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TiVo Premiere: Over the Air DVR and Internet Video in One

Who says you can't have it all even without cable or satellite? The TiVo Premiere enables you to record both over-the-air TV and watch Internet television.

By Steven Vaughan-Nichols on Sat, 08/25/12 - 1:44pm.

When I cut the cable there was one thing I regretted: The ability to record TV. Sure, I didn't have cable or satellite anymore, but with over-the-air (OTA) TV I still got over a dozen channels. At the same time, I wanted a DVR that could handle Internet TV. With the TiVo Premiere you can get both for a mere $149.99 list price plus the monthly service fee.

I've been a fan of TiVo since it's first days and I was pleased to see that the company recently came out with a Digital Video Recorder (DVR) that could handle a cable-cutter's needs.

The TiVo Premiere has two tuners so it can record two shows at once. It also comes with a 500GB hard drive. That translates into up to 75 hours of HD video. There are other models--the TiVo Premiere 4 with four digital tuners and the TiVo Premiere XL4 with four digital tuners, far more storage, and THX audio—but the basic TiVo Premiere is what you want for OTA and Internet video. As you would expect with a 2012 video device, this new model TiVo can support up to 1080p video.

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You can also use the Premiere to replace your cable, digital cable, Verizon FiOS  set-tops. You, however, can't use it with AT&T U-verse or a satellite TV connection.

I found that it worked quite well with my OTA channels. Once given my location and data from my antenna, the device worked out what channels I got and downloaded their current schedules. That made it as easy to record OTA channels as it ever was to record my DirecTV channels.

On the Internet video side, you get access to Amazon, Netflix, Hulu Plus, and YouTube. Once nice, but unfortunately not fully baked function, is that you can search for shows and movies simultaneously on both your OTA channels and on the Internet video services. I found this awkward though and sometimes the results were wrong. This probably had more to do with the video services than TiVo but it was still annoying.

The interface to the Internet video services also don't have the same look and feel as the OTA channels. It's not a deal-breaker, but it is a little jarring.

You can't use your TiVo to surf the Web. For that, the best program I've found to date remains Apple's AirPlay Mirroring.

Unfortunately, the Premiere doesn't support the Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) media server standard. Still, you can also cobble together a way to watch shows from your DLNA media server or WMV, MOV, MPT, MP2, AVI or DVX video files with TiVo's own media server, TiVo Desktop Plus, but I found this cumbersome.

That said, you can also use TiVo Desktop Plus to take some of your TiVo DVR recordings and transfer them to your PC or  mobile devices, such as an iPad. Once on your PC, you can then burn your favorite shows to a DVD.

On the other hand, it is easy to watch video recorded on one networked TiVo to another. This won't work with TiVo model 2s or older, but it worked fine with newer models.

Curiously, TiVo doesn't equip the Premiere with Wi-Fi. The company states that it does that to cur town the price, but, come on, is adding a 802.11n chipset really that expensive? Instead you have to add a USB-based Wi-Fi adapter or use the Ethernet jack.

To my surprise, especially given that it doesn't come with Wi-FI, the Premiere does support Multimedia over coax (MoCA). This is an entertainment specific version of good old Ethernet over coax. In theory, this supports up to 175Mbps over your existing home coax cable.  In practice I saw speeds in the 90Mbps range, but that was still more than fast enough even for 1080p video.

As always, TiVo's EPG (electronic programming guide), Season Pass, Wish List, and 30-second ad skip, worked well. If it wasn't for the search function being a little funky, the lack of DLNA support, and the interface needing a more universal look I could give the new TiVo an A. As it is, I can still give it a B+. And, at this price point, $150, plus the $14.96 monthly fee, I can recommend that anyone whose TV's watching consists of OTA and the main Internet video channels seriously consider buying one to call their own.