Explore the New TiVo Series 4

We examine TiVo's redesigned, high-definition interface and spend some hands-on time with it.

TiVo Series 4

For the first time since the debut of TiVo in 1999, TiVo has undergone a facelift. The redesigned interface--available in the new TiVo Series 4 hardware shown here--takes advantage of the hardware's dual-core 400-MHz Broadcom processor and increased system memory (now 500MB). Series 4 units output at up to 1080p, a resolution upgrade from Series 3' s 1080i limit. The high-definition units, priced at $299 for the 320GB TiVo Premiere and $499 for the 1TB TiVo XL (1TB of storage can accommodate 150 hours of high-def video)--mark a long-overdue leap forward for TiVo. Let's see what the new series looks like.

The New Look: TiVo Central

An attractive blue background replaces the forest green that previous TiVos used. The redesigned interface is optimized for high-definition screens: Text and graphics are in high def, and the screen takes full advantage of the widescreen aspect ratio of HDTVs. Shown here is the new TiVo Central. In the upper right corner is a scaled window showing the video you played most recently; video can continue to play even as you navigate through the menus. Along the top of the screen, the Discovery Bar shows context-sensitive thumbnails of content that TiVo deems similar to titles you have already viewed (and presumably enjoyed); TiVo lets you customize the bar to show specific types of content. You can browse content by searching for movies and TV, or by searching for content on the Web or through third-party services like Amazon Video On Demand, Blockbuster, and Netflix.

Simple Search

When you launch a search, the software will reveal the most popular searches that match the letters you've started typing (just as search engines do); this predictive approach often reduces the amount of tedious typing you must do on a remote-control keyboard.

A Remote With a Keyboard Inside

If you want to type in information on-screen, you should buy the optional redesigned remote. This well-balanced device is stouter than the regular TiVo remote, and its slide-out keyboard takes a cue from cell phone handsets that integrate a keyboard. In our hands-on tests, the highly responsive keys were a joy to type on; we wish that cell phones could somehow borrow this design trick.

My Shows

Recorded shows live in My Shows (previously, they occupied the cute but misleadingly named Now Playing). As before, TiVo groups related shows together (covenient if, for example, you've recorded an entire season of The Tudors, as seen at the bottom). The notable, long-needed addition here is a capacity gauge that lets you keep track of how much free space your hard disk still has.

The Show—And So Much More

The extra screen space in the interface allows TiVo to cascade to the right as you navigate through options, instead of having each new screen replace the previous one as you move deeper. When you select a show, you get the usual familiar options (such as subscribing to a Season Pass to record all episodes). There is tighter integration with the Web, through the Episode Guide, Cast, and Bonus Features options. For example, under Cast, you can view thumbnail photos of cast members, and click through to see bios, and related content. The Bonus Features option lets you seamlessly bounce over to YouTube for additional content related to a particular show.

Episode Guide

For the Episode Guide, you can get season information, as well as access to the episode through Netflix or Amazon (if it is available). This capability is handy when, for example, you want to catch a specific episode of NCIS or Stargate SG-1, and you don't want to wait for a cable station to air the rerun.

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