Monday, March 31, 2014

Mulling a TiVo Roamio (Part 1)

"TV everywhere" is the buzz-phrase for watching ...

  • all your TV channels
  • all your online streaming video sources, such as Netflix
  • all your video-on-demand content
  • etc.

... on every ...

  • TV
  • desktop computer
  • laptop
  • tablet
  • and smartphone that you own ...

... anywhere in your home, and likewise when you are away from home as well.

I've been thinking I'd like to make all that happen by "cutting the cord": getting rid of my Verizon FiOS cable TV service and the three Verizon cable boxes I now have in my home. (I'd expect to keep my FiOS broadband Internet and landline telephone services, though.)

TV content is increasingly available via online streaming, instead of over traditional copper wire or up-to-date fiber-optic cable physically connected to your house. Online TV streaming à la Netflix does accordingly seem to be the wave of the future. For one thing, it can — in concept at least — feed any video content to any digital device anywhere.

Presently, though, there seem to be several hurdles to my cutting the cord. For instance, there is as yet no way I can stream FOX Sports Channel, part of my current Verizon channel lineup, to my iPad's FOX Sports Go app – as long as I stay with Verizon, that is. The FOX Sports Go app supports other cable TV outfits, but it doesn't support Verizon.

Even so, today's cable TV, whether it arrives at my house over copper wire or fiber-optic wire, seems to get me closer to "TV everywhere" than any other option available right now, including cord cutting.

TiVo Roamio DVR, $200

Which is why I've been looking into the latest DVRs in TiVo's Roamio lineup: the entry-level TiVo Roamio, the TiVo Roamio Plus, and the TiVo Roamio Pro.

TiVo was an early pioneer in digital video recorders. More recently the cable companies have pretty much caught up, DVR-wise. The Verizon DVR I have right now is better than the 2010-model TiVo Premiere I also have in my home, in many of the ways I most care about. For instance, the TiVo Premiere never had the ability to stream video in real time to my three older TiVo units.

(None of those older TiVos still work anyway, by the way, owing to power supply or hard drive issues, and I recently turned them in for recycling at my local Best Buy. And the Premiere itself has had to be replaced once, due to a faulty power supply. I am in fact a bit worried about the poor longevity record of TiVo units.)

But my Verizon DVR can't stream live TV or TV recordings to my iPad, as the Roamios can. (The plain-vanilla $200 Roamio, in contrast with the $400 Plus and $600 Pro, needs to be paired with a $130 TiVo Stream unit to do this.)

True, Verizon's FiOS Mobile iPad app does let me watch certain live cable channels, but only certain ones. Not my local over-the-air channels, not my regional sports networks, and not every national cable channel is included in the list of iPad-available channels. Only a few of the channels that the iPad can stream work outside my home. I want all my channels, all the time, on all my devices, wherever I go.

Going the TiVo route, I could replace my Verizon DVR with a basic Roamio for $200, and add a TiVo Stream to it for $130. The Roamio would use a CableCARD from Verizon to receive the Verizon channels I subscribe to.

(Various posts at the TivoCommunity forum indicate that I can pick up the CableCARD I need at the Verizon Store and install it myself. The correct "M-card" part number is 514517-017-00. I can go to this web page for full instructions on self-installing it. At the very end, the process requires entering an activation code that is specified on a Welcome Letter or Customer Receipt I will have received. If I have already completed the earlier steps given in the full procedure, I can also activate the CableCARD by going to this page.)

I believe that combination of TiVo Roamio and TiVo Stream would be able to stream recordings to my existing TiVo Premiere, which already has a CableCARD, as long as I augment each unit, the Roamio and the Premiere, with a $50 MoCA network adapter from TiVo. If I did all that, I could relinquish the Verizon cable box now serving the TV with the Premiere hooked to it. 

(Optionally, I believe I might also hook a TiVo Stream to the Premiere, if I wanted to record iPad-streamable shows on the Premiere, too. However, that option might be overkill at this point; moreover, I'm not exactly sure whether my gear array would work with two TiVo Streams in it.)

My third TV also now has a Verizon cable box on it, and currently, that box can play recordings streamed from my Verizon DVR. Relinquishing my Verizon DVR would eliminate that convenience, as that third Verizon cable box would be unable to stream recordings from either the Roamio or the Premiere. So, if I want to watch TiVo recordings on my third TV, I would need to replace the third Verizon cable box with a TiVo Mini, for $100. The Mini, lacking a tuner or a hard drive, would not need its own CableCARD.

Note that I would lose access to Verizon's video-on-demand content if I gave up all of my Verizon boxes, as CableCARDs are unable to access Verizon VOD.

Next up, a discussion of MoCA ...

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