TiVo unveiled preview versions of its new TiVo Stream and IP set-top boxes at the Boston Cable Show (pictures below). I first saw a prototype of the TiVo Stream at this year’s CES, back in January. Both boxes are complimentary boxes to TiVo’s Premiere line of digital video recorders (DVRs). The Stream will let you stream and download content to your Apple or Android smart phone or tablet. The Stream will also stream live TV (yes that sounds awkward). The yet-to-be-named IP set-top box is TiVo’s attempt to replace the cable boxes outside of your living room or main viewing area. The IP set-top box will have the same user experience as today’s TiVo Premiere DVRs. There are two versions of the IP set-top box: One for cable providers and another for retail. The retail version will include streaming video services such as Netflix and YouTube. Neither version includes a CableCard slot like the TiVo Preview (only available from select cable companies). The IP set-top box is really meant to be paired with a quad-tuner TiVo DVR such as the TiVo Premiere Q (offered by select cable cos) or the retail version, now called the TiVo Premiere XL4 (formerly known as the TiVo Elite). No pricing has been made available yet and the boxes will not be available till this fall. I hope that neither box requires a monthly service fee.
While I was not at the cable show, I was able to get my hands on some close-up shots of the new IP set top box. In particular, I was interested to see what connectivity the box will offer. Based on the photograph below, it appears the device supports HDMI, component and composite video. There’s also an ethernet and usb jack (for the bluetooth remote). There’s no sign of a digital optical out. However, I don’t think it’s too important given that the IP set top box is meant for “secondary televisions”. Most folks probably don’t have a surround sound set up in the kitchen, guest room or bedroom. But if you do, you could always use the HDMI output. It hasn’t been confirmed but I would assume that the IP set-top box can also handle 1080P and Dolby Digital as the Premiere DVR does. Update: Yes, TiVo has confirmed that the IP Set-top box will play back anything recorded on the TiVo Premiere at the same audio and video and quality.
There’s also a MoCA connector in the back. MoCA allows you to connect to your home network using the existing coax wiring in your house. This move was to make it easy to replace existing cable boxes without having to rewire a house.
For the Stream, the big question is will it serve out 1080P video? At CES, this question was irrelevant given the screen resolution offered by tablets. However, the iPad 3 changed all of that with its new retina display. The iPad 3′s retina display has a resolution of 2048 x 1536 which exceeds 1080P. Update: At launch, the Stream will serve out 720P H.264 video with AAC audio. So, iPad3 users will see slightly better video quality since the earlier iPads are limited to 1024 x 768. 720P is 1280 x 720.
There was also speculation at the show that we would see new TiVo DVR hardware next year. Our friends at Gizmo Lovers and Zatz Not Funny both have reports of how the TiVo Stream hardware will be incorporated directly into next year’s TiVo Premiere DVRs.
While we’re on the subject of TiVo, you can pick up a refurbished Premiere direct from TiVo for just $49 plus the cost of monthly or lifetime service through this Thursday.