This issue of Home Media Magazine has an article, ‘Battle of the Boxes‘, which compares the four main options for watching broadband downloaded video on your TV: TiVo, Apple TV, VUDU, and Xbox 360. Overall the article is kind of down on the download services in general:
“Not a consumer interviewed wants to buy another set-top box,” said Richard Doherty, research director for research firm The Envisioneering Group.
I certainly can’t argue with that, I’m loathe to add another STB to my stack. And I’ve said so repeatedly. I think that gives TiVo and the Xbox 360 an edge – people buy them for other functions (DVR & gaming, respectively), and the downloads are kind of a bonus. And when it comes to HD, I have to agree with this as well:
Richard Bullwinkle, chief evangelist for Macrovision, predicts a layering effect. Macrovision has looked at TiVo, Xbox 360, Vudu and Apple TV.
“The best experience on a large TV is Blu-ray,” he said. “None of the download boxes gives you the same experience.”
But I thought what they said about TiVo in particular was unfair.
But download times are long, nothing is available in high-def, and the 24-hour rental period once the movie has started can be problematic.
The download times are roughly comparable to other services – but it, of course, will vary a lot. The TiVo Series3 and TiVo HD have had progressive download since 9.2 – which means they can start playback once enough of a buffer has built up, with no need to wait until it is all downloaded. I’d expect the Series2 to get the same in the next update. (They’re still on 9.1.) And the article makes the 24-hour window sound like a problem unique to TiVo when it is common to all of the download rental services. They don’t mention it when talking about the three other products, so readers who don’t know what will think this is a TiVo limitation. But there is more:
However, Bullwinkle said, TiVo offers the worst quality of any of the movie downloading options he’s tried, and the number of TiVo owners who download movies is small.
Ouch. That especially stings given who it is coming from. Why? For those who don’t know, once upon a time Richard Bullwinkle was known online as TiVolutionary. He was one of the early TiVo employees and their primary online evangelist on forums like TiVoCommunity.com. Back in May of 2002 he left TiVo and went to work for ReplayTV. And now he’s with Macrovision.
The quality issue is largely subjective, so I’ll leave that as may be, but how does he know how many users download movies? I don’t believe TiVo or Amazon release those numbers. Did they do an independent survey of TiVo owners? Where is the data to back up the claim?
But TiVo isn’t the only one to get a little heat in the article. All four products get what I consider to be fairly poor reviews, highlighting their shortcomings. But read the article for yourself.
TiVo also got another mention in this issue, with a small article on the roll-out of TiVo Desktop 2.6. (And I apologize for not having my review of said up yet, the behind-the-scenes work on the renaming took a lot more time than I expected.)