TiVo's two latest Series4 DVRs, the Premiere and the Premiere XL, have two major advantages over the generic DVRs that customers can get from their cable company: an excellent database of upcoming TV listings and tight integration with online video services (Netflix, Amazon, Blockbuster, and a wide range of free video podcasts). However, to maximize both of those features, you're often stuck using a somewhat cramped onscreen keyboard that you control with the remote's five-way directional pad. It works well enough, but it's slow and cumbersome to use.
That's where the new TiVo Slide remote comes in. As the name suggests, you can slide the face of the remote control to reveal a full QWERTY keyboard complete with five-way d-pad and even a full numeric keyboard. So, whenever you need to do text entry--inputting text for a search, typing in a podcast URL, and so forth--you just flip the remote on its side, slide open the keyboard, and start typing away, smartphone-style.
In designing the Slide remote, TiVo started with the current iteration of its own excellent "peanut" remote that ships with the TiVo Premiere models. The TiVo engineers shrunk it down from 8 inches long to 6 inches, but it retains every key. While it's a tad more cramped--the volume/channel rockers are curved around the circular d-pad and the four alphabet shortcut keys are perhaps slightly too close to the 12-digit numeric keypad--overall it feels good in the hand. In fact, those with short fingers or small hands may prefer the feel of the Slide since the thumb can more easily sweep a larger portion of the front face.
Typing on the Slide is, unsurprisingly, similar to doing so on any landscape slider phones, such as the Verizon Droid 2 or Sprint Epic 4G. If you're a frequent texter or mobile e-mailer, you'll take to it like a duck to water; but even if you're not, you'll get the hang of things in a few short minutes. The rounded buttons are tiny, but they're spaced just far enough apart to avoid mashing multiple keys at once (even for larger thumbs).
In fact, the four-line keyboard is more spacious than many cell phones, and the remote's curved back makes it easy to hold while typing. To the left of the QWERTY alphabetical keyboard is a second 5-way directional pad (for navigating menus while the remote is pulled open) and to the right is a full digit numeric keypad. Shift (caps), clear, and enter buttons are present, as is a symbol toggle.
TiVo's not the first home AV product with a QWERTY remote--Vizio blazed this trail with the remotes for its App-enabled Internet-connected TVs, such as the 2XVT series. While the Vizio remote has a cheap feel to it, the TiVo Slide is exactly the opposite: it feels solid and substantive. The slide out keyboard is spring-assisted, so it snaps open and shut with a satisfying click. And the keyboard keys are hard plastic, not mushy rubber--BlackBerry owners will feel right at home.