TiVo box owners jonesing for more storage space finally are in luck. The DVR pioneer hooked up with Western Digital to enable an external hard drive. The catch: you must own an advanced TiVo box, as in not Series 2.
The eSATA drive — going by the tag of My DVR Expander — bulks up the TiVo’s storage capacity by 500 gigabytes. That’s roughly 600 hours of standard definition or 65 hours of high-def programming, TiVo says. The hard drive has to be bought at Best Buy or on TiVo’s web site, apparently.
All of the four upgrades announced earlier this week are limited to networked-in owners of Series 3 DVRs.
The DVR pioneer also unveiled a multi-room viewing feature, in which the advanced TiVo boxes can stream content to another TiVo box, including Series 2 (sorry, SD only to the 2s). The boxes must be part of the home’s Internet-connected computer network.
“TiVo to Go,” another it’s-about-time feature, allows programs to be ported over to PCs. From there, the video files can watched elsewhere or burned to blank DVDs. Yes, that means they can be sent to iPods and other handheld devices. The PC needs TiVo Desktop software for Windows, Roxio Toast 8 or, for Macs, Popcorn 3.
TiVo also has joined Vudu in the progressive-downloading game. Instead of waiting for movies or TV shows from Amazon Unbox to fully render before playing, owners of TiVo’s high-end boxes now can launch the video files as downloading progresses.
(This capability is one of Vudu’s main sales pitches. The 2-month-old service just lowered the price of the Vudu box from $399 to $250, taking a cue from Steve Jobs.)
Here’s the word on how the TiVo progressive downloading is supposed to work, direct from the company’s antenna-wearing PRists:
When a download begins, the TiVo box checks the speed of the download, and calculates whether you can begin playback. If the download speed is going faster than playback speed, it will let users start playback immediately.
If the download is slower, it will wait until users have enough of the program “buffered” on disk to be able to play it from start to finish without hitting the end of the buffer, and then let you start playback.
None of these are breakthroughs, except in the TiVo universe. While well past due, it’s good to see the upgrades, which signal to company is working hard to justify its existence.