TiVo Roamio DVR and Streaming Media Player Review

TiVo Roamio Digital Video Recorder and Streaming Media Player TCD846500TiVo has become synonymous with digitally recording TV programs. TiVo has switched from being a name to being an action. An action that is more than recording TV programs. TiVo has become an experience.

It’s time now to experience the  newest TiVo, the TiVo Roamio HD DVR and Streaming Media Player model TCD846500. While this may be the base model in the TiVo Roamio 5th generation series of TiVo DVRs, it has many features that make it one of the best TiVo models ever built. Let’s review them and you can see why.

Multiple Digital Tuners

Definitely one of the best features of the TiVo Roamio is the ability to record, view, or stream up to four TV broadcasts at once. TiVo accomplishes this with four (4) independent tuners. Most cable TV DVRs and consumer DVRs on the market have 1 or 2 tuners. It’s also important to note that this model does not support streaming right out of the box.

The TiVo Roamio’s tuners can receive either digital cable TV broadcasts (QAM) or digital antenna broadcasts (ATSC). Analog signals are not supported. For the less tech savvy among us; QAM is the format the cable companies use to encode and transmit digital television channels and ATSC is the format used to transmit digital television channels over the airwaves.

In order to receive digital antenna broadcasts, you will need an HD digital antenna. Don’t rush out and buy a new HD digital antenna right away if you already have an antenna on the roof or in the attic. If that antenna worked for analog VHF and UHF channels, there’s a good chance it will work on the TiVo. Digital TV signals use the same frequencies used by the old analog TV broadcasts. This means an analog signal and a digital signal can be received by the same antenna. There are old antennas from the 1970’s that have no problems receiving HD digital TV broadcasts.

It is important to note, the more expensive TiVo Roamio models, the Plus and the Pro, cannot receive ATSC signals and MUST be used with cable TV. So if your goal is to cut the cable bill as much as possible, stick with the basic TiVo Roamio. Or if you live where cable or Verizon FIOS is not an option, you have to go with the base model TiVo Roamio reviewed here. Verizon FIOS is a telephone company fiber optic based service which bundles Internet, telephone, and television.

All three TiVo Roamio models can also record from cable as well. In order to record encrypted cable channels and clear QAM channels (unencrypted digital TV channels), you will need a multi-stream CableCard decoder (M-card) from your cable provider. If you remember the old PC Cards used in laptop computers years ago; these cards are very similar.

This CableCard has to be an M-card to allow multiple tuners to access it. The older single access S-Card CableCards will not work. Contact your cable company to see if they support the M-card standard and how much they will charge you for a card. Sometimes the first CableCard is free. By law, your cable company has to provide a CableCard but they are also allowed to charge you money for it. Fees vary widely around the country from $0 to $10 with an average of $2 to $4.

Wondering if the TiVo Roamio HD Digital Video Recorder and Streaming Media Player (TCD846500)
can hook up to both an antenna and cable? The answer is no. You either connect the cable TV coax cable or an HD antenna to the single F-type female coax connector on the back of the machine. Plus during the setup process, you must select cable or antenna. The integrated program guide will download TV listings customized to your local channel lineup based on that setting. This isn’t a setting you will want to change very often.

As mentioned earlier, the TiVo Roamio is also compatible with Verizon FIOS since their set top boxes operate very similarly to cable TV set top boxes through the use of QAM TV tuners. Contact Verizon for M-Card pricing and availability.

Unfortunately, satellite and AT&T U-verse are not compatible. TiVo has a partnership in place with DirectTV and some cable operators. So check with your cable company or DirectTV to see if TiVo is an option.

As previously mentioned, analog broadcasts are not support by any of the TiVo Roamio models. Many customers want to connect their cable box to the TiVo to record Pay Per View or On-Demand content. Since the TiVo does not support analog signals and has no other video inputs, this is not possible. I’m sure TiVo purposely designed their machines this way to prevent unauthorized copying of movies and other digital programming.

TiVo Roamio TCD846500 Recording Capacity

Of course, one of the main reasons for buying a TiVo is so you can record TV shows. The basic TiVo Roamio can record and store 75 hours of HD video or 500 hours of standard definition video. While this may seem like a lot of room, it doesn’t take long to fill up the space especially with HD recordings. The storage space can be expanded by adding an external portable hard drive. The external drive should be equipped with a eSATA connector that plugs into the back of the TiVo Roamio. Adding a 1 TB hard drive for example, would provide an additional 150 hours of HD video recording or 1,000 hours of standard definition video storage.

TiVo Roamio DVR TCD846500 Rear PanelAudio/Video Outputs

In addition to the F-type coax connector and eSATA port on the back of the TiVo Roamio, there is also an HDMI connection for transmitting HD television signals to your television set. Unfortunately TiVo does not include the HDMI cable. So make sure your pick one up before you’re ready to setup your TiVo.

If your television does not have HDMI and does not support wireless networking connections, you will need to purchase the TiVo composite A/V cable. This cable connects to the TiVo Roamio A/V output which supplies stereo audio and composite video through one connector. The other end of the cable has the familiar yellow, red, and white RCA-type plugs that go into your TV. The TiVo base model does not support component video (red, green, blue plugs). This type of video is supported by the Plus and Pro models only.

Network Connections

Also on the back panel is a 10/100 Ethernet RJ-45 port for connecting directly into your broadband router. This method of connecting to your local home network is recommended if you will be connecting any TiVo Mini devices to other TV sets in the house or streaming video to an iPad or iPhone.

It’s also important to note that this model does not support streaming right out of the box. You will need the TiVo Stream in order to stream video to an iPad or iPhone. Android devices are not support yet. And only one device at a time can connect to the TiVo for out of home streaming.

Unlike previous TiVo DVRs, the TiVo Roamio has built-in wireless N networking (802.11n) which can be used to receive program guide updates and system software updates from TiVo. Wireless networking will not work as well as wired networking for streaming video to other devices. You may be able to stream one recording at a time at best. You will need to maintain at least a 100 MB/sec wireless connection for high quality wireless video streaming.

The TiVo can send live and recorded content over your home network to other TV’s in the home through the use of the TiVo Mini. Each TV you wish to connect to the TiVo must have it’s own TiVo Mini unit. TiVo Stream is not required for this feature but a wired network connection is needed between the TiVo Roamio and your home network. This model of the TiVo Roamio only has the option of connecting to your home network through the Ethernet Port. MoCA networking is not supported without the use of an additional adapter. MoCA is a way of providing network access to your whole house over the cable TV coax cable and is built-in on the Plus and Pro models only.

Above all, a broadband Internet connection is essential to making the TiVo work. Without the Internet connection, the Roamio cannot connect to TiVo and will not function. The TiVo program guide is an integral part of all TiVo’s and must be updated constantly. Gone are the days when you could program a DVR to record your favorite shows like you did with your old VCR.

While a broadband connection is an absolute must-have for owning a TiVo, there is an additional consideration that must be addressed. Almost all broadband providers have placed a limit on how much bandwidth (data transferred to you) you can use each month. For example, Comcast allows up to 300 GB of data transfer per month on most of their Internet packages.

Once this limit is reached, Comcast may limit your account or charge an additional fees. For example, for each 50 GB of data used over the 300 GB data limit, Comcast will charge an additional $10. This plan is not currently active in all Comcast markets however. Most Comcast customers are being monitored but the limit is currently not being enforced. Almost all providers won’t just cut you off or charge you extra the first month you exceed the data cap. You will receive a friendly reminder that you have exceeded your allotted data for the month.

The amount of data the TiVo will download on its own is negligible. Significant amounts of data can be used through video streaming services however. With all streaming sources in one convenient place, it is very likely most customers will consume more data per month. You will need to monitor your data usage for a while to see how your TiVo has impacted your Internet account. You may find it necessary to curb your movie watching at some point to reduce the amount of data you receive. Netflix is one company that allows you to dial back the video quality of TV shows and movies to save on the amount of data you consume from them. Pandora also allows the user to select a lesser quality audio in order to save on data transfer. Other services may very well do the same.

TiVo Subscription Required

In order to receive program and software updates, you must have an active TiVo subscription; without it, the TiVo will not function at all. A subscription costs $14.99 per month with a one-year commitment. If you cancel within 30 days, your commitment is voided. Cancel anytime after 30 days and you will owe a $75 early termination fee. Once the one-year commitment is complete, you will continue to be billed $14.99 per month but you can cancel at any time. But remember, once you cancel, the TiVo won’t work.

TiVo also offers a lifetime subscription for the one time fee of $499.99 – that’s a about 33 months worth of service. So you will definitely save money with the lifetime subscription if you plan to use the TiVo for 3 years or more. And you probably will be using your TiVo for many years to come. But forewarned, once your TiVo is out of warranty and it fails, the lifetime subscription will not transfer to a new TiVo model. If you want to upgrade to a newer TiVo in years to come, the lifetime subscription does not transfer. Lifetime means the life of the TiVo unit itself. Lifetime servie can be transferred to another owner if you decide to gift or sell your TiVo.

Also for households with more than one TiVo, there are discounts for additional DVRs. TiVo charges $12.99 for each additional DVR per month or $399.99 for a lifetime subscription for each additional DVR.

Included Apps and Services

One of the design features of the TiVo Roamio is to put all your entertainment in one place. Now there is no need to switch between TV, DVR, streaming video player, and music player. It’s now all in one place on the TiVo Roamio.New TiVo Roamio DVR User Interface

All your favorite streaming apps are included. Those apps are NetFlix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, MLB.tv Premium, Spotify, AOL On, YouTube, and Pandora. Most of these streaming services require a paid subscription in order to access their content. Pandora, YouTube, and AOL On are free but the others require you to pay a separate monthly fee as they are not part of your TiVo subscription. Well, Amazon Instant Video is free to access but you have to pay for the movies and TV shows you view.

If you’re an Amazon Prime member, TiVo does not support Amazon Prime Video service. You will only have access to videos you have purchased through your Instant Video account. This is an area of confusion and disappointment among many Amazon Prime members when they are considering the TivO Roamio.

Also in some Comcast cable markets across the country, Xfinity! On Demand will work through your TiVo. You can contact Comcast to see if the Xfinity! On Demand service will work on your TiVo.

TiVo Roamio TCD846500 Features

One thing’s for sure, the TiVo Roamio HD Digital Video Recorder and Streaming Media Player (TCD846500)
isn’t short on features. It’s literally hard to know where to start when describing all that’s available. Probably the best place to start is with the the UI (user interface). This is the all new UI found on no other TiVo. It’s much more responsive when you press keys on the remote. It’s sleek, intuitive, and puts all your TV and streaming apps all on one menu.

TiVo has introduced a new search function. Not only does the search look through all TV listings but it now searches all Internet based content as well. So when you look up your favorite TV show, the Roamio looks at TV listing, Netflix, Hulu Plus, YouTube, Amazon, etc. And you have the ability to change the services that search accesses. Don’t want to check on Youtube, just remove it from the search bar.

With four tuners it’s possible to record up to four shows simultaneously. While those shows are recordings, you are able to watch previously recorded content or streamed content. If you want to watch live TV, you can but then you can only record three shows at the same time.

Also as discussed previously, Live TV and recorded content can be sent to other TV sets around the home. Add the TiVo Mini to any television set and have access to the TiVo Roamio from that TV set. Whatever you can do from the TiVo you can do from the TV equipped with the Mini. Of course, any TiVo Mini that watches live TV will require one of the tuners which reduces the overall number of tuner available for live TV and recordings.

Stream Live TV and Recorded Content To iPad or iPhoneAlso with the TiVo Stream added, you can watch live TV or a recoding on any iPad or iPhone away from home. Plus download videos to iPad or iPhone for later viewing when wifi or cell service will be spotty or unavailable. Another good strategy is to download your video while you have WiFi access to your device so you won’t have to use your cell phone data plan later.

TiVo Stream cannot be used to transfer video from the TiVo to a laptop or desktop computer. Instead, you can download and install software that allows you to transfer videos over your wireless network from the TiVo to your computer. TV Stream is not required for this transfer.

Pros

  • 4 TV tuners
  • Re-designed, responsive user interface
  • Combined TV and Internet search
  • Ability to stream live TV and recorded video
  • Built-in streaming apps
  • Built-in wireless networking
  • Expandable storage without opening the Roamio
  • Batteries for remote included
  • Easy activation over the phone or over the Internet

Cons

  • Does not function without subscription or Internet connection
  • Monthly subscription with one year commitment
  • $75 early termination fee if service is canceled after 30 days and before 12 months
  • Lifetime subscription won’t transfer to any other TiVo
  • Does not support AT&T U-vers or satellite
  • Cannot receive analog broadcast signals
  • No HDMI or A/V cables included
  • Some recorded content cannot be streamed or downloaded due to copy protection
  • Streaming live TV and recorded content requires extra equipment purchase
  • Remote control locator button not included on base model

What’s In The Box?TiVo Roamio TCD846500 Contents Of Box

The TiVo Roamio doesn’t come with very much inside the box. Inside the box you will find the TiVo Roamio TCD846500, remote control unit, batteries, A/C power adapter, and the “Get Started” guide.

Dimensions

  • Width:  14 inches
  • Height:  1.8 inches
  • Depth:  7.4 inches
  • Weight:  3.6 pounds

Consumer Reviews of the TiVo Roamio TCD846500

The TiVo Roamio TCD846500 has received a very high number of 4- and 5-star reviews online — about 85% in fact. Most consumers have commented on how much they like the new, updated user interfaces and the ability to watch live TV, recorded broadcasts, and streaming content all from one machine. The biggest complaint about the TCD846500 is the one-year commitment to a monthly subscription fee. Also there seems to be a bunch of customers complaining about poor WiFi reception. Unfortunately many factors can effect WiFi connections and the TiVo Roamio may have nothing to do with the problem.

Price

The TiVo Roamio DVR and Streaming Media Player TCD846500 is the least expensive DVR out of the TiVo Roamio lineup at a retail price of $199.99 direct from TiVo.com. But Amazon currently sells it for about $145. The TiVo Roamio TCD846500 is about $200 less than the TiVo Roamio Plus and about $400 less than the Pro model. But it has the unique feature of allowing connection to a HD antenna instead of digital cable. It’s small, sleek, stylish, and lightweight compared to other TiVo players which makes it fit into smaller spaces much more easily.

This is the perfect DVR for someone wanting to cut the cable cord or for someone who doesn’t have the option of cable or Verizon FIOS. Anyone who doesn’t record and store a lot of HD programming should find the 75 hour HD storage plenty roomy enough. Even more storage is available if only standard definition broadcasts are recorded and stored.

Cutting the Cord with Your TiVo Roamio TCD846500

The base model Tivo Roamio, model TCD846500, is the only TiVo Roamio which can give you the chance to reduce your cable bill or sever the cable altogether. Cutting the cord is often a means of saving money while making acceptable sacrifices. Before you decide to end your relationship with the cable company, you need to consider several things.

Once on just an HD digital antenna, you will be limited to the basic broadcast networks on TV — that’s ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, and PBS. Your local channels may also  have more variety such as MeTV, RetroTV, CW Network, music videos, etc. There will be no ESPN, Fox News, CNN, USA Network, FoodTV, HGTV, HBO, Showtime, etc.

What you need to examine is which stations are available in your area and which ones can you actually receive over the air? A good place to see what’s available over the air in your locale is Antenna Web. Also, which content can you live without? Which TV shows can be streamed through Netflix, Hulu Plus or Amazon Instant Video or viewed online on your PC?

What is the cost of the additional equipment you need to purchase upfront when you cut the cable? For instance, each TV in the house will need the TiVo Mini if you want to access the TiVo from that set. Plus consider the TiVo itself, the cost of the monthly subscription, and additional subscription fees for each TV Mini you own. Monthly subscriptions for the TiVo Mini are $5.99 each or lifetime for $149.99 each. The TiVo Mini retails for $99.99 direct from TiVo.com but is usually about $20 cheaper on Amazon and other online shopping sites.

Here is an example of a household serviced by Comcast cable with one TV with an HD DVR and another TV with a HD set top box. Compare the Comcast bill to the TiVo bill to help you see if cutting the cord would be a good idea for you. The chart shows prices and does not include taxes, franchise fees, etc.

 Comcast
Digital Starter
TiVo with
HD Antenna
TiVo with
Cable Card
Totals$96.85$20.98$94.99
Subscription$68.95$14.99$83.94
DVR Service$8.00$0.00$0.00
HD Technology Fee$9.95$0.00$9.95
Additional Outlet$9.95$5.99$0.00
CableCard$0.00$0.00$1.10
Basic ChannelsYesMaybeYes
Extended ChannelsYesNoYes
Premium ChannelsYesNoYes

You also will need to consider some other facts. Removing cable from your life may seem simple; but what if your cable provider is your Internet provider as well? For Comcast customers, Internet is $15 more per month if there is no active TV subscription at the service address. Interestingly enough, Comcast’s basic cable TV package is $14.95. Unless you like paying extra for nothing, I bet most people would opt to keep at least basic cable TV service.

Also some bundled services may come undone if you remove cable TV from the mix. You will need to carefully review the cost increase of these services, such as Internet and phone, before making the leap and severing the cable cord. Many people have cancelled their cable service and have never looked back. Others were sorry they ever did it. Of course, if you wait long enough, you can signup as new customer and get some awesome savings for a while.

The Bottom Line

Overall I find the TiVo Roamio TCD846500 a very good DVR with many, many useful features. This is an excellent choice if you want to rid yourself of cable altogether or cable isn’t currently an option since it is the only TiVo Roamio model which receives HD digital antenna TV broadcasts over the air.

Also if the smaller storage capacity isn’t an issue at the moment, this could be the best unit for you. And remember the storage can always be expanded by adding a eSATA potable hard drive at any time.

If the above two factors are not a problem for you, the only last consideration is the addition of the TV Stream. If you don’t plan to stream video to your iPad or iPhone, this definitely is the TiVo Roamio you want. If streaming to devices outside your home is something you want to do, then the $129 TiVo Stream is necessary. But even if you add on the TiVo Stream, this unit can still be your best option as long as the storage capacity and HD digital antenna reception are features you like.

TiVo Roamio TCD846500 ReviewI would only go to a more expensive TiVo Roamio for a few reasons. The more expensive models have much more built-in storage capacity, built-in TiVo Stream, and component video output. And of course, they lack ATSC broadcast reception.

If you want more storage and streaming capabilities, then the TiVo Roamio Plus or Pro is the better solution. Or if you need the component video output, the Plus or Pro is the model for you. But if you don’t need both the greater storage and the streaming or the component video output, the TiVo Roamio TCD846500 is definitely the way to go.

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