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TiVo Stream 4K takes on Roku, Amazon Fire TV with $50 Android TV dongle

Tivo's affordable streamer, designed to aggregate both free and subscription streaming content, goes on sale today.


The TiVo Stream 4K is the well-known DVR company's first piece of hardware that doesn't have anything to do with recording TV broadcasts. Instead this little box, designed to plug into HDMI and hang from the back of your television, is all about streaming video -- and could be a serious competitor to some of our favorite such devices like the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K and the Roku Streaming Stick Plus

First announced in January at CES and available today for $50, the Stream uses Google's Android TV system to access to thousands of familiar apps like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube and more. The dongle boasts a 4K resolution as well as Dolby Atmos sound and Dolby Vision HDR from compatible apps. 

So far that sounds a lot like its competitors from Roku and Amazon, but the Stream also adds some key differences. The most obvious is the remote: Compared to other streamers' pared-down clickers TiVo's iconic peanut has more buttons, including actual numbers and a prominent Guide key. The Stream also includes a proprietary TiVo Stream app designed to surface content from all of your streaming "bundles" in a single place, powered by TiVo's search and metadata technology. A button on the remote lets you use the built-in Google Assistant for voice search. We're still not sure what the number keys do.


The TiVo Stream app interface


While it offers a host of live TV services via Android TV, the dongle launches with Sling TV as a preferred source for live TV. Sling subscribers will be able to search via the interface or the Voice Remote and see a variety of shows offered by Sling. They'll also see free channels offered through TiVo Plus, a proprietary network of that offers content from TMZ, Outside TV, PowerNation, FailArmy, Hell's Kitchen, Cheddar and, thanks to a new partnership, Pluto TV (Disclosure: CNET and PlutoTV are both owned by ViacomCBS). 

TiVo made its name in DVRs in the early 2000s, and in recent years its boxes, like the Bolt and the Edge, have attempted to straddle both streaming and recording TV. TiVo has seen cord cutters migrate from cable DVRs to live TV streaming services like Sling and says it wants to meet that demand with the TiVo Stream 4K. A TiVo spokesperson told CNET in January that the Stream won't be compatible with the existing TiVo hardware at launch as it was "designed from the ground up," but that integration is on the roadmap. 

Now playing: Watch this: TiVo Stream 4K streamer offers Android TV for cheaper

The Stream costs $50 at launch, matching the Fire TV 4K and Roku 4K sticks, but that's just an initial offer from TiVo. The price for TiVo Stream jumps to $70 after May 27 -- affordable when judged against the only other major Android TV device, the $150 Nvidia Shield, but still relatively expensive for a basic 4K streamer.

We've been using the system for a couple of days and found it will be familiar to existing users of Android TV. Look out in the coming days for CNET's full review.