Friday, April 04, 2014

Mulling a TiVo Roamio (Part 7)

In earlier posts in this Mulling a TiVo Roamio series I compared the costs of buying TiVo boxes with using the combination of Verizon FiOS DVR and two non-DVR settop boxes I now have. The TiVo units I opted for are one Roamio Plus DVR and two Mini extender boxes, along with a TiVo MoCA adapter that will let me network my current TiVo Premiere with the new TiVos.

(I ordered my new TiVo gear online at last Saturday, by the way, and it arrived five days later, on Thursday. I will hook up the Roamio Plus soon, this coming Saturday. The other boxes will be hooked up later.)

My cost comparison involved buying lifetime service on the new TiVo boxes, to go with the lifetime plan I already have on my Premiere. I would thus receive a multi-system discount (MSD) on Roamio Plus lifetime service, I said, such that I would save enough in monthly outlays to cover my initial TiVo expenditures after just 32 months (26 months if I also give up Aereo).

Buying the TiVo combination seemed a really smart move, partly because it has better capabilities than my current Verizon whole-house gear: more tuners for recording more shows at one time; more storage for holding more recorded material; the ability to stream live or recorded shows to my iPad or iPhone.

Verizon FiOS's VMS1100
Quantum TV Media Server

Then yesterday a friend e-mailed me a link to a Gizmodo story about Verizon FiOS's latest settop box, the VMS1100 Quantum TV Media Server. I then went and found this story about the VMS1100 at Endgadget. The VMS1100 is shown on the Verizon website here. An Installation & Operation Manual for the VMS1100 is here.

The VMS1100 Media Server has six tuners and 1 terabyte of storage, as does the Roamio Plus. Impressive.

The Gizmodo story says of the VMS1100 that "you can add a second DVR unit to record up to 12 channels at once and feed 10 TVs at any given time," according to Verizon. So you can have two (or possibly more?) VMS1100s in your FiOS home hookup; the Installation & Operation Manual in fact states that you need a pair of VMS1100s if you want to feed more than five TVs at a time.

I suspect that you can do exactly the same thing with a pair of TiVo Roamio Pluses and the requisite number of Minis, but I do not know that for sure.

Gizmodo says that "it'll cost you $22 a month for the [first VMS1100] box, an extra $32 for the two-DVR, 12-tuner setup, plus $10 to connect additional TVs." Ignoring the double-DVR possibility, the monthly cost for one VMS1100 with two extender boxes seems to be $32 + $10 = $42. Or is that $10 for each additional TV, thus $52 for the three-TV setup?

Gizmodo continues, "Perhaps more excitingly, a second phase of development will see Verizon transcoding its video so that the service also works with other hardware, like Xbox, Roku or iPad." That sounds intriguing ... but as far as use with an iPad is concerned, the Roamio Plus already streams live and recorded TV to TiVo's iPad app.

Hookup diagram from the
VMS1100 Installation & Operation Manual
("Embedded MoCA" refers to support
for MoCA, which I talk about here.)

If a next-generation Verizon Media Server one day comes to use Xbox, Roku, etc. as whole-home extenders, it might be the case that apps situated on those devices would obviate Verizon's own extender set-top boxes (which I believe are called the IPC1100). That would pleasantly lower the consumer's monthly bill for equipment rental.

I note that TiVo does not currently support client apps running on Xbox, Roku, PlayStation, Wii, Apple TV, etc. The clients it now supports reside on handhelds such as the iPad and iPhone. So what Verizon seems to be planning would exceed what is now possible with the TiVo gear I am currently installing.

My earlier posts made the point that buying TiVos along with lifetime service plans saves money in the long run, compared to renting a Verizon multi-room hookup on a month-by-month basis. The big question is how many months the payback period is. I calculated the payback period to be 40 months for one new Roamio Plus and two new Mini boxes, based on Verizon's $40 charge for a three-TV DVR hookup and the $5/month cost of the CableCARD required for the Roamio Plus.

If the cost for a Verizon three-room hookup based on a VMS1100 Media Server exceeds $40, the payback period is concomitantly shorter.

I said in an earlier post that multi-room DVR service from a cable company might be costing you too much money. If you were to invest in TiVo gear, you might save on your overall monthly outlays. You might find that the cost of the TiVo option would be, over time, fully offset by those savings.

Yet there are two big risks. First, the TiVo gear one buys — I'd say the Roamio Plus DVR is more apt to fail than the Mini — may stop working after the limited warranty period of one year is up but before the anticipated payback period is complete.

Second, one's TiVo boxes may become outdated before payback is fully accomplished. One may find that some cable company brings out gear, such as Verizon's next-generation Media Server, that is even better than what's arriving even today, and one is meanwhile stuck with TiVo boxes one hasn't yet "paid for" with month-by-month savings.


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