Comcast + TiVo: Act III

I end my Comcast + TiVo experiment and return to my previous Comcast DVR service.

Matt Elliott Senior Editor
Matt Elliott is a senior editor at CNET with a focus on laptops and streaming services. Matt has more than 20 years of experience testing and reviewing laptops. He has worked for CNET in New York and San Francisco and now lives in New Hampshire. When he's not writing about laptops, Matt likes to play and watch sports. He loves to play tennis and hates the number of streaming services he has to subscribe to in order to watch the various sports he wants to watch.
Expertise Laptops, desktops, all-in-one PCs, streaming devices, streaming platforms
Matt Elliott
3 min read
I never thought I'd be so happy to see Comcast's second-rate DVR interface. Matthew Elliott/CBS Interactive

If you'll indulge me, let me share with you the final chapter in my Comcast + TiVo tale. The latest glitch with the service has proven to be the final straw. Succumbing to mounting pressure from my wife, yesterday I canceled the service that put TiVo's software on a Comcast cable box. After a slow start and troubling summer, our long regional nightmare is over.

Because I was curious to try TiVo service outside a TiVo-branded box and wasn't all that enamored with Comcast's regular DVR service in the first place, I signed us up for the service nearly five months ago. After struggling with the service all summer, I almost threw in the towel last month but then it suddenly improved. TiVo's refusals to display live TV or record a show became less frequent, and the service seemed to speed up to where the lags in bringing up the guide, changing the channel, or initiating a recording were nearly tolerable. Toward the end of last week, however, we found ourselves locked out of the On Demand service and without the ability to record anything. I called Comcast and discovered that this was a problem with its TiVo service only. Before hanging up the phone, I scheduled a service call to return me to the old Comcast DVR service.

A technician came out yesterday afternoon, and he was hardly surprised with my decision. He shared my opinion that Comcast's TiVo service was underwhelming and problematic. After 45 minutes, he had swapped cable boxes and had me up and running once again with Comcast DVR service.

My two biggest gripes with the Comcast + TiVo service were its speed and reliability. Setting a recording took anywhere from 20 seconds to over a minute. With Comcast DVR, a recording is set almost instantaneously. Service reliability was the bigger issue; TiVo would regularly freeze up and required to be reset--a process that required me to pull the cable box out, unplug it, plug it back in, and wait 10 to 15 minutes for the service to return--and then re-enter the 30-second skip code for the remote. Other than encouraging me to read more, the only advantages I found with TiVo were its suggested recordings, its ad-free channel guide, and a better organized list of recorded shows, which grouped multiple recordings of a show and all HD recordings into folders.

In the end, I came to view TiVo as Floyd from True Romance (but without any of Floyd's honey-bear benefits). TiVo was always in the living room, and while it was always happy to share its oddball suggestions of shows it thought I'd like, it would frequently forget to record a show while I was out after it promised me it would. Often times, it felt like TiVo had lost the remote, preventing me from even turning on the TV. It got to a point where I told Floyd he better start looking for his own place.

Despite its rather unattractive interface that shows an ad at the bottom of the channel guide and only four channels per screen, I'm happy to have returned to plain, old Comcast DVR service. I'm shocked at how responsive it feels, and I'm sure it won't be long before I relearn to ignore the ad at the bottom of the guide.