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AdamWillis

Is TiVo really worth the money?

I've been thinking of ways to save some cash lately and cable keeps coming front and center to me as money that could be better spent.

Now this might seem overly complicated but I currently don't have a DVR and I'm paying $12/month to rent this STB. So my original idea was to buy a TiVo and not pay $12/month. To my surprise, I'll instead be paying around $20/mo due to the cost of the service subscription and renting a cable card from Verizon (fios). For $20/mo I can get a multi-room DVR from Verizon… if I want to watch TV in another room with TiVo, my cheapest option is buying a mini and now paying $26/mo ($6/mo for mini subscription). I know I can buy a lifetime membership to these but that is a lot of money considering If I upgrade my TiVo or buy another box, I have to pay that again and again/more and more.

I really want to convince myself that TiVo is so much better that it's worth the cash, but the more I think about it, the less sense it makes to me. I even tried the idea of cutting cable, getting an HD antenna, and just getting the basic Roamio box to navigate and record the (15-ish) channels... but at that point, I honestly feel I'd be better off just forgetting that option and spending the $15/mo on Hulu.

I guess by the end of this question, I'm really wondering if TiVo can even survive with their current strategy? I have a smart TV, a Chromecast, and a PS4 so it's not like I'm lacking access to internet services... as far as I can tell, I'm just missing the DVR function. Anyone have some words of wisdom?

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44 replies
frankspin

TiVo to me is one of those products where you're paying more for the execution than the actual product. There is no question TiVo continues to outpace cable provider set top boxes and DVRs, unfortunately it comes at a high price to entry. I kind of wish they would wave the box fee if you paid for a lifetime subscription or something similar to that deal.

If you want to try and use an OTA antenna have you looked into a Simple.TV or similar devices? They have a smaller monthly fee and the hardware is far cheaper.

On a side note: I personally think DVR's are one of the most overpriced items in the living room. It's kind of bizarre to me that in 2014 the way we have to consume content is through an auxiliary recording device, rather than just a quick queue through a menu.
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astrobuf

Personally, we love our TiVo's. We have 2 units on lifetime service. They are far cheaper than is a STB and DVR. Your service provider is required by federal law to provide cable cards (up to 2 iirc) for free. My oldest TiVo is 5 years old now, so I have gone well padt break even. Furthrrmore, TiVo often will give you some credit from a lifetime deal towards a new unit. Even better, there is a market for used TiVo's with lifetime service, so you can reclaim adecent portion of your units value should you sell and upgrade. If you are unsure, iI'd suggest buying a used lt serviced unit and try it. The Premier units are now readily available.
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signcarver

The only time you get cablecards for free (by law) is when something changes that you can no longer access your subscribed channels (locals) without one... if you already have a box then you are often out of luck (though can get one for another tv that currently can get some channels without a box) ... if they drop clear qam or analog you do have a few months to get them... some packages include equipment rental and in this case would provide a cablecard and often offer a bring your own equipment discount for the rest of the STB fee.

In this particular case since they are on Verizon, getting them for free is not an option at this time since they don't encrypt the locals.
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nitehawk

DVR is a life changing device in a similar way to a smartphone (with gps) is for us now. Just like the way a dishwasher and washing machine changed lives in the past and similar to how a popular driverless will be in the future.

No longer do you 'have' to miss the game/show/movie to listen to somebody, complete chores, or deal with horrid commercials. It's rare that I watch anything live anymore and I watch a lot of sports. Getting rid of my DVR now would be like going without my iPhone, dishwasher, etc. it's just not something I'm mentally prepared to do and I personally think it's worth much more than the money I pay. Instead of a football game taking 3-4 hours of my time on a Sunday/Monday night, I purposefully wait to start watching the game and cut the time at least in half.
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dbods7

This is exactly what I did about 2 years ago. I canceled cable, bought a Tivo with the idea of Netflix+Hulu+DVR+OTA Antenna would be worth it. For the most part it has made a lot of sense and I am glad I did it. By my math I still save $40-$50/mo over cable.

The only issue, is that I have found I only really watch the DVR now for recording live programming. If that's not what you are into, you'll find that over time you'll watch less and less shows on the DVR as you can get almost all of them online whenever you want.

I had the same concerns about Tivo surviving as well. That was two years ago and they just upgraded their service, so it's continuing to be invested in and getting better. Much better than any DVR+Cable solution out there.
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Jmtwn

I just went through the same process right before the holidays. We have FiOS and had a multi room DVR and a second box to support the multi room feature. Out total cost for boxes was closer to 37.00/month. We went with 1 Roamio and a FiOS cable card.

Incredibly happy we did the move.

1 - decreased total bill and will now have an easier transition between FiOS and Comcast if we decide to change in April when our 2 year contract is up.
2 - we rarely used the tv in the second room
3 - being able to stream from the Roamio to an iPhone or iPad in or out of the house knocks the solution out of the park.
4 - being able to save shows to an iPad or iPhone for off network viewing wile traveling is another grand slam.
5 - if necessary, we could add the mini , BUt for the last month, we have been very happy to be able to it in out favorite place in the house without the tv and catch up on individual shows we like, then go into the family room to enjoy common shows.

I would definitely suggest you make the move.

One caveat. The FiOS DVR requires explicit scheduling of shows, the TiVo learns through the Thumbs up and down, what types of shows you like, so the TiVo often has more shows recorded at any time, many that you didn't ask for. This is great when you are looking for something new, but if you are used to managing space on a basic DVR, your mindset needs to be adjusted. This is more a point of reference than a problem.
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takeshi74

Tivo suggestions are optional. I always disable them as I only find that they waste space. YMMV.
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signcarver

I also think that tivo's fees are way too expensive (If they ever lowered lifetime by about $200 I may change my tune... and the mini + lifetime needs to be about $50 lower). If you already have a decent windows 7 computer (or 8 pro) I would look into WMC and cable card tuners from either ceton or silicondust (SD). Personally I prefer the WMC + extender(s) route (xbox 360 or ceton echo) for WHDVR but my provider protects everything so that is really the only viable solution other than tivo but I have been using computers at home to record TV for at least 12 years, and have never paid a DVR fee, and refuse to... I am willing to be a little flexible in paying about $36/year for guide data but with WMC, I don't even pay that.

The SD product can also stream to most dlna capable devices (some devices don't know the rules when dealing with live/unseekable content and don't work, also for mpeg2 streams that most cable uses, a wired connection is best). For verizon most channels are not protected so DTCP-IP isn't needed, this is nearly everything but HBO/MAX... but accessing channels by dlna can be "painful" but it is something to look into and the latest beta now has favorites which makes it less painful... for HBO/MAX, a ps3 supports DTCP-IP so can access the protected content, unfortunately a ps4 does not at this time.

If you weren't interested in a DVR, Samsung makes the GX-SM530CF (retails for about $150) which is a cablecard capable smart media player (since you already have the smart TV, the "only" advantage of this is the cablecard tuner. Unfortunately verizon charges about $2/month higher than most other companies for the cablecard rental so it will take a little longer for the device to pay itself off.

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frankspin

I occasionally see the HDHomeRun Primes go on sale at Woot and have contemplated getting one.
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ncstrev

I have one. Good product that came to market a couple of years too late.
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boogeyman22

If youve ever used a TiVo youre argument would sound silly. Its like saying theyre giving away BlackBerry so why should I pay for an iPhone. Its about simplicity, ease of use and you actually own the TiVo instead of donating to the cableco revenue stream. You said you had Verizon....if its Fios, I had a Tivo Premiere XL4 on Fios, It was beautiful. I did have their DVR multi-room stuff cuz it came with the account. But quite frankly no one wanted to used it cuz its so complicated. I took them all back in.
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hotshotKC

Why not a home theater PC with HDHomerun prime and using an xbox 360 as a windows media center? The guide is free and there's no subscription fee. Using the xbox 360 as the media center extender allows you to use a regular remote (I had a harmony remote and easy to add on the 360 to it).
I actually used an old laptop laying around and threw on an external 1.5 TB HDD. Now It's 3 tuner capable and works great!
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pyrrhusmj

I am on FIOS, keep one FIOS HD STB for the On Demand. I have an old TivoHD with lifetime in a spare bedroom. I then have a premiere 4 tuner with 2 MINIS supplying 2 other rooms ll with lifetime. Not cheap upfront, but for instance the TivoHD is now 6 years old and works well. Total cost per month declines every month I keep it and am currently at around 9 a month to use it + 4 for the cabelcard. So it is basically a wash with the verizon DVR based on the $600 I spent on it back in 2007 with the lifetime service. Now the Premiere was purchased for $49.00, Lifetime for $399. 2 Mini's for $200 and Lifetime for $300.00 for both of them. So a total of ~$1000.00. Definitely not cheap. If it last 3 years I am ahead of the game because I only need one cable card and supply 3 tv's. A verizon HD STB that could receive the Multi-Room DVR's content is $10.00 a month x 3 room=30 a month so $360 a year. So i am at a $1080 (roughly). Subtract out the cable card costs for one tv, Roughly a $150 I am at $930.00 which is just below the ~1000.00 I have spent on my most recent tivo's. Even without the eventual savings, I dispose the FIOS DVR. I would pay more per month for TIVO because they are sooooo much better. just wish Verizon would enable On Demand through cabelcards to save me the extra box in my tv room.
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needa

i bought a tivo and cut the cord to cable. i gotta be honest... i dont miss cable at all. whenever my dvr is depleted and there is nothing on tv... i just hunt through the crap that tivo recorded without me knowing and there is always something there. if there isnt... i just load netflix or amazon. when you delete something and realize later that you need it... you can go back and undelete. which is a very nice option to have on the rare occasion that you mess up. and unlike comcast... if i tell my tivo to record something... it does it. and does it every single time.

the one thing i dont like about it is the tivo premier, which is what i got because it was refurbed on their site for eighty bucks, is its a bit slow. i wish it were just a bit more snappy.
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sftrading

You need to pay the lifetime and don't look back. That's the only way to do tivo. And when you want to upgrade or give it up, you'll get money back for it. So ultimately you save. It hurts right now, but you save in the long run. And if you don't need the latest bells and whistles, then getting a used tivoHD with lifetime on eBay is an even bigger no brainer.

Regarding cord cutting, that term is overrated. I'll cut the cord when the prices for stand alone broadband is dirt cheap. Cord cutters save very little or don't save at all. It's an illusion. I thought about it for a moment, and it made ZERO sense to me. The standalone fios speed I wanted would have cost me $75 a month. $65 for the firsst 12 months and $85 for the next 12 so that's $75. Their bundle cost $99 and you get a $300 gift card. If I cut the cord, I would still need a way to find my sports, a league pass here and a league pass there and the cost is surpassing the promotional bundle package. Like I said, zero sense to me. When kick ass broadband can be had for $25 a month, then I'll take cord cutting more seriously. Otherwise, get a bundle and when your two years up, get a bundle from the competitor. Switch providers like cellphone companies. People who stay beyond the promotional prices are the ones who are getting ripped off and you should cut the cord if you don't want to bother with doing a little song and dance with the cable company every two years. If you're willing to switch up every 2 years, then promotional bundles makes more sense than cord cutting.
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takeshi74

Overrated is overrated. Whether cord cutting makes sense or not is a subjective matter. For me it doesn't but that means nothing with regard to the next person.
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magnavis

I cut the cord, and I'm literally saving over $60 a month. I'm on the east coast, and we only have one provider available to my house, Time Warner. I save over $600 a year over when I was paying for cable+internet+DVR, and still am able to watch everything I want OTA or on Netflix. My bank account can confirm, it's not an illusion.
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magnavis

I have to vote against. I love TiVo, we have a Series 2 DT that lasted for years, and I had a few issues with the service that were promptly and satisfactorily solved by the TiVo support guys. All in all, I've had a good experience.

BUT, we stopped using the Series 2 a few years ago when we were moving around and got FiOS (Digital). Now we're on the East Coast, NC, and have Time Warner. We don't subscribe to cable, we just pay for internet in an effort to cut costs. What's nice about this is we get the basic lineup for free (1-99). I get a new TiVo, the Roamio entry level box, only to find out it's digital only. This means that getting a CableCARD for it would cost me $2 a month, on top of the $15 a month service, and the $20 a month subscription to basic cable I would need from Time Warner before they would let me have a CableCARD.

When I talked to TiVo about this, they said I absolutely, 100% needed a CableCARD for cable. I don't need a CableCARD for digital with an antenna, so I still don't understand why, but that's their story and they are sticking to it. And, as far as I could tell, it was true. The support rep told me the Premier (entry level) still had a tuner that would work in my situation, but I just don't see the value in getting an older device with a shorter lifespan on updates and lower performance just to DVR my OTA equivalent cable offering. I can see this being a concern for many people who are trying to cut the cable and save money. At the cost per month, all aspects considered, I'll be getting something else or building a media center PC to fill the role.

I honestly feel like it's hard to beat the TiVo service. The boxes are great, the software is awesome, and the support is good. But, it seems to me the cost is beginning to outweigh the benefits, especially for someone in my position.
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AdamWillis

So the base Premiere can handle fios without a cable card but the Roamio can't? I have fios as well and tivo is selling the base model for $50 right now... maybe I should do that with a life subscription? Or do you think that wouldn't be worth it either?
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magnavis

I actually don't think it can. I believe FiOS is all digital (ClearQAM), and will require a cablecard for even the basic channels. The difference between your setup and mine is that most of my basic channel lineup is still analog. I'm not on FiOS any more, I'm on Time Warner East.

That being said, I believe your only option is a CableCARD. I'm not a professional in these topics though; I just recently did a massive amount of research trying to get my own to work. Your best bet would be to hit up for tivo forms and see what they have to say about it, though often times I left slightly more confused than when I showed up.

Good luck!
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Seanengadget

The Tivo S3 I purchased in 2007 is the best consumer product I've ever owned. I added an external drive to add capacity and I have the lifetime service so I'm not paying a monthly fee.

Having said all that, if mine breaks tomorrow I'd go with the cable dvr until I see whatever Apple has up it's sleeve. (Of course I'd get my lifetime Tivo box repaired too.)

Tivo doesn't offer lifetime service anymore no doubt because of customers like me.

They've also lost a lot of their goodwill over the years with crappy products after the S3. The latest appears to be a better product but like i said, I'm waiting for nextgen AppleTV.

Is a DVR/Tivo worth the money? You're kidding right? Hell, Yes.
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astrobuf

TiVo does very much still offer lifetime subscriptions, lifetime of the equipment that is. My TiVo units have been very reliable. My S3 HD unit is going stong 5-6 years now. My premiere got sick when a downed power line fried the hdd, but I fixed it for $100 and it has been golden for a year now. It too is 4 years old and so saving me real money.
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Seanengadget

Yes, my mistake. I didn't see the lifetime option on the initial pricing page. That's the only way I'd go if I was going to buy a new Tivo.
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JCoochLucchese

Have had TiVo for years and love it, just HATE the price. Patiently waiting for more apps to be available on AppleTV and TiVo is history in my house. TiVo is a very backwards company. Though their functionality is top notch, the setup and now the release of Roamio are archaic. Who releases a new tech product that only works on a WIRED vs Wireless network!? If Roamio were a wireless product, I definitely would consider it. TiVo really should be offering their boxes for free and make it up in services. Very high price for the box, very high price for monthly services and going old school on tech will eventually be their demise.
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Jmtwn

https:­/­/www.tivo.com­/shop­/Roamio all three of the Roamio models support Wifi. The basic model does not support cable cards and is the only one that supports over the air antenna.
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cram501

The basic model DOES support cable card. It also supports over the air but not both simultaneously.
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Jmtwn

My mistake, the pictures of the back don't include a cable card slot, but the tech specs do indicate support. Do you know where the cable card slot is?
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AdamWillis

I watched one of the setup videos and it says the cAble card plugs in through the bottom. Pretty odd if you ask me.
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cram501

There is a panel on the bottom you take off. There is a slot there in which to put in the cable card.
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JCoochLucchese

My mistake…I got the product names confused. I was actually referring to the Stream.

Does the Mini have WiFi or is that Ethernet too?
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Jmtwn

I think they all support MoCA that allows IP streaming over coaxial cable. The stream and Mini don't seem to have built in Wifi. I understand why the stream doesn't use wifi. If the stream and the tivo were only connected by wifi, you would have some bandwidth/contention issues. There would be. Stream from the tivo to the Stream and the from the stream to the device. If this was happening over a single wifi access point, you would be consuming 3x the wifi bandwidth versus having the stream connected by MoCA or Ethernet and then to wifi.
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takeshi74

Mini supports MoCA and wired ethernet.
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takeshi74

Who simply assumes that wireless is better? Consider the reasoning behind the need for wireless versus just simply assuming that wireless = future. Wireless is available. Even if it wasn't you could set up a wireless solution.
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ncstrev

I used to use cable co DVRs but they had too little storage and their GUI was not very good. I have been using WMC for a few years (since 2005). Originally I just had OTA tuners, but eventually when cable card tuners came on the market I added those to my system. I know that MS has abandoned this, but it still works reliably and I have over 20TB of movies and TV shows. It's great to be able to have four OTA and three cable card tuners. I never have tuner conflicts. When I want more storage, I just add another HDD. The one limitation is the DRM on encrypted content. FIOS started enforcing the copy protection flags last year in my area. Now, when I record shows or movies on certain channels, I can't watch them on another computer. Thankfully, that is fairly limited and does not affect the OTA shows. It is easy to extend the WMC to other TVs on the house using XBOX360 or Ceton Echo. If you need to stream to mobile devices, there is third party software you can install on your WMC system that will support that. That, however, is limited to non-copy protected content.

I guess my one comment on streaming services (I subscribe to a couple) would be, I can't stand the poor quality. If you're watching on a small screen, then it's ok. But put it on the 60" HDTV and it just looks bad. For most people, this is probably not an issue. But if you watch one OTA show on an HDTV, you will immediately notice the superior quality over streaming services.

On the matter of cost: you don't need a super computer to run WMC. I invested in a larger tower case with lots of drive bays because I like to archive. Up until 2012, I was still running a Core2Duo. At this point, I don't see any need for further upgrades other than storage. I look at the cost as an initial investment of a few hundred dollars, then cable card monthly fees with occasional HDD purchases.

I know there are a lot of MS haters, but I think that WMC was one thing they did right...which probably explains why they abandoned it. I know, I know...the money is in streaming and buying online...that's why they really abandoned it. Once tiered broadband is common place, I have to wonder how the streaming vendors will react.
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remmy925

I felt compelled respond to the comments from ncstrev and hotshotKC. I have had a media center PC in my house for well over 10 years. i have moved from SageTV to WMC and even up to WMC on Windows 8. I have now reluctantly converted to a TIVO roamio. I can definitely state why a WMC box may not be a good idea. I will give pros and cons.
Pros:
1) WMC is prettier than TIVO and allows for some customization
2) There are no continued fees and can be cheaper (maintenance and upgrades are constant concern with WMC)
3) Can tune all the channels a TIVO does and is a PC!
4) Ability to upgrade well beyond the capabilities of a TIVO
Cons:
1) WMC is neary unknown to media providers and leads to nearly no support from your cable company or satellite provider.
2) Microsoft has not made any substantial updates to this software in years and has clearly made moves to discontinue its use.
3) Plugins and add-ons with substantial added value are rare for WMC.
3) XBOX one will not work as a media extender and the hardware failure rate of XBOX 360s has already had me pay for 2 replacements over the past few years (expensive)
4) WMC can take alot of maintenance. You not only have computer failures to deal with, but also Micrsoft's shotty codecs which can't be substituted for others because of DRM built into their recording scheme related to cablecard.

When I was young single guy, I had time to tinker to improve and try to resolve the issues with WMC. I now am married and had to switch because my wife is not as technical as I am and needed a solution that would "Just work". I got tired of WMCs codec and stutter issues, multiple recordings of the same shows, and instances where settings for WMC completely reset themselves for no reason. For that I have switched to TIVO. TIVO isn't as customizable, pretty, or free from service charges, but TIVO is better supported by the vendor and cable providers. It also allows for an easy user experience where my wife figured out how to use it in a couple of days. My largest complaint with TIVO is the monthly and lifetime service fees. The interface and function provided by TIVO is no where near the cost they ask for, but it is still definitely better than the standard rented DVR from the cable provider. Hopefully their UI and services provided with get a much needed update with a new version of TIVO firmware.
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takeshi74

Worth is always highly subjective regardless of topic. You can't just poll people to determine if something is worth it to you or not.

Tivo is definitely worth it to me but not based on financial reasons. I just replaced our old Tivo HD and Comcast's RNG100 STB with a Roamio Pro and a Mini. We consume a lot of cable content which isn't all available via other sources and equipment that Comcast offers in my area is a joke. That said, if you're looking to save cash a premium option (like Tivo) probably isn't a good choice as a generic rule of thumb no matter what the topic.

If you do want to save money on Tivo then lifetime is a must. These devices have long lifespans so you can't just assume they're like smartphones or other fast changing tech. Further, devices with lifetime usually have good resale value so that can help to mitigate costs. Still, if you're scrounging to save a few bucks a month then Tivo probably isn't for you. You might want to consider other DVR solutions better suited to your budget. A WMC box can be put together on the cheap (more so if you already have parts) and doesn't have service fees.

Tivo can certainly survive. Again, subjective matter. Don't just assume that your situation represents all consumers out there. There are various product niches out there that serve different market segments. The fact that you fit one segment better doesn't mean that no one fits the other segments.

You really just have to determine what you're willing to pay for the DVR functionality you're after (if any at all as it sounds like you don't currently have one) and that will answer your question on worth.
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takeshi74

You might want to take this into consideration:
www.wired.com­/gadgetlab­/2014­/01­/tivo­-lays­-hardware...
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Seanengadget

Interesting that Tivo would finally abandon hardware the same day Apple rumors about their new set top box/appletv heat up.

My guess is the borrowed time they've been living on is about up and they know it.
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astrobuf

I'm not sure I read it this way. Most of their customer base would not be excited about having everything move to the Cloud. Instead, I think they are simply outsourcing the design of the hardware. They laid off the industrial design team, this is the group that picks the colors, designs the box... they are not the folks who make the device. Lots of companies find it's more innovative to contract industrial design out to "architecture like" design houses. Frog Design comes to mind.
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Dignan17

I can't recommend Tivo highly enough. If someone told me that I had to give up all the gadgets in my home except for one, I'd keep my Tivo (well, and my TV to watch it). Yes, I'd give up my smartphone before my Tivo.

Then again, I'm a huge TV fan. I watch hours of TV a day (too much, I'm sure), and Tivo is far and away the best user experience of any DVR on the market. Other's have gotten better over the years, but nothing compares to the Tivo interface, even the standard def portions of it :)

I also have the benefit that I was already a Tivo customer, and therefore was being given upgrade offers, which are significantly less expensive than the ones you see on their site. Because of that, I could justify the number of months it would take to make up the cost of the product/lifetime service versus the cost of the Fios monthly fee.

Regardless of my situation, I strongly believe that Tivo has the best product out there. I now have a Premiere XL4 and a Tivo Mini, and I love both products. I really hope that they finally support Android so I can give them money for the Tivo Stream.
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jlww68

Hello...Just did the swtich to Tivo this past December. Thought about it for the past two years. Just got tired of waiting for Verizon to come up with a DVR with more than two tuners. Bought Tivo Roamio Plus and two Mini's. Works great, using a Moca Network.

Tivo offers a lot more in their dvr"s than the cable companies by way of better video quality and componets. I notice no Macroblocking or Tiling with Tivo, Verizon's dvr was awful in the video end with all of that.

Tivo gives you 30 days to try their product out. If you don't like it return it for a full refund. You do loose VOD with Verizon but, I have Hulu Plus and Netflix to fill in the blanks. To be honest, with 6 tuners built in I really don't need the VOD feature nor do I miss it.

As for the money end, I had Verizon's Muli-Room dvr, HD box, and a Digital box for a total of $37.99 a month. With Tivo, by the time it;s said and done, I'm probably ahead $7.00. But I know I have the latest DVR out there and the video and audio quality is fantastic. And this is was Tivo does, build DVR's. Give it a shot!
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astrobuf

Too bad no VOD on Verizon. With Comcast, VOD works with Premiere and newer TiVo units. Strangely, I find I use Amazon and NEtflix more than Comcast VOD anyhow...
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jlww68

No word as to Verizon giving green light to Tivo to carry Fios VOD. Seems like other cable companies are allowing this. With 6 tuners, haven't had to go out beyond Tivo to look for any show that I missed.
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magnavis

I found I didn't miss VoD at all. Most of the stuff we watched on demand were shows that aired recently, and we just set up season passes for those ones so there was never a need to steam it from TWC.
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