TiVo news from CES

TiVo had a few new announcements at CES:
New TiVo® Powered Products in 2004 Include DVD Recorders, HD DVR, and Home Networked Enabled Products
New TiVo® Service Release Ushers in Era of “TiVo To Go” Portable, Mobile TiVo Experience
XM Satellite, Adobe, Picasa, Moodlogic Bring New Digital Music, Photo Services to TiVo® Via Home Media Option(TM)

I was at CES myself and I had several great conversations with the folks from TiVo, as well as DirecTV, Pioneer, etc, so if anyone has any questions I’ll try to answer them. :-)

About MegaZone

MegaZone is the Editor of Gizmo Lovers and the chief contributor. He's been online since 1989 and active in several generations of 'social media' - mailing lists, USENet groups, web forums, and since 2003, blogging.    MegaZone has a presence on several social platforms: Google+ / Facebook / Twitter / LinkedIn / LiveJournal / Web.    You can also follow Gizmo Lovers on other sites: Blog / Google+ / Facebook / Twitter.
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  • krellis

    The quad-tuners in the HD DirecTV DVR – I assume there’s still going to only be two encoders, and the four tuners are just 2xDTV and 2xOTA so you can record two streams from either at any given time? Or are they actually going to have 4 encoders so you can record 4 things simultaneously? Either way, I think I’ll be switching to DTV for my new house just so I can get one!

  • megazone

    DirecTiVo units have 0 encoders – they record pre-encoder streams.

    But yeah, any 2 of the 4 tuners can be used at given time – so 2 DTV, 2 ATSC, or one of each.

    And like the current units you can record 2 and watch a recording at the same time, even if all 3 are HD.

    They are scheduled to street in March and current MSRP is $999.

  • krellis

    Yeah, duh on the no encoders. I did know that, honest :)

    Very cool, though. That’s some serious IO bandwidth to have 3 HD streams going at the same time. Must have!

  • e_notimpl

    Actually, it’s not so bad. 19 Mbps x 3 streams = 57 Mbps. Considering even mediocre hard drives these days can sustain 20 MBps, there’s some room to spare, even if you spend half your time seeking.

  • jbru

    Did you get a look at playback from any of the DVD recorders? Were they played back through the TiVo or from a standard DVD player? Was there any kind of menu interface?

    (Why, yes, I am planning on recording entire seasons of my favorite shows (that don’t appear to be getting their own commercial DVD release) and would like to pick and choose episodes.)

  • megazone

    Yes, I did – I own a Pioneer 810H TiVo. ;-)

    I’ve played the recorded DVD-R and -RW discs back in the TiVo itself, my Pioneer DVL-909, and my laptop. The unit does create a nice TiVo style menu with the program information, etc. You can name the disc when you create it.

  • krellis

    The one thing to mention about the DVD recorders, at least the Pioneer ones that are out now, is that the MPEG encoding quality, particularly of the video, is generally not as good as the equivalent levels on a TiVo brand Series 2 standalone. As I understand it, they had to change some of the compression rates to be able to fit the frame size and audio sampling rates required by the DVD specs, and that resulted in some loss of quality. In my experience, that loss is visible through a marked increase in MPEG encoding artifacts (blockiness during high movement). It’s not so bad as to make me want to return the unit, but it’s definitely noticably worse than my TiVo brand Series 2′s. Hopefully they’ll be tweaking this in future software releases. MegaZone, want to give us any inside info on that? ;)

  • robyncalifornia

    And one true ring to bind them.

    There goes my NDA.

  • megazone

    It is hard to say better or worse because much has changed – the Pioneer units use higher bitrates for each of the 4 levels, but also a higher resolution. So there are more pixels to encode in that space. They had to comply with the DVD Video standard which dictates the horizontal and vertical resolution to use. That’s a fair bit higher in both dimensions than the defaults used on other TiVos – so even with more bits to use I think they end up with fewer bits per pixel. It also means more work, so the unit has a new encoder and more power over all. A new encoder, and new MPEG2 settings, means a new learning curve. Audio is 48MHz instead of 32MHz, as required by the DVD spec. (I hope I remembered the units right – I know it is 48 vs 32…)

    Remember when the S2 first came out? Video quality has noticably improved in the subsequent software updates to the S2s, and I fully expect them to improve the DVD-R units as they learn more. Video compression is still something of a black art – many interconnected variables can be tweaked. Changing one can have interesting effects on the others.

    I do notice the artifacts a bit more – but I use High on the Pioneer and Best on my regular S2. Overall I find those fairly comparable. I don’t use Extreme on the Pioneer mainly because I’m willing to take the step down to fit 2 hours on a DVD-R. If I plan ahead to burn a 1 hour program I’ll kick it up to Extreme. The Pioneer units suffest most with jump cuts. That’s because of how MPEG2 works. Each frame isn’t encoded in its entirety, just the changes from frame to frame are encode. So when *everything* in the frame changes at once the encoder has to throw away all of the history and reencode the full frame. In jump cuts into fast action, etc, there is a fraction of a second when the MPEG macroblocking is very noticable, and you can kind of see the encoder catching up and the blocking dwindling away with each frame.

    I, personally, think that Extreme on the Pioneer looks a bit better than Best on a regular S2 – but, again, they’re different. Each one has its own artifacts. I’m recording from digital cable using S-Video for my connections. (I don’t have a TV that does component yet, so I’m not using those on the Pioneer yet…)

  • krellis

    I actually find High on my Pioneer DVR-57H connected via S-Video to digital cable box to be worse, when it comes to MPEG encoding defects, than even Medium on either of my TiVo-branded S2 standalones, both of which are connected to straight analog cable via RF. One on the same TV as the Pioneer (it’s connected to the TV via component, normal TiVo via S-Video, both through the same stereo receiver) and one on a smaller TV with normal RF connections. Maybe I’m just sensitive to the encoding artifacts. Either way, I still love my DVR-57H, and like you said, I’m sure they’ll be making improvements as time goes by.

  • megazone

    *Nod* Different people are sensitive to different things. I know some folks who use Basic on their Series1 units and seem happy with it – anything less than High on a S1 or S2 drives me batshit. :-) Same reason I can’t stand watching VidCDs of stuff, it just grates on me. Some people who were happy with EP on VHS and all the analog noise can’t stand *any* digital artifacting.

    I don’t know why, and I’m sure there is some clever name for it all, but different people seem wired to be sensitive to different things.