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TiVo Roamio review: A pretty good DVR with a silly name

Jason Snell | Aug. 27, 2013
Beep-boop! There's a new TiVo in town, and its name is Roamio. And it's pretty good.

From live TV to streaming
One of the new features on the Roamio is the What To Watch Now display, which tries to give you suggestions about what shows are on right now that you might want to watch. Some of it is based on data about what shows are currently being viewed, and some of it's based on filters such as Sports, Movies, and Kids. My initial reaction was that this seemed like a weird feature, because if you've got a terabyte of television sitting on your hard drive, do you really need to flip around the dial to see what's on? However, as a sports fan I found the Sports filter to be exactly what I wanted: I was in the mood to watch a live sporting event and I wanted to know what was on, and the TiVo had my back.

When I spoke to TiVo executives about the launch of the Roamio, they were especially proud of the search features, and I can see why. Almost every time I searched for something, a letter or two was all that was required to bring up that item in the search results. TiVo's obviously weighting their results based on popularity or my preferences or some other Google-like voodoo, but it worked far better than other TV programming searches I've seen.

And once I burrowed into the show I was searching for, I found pretty rich data: a season-by-season, episode-by-episode organizational structure with details about each episode. TiVo even integrates show data from Netflix into this view, so I can see episodes that are airing on TV as well as episodes that are available on Netflix, simultaneously. Puzzlingly, though TiVo also supports Hulu Plus, that data source doesn't seem to be properly integrated into TiVo searches: A search for The Thick of It brought up a result with a Hulu Plus logo on it, but there was no episode data and I couldn't jump to an episode directly from that menu as I could for programs that were on Netflix.

Speaking of streaming services, I should mention one of my biggest disappointments with this new generation of TiVo: a positively outdated Amazon Instant Video app. Not only is show data not integrated into TiVo searches, but there's no support for Amazon Prime Instant Video streaming. So if you're a Prime member with free video streaming, you'll need a separate box to watch that stuff--TiVo doesn't deliver. (Prime videos aren't supported on any TiVo, for the record.) It's theoretically possible for TiVo to upgrade the Amazon app (behind the scenes there's now a full HTML5-based app environment so that TiVo can add more third-party apps as it goes along), but it doesn't sound promising.


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