Bolt Review from a first time Tivo owner/cordcutter

Discussion in 'TiVo Bolt DVR/Streamer' started by jesrush, Dec 18, 2015.

  1. jesrush

    jesrush Member

    51
    7
    Nov 6, 2015

    Advertisements

    CONTEXT: I've been a cord cutter for six years, relying on Windows Media Center/hdhomerun as an OTA DVR + Amazon Prime streaming and Plex. With Microsoft killing off WMC and with spotty 3rd party WMC mobile functionality, I decided to look for something new. The Bolt is my first Tivo. After using it for a few weeks, I replaced the factory 500GB drive with a 1TB SSD to increase performance/add storage just because I had one (great black friday sale!).

    "THE GOOD"

    From a pure DVR perspective, the Bolt is far and away the best DVR I've seen. Tivo has put its many years in the DVR business to good use, refining functionality into a sophisticated product that remains simple to use and is highly reliable. Some of the items which jump out at me:

    1) The quality of the guide data is the best in the business. I don't know whether Tivo builds or buys its guide data, but it's comprehensive, current, and seemingly designed for DVR usage. One example: Where Microsoft's data often had "Teams to be announced" on Sunday NFL games, Tivo always has the actual game description (e.g. "Kirk Cousins and the Washington Redskins take on Jay Cutler and the Chicago Bears"). Sports events are categorized at incredibly granular levels so you can, for example, 'Record all indoor soccer' events. Quality guide data translates to desired recordings not being missed.

    2) The device itself is rock-solid. In six weeks of use it's never frozen, missed an expected recording, or otherwise acted up.

    3) The "wishlist" search capability is incredible. It has boolean logic! e.g. "Record any show with a description mentioning 'Jackson' that also mentions ('Michael' or 'Five') but NOT if it mentions 'Bo' ".

    4) "Quickmode", where shows are played back 30% faster than normal is golden for sports. Watching a three hour football game in two hours means more time with the family. Outside of sports, it often feels too fast. A "user selectable" quickmode speed (30% for sports, 15% for drama?) would make this feature even more useful.

    5) "Skipmode," where select primetime shows have semi-automated commercial skipping , works fairly well on the shows where it's available. See below for some (negative) thoughts on Skipmode.

    6) The initial setup of the device is painfully slow (1-2 hours), but after that, the system is highly responsive in day-to-day use and you're never left waiting for something to process/complete. This was true even before I upgraded to an SSD.

    7) The inclusion of a 3.5mm audio port makes it possible to use traditional (non-bluetooth) wireless headphones with the device (thank you Tivo!). There is an optical audio port as well (something Apple has abandoned).

    8) The famous Tivo "30-second-skip" button works well for moving past commercials. Since most commercial breaks are about three minutes, I wish there was an additional button targeted at skipping that longer length.

    9) The iOS experience--where available (see below)--is very impressive. Live TV streams almost flawlessly. The "30 second skip" Tivo button is available. Searching for and scheduling recordings is delightful. Best of all, you can download content for offline viewing (road trip with the kids!).

    10) 4k support increases the future-proofing of the device to some extent. Obviously there is no OTA 4k material, so you're limited to 4k streaming (e.g. Netflix).

    11) Web-based viewing of live/recorded shows from a computer is available at online.tivo.com.

    12) The Tivo can be controlled by a digital remote "app" on your smartphone/tablet or even windows PC. The Bolt also has a "remote finder" button on the back of the device which makes the physical remote start beeping when it's lost under the couch.

    13) Four tuners ensures you'll never have a tuner conflict with the limited OTA channel selection.

    "THE BAD"

    1) The apps have some significant issues. The Amazon app will work fine for a few days and then inevitably start throwing error messages when you select a show/episode to stream ("A problem was encountered..."). Rebooting the Tivo will resolve it, but this gets tiresome. The Plex app cannot playback about 20% of the videos in my local library. These videos work fine when viewed on iOS plex, windows plex, etc. When using Spotify elsewhere on your home network, the Bolt shows up within Spotify as an available "Spotify Connect" device (so you can send audio to it) but it doesn't actually work (no audio is actually heard on the Tivo). The Spotify app on the Tivo is missing Spotify Radio.

    2) As of 12/18/2015, you cannot stream to a device outside your home (e.g. iphone over LTE). Tivo advertised this feature and claims it is coming. We've been waiting 2+ months thus far.

    3) Tivo made some head-scratching decisions around commercial skipping. For example, on programs where skipping IS available, you have to click the SKIP button on EACH commercial break. Why not simply enable 'skipmode' for the length of the recording? Who would want to see some commercials but not others? Another example: Commercial skipping is apparently never available on sports - even when sports programs are among the top primetime programs (e.g. Sunday Night Football).

    4) From the Bolt, you can only stream to ONE device (mobile phone, tablet, PC, etc.) at a time. Given the general (fast) speed of the Bolt in almost every regard, this limitation caught me by surprise. It *seems* like it would have the horsepower for at least two streams. If i could sacrifice the resources consumed by a tuner to turn this on - I gladly would. You might be able to buy one of the add-on streaming devices intended for older Tivo devices and use it with the Bolt to add a second stream (I haven't tried).

    5) The app selection has some major holes - namely WatchESPN, HBO, MLB, and NFL Network. Even though the device is linked to the Opera TV app store, it sadly doesn't have the opera browser (or any browser) for general internet browsing.

    6) The web-based viewing available at online.tivo.com has some bugs. It mostly works, but sometimes the UI becomes unresponsive (30-second skip just stops responding). Other times the progress tracker gets out of sync with real progress and clicking on the progress bar (to jump ahead/behind) takes you to an unexpected place in the recording.

    7) Offline download to a mobile device is painfully slow. Granted, the Tivo has to transcode the raw recording to something appropriate for a mobile device, but the transcoding engine runs like a dog. Downloading an hour-long HD recording to my iphone 5s over 802.11n 5ghz wifi at the 'LOW' quality level was taking almost 30 minutes, until I installed an SSD drive which cut it to 20 minutes (still too slow).

    8) There are (relatively unobtrusive) ads buried throughout the device. When you're paying $150/year in subscription fees, you really don't expect to see ads coming from Tivo itself.

    9) No picture-in-picture. I guess I just assumed this was ubiquitous by 2015, but apparently not.

    10) No voice control/search (a la Roku, Apple TV, etc.). This is a big one. Tivo built bluetooth into the Bolt so this feature could presumably be added later through a new remote control.

    11) Tivo has done a pretty good job of controlling "feature-creep" on their DVRs, but the remote has gotten a little crazy. When I hand it to a visitor and they need help finding the power button for the TV, you know something has gotten out of whack. You get used to it as the owner, but there is a curve.

    VERDICT

    With the Bolt (and to some extent with the prior Roamio model), Tivo has tried to create a "unified entertainment system" which is both a DVR and streaming device in one. Presumably this means you can own one less device, you can search across recordings/guide data/streaming services, and you don't have to switch to a different TV input for streaming. This is a great idea that should be applauded. Unfortunately, Tivo hasn't nailed it (yet). The DVR side of the product is best-in-class: It's insanely good. However, most people will not be satisfied with the current state of the streaming apps (offering gaps, bugs). Most people will still want/need a better streamer (Roku, AppleTV, etc.). With that consideration in mind is the Bolt worth $299-$399 up front, and then $150/year (after the first year) for exceptional DVR functionality? "Yes," if you can afford the price tag.
     
  2. JoeKustra

    JoeKustra in the other Alabama TCF Club

    20,126
    3,712
    Dec 7, 2012
    Ashland, PA...
    That was nice. You'll be back.;)
     
  3. GoodSpike

    GoodSpike Active Member

    40,566
    1
    Dec 17, 2001
    Seattle, WA
    I'm coming from WMC HDHR too, but I had Tivo years ago, so perhaps that's why I'm not as impressed with the overall experience. I'm happy, but I was expecting it to be even more advanced 10 years later!

    As to the commercial skip feature, I suspect it's not automatic for the entire show to avoid the legal issues another DVR company faced. As I understand it, they were slightly different, eliminating the commercials entirely from the recording, but I think requiring user input at each commercial break is probably safer.

    Maybe I missed it, but the things I appreciate the most are the ability to add/check programs from any browser and/or the mobile app. Particularly nice not to have to try to type on a Tivo as opposed to your smartphone. Also, from your smartphone you don't even have to interrupt watching another program.
     
  4. Chris Gerhard

    Chris Gerhard Well-Known Member

    6,239
    60
    Apr 27, 2002
    AR
    Of course you can expect whatever you want but the issue for TiVo is the hardware can't be sold at a profit and the service fees alone just won't generate adequate profits for TiVo to stay in business, the ads bring some additional revenue. The market for a product like TiVo is just so small which is why there are no other products like TiVo and the few companies that attempted to compete with TiVo are long gone.

    I have got to hand it to you for being able to make Windows Media Center work for so long. I had TiVo first and added a WMC trial and thought it was brutal to use in comparison, although probably the second best option for many years, it was a distant second to my way of thinking.

    Nice post and summary of the differences.
     
  5. GoodSpike

    GoodSpike Active Member

    40,566
    1
    Dec 17, 2001
    Seattle, WA

    Advertisements

    Which version did you have? The Windows 7 version was much better than the Vista version (and I think there was a version before that). But when they switched guide information provider earlier this year it became unbearable.

    My main complaint with WMC is it didn't notify you of conflicts which would pop up well after adding a recording. Tivo used to have a notification--not sure about the Bolt because I haven't had the device long enough for a new conflict to pop up.

    I did have to resolve a conflict after adding a recording, and I thought WMC did that better.
     
  6. atmuscarella

    atmuscarella Well-Known Member

    6,946
    610
    Oct 11, 2005
    Rochester NY
    To original poster: Nice Post :up:

    I think most people agree with you that the DVR side certainly out shines the Streaming Video side of current TiVos. The good news is that TiVo is very actively working on the streaming side so I think there is a very good chance we will see continued and significant improvement. I am a light user of YouTube, Vudu, & Amazon and have had very few problems with those apps, also use Pandora allot and rarely have issue with that app.
     
  7. BigJimOutlaw

    BigJimOutlaw Well-Known Member

    3,317
    655
    Mar 21, 2004
    Pretty good comprehensive review. :up:

    The Bolt will continue to improve. Tivo's always had issues keeping up with all the streaming apps, and possibly will for the foreseeable future, but I think 2016 will be an interesting year.

    The latest software release enables the second transcoder for portable devices, so that should cover #4 of the Bad. Transcoding is pretty computationally intense. It's "slow" but I respect that it can be done in roughly 2x real-time speed. My 3.3GHz computer isn't much faster at it. :)
     
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2015
  8. Andrew_S

    Andrew_S Member

    375
    4
    Nov 12, 2001
    Atlanta,...
    One of the reasons why I don't want to give up Windows Media Center. That and having an honest to goodness, full fledged, capable version of Plex (and/or Emby).
     
  9. jesrush

    jesrush Member

    51
    7
    Nov 6, 2015
    So the Dish network DVR has a feature called "AutoHop":

    "To skip commercials during your favorite primetime shows with AutoHop, just wait to view those programs. When AutoHop is enabled, you'll be prompted at the first commercial break of your recorded primetime content asking if you'd like to skip through commercials. Simply indicate "yes," and AutoHop will remember your preference and skip all commercials for the remainder of the program. Freedom from advertisements — now that's something worth waiting for." [http://www.dish.com/autohop]

    Fox sued Dish over this feature and lost (https://www.thewrap.com/judge-rules-against-fox-copyright-claims-in-dish-autohop-lawsuit/).
     
  10. jesrush

    jesrush Member

    51
    7
    Nov 6, 2015
    Agreed - the Pandora app is rock solid. The Youtube app is really well done as well.
     
  11. jesrush

    jesrush Member

    51
    7
    Nov 6, 2015
    Cool! I just restarted my Bolt, got the update and tested two streams (one to iPhone / one to iPad) and it definitely worked! Exciting!

    Now if they can just get the OOH streaming working...
     

Share This Page

spam firewall

Advertisements