TiVo HD – aka Series3 Lite – announced and reviewed


Well, I teased you a bit earlier with the press release and scans of the TiVo HD flier.

I was really buying a little time since I had a couple of hiccups getting my full review up and ready to go. ;-)

As with the Series3 review I did last fall, I’ve reviewed the new TiVo HD. And, as with the S3, I took a large number of photographs of the unit, inside and out. There were certainly some surprises inside the unit, which should fuel quite a bit of speculation.

Speaking of speculation, some of the past speculation was on the mark – but some of it was off target.
From the TiVoCommunity.com post:

Unconfirmed Series3 “Lite” Specifications (TCD652160)
- BCM740x DVR CPU w/ integrated MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 decoders
- 1x dual MPEG-2 encoder (BCM7041 or possibly an encoder from LSI)
- 2x Samsung S5H1411-based tuners (analog/QAM/8VSB)
- 160Gb SATA HD
- Smaller, lower-cost PCB
- Cheaper power supply
- No THX certification
- No OLED display
- Standard Tivo remote
- $299 MSRP

The CPU is correct – a BCM7401, the unit does have 128MB of RAM, and a 160GB SATA drive. The board is new and lower cost, as well as the power supply. No THX certification, no OLED display, an S2-style remote, and the $299.99 price point.

However, the speculation on the tuners and encoders missed the mark – read the review to see what’s really in there.

TiVo has re-done their homepage to feature the TiVo HD, you can pre-order it now. The official TiVoHD page is here, as well as the specifications, and FAQs.

WeaKnees and DVRupgrade are already offering the TiVo HD for pre-order. Both the basic 160GB unit for $299, as well as expanded units, up to 1TB. It looks like DVRUpgrade has better pricing on the larger models, and purchasing from DVRupgrade through these links supports the site.

If you order the TiVo HD from Amazon it supports the site as well. You can also pre-order the basic box directly from TiVo or from Best Buy.

Dave Zatz has posted the new boot video to YouTube.

As always, if you activate a new TiVo, the TiVo Rewards Referral is appreciated.

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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  • M

    Short version of our story is that we got a new Samsung HD DLP and were going to give up our Tivo to get an all-in-one HD DVR from our cable company. Due to the Charter being full of ‘stellar’ employees, we luckily had enough time to research and find out that what they were giving us was awful and that tivo hd was now availabe for $299.

    My question now is…

    …does the cable company HAVE TO install the cable cards?

    I’ve already spent WAY too much time on the phone with them and waiting for them to come out and NOT bring what I ordered to spend another Saturday waiting for the cable guy. Charter is saying they have to, because it’s their policy. I was hung up on by a supervisor. I’m going to the office tomorrow to have a give them their crusty old box and have a ‘discussion’ with them. Is there any reason they shouldn’t be able to hand me two cable cards and be happy to be rid of me?

  • M

    sorry for stuttering in there

  • http://www.ce.org bfdtv

    Yes, they are required by law to install CableCards.

  • http://www.gizmolovers.com/ megazone

    I think M was asking if they have to install them, not if they have to provide them in general.

    M – Technically there is no reason they can’t hand you the cards and allow you to self-install them and call in the information. Some cable MSOs do that. However, Charter will not do that – they don’t even keep cards at the local offices to give out. The only way to get cards is for an installer to come out and deliver them. I’ve tried a few times. The best I can do is get my cards re-paired when I need to – and only because I was persistent and I brought my info to the local office and ended up making a contact there who will help me. But when I need new cards I still have to get a truck roll.

  • M


    Not the combination of answers I was hoping for. No, they don’t really have to install them for you, but yes, they will make you make them install them. :\

  • sheen

    What is the actual part # of the tivo HD?

  • http://www.gizmolovers.com/ megazone


  • M

    I’m incredibly embarrassed, but I hope this will help someone down the road.

    The happy ending is that our tivo HD is now working with it’s multistream card and we’re getting all our channels. The ugly middle was that all we could get for days was unencrypted channels and unknowledgeable, unhelpful people at Charter. Finally had a lead tech come out…

    …he unplugged our tivo and plugged it back in and it works beautifully.

    I. can. not. believe. I didn’t try that.

  • Nate

    Just want to finally and fully confirm something prior to buying a TiVo HD:

    Brief background=NO cable in our area, understand satellite not supported, therefore HD OTA only interest.

    Question: If I have no cable, hence no cable cards; will the TiVo HD record OTA HD? Also, with no cable cards, will TiVo HD record 2 OTA HD programs at the same time?


  • Chris

    You don’t need cable or cable cards to record OTA HD. So yes, the TivoHD will allow you to record
    2 OTA HD shows at once without having cable.

  • http://www.gizmolovers.com/ megazone

    Nate – What Chris said. :-) CableCARDs are *only* needed for digital cable. They don’t matter at all for OTA or analog cable use. With no cards you can certainly record two OTA HD channels simultaneously.

  • Nate

    Thanks so much for that confirmation!

    One last question: is the TiVoHD ‘required’ to be plugged into a phone line? If so, why?

    Thanks again.

  • http://www.gizmolovers.com/ megazone

    It must be connected to a phone line *or* a network connection. The TiVo needs to contact the mothership for a few things – like checking subscription status to authorize the service, and downloading all of the channel guide data. The network is the best option, it also enables features that just don’t work over a phone line.

  • Raymond Day

    Today I order a “180-hour TiVo HD DVD- Product Lifetime Transfer Offer” Because at I put my TiVo series 1 with Lifetime in that link and it said I can do it and went to the order page.

    I am looking forword to getting this. I called Comcast. They don’t have a M card so have to have 2 and the 2nd one will cost $1.50 a month more. I guess if they had the M cable card would not have to pay the $1.50 more. Said it will cost for them to come out too. They have to install it. I guess because they have to read the cable card number back to them.

    -Raymond Day

  • Raymond Day

    I did get the TiVo. They said it my take 3 months to show the right info. on the TiVo’s I did Lifetime to and from.

    The link I wanted to do was http://www.tivo.com/hdservicetransfer/ so it’s a good thing I waited for like a “A TiVo steal-of-a-deal for Product Lifetime!” I am very happy have Lifetime on a TiVo HD.

    -Raymond Day

  • http://www.movaya.com JC

    megazone (or any other tivolover),

    I am deciding between the S3 and the HD.

    1. At this point the price is almost equal with rebates. I can get the S3 from Amazon for $349.99 OR the HD for $253.88. Is it worth the extra $100 for the bigger harddrive? Meaning, other than harddrive space, is there any reason to get the S3 that is not trivial like the OLEDs/THX logo/Remote (I use my own remote)? So, technically, is it superior or anything?

    2. WiFI or Wired ethernet to the machine. Will I see any advantage having a wired connection?

    3. Should I spend the $199 now on the eSata HD from WD? Or wait for a larger device. I figure I wont fill the original harddrive right away, so I can wait…thoughts? Can I use the WD 1TB RAID MY Book drive? or the 750GB My Book?

    4. I will be using Comcast, does it matter if I get 2 M-Cards or 2 S-Cards? Does this factor into my decision of model (S3 or HD)?

    5. Last question: I currently have Directivo, with the HD tivo machine – HR10-250. Is the ANY reason anyone would tell me to keep it and NOT switch to a new machine and a cable connection??? One of my main issues is Directv will not allow me to get local HD channels here in Seattle using this machine.

    Thanks in advance for any help/suggestions.


  • http://www.gizmolovers.com/ megazone


    Personally I lean toward the S3 with the prices being so close, but some of the factors that sway may don’t apply for you.

    In the S3′s favor:
    - Larger drive (250GB vs 160GB)
    - Nicer remote ($50 value)
    - Nicer chassis with OLED display and on-box controls (HD has no on-box controls and just LEDs)
    - THX certification
    - Supports any eSATA drive, not just ‘TiVo Verified’ drives

    In the HD’s favor:
    - Supports M-Card CableCARDs, not just S-Cards
    - Cheaper

    Technologically, the HD may have an edge on the S3 as it uses a newer generation of chips. For example, instead of one SoC with the MPEG-2 decoder and a separate chip for MPEG-4/VC-1, the HD has one SoC with all the decoders integrated. But it remains to be seen if that creates any functional differences down the road or not. They seem to be fairly equally capable, feature-wise, just implemented with different generations of HW. The main advantage of the HD may be a reduced component count and cheaper unit costs and not anything functional.

    I always recommend wired Ethernet when possible. Wired is almost always going to give better performance. And it is not susceptible to interference, congestion, etc. And it is just easier to work with – no WPA keys, etc. But WiFi is more convenient if running a cable is a problem, and performance with the TiVo adapter (and use ONLY the TiVo adapter) is good, so it isn’t a major problem. So what it comes down to is asking yourself how hard it will be to run Cat5, and if it is too much effort then use WiFi.

    As for the eSATA drive – I’d wait. See if you really need the space first. And if you do, by the time you buy a drive then larger and/or cheaper options may be available. Keep in mind that the TiVo HD is ‘locked down’ and only works with the My DVR Expander ‘TiVo Verified’ drive – unless you open it up and use the manual ‘marrying’ procedures with another drive. While the S3 works with pretty much any eSATA drive – though you’ll want to get one suitable for DVR use. You could use the My Book drives on the S3 – but not the HD (without the hacks).

    If you get a Series3 then you will need two CableCARDs. Either two S-Cards or two M-Cards (or one of each, whatever). The S3 doesn’t support M-Cards, so they fall-back to working as S-Cards in the S3. The TiVo HD does support M-Cards, so you’d need *one* M-Card, or two S-Cards in the HD. That’s the one real advantage to the HD. The S3 may support M-Cards at some point. TiVo planned to, but I think they have had issues getting code to handle M-Cards from their chipset vendor for the S3. They switched chips in the HD to one known to have code available to support M-Cards.

    No reason I can think of to stick with DirecTV – but I’ve never been a fan of them anyway, and never used them myself.

  • http://www.movaya.com JC

    Wow, GREAT answers, especially on the reason to go with WiFi or not. I have decided on the Tivo HD. The choice all came down to harddrive space, and the extra space for $100 at the time of purchase (one hour ago) did not make it worth it. I figure the HD will have more than one option available in the near future for expansion.

    Thanks again for taking the time to answer, and answering so quickly! Great site, and I did click on your amazon link!

  • http://www.gizmolovers.com/ megazone

    You’re welcome – and thank you for purchasing through my link.

  • Hans

    I may have missed this somewhere, but I have a question about Tivo related to simultaneously broadcasting HD and SD.

    I am looking for a solution to use a common time synced HD and SD signal to allow me to use the HD on our Mitsubishi HD screen, while also running an S-Video to other destinations (a projector in the bar, 2 other TVs, etc.). As it is currently, it’s very hit or miss on the timing… the HD signal is often behind time (as much as 6-7 seconds) since I’m using 2 separate sources. When we have football parties, and there’s a big play, the group of people in the bar scream and cheer; this let’s everyone watching HD know what happened early. Bummer. It would also be nice to use pause, replay, etc. on all screens at once.

    I really have 2 questions:

    1) Can I do this with the Tivo HD units alone?
    2) Can you help me identify other equipment that can accomplish this?
    3) Can I [cheaply] use an adjustable delay on the SD?

    Thanks in advance for any help.

  • Tony

    Well, I’vd had my HD for a few months now and I can’t be happier. My only problem is the hard drive. I get very scared with only 20 hours of HD space, I keep my “Now Playing” as clean as I can and use my Series 2 for non-HD and less important HD stuff. The DVR Expander is great and I can’t wait to get one, then I’ll have no problems. TiVo is Great!