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TiVo supercharges high-def DVRs with latest software upgrade

External storage option, TiVo To Go, and Multi-Room Viewing are finally on deck for HD TiVo models, along with progressive downloading of Amazon Unbox downloads.

TiVo To Go screenshot
TiVo To Go: Just one of several features coming to HD TiVos

TiVo is finally delivering some long-promised features to its two high-def models. In the coming weeks, the company will roll out software updates to the TiVo Series3 and TiVo HD that will add support for expandable storage, Multi-Room Viewing, TiVo To Go, and progressive downloading of Amazon Unbox and TiVoCast videos. Full details on each, after the jump:

  • Expandable storage: Unlike Series2 models, the Series3 and TiVo HD have an eSATA port on the rear that's long been reserved "for future activation." As previously reported, that port becomes active as of the 9.2 software rollout. The catch is that only one drive is verified to be compatible: the new Western Digital "My DVR Expander" drive, which is essentially just a repurposed version of the storage company's MyBook external hard drive. (News of the TiVo-blessed WD drive had, of course, leaked out in the days leading up to the official announcement.) The 500GB Expander is available for $200, and will add up to 60 hours of HD or 300 hours of standard-definition video capacity to either TiVo model. Whether other eSATA drives will be unofficially supported (as they currently are via a well-known hack) will be seen in coming days.
  • Multi-Room Viewing: The forthcoming software update will add Multi-Room Viewing to the Series3 and HD, which lets users stream recorded programs from one TiVo to another on their home network. (The feature has been standard on Series2 models for years.) MRV functionality will allow transfer of standard and high-def content between multiple Series3 and TiVo HD models in a household, as well as standard-def recordings to other Series2 models.
  • TiVo To Go: As with Multi-Room Viewing, the absence of TiVo To Go was an annoying absence on high-def TiVos. But no more. "TTG," as TiVo fans call it, allows for the transfer of recorded shows to networked PCs or laptops for remote viewing, burning to DVD, or (after a lengthy conversion process) transfer to a variety of portable devices. (Check out Crave's earlier hands-on testing of TTG on a Series2 model.)
  • Progressive downloading: Previously, videos from Amazon Unbox and TiVoCast had to be fully downloaded before viewing could begin. Progressive downloading provides more of a YouTube-style experience, allowing you to begin watching it when enough of the video has been buffered. TiVo says that those with high-speed connections (where download speed exceeds playback speed) could begin watching immediately. While TiVoCasts and Amazon Unbox downloads remain offered on Series2 models, the progressive download feature will only be enabled on Series3 and TiVo HD models. (Note: CNET is a content provider for TiVoCast.)

CNET will upgrade its reviews of the Series3 and TiVo HD once we've had a chance to do some hands-on testing of all these new features. In the meantime, high-def TiVo owners can finally rest easy that they'll no longer be playing second fiddle to their standard-def counterparts.