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Considering buying used Series 3, worried about it failing

Discussion in 'TiVo Series3 HDTV DVRs' started by awesomesauce, Jul 27, 2014.

  1. awesomesauce

    awesomesauce New Member

    Jul 27, 2014

    I am currently going through the process of "cutting the cord" and just got an outdoor antenna mounted on my roof. I'm now in the process of trying to get a DVR that will work with my OTA channels. A used TiVo with lifetime service seems like the best option.

    I was considering getting a TiVo premier but apparently it doesn't work too well with OTA channels, that leads me to the series 3. I've been reading up on the capacitor issues and such and I'm worried I'll be buying a product that will fail in a couple months. I have never used a sodering iron and I'm not sure I would be comfotable paying $200-300 for something I would have to be constantly fixing.

    The series 3 is an older product but is it still reliable enough to use for at least the next 2-3 years?

    Thanks for reading!
  2. ThAbtO

    ThAbtO TiVoholic by the bay

    Apr 6, 2000
    SF Bay Area
    All of the Series 3 will work with OTA, but capacitor issues do rise.
    Only the 2 tuner Premieres will work with OTA
    4 tuner Roamio work as well and faster than Premieres.
  3. Chris Gerhard

    Chris Gerhard Well-Known Member

    Apr 27, 2002
    I am using both TiVoHD and TiVo Premiere for OTA. In my situation, I don't see any issues with either model and no apparent differences in performance. Of course mine could fail at any time but in 14 years of using TiVo, the only failures have been hard drives for me and I have replaced a few hard drives.

    If you are the type that worries about a home electronics device failing, buy a new Roamio with lifetime and extended warranty. Other than TiVo, none of the OTA DVRs I have played with are anything I would want to use. Since used TiVoHDs and TiVo Premieres with lifetime are a great deal now, this is a good time to buy used if you can live with the risk.
  4. nooneuknow

    nooneuknow TiVo User Since 2007

    Feb 5, 2011
    Cox Cable...
    If a certain member of TCF would quit running around yelling "capacitor plague", and advising "since you already have the top off, better re-cap the power supply", I doubt this thread would have been started.

    Setting aside capacitors made with a defective electrolyte formula, from back in 2001, all electrolytic capacitors fail over time, usually proportional to the amount of time they are active (POH/power on hours).

    The 2001 scenario produced capacitors that would usually fail within 2-3 years of POH. Most failed in 2 years, or less, with constant operation.

    I was right in the perfect job position to identify plenty of these around 2002-2003. It took almost a year from the first cluster case I found, for a small industry newsletter to go out about the problem. Since I was "in the trenches" when this exploded, I feel I have enough cred to talk about it.

    The wikipedia page is here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capacitor_plague

    This is where the panic-inciting member(s) seems to be getting their inspiration from. Yes, there the original member now has acolytes. The coined-term is now being applied to every defective/failing/failed capacitor, regardless of age, use, application, or POH. If I intentionally exceeded the rating of a new cap, forced it to fail, took a picture of the top being domed/cracked, it would instantly be diagnosed here as "capacitor plague", if I didn't disclose that I intentionally forced it to fail. That's not right.

    If you click on the wikipedia "Talk" tab for that article, and read some of the discussion on the article, you'll find a great deal of disagreement, some of which I completely agree with. Calling it a plague, doesn't fit.

    Considering that most S3/HD TiVos are now nearly 10 years old, and are 24/7 operation devices, combined with less-than-stellar power supply design, I'd call current capacitor failures "capacitor old age failure, compounded by going with cheap manufacturing, rather than going for reliability and life expectancy"

    Just go with common sense, when it comes to buying old electronics, especially those that operate 24/7, but are consumer-grade products.

    I can't quite figure it out. But, I seem to have a desire to face-punch nearly every member using a Simpsons character as their avatar, lately...
  5. Chris Gerhard

    Chris Gerhard Well-Known Member

    Apr 27, 2002
    I would say most TiVoHDs are around 6 years old now, give or take a year or two. I know I purchased my first one new in the summer of 2009. I purchased a used one in 2010 that was placed in service 2008 and both have been running 24/7 since I bought them. I have not had to replace anything other than the external drive enclosure used with the 2008 vintage TiVoHD.

    I don't recall the date the TiVoHD was discontinued but I would guess early 2010 although late 2009 wouldn't surprise me.
  6. nooneuknow

    nooneuknow TiVo User Since 2007

    Feb 5, 2011
    Cox Cable...
    There's some wiggle room on how old they are, more so on how long they have been in service for. There are still some that are new in box that people bought in bulk when Blockbuster was clearancing them out. I recently communicated with somebody who has some, new in box, from that. They seem to be holding out on getting $99 lifetime on them somehow...

    I know I subbed my first two TiVo HDs in early 2007. That's the first time I saw them at Fry's, and I couldn't understand why anybody would pay the ~$1000 price for the Series 3 right next to it. Later I got two from that clearance sale I mentioned.

    I've seen older units with one brand of power supply that used underrated caps to begin with, having domed tops after two years. I've seen the newest units (the last HDs) with another brand of power supply, that used properly rated caps, show no visible or operational capacitor issues, after 2+ years.

    The ones that domed-out the caps had used the same capacitor on the 5V rail, as used on the 3.3V rail, leaving the cap on the 5V rail underrated. Even though those failed in two years, it wasn't "capacitor plague", it was the wrong capacitor to use. If I took a picture of it and had somebody else post the picture on here, a certain member would promptly diagnose it as capacitor plague, and advise replacing every capacitor.
  7. unitron

    unitron Active Member

    Apr 28, 2006
    semi-coastal NC
    In the OP's case, perhaps an S4 or S5 would let them sleep more soundly, especially since we're also starting to see some cases of the Flashing Green LED of Death on HD and HD XL boxes.

    Roughly a decade and a half ago, millions of electrolytic capacitors of a quality inferior to what they should have had, considering the brand and the price, got into the supply chain, leading to a much greater than previous rate of premature failure of items such as PC motherboards (by previously well thought of brands such as ABIT and Asus), LCD video monitors and LCD televisions, and who knows what all other categories, although one we do know is Series 2 and Series 3 TiVo power supplies, regardless of from which subcontractor TiVo purchased them.

    Sites such as badcaps.net and lcdalternatives wouldn't have come into existence if this were not so because the volume of business wouldn't exist to make them profitable.

    Apparently they aren't failing prematurely consistently enough to suit a certain someone, but since we're only talking about in the neighborhood of $10 worth of parts, I consider it prudent for anyone who knows by which end not to pick up a soldering iron to prophylactically re-cap an S2 or S3 supply while they've got the machine apart anyway.

    Even if the caps in that particular person's TiVo are only going to fail at the "usual rate" in the "usual way", they've just bought themselves a few more years of working power supply.

    If you wait until electronic gear fails to do the repair, it will not fail at a convenient time. Ordinarily one does that, though, not knowing which particular part in which particular piece of gear is going to be the most likely culprit, but in this particular case we already know what's been voted "most likely to go bad soonest".

    I have no TiVo experience prior to 2006, but if S1 supplies had suffered the same problem at the same rate, I'd think that I'd have seen someone who's been around here longer make mention of it before now, back when it started to be a "thing" with S2s and S3s.

    Anecdotally, the pretty much identical power supplies in my Philips and Sony S1s have, to this day, never given a bit of trouble, whereas I've had experience cap changing on a 140, a 240, a 540, a 649, a 648, and both brands of 652/658 supplies.
  8. jrtroo

    jrtroo Chill- its just TV

    Feb 4, 2008
    If you are worried about it failing, and live near a metro area, try a premiere. The tuning issues are very specific and do not impact everyone. Eventually, the capacitor plague seems inevitable to impact all S3 power supplies, though the repair does not look difficult.
  9. HerronScott

    HerronScott Well-Known Member

    Jan 1, 2002
    Staunton, VA
    Whether "plague", age or design, it is an issue for the earliest S3/HD models as evidenced by the number of postings here where it has resolved the problem and I certainly don't think it's wrong to have people check for the problem if they are having issues. My failures originally exhibited video "waviness" and after a number of months went into a reboot cycle.

    The original S3 OLED was released in September 2006 so the oldest S3/HD models out there are just coming up on 8 years and not 10 years (We replaced our original 2 S1's with 2 S3's in December 2006 and January 2007 due to the $199 lifetime transfer offer). Also, I would agree with Chris that since the S3/HD models did not really start to sell in large numbers until the HD was released that "most" of them are only 6 years old or less.

    There's no wiggle room on the age of the oldest S3/HD's.

    The HD model wasn't released until late July 2007 so you could not have subbed your first two HD's in early 2007.

    What was the rating on the under-rated 5V capacitor as I have not seen that on my 2 S3 OLED power supplies?

  10. Teeps

    Teeps Active Member

    Aug 16, 2001
    Chicken Little or not... This is good advice.
  11. mr.unnatural

    mr.unnatural Active Member

    Feb 2, 2006
    You might want to consider getting an old PC and installing a couple of OTA tuners. There are lots of DVR apps out there that work with OTA and they're all free. If you're using Windows 7 (any version except Home Basic) or 8/8.1 (Pro only) you can use Windows Media Center. Since it's a PC you don't have to deal with proprietary hardware and software. If it dies you can easily get it up and running again with no fear of losing a lifetime subscription.

    I got into using HTPCs by supplementing my DirecTV subscription with this type of setup. DirecTV didn't supply all of my OTA locals so I used a PC for this purpose with the BeyondTV DVR app and Windows XP. For cord cutters it's probably the cheapest solution, especially if you only need OTA. You can get a refurbished PC on any of the deal websites or from Newegg and a multitude of other sources for a song.
  12. squint

    squint New Member

    Jun 15, 2008

    Saw this on eBay recently. Surprised the heck out of me. The newest one in my possession has a 2011 manufacturing date.
  13. nooneuknow

    nooneuknow TiVo User Since 2007

    Feb 5, 2011
    Cox Cable...
    The highlighted part is what I take extreme exception to.

    All capacitors, especially electrolyte-based (electrolytic), will FAIL at some point. They do not have an infinite lifetime. They NEVER have. A capacitor's life starts ticking down with age and use (especially when ones of lesser than ideal ratings are used, or a single one is used where two or three, in parallel, would be better, to keep costs down). They tend to drift "out of spec" long before anything visible happens. Just because a capacitor fails, does not make it a case of "capacitor plague"!

    That term is even disputed in the Talk section for discussion of the wikipedia article unitron uses to back up his using of that coined-term so loosely. Some don't even see the first 2001 batch that resulted in the biggest clusterfrack ever, as something that should be called "plague".

    If the battery in your car fails, do you call it "battery plague"?
    If the battery in your flashlight quits recharging, do you call it "battery plague"?

    Electrolytic capacitors are really close to being batteries. Supercapacitors take the place of CMOS batteries in modern devices. In automotive textbooks, the car battery is described as being critical to stabilizing the ripple the alternator creates, by "acting as a large capacitor/condenser".

    Plenty of bad batches of many things have made their way into whatever ecosystems, and never been called "plagues".

    The word "plague" instills fear, and invokes panic. Plagues spread, and are contagious. A good cap, next to a bad one, isn't going to catch what is wrong with the bad one.

    Like I said, if it wasn't for gross misuse of the term "capacitor plague", this thread likely would not exist. It proves that the OP read all this scary "plague" talk, and now has a fear of it.

    Knowing that TiVo chose to use power supplies that were made as cheaply as possible, and that this may affect you, is good. Knowing it's inexpensive capacitors is good. I take exception to the term "capacitor plague", it's overuse, and improper use.

    Unitron said
    He doesn't stop there. He'll talk somebody who has never opened an electronic device, or used a soldering iron, through getting the tools, parts, and the task. But, he neglects to provide/state any safety precautions to somebody who states they have no clue what they are doing, at all.

    So, apparently everybody and anybody is qualified to rebuild power supplies? Let's recap them just because the case is open? I see this as dangerous, and wouldn't be surprised if somebody gets injured, or killed, by not knowing the dangers, or by a fire, due to omitting things that are second-nature to pros and enthusiasts, but unknown by others.
  14. nooneuknow

    nooneuknow TiVo User Since 2007

    Feb 5, 2011
    Cox Cable...
    I just checked my TiVo HDs (originals), and they were manufactured Dec-03-2007. The subs for them were activated Jan 2008. I know that when I did my first google searches on an issue with them, TCF didn't even show in the results.

    I was shocked by the 2013 TiVoHD TCD652160 picture initially. Then, I realized the TSN is not the usual format. The originals started off with TSN 652-0001-...

    That is either a refurbished unit, some special market one, some other unusual variation, or something that wasn't intended to be in the wild (wouldn't be the first time an in-house, partner, or employee, TiVo wound up on ebay, that shouldn't be "out there".

    The details on what different digits in the 0001 group mean are already somewhere on TCF. But, IIRC, even what is posted, left some digit values as not fully known what they meant. I'll let somebody else dig that info up...
  15. Chris Gerhard

    Chris Gerhard Well-Known Member

    Apr 27, 2002
    That certainly surprised me as well. I don't know the explanation for that and won't bother to speculate.
  16. nooneuknow

    nooneuknow TiVo User Since 2007

    Feb 5, 2011
    Cox Cable...
    Look at the label closely, around the edges. You can clearly see the old (original) label underneath the one on top of it. This is SOP for TiVo refurbs. They get a new TSN, and the date is the remanufacture date, which is supported by other clues on the new label, you won't find on a new unit label.
  17. nooneuknow

    nooneuknow TiVo User Since 2007

    Feb 5, 2011
    Cox Cable...
    Since this thread's existence proved my point (if only in my world, if that's how you see it), I'm calling it quits, on my war against improper/excessive of the term "capacitor plague", such as using it to as the name for every form of an electrolytic capacitor failure, or just the end of a capacitor's rated lifetime. I took it too far, and made it personal. unitron is a valuable contributor and asset to TCF, and his efforts to help are noteworthy.

    I will also refrain from any further words on those who choose to give advice on prophylactic replacement of capacitors, to people who don't even know which end of a soldering iron to hold.

    I don't have to like it. But, I can't stop it, and have said all I feel I need to say.

    I'd rather not alienate people over my difference of opinion (which I truly believe to be based on facts and logic). If there were some questions asked of me, which I failed to answer, it's because I don't have an answer that I feel is solid enough to post (for reasons like, I don't have a picture of a power supply with the wrong caps, factory installed, with the values visible), or I can't exactly recall every explicit detail from many years ago, and/or didn't take notes, and/or don't know where the notes are. I try to be accurate, often to extremes.

    It just one of those "agree to disagree" and move-on moments.
  18. jlb

    jlb Go Pats!

    Dec 13, 2001
    Newburyport, MA
    I'd just like to chime in that I have had a TiVoHD since they first came out. Upgraded to a 1TB drive many years ago. About 5 months ago that HD started to fail so I upgraded again to a 2TB drive. When i performed the upgrade, I inspected the capacitors and they all looked just fine. So while there will be failures, some may take a LOT longer to do so. Just my $.02.

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