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TiVo Bolt Vox is a voice-controlled 4K DVR starting at $200

A new remote combined with excellent unified search lets you find anything you want to watch -- just ask.

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The TiVo Bolt Vox's new voice remote is the star attraction. 

Josh Goldman/CNET

With the Bolt Vox, TiVo finally adds voice controls to its entertainment experience, joining Roku, Apple, Amazon, Google and Comcast Xfinity

The company's latest series of 4K-resolution DVR and streaming media boxes combine all the features of the current Bolt models with a new voice remote control and next-gen user experience. In fact, TiVo says the Bolt Vox has the same hardware inside as the current Bolt and Bolt+ and they look the same on the outside, too.

The Bolt Vox starts at $200 for a four-tuner, 500GB model that can be used with digital cable or over-the-air (antenna) programming. This is also available with 1TB of storage for up to 150 hours of HD programming. A 450-hour (3TB) version with six integrated tuners is available as well for use only with digital cable systems. A new $180 TiVo Mini Vox lets you extend your service to other TVs on your network. All but the Mini require a service package that costs $15 a month (with a year commitment), $150 a year or $550 for all-in service good for the life of the device.

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The TiVo Bolt Vox starts at $200.

Josh Goldman/CNET

Owners of the TiVo Bolt and Bolt+, and the TiVo Roamio OTA, Pro and Plus, will be able to use the new voice features, too, once you update to the new interface. Then you just need to buy the new controller, which is $40 for the Bolt and $45 for the Roamio products and first-gen TiVo Mini (the extra charge is for a separate Bluetooth adapter).

A more personal search

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The new TiVo interface trades text for bigger art.

Josh Goldman/CNET

The new remote keeps TiVo's excellent peanut-shaped design, but adds three new buttons: Netflix, Skip (for TiVo's SkipMode for jumping over commercial breaks) and a big blue mic button to press for voice commands. TiVo's unified search is one of its DVR's key advantages, allowing you to find what you want to watch whether it's on live TV, recorded on the DVR or available on video-on-demand and online streaming services. With the addition of voice, it just makes drilling down to get the results you want that much faster.

For example, you can say, "Show me action movies with Bruce Willis on Netflix" and you'll get them in a nice row along the bottom of the screen with large poster art. You can also do searches such as, "Show me movies with Keira Knightley" and then narrow it with "Only the comedies."

Right now, most of the commands are search-related, but there are a couple of navigations mixed in. It very much feels like a work in progress, though, which it is.

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The new voice search lets you quickly drill down to find what you want to watch. 

Josh Goldman/CNET

What worked

  • "Home" or "Go home" returns to the home screen.
  • "Create a OnePass for _____" sets up a OnePass collection for a show. OnePass puts all episodes of a show into a single folder, whether it's recorded, available for streaming or purchase, or both.
  • "My shows" takes you to your OnePass/recordings.
  • "Turn on _____" or "Go to _____" can be used to change channels.
  • "Watch the last episode of _____" brings you to the last aired episode of a show (even if it's not on the air anymore).
  • "Launch Netflix" and "Launch Hulu" launches those apps.
  • "Watch 'The Walking Dead' season seven episode 10" takes you to that specific episode and shows you what services from which it's available. This works for original content on streaming services, too.
  • "Find Jeff Bridges" and "Find Julianne Moore" pulled up lists of movies with the actors. You can then narrow the results by genre or even movie quote. "The dude abides," for example, brings you to "The Big Lebowski".
  • "Movies about dogs" brings up movies and shows with "dogs" in the title. That means "Reservoir Dogs" appears next to "All Dogs go to Heaven" in the results. You can then say, "Only for kids" and get just the results appropriate for children.

What didn't work

  • Basically any playback controls, so no "Pause," "Stop," "Play," "Rewind" and "Fast-forward," which makes sense since you're holding the remote control. Oddly, though, you can say "Skip it" to jump a commercial break in a supported show.
  • "Restart" or "Watch from the beginning."
  • Although you can launch any single app, you can't say "Go to apps" to see all your available services.
  • Search within apps. For example, once you're in Netflix, you can't say "Stranger Things" or "Show me comedies."
  • Search for YouTube content from within the TiVo interface.
  • Text input for search or passwords.
  • "Watch Monday Night Football" or "Turn on the New York Rangers game" brings you to a screen to set up a OnePass recording despite both being on live TV at the time I tested.

Greater access to everything

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TiVo's new QuickView lets you easily see and switch to what's on your other tuners. 

Josh Goldman/CNET

The voice controls are the big addition, but TiVo has completely overhauled the user experience, too. For longtime TiVo owners, the changes will take some adjustment, especially fans of TiVo's Live Guide, which is officially dead in favor of the more familiar grid-style guide everyone else uses.

The interface does have a more modern feel, though, with large poster art, station and sports team logos and better organization. And for those of you who are never really satisfied with what you're watching, a new QuickView feature gives you access to other content without leaving what's currently on screen. Press right on the directional and a drawer slides out showing you what's on your other tuners including those tied up by a TiVo Mini elsewhere in your house.

Press down on the directional and you get the new SmartBar that shows you recent recordings and makes suggestions for shows to watch that are currently on. Press left and you can scroll through your favorite channels and tap up and you get a one-line channel guide.

There are many other changes and I'm just getting started with testing. Check back for a full review soon.