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TiVo unveils Series4 'Premiere' DVRs with enhanced online integration

The TiVo Premiere and TiVo Premiere XL blur the distinction between TV and online video content.

Now playing: Watch this: TiVo Premiere (Series4)

NEW YORK--TiVo on Tuesday officially announced two new DVRs that offer an updated user interface and enhanced integration and search capabilities for online video. The TiVo Premiere and TiVo Premiere XL models will cost $300 and $500, respectively, when they ship in April; like all previous TiVo models, they'll also require a monthly, yearly, or lifetime service fee as well.

The new Premiere models, details of which had been rumored and leaked in previous weeks, are the first Series4 models from the DVR manufacturer. The fourth-generation products boast an updated interface and feature set.

The highlights:

Tight integration of TV and Web-based video content: An upgraded search function now ropes in results from compatible online video sources--including Netflix, Amazon Video On Demand, YouTube, and Blockbuster--as well as your TV listings. In other words, the TiVo is telling you what's available across all of those content sources. Search for "The Office," and you'll get a list of upcoming episodes on your local stations, as well as streaming versions available on Netflix, Amazon, and so forth.

HD wide-screen interface: The Series3 TiVo models handled HD video, but the interface itself was a standard-def holdover that was almost a decade old. Series4 delivers a user interface in true high definition, and it uses the full real estate available on a wide-screen display. (TiVo touts it as a Flash-based interface, though that should not imply compatibility with all Flash-based content from the Web, such as Hulu.) The interface always leaves a picture-in-picture window of the currently playing video (live TV or recording) in the upper right-hand corner. Also included is the much requested capacity meter, which lets users know how much free space is left on their DVR.

TiVo Premiere screen
The TiVo Premiere interface utilizes the full-range of a wide-screen HD screen. TiVo

Additional content partners: Beyond Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, Blockbuster, and Rhapsody--already available on current Series3 TiVos--the new TiVos (and older Series3 models) will be getting Pandora and FrameChannel access "in the coming months." Already available on some digital photo frame products, FrameChannel aggregates news, weather, and photo feeds that the user can customize.

New remote options: The default remote that ships with the Premiere DVRs is a slight derivation of TiVo's famous "peanut" controller, but it now includes A, B, C, and D buttons for one-click contextual menu changes (such as sorting recorded program lists). More enticing will be a step-up remote (sold separately) that includes a slide-up QWERTY keyboard, similar to a smartphone. The keyboard is designed to make for easier text entry (for searches and Web content) than when using the onscreen keyboard. The remote will communicate with the Premiere DVRs (or TiVo HD/Series3 models) via an included USB Bluetooth dongle.

TiVo QWERTY remote
The Bluetooth QWERTY remote is available as an optional accessory. TiVo

The new TiVo Premiere models can be used with over-the-air antennas, digital cable systems (with CableCard), and Verizon FIOS. The $300 Premiere model includes a 320GB hard drive, which TiVo says will accommodate 45 hours of HD video or 400 hours of standard-def (or any combination thereof). The $500 XL model expands capacity to 1TB (150 HD hours/1,350 standard-def hours), and adds THX certification to boot. Like their predecessors, neither TiVo includes built-in Wi-Fi. Users who need to go beyond the default wired Ethernet connections will need to purchase the upcoming 802.11n Wi-Fi dongle ($90). These TiVos also drop a built-in phone modem, though a USB adapter will be available for $30 from TiVo's Web site (using the slow phone lines in lieu of broadband will limit users to only program listing updates).

We'll be posting a follow-up soon that offers additional information and hands-on impressions from the TiVo launch event.

Disclosure: CNET is one of several partners whose content appear on the TiVoCast videos available on TiVo's DVRs.