Justin du Coeur (jducoeur) wrote,
Justin du Coeur

Thoughts on TiVo?

msmemory and I find ourselves pondering what we're going to do about the whole digital-TV switchover. Not that we're receiving signals over-the-air, mind -- the supposedly-government-subsidized converter boxes aren't relevant to us. No, our problem is that the cable industry is lying through its teeth about the "if you have cable, you don't have a problem" thing.

You see, we are on cable, and we pay a pretty penny for a fairly high-end package. But the reality is that the cables are *also* switching over to digital, for reasons related to those for the over-the-air change -- it's just lower-bandwidth, which lets them cram more channels in. And this means that any TV that is directly plugged into the cable (as opposed to through a cable box) is potentially screwed. Particularly to us, I am fairly sure that our trusty old Panasonic DVR, which has served us so well for many years, only has an analog receiver, so it's probably toast sometime fairly soon.

So we're pondering our options. We clearly want a functioning DVR -- it's how we watch all the TV we actually give a damn about. (Food Network is fine when we're simply looking for background noise, but we watch most of our series on the DVR.) Enough people have raved about TiVo for long enough that we're considering knuckling under and becoming part of the body.

In which case, the next question is *which* TiVo? The temptation is to go for way-high-end, but I'm taking my time and considering it carefully before spending that much money. The logic for it is that it's a good investment. We're clearly going to want HD capability within the next year or two, so it only makes sense to buy one of the HD models. Besides, the HD model accepts two CableCards, which is probably what we're going to want. (Not to mention the ability to download from Netflix, which is *very* appealing.)

And if we're going to do that, it may make the most sense to shell out the extra $250 for the insanely-large hard drive. The ordinary HD model has more than enough space for conventional-definition shows, but only about 20 hours of HD. Given that we routinely have 100 hours of stuff in our backlog on the Panasonic, this seems like it might become a problem if HD becomes common.

Related to this is the question of which plan to get. Again, there's an argument for going whole-hog: the "lifetime of the DVR" plan is pricey -- about $400 -- but that's the equivalent of about three years of service. If we expect to keep the device in service for a long time (and I'd certainly like to), then the lifetime plan might make sense. Moreover, it potentially increases the resale value of the device considerably if we decided to trade up to something else a few years down the line. So the question there is, how reliable have people found TiVos to be? Can we reasonably expect to get the 5+ years of service it'll take for the lifetime plan to be worthwhile?

Opinions welcomed. I don't have any idea what Comcast's timetable is, but I have no faith that the Panasonic will continue to work past mid-February, so this is gradually turning into a pressing question for us, and we'll have to act soon...
Tags: technology

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