TiVo Launches TiVo HD

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It looks like the rumors were (mostly) true: DVR pioneer TiVo has announced the new TiVo HD, a somewhat slimmed-down version of its more-expensive Series3 HD DVR that is nonetheless capable of recording up to 20 hours of HD programming (or 180 hours of standard-definition programming), supports HDMI, S-Video, component, and composite outputs, two CableCard slots, Ethernet, USB, and Tivo’s well-regarded DVR and programming features—all for a $300 price tag.

“TiVo HD extends the TiVo experience to an even wider audience than ever, giving sports and entertainment enthusiasts the ultimate companion to their HDTV set,” said TiVO CEO Tom Rogers, in a release. “It is the ultimate media centerpiece for the living room with the broadest selection of broadband content, right alongside your favorite broadcast and cable programs, giving HDTV viewers more choice and control than they’ve ever had before. And it can be used in place of the customer’s existing cable box.”

The TiVo HD features a 160 GB hard drive, enabling the recorder to store up to 180 hours of standard-definition programming or 20 hours of high-definition programming. The unit is designed to be a drop-in replacement for a cable set-top box; the system is able to record two HD channels simultaneously using a combination of up to two CableCard tuners, as well as NTSC and ATSC tuners. The TiVo can output content at 480i, 480p, 720p, and 1080i, and offers HDMI, component, composite, and S-Video output, long with optical and analog audio. Users can connect the TiVo HD to their home broadband network via Ethernet or TiVo’s USB-connected Wi-Fi adapter. Video inputs inputs the two CableCard slots, and coax inputs for cable and antenna. And if 160 GB isn’t enough for you, TiVo says the unit will support additional storage via E-SATA in late 2007.

Of course, the unit supports a wide range of TiVo’s unique functionality and content offerings, including the capability to download movies and programming directly to the TiVo over the Internet via Amazon Unbox and TiVo’s own TiVoCast service, and TiVo’s Universal Swivel Search which lets users quickly find programming based on a number of flexible criteria. The unit can also tap into Yahoo traffic and weather, Fandango movie tickets, live radio and podcasts, and home movie sharing via One True Media; parents can also control what kids can access via TiVo KidZone, which provides a permission-based custom playlist for children.

Compared to the $800 Series3 HD, the TiVo HD looks like a pretty complete package which should appeal to consumers looking to get the most value out of their high-definition television displays. However, the TiVo HD does omit several features found in the high-end Series3 unit, including THX certification and the TiVoToGo service which lets users shift programming to portable media players. The TiVo HD also omits multi-room support, support for satellite TV, and the unit itself lacks a frontal display and the Series3 high-end remote control.

The question is whether consumers will bite: $300 might still be too high a price for a set-top box, especially since many cable operators offer DVRs for a small fee over and above digital cable service. Nonetheless, at $300 the TiVo HD is bound to be a more-appealing proposition for many consumers looking to leverage HD programming, compared to the $800 Series3 HD—and TiVo’s well-regarded functionality is typically better than anything cable companies have to offer—at least until TiVo’s partnership with Comcast bears fruit.

The TiVo HD should be available in early August at a suggested price of $299.99 from a broad selection of online and brick-and-mortar retailers.

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