Hands-on with HD TiVoToGo and Multi-Room Viewing

Ben Drawbaugh
B. Drawbaugh|11.09.07

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Hands-on with HD TiVoToGo and Multi-Room Viewing

It seems as if we've been waiting a lot longer than a year for TiVo to add two of our favorite features to the Series3, and while complications with CableLabs haven't exactly made the process possible before now, we're elated that TiVoToGo and Multi-Room viewing are finally a reality.

Both new features had to be enabled via TiVo.com by logging into our account and enabling transfers, and we've detailed the process below:
  • Log into TiVo.com and under Manage My Account, enable transfers on each of your TiVos.
  • Wait 24 hours for the TiVo to phone home or force a call
  • Check System Information page on your TiVo and verify that TiVoToGo has a value of a,a,a and not i,i,i.
  • If all else fails, force another call and reboot.
You've waited long enough, so click on through to take a look at these two long-awaited features in action.

Multi-Room Viewing

While TiVoToGo is more useful, Multi-Room Viewing is sweet for those lucky enough to have two TiVos. Not only can you transfer shows if one of your TiVos is running out of space, but you can also pick up where you left off and watch the rest of a show in bed.

It's really simple to use, a new item shows up on the bottom of the Now Playing List with the name we gave our DVR on TiVo.com. Once we select the TiVo in the other room, we were able to browse its Now Playing List as if it were local -- but slower. Once we select a show, we can choose to transfer it from the beginning or from the point in which the show was paused; this proves quite handy for finishing a show up in the another room, as you won't have to fight off sleep while waiting for the entire show to transfer.

We have both our Series3s connected via a wired network and were able to watch a show with no delay; in fact, it transferred fast enough to even skip commercials without waiting for it to re-buffer, and TiVoToGo transfers didn't seem to slow it down either. We didn't get to test out a TiVo HD ourselves, but reports at TiVo Community indicate that transfers are almost half as fast as those conducted on the Series3. Notably, we didn't get to try out transferring content to a Series2, but we haven't heard of any problems when sharing SD shows between the two (HD is out of the question, obviously). When a program is transferring, it shows up in the Now Playing List with a green dot next to it, and you can also check the progress by viewing the show's info.

We love having the ability to grab content from our TiVo and take it on the road. TiVo provides TiVo Desktop for free on Windows which enables you to take advantage of those TiVoToGo amenities. No matter what software you use, you'll need to grab your Media Access Key from your Manage My Account page on TiVo.com.

Mac fans are supposed to use third party commercial software like Roxio's Toast ($79) or Popcorn ($49), but we preferred to go the free route and use TiVoDecode Manager. It doesn't include all of the same features, but it's provided gratis and does create DRM-free files.

You can also point your web browser to https://<Your_Tivo_IP>/ and use tivo as the username and your Media Key as the password.

It will present a web page with a list of all the shows.

This brings us to the main caveat with TiVoDecode Manager: it doesn't automatically find your TiVos and add them to a drop down list like TiVo Desktop does, so you'll need to know the IP (check your routers DHCP client list).

Once you extract a few shows, you'll quickly notice that the results are native TiVo formatted files with a .tivo extension, and they're protected with DRM. Luckily for us, there are utilities (TiVo decoder) for most platforms that will let you convert your shows for playback on your PMP of choice without paying extra for TiVo's upgraded TiVo Desktop Plus. Granted, the transfers were pretty slow -- in fact, they were about twice real time -- and our understanding is that the hardware is the bottleneck, so upgrading to a gigabit network probably won't help.

Once the shows were finally on our PC, the audio and picture quality was identical to the original copy. Next, we striped off the DRM and were easily able to convert from MPEG2 to whatever we wanted with our favorite transcoding tools.

Overall, we'd say we're pleased with TiVo's implementation of our favorite S2 features on their HD brethren. Admittedly, there are a few missing pieces -- like the ability to transfer HD shows back to the TiVo -- but we're excited by the features that TiVo finally added and we applaud it for fighting with Big Cable and the content industry to help us free our favorite shows from our HDTVs. If you've read all of this and still have questions, be sure to check out the FAQ over at TiVo Community.
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