There are many similarities between the standard TiVo Premiere and the XL4, with the primary difference being the number of tuners. First up, the XL4 is the only CableCARD-enabled TiVo that doesn't support analog cable or over-the-air. But while this means it isn't the cord-cutter's solution that its little brothers are, the XL4 does offer the ability to record four shows at once -- although you wouldn't know it by the conflict resolution process.
The other big difference here is the inclusion of MoCA. This might not seem like a big deal, but we think it is. The main advantages to MoCA are its greater reliability compared to WiFi and, while many homes still don't have wired network connections in the living room, everyone has coax in there. If you happen to have a provider like FiOS TV that uses MoCA as part of its solution, then it's even better because you can just connect the coax to the back of the XL4 and you're done. As an added bonus, the XL4 will act as a MoCA-to-Ethernet bridge. This means you can connect a switch, or anything else, to the CAT5 port on the back of the XL4 and have access to the rest of your home network on that device too. Other than that, though, the XL4 hardware falls in line with the rest of the Premiere lineup, including two rear USB ports, a single rear CableCARD slot, an eSATA port and the regular assortment of audio and video outputs. The bad news, though, is that like the rest of the line, there's no built-in WiFi. This really rubs us the wrong way considering TiVo offers its Wireless N adapter for $89.99, which is $40 more than the Roku LT streamer that includes it.
Two final mentionables here are the THX certification and the Glo remote. As we pointed out in the original Premiere review, the standard remote is pretty cheesy. Both the XL and the XL4 include the TiVo Glo Remote, originally shipped with the Series3, that features a higher-quality feel, backlit keys and the ability to learn commands from your TV or AV receiver's remote. The THX certification validates that the signal quality coming in the DVR matches what comes out, but it also mean a pair of filtered glasses are included which works with the preloaded six-minute THX optimizer video that is used to walk you through calibrating your TV's picture settings to perfectly match the output of your DVR. We've huge proponents of calibrating your display to your source, so we can't express how much we appreciate this. All that being said, you can calibrate your TV to match your TV with other DVRs using something like the HDNet Test patterns (broadcast every Tuesday morning at 8 a.m. ET) and the filtered glasses you get with a Blu-ray calibration disc.
The lack of over-the-air tuners will certainly be missed by some, but one hardware feature omission we can't forgive is HDMI-CEC. We appreciate that the TiVo remote is programmable, but considering it will only control your TV and AV receiver's power, volume and input selection, we can't understand why TiVo doesn't implement HDMI-CEC. It would do away with programming the remote completely -- we can't think of a single TV or AV receiver released in the past five years that doesn't support HDMI-CEC. The XL4 does offer more control integration with third-party devices than most, though. In fact we were able to easily download a Crestron module for the TiVo and have full integration with our home automation system via IP without much effort at all (the protocol is published if you use a different HA controller).
Netflix, Youtube and other streaming
Streaming movies from Netflix to your TiVo is nothing new, in fact TiVo was only second only to the Xbox 360 in adding the feature over three years ago. But unlike the Xbox Netflix experience that has been revised more than a few times since release, TiVo's experience has remained unchanged and was becoming very dated. That changes today, but sadly, not in a revolutionary way. What we mean is that, like the Hulu Plus experience on TiVo, the Netflix TiVo experience isn't unique. In fact, it's almost identical to that of the Boxee and other boxes. We don't care that it isn't new, per se, the problem is it isn't like the TiVo experience we've grown to love. The familiar TiVo colors, sounds and even button actions aren't much alike. We're not saying we don't like this new Netflix; it's just that we're disappointed that it isn't TiVo-flavored, say the way the Xbox version mimics the game console's user interface. You can browse for things to watch, finally, as well as search or rely on the tried-and-true Instant Queue. You can even find content on Netflix via TiVo's unified search, but it doesn't take you directly to the results when selected; instead it takes you to the Netflix search, which is better than what it did when we tried it from the iPad app (in that case, it simply launches the Netflix app).
Speaking of launching the app, it takes about 40 seconds, which seems like a lifetime if you accidentally hit the TiVo, Guide or Live TV button on the remote and just want to find your way back to what you were watching. We're glad at least some of the buttons on the remote do the same thing, because the info, skip and replay buttons don't work at all when using Netflix. Instead you have to use the right and left d-pad to skip around in a show. The good news is that both 1080p and 5.1 are supported and we even saw the Dolby Digital Plus light on our AVR get some action. What's a bit jarring is the switch from 720p to 1080p. It seems that HD streams start out at the lower resolution and then switch after about 30 seconds, which can mean a few seconds of blackness if your HDTV doesn't resync as fast as you'd like. This can be especially annoying if the feed keeps switching back and forth between two resolutions while it deals with less-than-consistent internet throughput. This is less irritating than the alternative, however, because while TiVo supports 1080p passthrough, it can't rescale it like it can other resolutions.