It's been 10 years since Sarah Jessica Parker gushed about TiVo on daytime TV, and since then the set-top box has steadily given ground to cable and satellite DVRs in the US and failed to catch on in other countries. TiVo is still well-known as a premium DVR with an iconic menu design. However, Best Buy tries to borrow some of that lustre with its Insignia Connected TVs that license the TiVo interface.
Notice the key word here is "interface" and not "functionality," and herein lie the Connected TV's problems. It doesn't operate like a TiVo--it just looks like one. There's no DVR inside and only a small number of TiVo's multitude of streaming services. Meanwhile the picture quality is mediocre, with decent black levels for the price tempered by poor color reproduction and backlight issues. If you're in the market for a smart TV, look around the floor of the electronics retailer, and for the same price or a bit more you'll find superior performance and features from the likes of LG and Samsung.
Series information: We performed a hands-on evaluation of the 42-inch Insignia Connected TV 42E859A11, but this review also applies to the other screen size in the series. Both have nearly identical specs and according to the manufacturer should provide very similar picture quality.
|Models in series ()|
|Insignia Connected TV NS-32E859A11||32 inches|
|Panel depth||2 inches||Bezel width||1.5 inches|
|Single-plane face||No||Swivel stand||Yes|
The Insignia Connected TV has a plastic construction that mimics some of the cheaper LGs or Samsungs on the market--it's black and it's glossy. The TV is an edge-lit model but still reasonably chunky in profile. The Insignia's stand is also piano black and held on by a cylindrical pedestal that swivels for better viewing angles.
|Remote control and menus|
|Remote size (LxW)||8.5 x 1.5 inches||QWERTY keyboard||No|
|Illuminated keys||Yes||IR device control||Yes|
|Menu item explanations||Yes||Onscreen manual||Yes|
|Other: RF remote|
The backlit remote is a unique element of this package. It's not only infrared but also RF, based on Z-wave technology, and it lets users control the TV without needing line of sight. The remote is ergonomic and, while not as friendly as the original "peanut," it should still be familiar to TiVo fans. Familiar but also tantalizingly inadequate. Though it features the patented "thumbs up/down" buttons, they don't work and the large DVR button does nothing.
However, the remote can also be programmed via the TV's onscreen user interface to control up to three other devices in the home via infra-red. The system includes what appears to be a comprehensive database of devices, and the remote was able to recognize and control our DirecTV box.
The TiVo interface should be familiar to fans and non-fans alike. While similar at first glance, the menu system lacks the pizzazz of a true TiVo and can be frustrating to navigate at times, timing out too quickly and dumping you out of submenus. We were also annoyed that the famous TiVo program guide didn't work with broadcast TV.
|Key TV features|
|Display technology||LCD||LED backlight||Edge-lit|
|3D technology||N/A||3D glasses included||N/A|
|Screen finish||Matte||Internet connection||Built-in Wi-Fi|
|Refresh rate(s)||120Hz||Dejudder (smooth) processing||Yes|
Interface aside, the Insignia is a pretty standard Internet-compatible TV. Although it's missing media access via DLNA and USB, the built-in Wi-Fi is an extra not found on all competitors' models.
|Streaming and apps|
|Amazon Instant||No||Hulu Plus||No|
|Other: Chumby apps; Insignia on Demand|
While the Insignia company touted the Tivo involvement quite heavily at the, Best Buy seems to have backed off a little and barely mentions it on the product page at bestbuy.com--instead opting for the fresher "Smart TV" moniker. The TiVo interface brings with it some "smart" streaming functionality and search capabilities, but the selection pales compared to a real TiVo DVR or .
Search is tied to the Insignia on Demand service and really is designed to push its (expensive) downloads rather than to let customers search off-the-air programs, YouTube, or Netflix.
The TV uses apps adapted from the Chumby system with Facebook, Twitter, Reuters, Accuweather, and a decent array of further apps is available. Unfortunately the process to add new apps is labored and involves signing up and downloading them via a PC. TVs from other manufacturers make this process simpler with downloads available from the TV itself.