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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.

I was also disappointed that, although Netflix shows appear in the TiVo search interface, you can't do anything but watch them. There doesn't seem to be a way to save them to the Netflix queue or even add bookmarks to those shows to the TiVo's My Shows screen for quick access later. The Netflix integration TiVo offers is nice, and I'd like to see it repeated for Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime, but it could also be even better.

In certain markets (including mine), TiVo has a deal with Comcast that gives TiVo users access to Xfinity On Demand content. I found that the On Demand data wasn't entirely consistent on the TiVo—the On Demand app showed that all episodes of season 7 of Doctor Who were available to stream, but TiVo's search showed only a random subset of those episodes. I also had an issue getting my CableCard authorized to play On Demand content, but some time spent with Comcast customer service ironed that out.

But wait, there are even more supported services: TiVo also plays YouTube videos and live baseball games for subscribers to MLB.TV. The HTML5-based YouTube app supports the same DIAL protocol protocol as does Google's Chromecast. What this means is that you can connect your YouTube mobile apps to your TiVo and then transfer the YouTube videos you're viewing on your mobile device to the TiVo; the TiVo loads the rest of the video itself and starts playing it, and your YouTube app remains as a remote control.

I'm a baseball fan and MLB.TV subscriber, and I'm happy to report that TiVo's MLB.TV app works well. It launches quickly and the video seemed smoother to me than it does on either the Apple TV or my Roku box.

Launching extra apps quickly is a big deal for TiVo. In the past, one of the major criticisms of TiVo users has been the speed of the interface and, most particularly, the amount of time it took to launch an app such as Netflix. My colleague John Siracusa told me that it takes essentially "forever" to start Netflix on his previous-generation TiVo Premiere. On the Roamio it took about 10 seconds, which didn't seem too bad. All the other apps seem to launch fairly quickly, too. It would be great if the launches were instantaneous, but it's a big improvement.

In general, I found the responsiveness of the TiVo interface to be good. My DirecTV DVRs were often extremely sluggish, and it frustrated me to no end. This is not to say that there aren't places where the interface is laggy, but in general it seemed responsive enough. My biggest concern when I started using the Roamio was that it would be unacceptably slow, but it doesn't feel that way.


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