If you're used to a grid-style guide, TiVo's Live Guide can take some adjustment. I prefer it because it gives you a better view as to what's coming on a station throughout the day. It particularly comes in handy for sports such as college football or basketball where there might be several games being played throughout the day as it lets you quickly scan the schedule without changing screens. TiVo does a fantastic job of putting a lot of information on screen without making the interface cluttered or confusing.
The regular Premiere box has just two tuners, and pressing the Live TV button on the remote lets you jump back and forth between them. Doing that with the Elite's four tuners means you have to cycle through each one to see what's playing or, more likely, what's recording. Tabbing down in the Info screen lets you see just what's on the other tuners and jump to the one you want.
If you don't like the HD interface for some reason, TiVo still has the option to drop back into the old SD interface. And actually, you might end up back in the SD interface from time to time anyway. Though much more of the interface is in HD now than when the original Premiere launched in 2010, there are still some things such as the Settings screens that haven't been moved to the HD interface. Also, if you want to use its Parental Controls, you have to be in the SD interface full time. That should change in spring 2012, though, with the next major software update.
When you press the big TiVo button at the top of the remote, you end up in TiVo Central, which gives you access to your recorded content, all the streaming and download services for video and music, and settings.
My Shows is all your recorded content. TiVo lets you sort them a couple different ways and you can choose to group multiple recordings of a show into one folder. For example, a folder will be created for each Season Pass when more than one episode appears in My shows. The thing is, with 2TB of storage in the Elite, the stored content for an entire family can become unwieldy. What I would like to see is a way to create folders for individual users.
The Discovery Bar is the row of thumbnail suggestions at the top of the screen. The suggestions are made based on what's in your My Shows and mark as your favorites using the Thumbs Up button on your remote control. You can choose the lists you want to appear, such as TiVo Suggestions, In My Shows, or New on Demand, but you can't shut the bar off entirely.
From TiVo Central, you can access all of the available video services, though you'll need subscriptions for Netflix and Hulu Plus to view their content. The actual apps for the individual services are all different, for better or worse. The Netflix and YouTube apps are set to be updated in spring 2012. I've seen the Netflix app in action, so it's a pretty safe bet that TiVo will deliver it on schedule. There is no timetable for Amazon.
TiVo's search will find programming available across all services. In this case I searched for "30 Rock" and it shows that the episode I picked can be viewed on Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, and on TV. By pressing the C button on the remote you can sort the episodes by those that are available for free, available from any service, or just view all episodes, which is nice for those times when you're trying to figure out if you've missed a particular episode.
Search works with more than just program and movie titles, too. You can search by episode title, show description, person name (actor, director, etc.), or by channel.
Other key online functions include access to YouTube videos, the Rhapsody premium audio service (subscription required), Live365 Internet radio (free), Pandora, and access to online Photobucket and Picasa photo streams.
Additionally, the TiVo can stream audio and photo files from Windows and Mac computers on your home network. Upgrade from the free TiVo Desktop software to the $25 TiVo Desktop Plus (Windows) or Roxio Toast (Mac), and you can transcode and store digital videos to the TiVo from a computer.