TiVo has announced the Series2 DT digital video recorder, scheduled to be available on May 1. The company sent us one of the units last week, and you can find our in-depth, hands-on review here.
The new TiVo--which had been rumored for weeks, thanks to an early appearance on Amazon.com--is a slight upgrade to the company's aging Series2 platform. It adds dual-tuner support (thus the DT in the name), but it remains incapable of recording high-definition channels. On the surface, the dual-tuner function would seem to correct a big shortcoming of the Series2: previous models were unable to record two channels simultaneously, something that most run-of-the-mill satellite and cable DVRs can handle easily. But there's a significant catch: the second tuner is limited to an analog cable RF stream that plugs directly into the box. Effectively, that means that while the primary tuner can record just about anything from a digital cable box to a satellite box, the usefulness of the second tuner is strictly governed by your cable company's analog lineup. The only other new feature on the DT is that it includes a built-in Ethernet port; a USB networking adapter is no longer required, but you'll need to make your own arrangements, such as adding an Ethernet-to-power-line adapter, an Ethernet-to-wireless bridge, or TiVo's own Wireless G USB Adapter, if you want to connect the TiVo to your Wi-Fi network.
TiVo has long had all the basics covered when it comes to finding, choosing, and recording your favorite shows. But the competition has made some impressive strides, leaving the one-time king of the DVR hill in a more precarious position than ever. TiVo's top-notch interface, ease of use, compatibility with virtually all TV sources, and cool networking features continue to separate it from the pack. But the dearth of true dual-tuner capability and HD compatibility will be deal-killers for many. In the final analysis, it comes down to how you receive your TV programming and what your priorities are. For anyone with satellite TV (Dish Network or DirecTV) or HDTV, the TiVo Series2 DT is a hard sell. For those who can forgo TiVo's network and Internet features,bests TiVo on nearly all counts, while DirecTV customers can still opt for or models that offer full-function dual tuners. And anyone who has an HDTV--or is planning to get one in the next year or two--will find the TiVo DT's lack of high-def compatibility unacceptable compared to HD offerings from their local cable companies or to the aforementioned HD satellite models.
The TiVo Series2 DT is worthy of consideration if you don't need to watch or record two digital cable channels simultaneously, are in no rush to upgrade to HD, value ease of use above picture quality, or really enjoy the flexibility of having some useful and worthwhile home network and Internet features accessible on your TV. That said, anyone with Comcast cable may want to hold off--TiVo is working with the cable provider to provide the TiVo experience to Comcast customers through their existing, third-party DVR hardware. Last we heard, this upgrade is still scheduled to be made available before the end of 2006. The same goes for the TiVo Series 3--that product, a next-generation stand-alone model that's said to support dual HD/digital tuners, is also supposed to be released by the end of the year.Note: This entry originally indicated that the TiVo Series2 DT was available today. It has since been changed to indicate the correct release date of May 1, 2006.