Upgrade review – TiVo Roamio DVR

This post in the second in a series on home electronics upgrades I’ve considered.

Next up in my upgrade-a-thon is TiVo. I’m a proud TiVo fanboy and was lucky enough to work at the company for six years back in its heyday. Since we cancelled our pay TV service, we’ve happily used a 2008-era TiVo HD with lifetime service combined with a Mohu Leaf Plus which pulls in the major networks in brilliant true HD (none of the compressed crud that Comcast and AT&T peddle). For years I had entertained an upgrade to a more current TiVo model, but was annoyed at all the little extra pieces I’d have to buy to get the full solution (e.g. wi-fi adapter, streaming adapter). It just seemed cluttery, a far cry from the TiVo team’s legendary commitment to simplicity and elegance.

So the newly announced TiVo Roamio DVR seemed a natural fit. Roamio_LF_w-remoteSupport for over the air antenna. Check. Included wi-fi. Check. Smaller form factor. Nice bonus so check. Supposed to be fast/responsive. Check. Have to buy an annoying $100 add-on to stream. Grrr. I overcame that last one and ordered a Roamio within a few minutes of seeing the announcement.

But then a few things went wrong. I noticed TiVo had charged me $100 for 2-day shipping, which seemed ridiculous given Amazon Prime for a year is only $79. And more importantly I did some thinking about whether this was the highest impact way I could spend $650 dollars of my gadget budget.

I’ve been committed to ditching cable because of the $100/month bills, pathetic DVR software, greedy budling of channels, and mediocre video quality. But I realized that’s not all I dislike about my experiences with Comcast, DIRECTV, and AT&T’s U-Verse. I realized it’s the basic network TV model, with its combination of scheduling limitations, incessant ads, great swaths of mediocre programming, and a slow trickle approach to releasing shows.

Given alternatives like iTunes, Netflix, that model just just doesn’t work for me anymore. In the new era these and other on-demand services have started, I get so many benefits. I never watch crappy TV anymore, because I can focus my TV time on only the good shows (which for my family includes Breaking Bad, Homeland, Friday Night Lights, The Americans). I get to watch a full season of one show if I want, which some call “binge watching” but I call my new normal. And now that I’ve enjoyed some 1080p video, it just feels like a downgrade to go back to the 1080i or 720p of HD broadcast networks. Plus, in particular with iTunes, you get great portability to our family’s trove of iDevices which matters when we’re traveling on airplanes and other offline places.

In a rare moment of gadget discipline, I concluded that my old TiVo, with its lifetime service, was more than enough to get me through the sunset years of the network television era. And I found myself with a credible argument that I had $650 to spend on other gadgets. Uh-oh.

Next up — A new TV

Upgrade review – AirPort Time Capsule

I’m not entirely sure how or why, but I’ve ended up upgrading most of my electronics over the past few weeks. I’ll going to do a short series of blog posts on the different choices I made, why, and some first impressions. First up — a new backup and wireless solution.

90mmThis bout of upgrade mania all started with a full backup drive. I had been using a 2009-era Apple Time Capsule and have been super happy with it. But it’s only got 1TB of storage. Our family has a few Macs, about 10 iDevices, and an SLR which together have generated 400GB of photos and videos in the past few years. I was spending a lot of time tweaking backup settings to deal with the reality that the drive just wasn’t big enough. When Apple released a new Airport Time Capsule this summer, I thought it looked gorgeous and its vertical design might help declutter our office. Plus, I’d decided to switch over my Time Machine backups to encrypted so needed to start over anyhow. It was time, so I ordered a new 3 TB Airport Time Capsule.

Why I chose it: I’ve loved my existing Time Capsule and its Mac integration, reliability, and solid wi-fi. I didn’t consider any other models. I was happy to get the new design, bigger storage, newer /faster 802.11ac wi-fi (which will be much faster than our existing 802.11n which matters for doing backups). Also, I absolutely love the word “beamforming” which Apple uses to describe the antenna’s directional abilities.

First impressions and surprises: After trying a few different physical locations in our home office, I didn’t love the looks as much as I thought. It was ungainly and tall (like I was as a teenager). It occurred to me to put it in my TV cabinet in our living room rather than in the office. It ended up working like a charm, not only eliminating clutter from the office but improving wifi around the house because my living room is a more central location. This approach allowed me to retire an old gigabit ethernet switch, eliminating one device from the clutter that is my entertainment center.

Up next:  to upgrade TiVo, or not to upgrade TiVo?