Here’s my test drive of the TiVo Stream via video (see below), following up on the unboxing video. For those of you adverse to video, here’s the highlights:
- The TiVo Stream lets you watch recorded programs or live TV on your TiVo Premiere. Currently it supports all of the iDevices: iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.
- TiVo confirmed it is working on adding Stream functionality to their current Android apps. They did not commit to a specific availability date.
- The updated iPad app is true to both the TiVo and iOS user experience. Just like a regular TiVo, you can fast forward, skip back and jump ahead 30 seconds. The TiVo sounds, the info banner and closed captions are there too. On the iOS side, you can use swiping gestures to jump forward and backward within content.
- The Stream is very good at providing quality video even without a strong wireless signal.
- While the Stream currently provides video up to 720P resolution, the hardware is capable of supporting higher resolutions as well as surround sound. While most tablets and smart phones on the market today, can take advantage of higher resolution video, as other devices like the iPad 3 come into wider use, TiVo can upgrade down the road.
- Despite the Dolby Digital Plus logo on the retail packaging, the Stream is currently limited to streaming stereo sound (the logo is being removed going forward). While the Stream hardware is capable of it, the current crop of Apple iPads and iPhones can’t handle it. Update: The New Kindle Fire HD can handle Dolby Digital Plus, I wonder if TiVo will add in support given this. It should be noted that TiVo’s Premiere DVRs do support Dolby Digital and Dolby Digital Plus surround sound.
- In some respects, the Stream behaves like a TiVo DVR. It can connect back to TiVo for service updates and it needs to be activated (if you don’t purchase it directly from TiVo). If you forget to upgrade your TiVo app, it will appear as another DVR on the network (not that you can connect to it!)
- The Stream can be managed through the iPad app. If you click on the gear at the top of the screen, press the “system information” button under the Stream heading. From there, you can force a call “home” to TiVo as well as restart the Stream.
- While there’s a noticeable sound from the unit’s internal fan, it will be moderated in a future software update.
To conclude, I’m very impressed with the TiVo Stream. While I wish it was priced a little lower than the current suggested retail of $129, the Stream makes a lot of sense if you get most of your content from cable (or antenna). Like streaming video, the Stream gives you the flexibility to watch content throughout your home as well as on the road. The TiVo Stream is now available to order from TiVo. Hopefully, the next generation of TiVo DVRs will incorporate the functionality of the Stream and eliminate the need for a separate box. Enjoy the video!
Update: Our sources tell us there is already a new version of the Stream software in the late stages of development. One bug being addressed is that the Stream allows you to attempt a download of restricted content and then it fails (it shouldn’t even let you attempt it). There’s also improvements to closed captions. Finally, I hope the Stream handles the logistics of live TV streaming better. When you watch live TV, the TiVo has to save it as a recording. This creates clutter and fills up your TiVo. Hopefully, the Stream will handle this better with the software update. Keep streaming!