EngadgetHD has reviewed a pre-release copy of the Nero Liquid TV | TiVo PC software announced recently. (Nero has promised me a review copy of the final release.) The review is a mixed one, which isn’t too surprising. The main issue is the cost, which is what I expect. I too think the $99/year service fee (after the first year) is far, far too high in a market full of products with low guide fees, or even free.
I don’t think the $99 software-only or $199 with-hardware purchase pricing is too bad, especially as it’ll probably see discounts, but the ongoing fee is just too high. That’s the same yearly fee as a standalone TiVo, and you don’t get all the features of a standalone box with the PC software. I think they could probably get away with $49 a year, even the free MythTV has a $20 year fee for the guide data license. A little more to enjoy the TiVo interface would be reasonable, I think.
But pricing aside, EngadgetHD also found some real issues with the product. Some of them are minor issues, nits really, but some seem much more major to me. The software apparently only works with tuners that have Broadcast Driver Architecture (BDA) drivers, and not all tuner/capture cards do. Notably it seems CableCARD tuners do not, so the software does not recognize CableCARD tuners in PCs that have them. That’s really unfortunately, IMHO, and I think that should be a priority for TiVo and Nero to fix. EngadgetHD also reports that the software didn’t support Clear QAM tuning, despite the included hardware being QAM-capable. That compounds the problem with being unable to use CableCARDs. At least if Clear QAM worked users would be able to tune a few digital cable channels, generally their locals. I’m kind of hoping this was an issue with the pre-release software, because if the production software is missing any QAM support that’s a major oversight in my opinion.
There are some other issues which sound like 1.0 syndrome, things that could be fixed with relatively minor updates to the software. Issues in this category include the lack of a grid style EPG (only the TiVo Guide is available), not showing episode titles while browsing content on other TiVos, and some usability issues with setup and configuration. But those sound minor to me compared to the lack of CableCARD, or any QAM, support and the crazy pricing.
On the plus side it has nearly all of the DVR features of a standalone TiVo. You of course get Season Passes and WishLists, but it can also record the Live TV buffer if you decide to keep a show you’re watching – something Windows Media Center doesn’t do. And it will auto-convert recordings to other formats, which is a more direct version of TiVo Desktop Plus’s auto-transfer and auto-transcode feature for standalone TiVos. And recordings are standard MPEG-2 files with the .mpg extension, so they should be readily usable in other software.
And, of course, being on a PC, and the software coming from Nero, you have additional features such as being able to burn your recordings to DVD.
I’m looking forward to getting my hands on it to get my own impression, but from the EngadgetHD review it sounds like it might be worth waiting for an update to the software to correct some of these issues. Or at least waiting to see if any of them are fixed before the consumer release. And, of course, seeing if they get a little more sane about pricing.