about Samurai Jack. Thankfully, TiVo only listens when I push the "listen" button on the remote.
This is a feature I really like. My office at the Queen City Collective has an Alexa voice-controlled system and we are constantly telling it to stop listening. Knowing I can spend time in my living room with my cat and not worry about TiVo recording our silly conversations makes me feel a lot better.
All in all, I like TiVo. As my first experience with a PVR, I am impressed by its ability to predict and pre-record shows. I also like that it can record shows for me to watch at a more convenient time. No, TiVo isn't perfect, but I enjoy using it and I'd recommend it for anybody thinking about buying one.
What are your thoughts on TiVo? Would you ever consider getting one? Let me know in the comments below.
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And, as always, a big thank you to my sweetheart Jessica Nuttall for proof reading a countless number of my articles. I couldn't do any of this without you. I love you.
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