Series3 FAQ v1.2


I have a review which I will be posting later this morning. But since other reviews are popping up and I see questions floating around out there, here is the FAQ I compiled.

FAQ behind the cut…

Series3 FAQ

What is the full name of the product?

TiVo® Series3™ HD Digital Media Recorder

What is the model number?

The S3 is the TCD648250B.

What are the product highlights?

See this page.

What are the main features of the Series3?

See this

How does the Series3 compare to cable and satellite

See this page.

Is there an official TiVo Series3 FAQ?

Yes. See this page.

What are the official specifications?

See this page.

What are the S3′s physical dimensions?

16.5"w x 12.625" x 3.375"h

Will TiVo allow the transfer of a lifetime subscription
from a Series1 or Series2 to a Series3?

Yes. TiVo is offering to transfer lifetime subscriptions
for $199. The Series3 must be purchased from by December 31,
2006, and the transfer must be performed by January 31, 2007. Please
see all of the details and requirements at

Are the guides for the Series3 available online?

Yes. They are available on this page.

Is the Series3 THX certified?

Yes. The S3 is the world’s first, and only, THX
certified DVR.

What physical ports does the S3 have?

  • Power
  • Phone Line
  • Digital Audio (Optical)
  • S-Video
  • Component (Y, Pb, Pr)
  • A/V 1 (Audio L/R and composite video)
  • A/V 2 (Audio L/R and composite video)
  • Ethernet (10/100baseT)
  • USB 1
  • USB 2
  • HDMI Out
  • First CableCARD
  • Second CableCARD
  • External Storage (E-SATA)
  • Antenna In
  • Cable In

What cables does the S3 come with?

  • Power cable
  • Phone line
  • Phone splitter
  • Coaxial RF
  • A/V cable (composite video, RCA stereo)
  • Component Video (Y, Pb, Pr)
  • HDMI

Does the S3 require a phone line?

No. While it can be setup with a phone line, it also
supports Guided Setup over the network.

What sources can the S3 be used with?

The S3 supports NTSC antenna, ATSC antenna, analog cable,
and digital cable.

Does the S3 support satellite?

No, the S3 works only with antenna and cable. You can
use the S2 or S2DT with external satellite boxes.

How many tuners does the S3 have?

The S3 has two tuner blocks. Each is capable of tuning
NTSC, ATSC, analog cable, and digital cable. CableCARD is required
for digital cable.

How many programs can be recorded at the same time?

The S3 can record two programs at a time, from any mix of

Since the S3 has dual tuners, does each tuner have its
own 30 minute buffer?

Yes. There are two, independent buffers.

Are the antenna and cable channels fully integrated in
the guide?

Yes. The channels from both sources are fully integrated
in the guide. Using the S3 with both sources is a seamless

Does the S3 have a channel scan to find available antenna

Yes. The S3 has an automatic channel scan. You can edit
the list of detected channels in Channels I Receive.

Does the S3 have an integrated signal meter to test a
digital cable connection?

Yes. The S3 does provide a signal meter for testing
reception, for both antenna and digital cable.

Is CableCARD required to use the S3?

No, CableCARD is not required to antenna (NTSC or ATSC) or
analog cable.

Does the S3 support unencrypted digital cable channels,
aka QAM in-the-clear, without a CableCARD?

Partially. Clear QAM channels can be tuned directly by
entering the correct channel number. Recordings can be scheduled by
time and channel. There is no guide data for digital cable channels
without CableCARD, and hence no Season Passes or Wish Lists are
possible. There is currently no way to manually map channels. TiVo
is looking into the possibility to provide mapping in the future.

How many CableCARDs are required for digital cable?

The S3 has two CableCARD slots. Two cards will enable
both tuners for digital cable.

Can I use one Mutli-Stream CableCARD, or M-Card?

No. While the Viewer’s Guide has the following on page
102: "Note: A single multi-stream CableCARD decoder installed in
the bottom slot on the back of the DVR enables dual tuner
functionality.", this is incorrect! I spoke with
Bob Poniatowski (aka TiVoPony) of TiVo by phone on Thursday, September
21st and he clarified that. He also later made
a post at
which contained the following:

There is currently no certification process
for multi-stream cards (MCARD) in uni-directional devices such as the
Series3. We are tracking the creation of the certification for this
very closely and will work with CableLabs as this certification is
finalized and becomes available. In the mean time, you will need two
cable cards in your Series3 to enable dual tuner functionality (MCARDs
in a uni-directional device act as SCARDs).

What about one single-stream card?

If only one CableCARD is inserted, the entire
system reverts to single-tuner operation. You lose dual-tuner support
for antenna and analog cable, as well as digital cable. Unlike the
S2DT, the S3 is not capable of asymmetric operation.

Does the S3 support CableCARD 2.0?

The CableCARD 2.0 specification has not been finalized at
this time, so it is not possible to give a final answer. However, the
current CC 2.0 proposal requires hardware the S3 does not have.
Therefore, the S3, as it stands today, would not be able to support
bidirectional communication for CC 2.0 features such as OnDemand or
Switched Digital Video. If a 2.0 card is inserted it should fall back
to 1.0 with Multi-Stream.

Does the S3 work with Verizon FiOS?

Yes. Verizon supports CableCARD with FiOS.

Does the S3 work with AT&T U-Verse?

No. U-Verse is IPTV and does not support CableCARD.

What should I do if I have problems getting CableCARD
from my cable provider?

All major cable providers are required, by the FCC, to
issue CableCARDs to any customer using any Uni-Direction Cable
Receiver (UDCR) on CableLabs’ list of certified, verified, or
self-verified cable products. The TiVo Series3 is on the

What if they still refuse to provide a card?

Report the incident using this form. Then
call TiVo Customer Support and they will work with you to get your
cable provider to provide the cards.

Are the CableCARD installation instructions online?


Does the S3 support multiple video interfaces

Yes. All of the video output interfaces are available
concurrently. You can connect HDMI to your TV and S-Video to your
Slingbox, etc.

Can you configure each video interface independently?
16:9 on HDMI and 4:3 on S-Video?

No. There are global settings for aspect, etc.

What is the software version of the S3?

The S3 currently runs 8.0.1a.

Does the S3 have all of the features found on the

Not quite. 8.0.1a is similar to the feature set found in
7.2. Features introduced in later S2 software updates, such as
Recently Deleted, One-Touch Delete, KidZone, TiVoCast, etc, are
scheduled to be added in a late 2006 release. Also, at this time,
networking features such as Multi-Room Viewing, TiVoToGo, and
TiVoToComeBack are not supported.

Why are network transfers disabled? Will they be

TiVo had to disable transfers to comply with Cable Labs
CableCARD certification requirements. TiVo is investigating and hopes
to enable network transfers in a future update.

What about Music, Photos, and Home Media Engine?

All other network features are present, only the video
transfer features are disabled.

Does the S3 support new video formats?

The decoder used in the S3 supports MPEG-2, MPEG-4
AVC/H.264, and VC-1/WMV9. However, at this time there is not yet a
way to load video on the S3, and both ATSC and digital cable are

Does the 30-second skip backdoor still work?

Yes. The SPS30S (Select-Play-Select-3-0-Select) code
still toggles 30-second skip support on/off.

What about the on-screen clock and elapsed time indicator

Yes. The SPS9S code still works as well.

What size hard drive does the S3 have?

One 250GB SATA drive.

Can the storage capacity be expanded?

The S3 has an eSATA port for external storage expansion.
However, the port is not active at this time. It will be enabled in a
future update.

Why isn’t the eSATA port enabled yet?

For the same reason as network transfers. CableLabs
needs to certify any method for removing content from the box,
including an external drive. In
a post at
Bob Poniatowski (aka TiVoPony) of TiVo
posted the following:

But in a CableCard device digital content can
only be moved off of the box through approved outputs with approved
content protection technology, including transfers to an external
drive. We have submitted our protection technology to CableLabs for
their consideration.

How many hours of analog recordings can the S3 store at
the different quality levels?


How many hours of HD content can the S3 store?

The S3 can store up to 35 hours of HD content. Since all
digital content is recorded as-received, capacity will depend on the
compression of the source material.

How does the capacity of the S3 compare to other

TiVo Series325052:0076:24120:12303:50
Humax T250025085:54137:41181:23301:51
Toshiba RS-TX20120324694141
Pioneer DVR-810H8016306293
TiVo Series2DT8025:2040:0552:3286:51

What does that mean for video quality? How does in
compare in GB/hour, as an indication of bitrate?

TiVo Series32504.813.272.080.82
Humax T25002502.911.821.380.83
Toshiba RS-TX201204.502.611.280.85
Pioneer DVR-810H805.002.671.290.86
TiVo Series2DT803.162.001.520.92

As you can see, the S3 uses much more space per unit time
at all but Basic quality. This implies a much higher bitrate, and
hence a higher picture quality. Which, subjectively, does appear to
be the case.

Which CPU does the S3 use?

It is hidden under a heat sink, but it is believed to be
the BCM7038.

Which decoder does the S3 use?

Broadcom BCM7411

Which MPEG-2 encoders does the S3 use for analog

Two Broadcom BCM7042

What is the speed of the Ethernet port?

It is a 10/100baseT port.

Is WiFi built in to the S3?

No. However, the TiVo 802.11g USB WiFi adapter works
very well with the S3. See
for a list of supported adapters.

How much memory does the S3 have?

The S3 has 128MB of memory for the general system, and
additional memory dedicated to the encoders.

Does the S3 have a built-in Closed Captioning decoder?

Yes. The S3 can decode both analog and digital closed
captions internally and overlay them on the video output.

How easy is it to control the Closed Captioning?

In the channel banner for a recording or LiveTV there is
a CC icon on the right. Selecting that takes you directly to the
settings screen where you can control the captions. When you’re done,
‘Left’ takes you back to the program. Very easy.

What video output formats does the S3 support?

  • Native
  • 720p Hybrid
  • 1080i Hybrid
  • 480i Fixed
  • 480p Fixed
  • 720p Fixed
  • 1080i Fixed

What does Native mean? Hybrid? Fixed?

Native means that the S3 outputs the video in whichever
format it was received in – 480i, 480p, 720p, or 1080i. Hybrid modes
convert all HD content to the resolution specified, and all SD content
to 480p. Fixed modes convert all video to the resolution

How do you setup on TVs with a fixed input format?

There is a ‘Format’ button on the front of the S3 which
allows you to toggle through the four output formats to force the S3
to use the correct format for the display.

What aspect ratio displays does the S3 support?

The S3 supports three aspect ratio settings:

  • 16:9 Widescreen
  • 4:3 Smart Screen (4:3 SD, 16:9 HD)
  • 4:3 Classic Screen (4:3 only)

Does the S3 have different aspect correction modes?

Yes. The S3 has three modes:

  • Full, which will stretch the image to fit your screen.
  • Panel, which uses letterboxing/pillarboxing.
  • Zoom, which zooms in on the image. Used for widescreen content
    broadcast with letterboxing in a 4:3 signal.

Can the Zoom level be adjusted?

No. Zoom is a fixed setting.

Can the color of the letterboxing be changed?

There are two options – Gray or Black.

What resolution are the TiVo menus in Native mode?

In native mode the TiVo screens are 720p.

What about the applications in Music, Photos, Products,
& More?

The applications are 720p. Photo viewing is still SD, an
update to an HD photo application is planned for late 2006.

Is there an indication of the current video output

Yes. The front panel OLED display indicates 480i, 480p,
720p, or 1080i.

Is there a way to tell the resolution of a recording?

The episode description in Now Playing says ‘HDTV’ for
all 720p or 1080i recordings. During playback of a recording, or in
Live TV, the channel banner includes the video resolution – 480i,
480p, 720p, or 1080i.

Is there a display of the bit-rate?

No. The S3 does not display the bit-rate of the

Which digital audio formats does the S3 output?

The S3 can output Dolby Digital, or it can convert the
audio to PCM.

Does the S3 output digital audio even for channels with
analog audio?

Yes. The digital audio out is always active. For
example, you can connect the S3 using only HDMI and have audio for all

Is there an indication in Now Playing of which recordings
are in HD?

If Groups are turned on there is a special group called
‘HDTV Recordings’ which groups all of the HD recordings in one place.
If Groups are off, there is no indication.

Is there an indication in the Live TV Guide of which
programs are in HD?

When using the Grid Guide style there is a ‘HD’ marker on
all HD programs. When using the TiVo Live Guide style the only
indication is in the episode description at the top. There is no way
to tell which programs in the list are HD.

Is there a way to see only upcoming HD programs?

No, not really. However, a Keyword Wish List for ‘HDTV’
may help narrow the search.

The Season Pass entries now have a double check-mark with
a purple background instead of yellow, does that mean anything?

No. It is simply a stylistic change.

Does the S3 remote differ from the S2 remote? If so,

Yes, a number of changes have been made:

  • The independent Select button is gone, the directional pad has
    been replaced by a 5-way navigator.
  • It is a learning remote, so no more concerns about the remote not
    having the codes for your systems.
  • The thumb buttons have been moved down, and the channel and volume
    buttons up.
  • It has a light-sensitive back light. In a dark room the remote
    lights up when used.
  • The key feel has changed. There is now a definite ‘click’.
  • It is weighted and textured to provide tactile feedback so the
    user knows they’re holding it the right way.

Does the S3 remote work with the S2, and vice-versa?

Yes. In fact, the S1, S2, S3, and even DirecTiVo boxes
all use compatible remote codes making their remote cross-compatible.
Only the Sony TiVo boxes used a different set of remote codes, making
them incompatible.

Can I give my TiVo Rewards referral to the author of this

Sure! Just enter tivo at megazone dot org as the email
address. And thank you!

Version 1.2, Last Revised Saturday, September 23, 2006 00:28 EST

This also lives here:

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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  • genkitty

    Oh frell. No satellite support kills the S3 for me. Why oh why no satellite support?

  • megazone

    Technical reasons – see past posts with the ‘series3′ tag for details.

  • genkitty

    I hate to be dumb, but I’ve skimmed all the series3 tagged posts and didn’t see anything about this. I guess we’ll keep limping along with our lifetime’d series 1 :)

  • megazone

    It came up in the comments.

  • anonymous

    Does the S3 have all of the features found on the S2/S2DT?

    Not quite. 8.0.1a is similar to the feature set found in 7.2. Features introduced in later S2 software updates, such as Recently Deleted, One-Touch Delete, KidZone, TiVoCast, etc, are scheduled to be added in a late 2006 release. Also, at this time, networking features such as Multi-Room Viewing, TiVoToGo, and TiVoToComeBack are not supported.

    That’s just awful…. Takes me from Preorder to crap should I get this :(

  • megazone

    After talking with TiVo I’m fairly confident these will be enabled at some point. But if it really concerns you, hold off.

  • anonymous

    What is the significance of SDV?