Tivo xl4 Vs. HTPC

Discussion in 'TiVo Coffee House - TiVo Discussion' started by thebeast1190, Jul 29, 2012.

  1. thebeast1190

    thebeast1190 New Member

    Jul 29, 2012


    I am hoping I can get a little advice from people more knowledgeable then me.
    For the past two years I have had a tivo with rcn but on Thursday I am finally getting fios which of course does not offer tivo. So that leaves me with two choices the xl4 or build an htpc. I really like the look of wmc, dont hate tivo but it comes down to cost and what I am getting for that price. I can get a new xl4 on ebay for about $350 , the max I could spend on an htpc would be about $450 or $500. I am sure I could build a fine pc for that price but I need a tuner that takes a cable card so that (I believe) leaves me with Ceton or SiliconDust for $200 so I am down to $300. I recently built a desktop for over $1500 with an i5-2500k which would be more then enough but it is often used while someone is watching tv. Then there is reliability. I have read many reviews of people having problems with the tuners, I have never had a problem with my tivo. I wouldn't want to spend $500 and end up with a headache. So i guess it boils down to three questions. 1. Could I build a quality htpc for $300? 2. If anyone has used either device how reliable are they? 3. If you have used tivo and WMC is the extra $150 + worth it? I know there is a service fee ($12) but I only have about $500 available right now.
    Thanks for your help.
  2. lillevig

    lillevig Cold in East Iowa

    Dec 6, 2010
    Marion, Iowa
    The monthly sub for the Tivo will run you $19.99 so that's almost $240/year. If you really need more than two tuners, consider getting a pair of used S3HD boxes with lifetime. Going rate for one with the factory drive (160GB) is around $300 on eBay. If you are patient you can get one for less.
  3. sbiller

    sbiller Active Member

    May 10, 2002
    Tampa, FL
    Monthly subscription on TiVo is $14.99. Lifetime is a better deal.
  4. tneison

    tneison New Member

    Jul 15, 2012
    If cost is your driving factor, then HTPC will be the way to go simply because you don't need to pay for the programming guide or service. As far as building an HTPC for $300 that may be tough unless you really scrounge up some parts. If the HTPC will be the output to your TV for example as opposed to using an Xbox or another extender you'll need a decent video card, sufficient hard drive, etc.

    Based on what you said you already have - what would make the most sense is use your existing PC, add a tuner card and extend WMC to your TV via an Xbox and (that way your PC being used at the same time isn't an issue). You could do that for $400: $200 for a Ceton card plus $200 Xbox. You can save another $100 off that if you get them used on eBay. This is assuming you have a decent network though - otherwise don't forget to add that cost.

    Having said all of that, I just scrapped my HTPC setup since I was tired of the troubleshooting and whatnot so I went with new Tivo Premiere's and haven't looked back since...
  5. swerver

    swerver Member

    May 18, 2012


    You could make a functional htpc for that but I wouldn't call it quality. It will most likely be loud and ugly. It will handle basic htpc tasks but most people will end up wanting to spend more to improve performance/functionality/aesthetics.

    I have an htpc, started with wmc. It works ok but I would not describe it as reliable. Regarding your comment above about headaches, you will get them and plenty. Since dropping my ceton and getting a tivo, I use xmbc with the htpc for watching my movie collection. But it doesn't get used much compared to the tivo. My headaches have gone from common to zero. For what my family wants to watch, the tivo can handle 95% of the work without any babysitting. With the htpc, you are always wondering what weird thing is going to happen next. Caveat: this depends on not only the type of person you are, but also who you live with. If I was living alone, I think I might still be using my wmc setup. It would have issues but I was able to figure them out and didn't mind the tinker factor, I kind of enjoy it. But for my wife and kids, it was too much trouble, and if it breaks while I'm at work they are out of luck until I get home. That was the deciding factor that made me jump on a $50 premiere on woot to try a tivo. So glad I did! And my wife and kids actually like the tivo. They hated the htpc, too many bad experiences and it's hard to win them back.

    Best bet is to try it out. You have a pc already so go ahead and setup wmc, it's probably already installed. If possible, get a cheap tuner card (maybe borrow one? just an older single tuner non-cable one would be fine, though once you introduce the ceton or other cablecard tuners, there is an additional layer of complexity and additonal headaches that come with that) and try it out, just on your pc first, without hooking to the tv. Unless that's really easy, often people have their pc in another room so it might not be worth it just for testing it out. I think the interface on wmc is great, just as good as tivo. The main problem with an htpc is the pc part. Simple things like turning it on/off/sleep that are never an issue with an appliance like a tivo become potential deal breakers on an htpc. Based on your comment about not wanting to spend a bunch of money and end up with a headache... get the tivo.
  6. aaronwt

    aaronwt UHD Addict

    Jan 31, 2002
    You don't need much of a video card unless you plan on playing games with the PC. For HDTV, which is 2D, is doesn't take much of a video card to accomplish that.
  7. Aug 1, 2012 #7 of 31

    dsnotgood Member

    Aug 25, 2010
    I had similar dilemma. I ended up with getting a premiere ($70) and lifetime for $399.

    I am very happy with the setup and over the last 2 years....it has paid for itself over the fios box. Skip the htpc. Just get the elite plus lifetime, use code PLSR for $100 off when activating lifetime online at tivos website and call it a day. Also if you ever want to sell it, you will be able to get most of your money back since tivos with lifetime hold resale value very well. Can't sell old htpcs for anything. Also less headaches and works great.
  8. Aug 1, 2012 #8 of 31

    nrc Cracker Soul

    Nov 17, 1999
    Living in a...
    Lots of threads here with HTPC user experiences. Is it just you or do you have to please other members of the household?
  9. Aug 1, 2012 #9 of 31

    WizarDru New Member

    Jan 18, 2005
    Malvern, PA
    Unless FIOS in your area is somehow different, you should be able to buy your own TiVo and then rent a cable card from Verizon. I have FIOS and do that with two TiVo Premieres. The rental fee varies from locations to location, sadly.

    The better questions are:

    a) how much effort do you want to expend
    b) what is your budget over time
    c) what do you or your family want to use it for

    A TiVo has ease of use and some functionality, but it won't match a HTPC for versatility or customization, IMHO. But I love TiVo's plug-and-play functionality.
  10. aaronwt

    aaronwt UHD Addict

    Jan 31, 2002
    The official price for Verizon FiOS cables cards is $3.99 each. Frontier FiOS might be a different cost.
  11. fyodor

    fyodor Active Member

    Sep 19, 2006
    With respect to other people using the computer, you could use an Xbox 360 or the upcoming Ceton extender to watch live and recorded TV. That way people could continue to use the computer.

  12. turbobozz

    turbobozz New Member

    Sep 21, 2006
    I recommend that you stick with TiVo given how you've described your situation.
    You already know you like TiVo and you are nervous about problems and possible unseen costs associated with experimenting with WMC.

    That being said... SiliconDust and Ceton both have very good support teams.
    I have SiliconDust network OTA tuners and a Ceton PCI cablecard (4x) tuner.
    They've both been great companies to work with.
    I don't particularly think I've had any hardware reliability issues with either aside from a lightning strike.
    Ceton I think had a couple driver issues along the way, but I was one of the crazy people who pre-ordered the card and ran beta drivers/firmware occasionally.
    I use an i7 lynnfield to stream WMC to xboxes... That's been my main DVR for the past few years.
    My Premiere's HD just died, so I'm actually not even running any TiVo at all for the first time in a very long time. (No great loss for me right now since I honestly haven't even used the Premiere for anything in many, many months.)
    I'm rather ambivalent at this point in time in the WMC vs. TiVo debate... They are both fairly workable for me right now.
  13. mr.unnatural

    mr.unnatural Well-Known Member

    Feb 2, 2006
    The cost of ownership for a 4-tuner Tivo with lifetime vs. an HTPC with a Ceton InfiniTV4 is fairly even, depending on how you build your HTPC. The real savings comes into play when you want to add more tuners to the HTPC. Since the 4-tuner Tivo doesn't offer OTA reception, this can be easily added to an HTPC at minimal cost. If you want more Tivo tuners, you have to buy additional Tivos with service fees attached. There are no recurring fees with an HTPC other than the cablecard rental, which you'd have to pay for with a Tivo as well.

    Here's one of the best resources you'll find for info on HTPCs:


    The cost to gain access to Assassin's detailed guides is $25 for lifetime access, but it's well worth the cost of admission. I believe he has some free guides there as well so you can see what he has to offer.

    A basic PC can be purchased for $300 or so unless you want to get fancy and put everything in a component style case. There are numerous deal websites, such as dealnews.com, slickdeals.net, woot.com, 1saleaday.com, etc., that routinely list specials on turnkey PCs in the price range you're looking for.

    HTPCs are great when they're working. If you're building one for personal use and don't mind tinkering from time to time then I'd highly recommend one. If you're considering one for the rest of the family, I'd stick with a Tivo. The downside of using extenders is if the main PC goes down, all of the extenders are down as well, which tends to lead to a family rebellion until you get the main PC back up and running. OTOH, today's hardware and software make setting up and maintaining an HTPC fairly easy with minimal down time.

    I've been using HTPCs in place of my Tivos for over five years now and I wouldn't even consider going back. I tried using extenders, but as I was having issues with the PC at the time it didn't go over so well. I replaced the extender with one of my Tivos for a short period and then replaced the Tivo with another standalone PC, which my wife uses for watching TV in the family room. So far she's been very accepting of the HTPC and it's been running fine with very few problems.

    I've got a 3-tuner SiliconDust HDHomeRun Prime cablecard tuner connected to my network that supplies a FIOS TV signal to every PC connected to the network. My primary HTPC also has access to the SD HDHR Prime but mainly uses a pair of InfiniTV4 tuners internal to the HTPC for FIOS reception. I have a standard dual tuner HDHomeRun for local OTA HD channels that are shared. The main HTPC also has a pair of dual tuner Hauppauge 2250's for OTA recording.

    My recommendation would be to get yourself a tuner and install it in an existing Windows 7 PC and try it out for a while before taking the plunge. If you don't like it you can always sell it on ebay and get your money back. If you do like it then you can invest in a PC knowing what it is you're getting into.
  14. mattack

    mattack Well-Known Member

    Apr 9, 2001
    "when they're working".. yeah.. Even the guy from Engadget HD who raves about Windows Media Center says that Tivos are more reliable.

    I do hope that the Ceton "appliance like" box is reliable (even though I realize it's essentially just a HTPC).. it's good to have competition.. though I'll probably have a Premiere 4 by then.
  15. mr.unnatural

    mr.unnatural Well-Known Member

    Feb 2, 2006
    I've definitely had more issues with HTPCs than Tivos over the years, but once you get an HTPC setup and properly configured there's no reason it can't be as reliable as a Tivo. I've got several HTPCs that have been up and running with virtually no problems for over two years. Tivos are a fixed configuration that is designed with specific tasks in mind. A HTPC is a full-blown computer that can come in a multitude of hardware and software configurations and be used for a variety of tasks. Due to the complexity of a PC, it's bound to have more issues than a CE device.

    Like I said, start with a tuner in a Windows 7 PC that's already working and stable and see if Windows Media Center is your cup of tea. If you have an OTA antenna, the original SiliconDust dual tuner HDHomeRun can be had on ebay for about $30-50. That's basically how I got started with mine over five years ago to supplement my HDTivos for recording local channels when I had DirecTV.
  16. slowbiscuit

    slowbiscuit FUBAR

    Sep 19, 2006
    In the ATL
    And it's not just tuners, the cost advantage of the HTPC increases greatly when you want to add extenders vs. more Tivos. A 4 tuner PC with a couple of extenders is way cheaper than 3 Tivos. I don't have many problems with my Xboxes and the Linksys DMA2100 but only use them for live and recorded TV.

    But this could change in the fall if Tivo releases the Mini IP STB at a decent price, with no sub fee.
  17. tootal2

    tootal2 Active Member

    Oct 14, 2005
    My windows 7 computer runs fine. I have to reboot it about 1 time a week because of software updates. sometimes a windows update will reboot the computer for you.

  18. mr.unnatural

    mr.unnatural Well-Known Member

    Feb 2, 2006
    You really should change the option to allow updates to be downloaded but not installed unless you approve them. This lets you to see what's being updated and allows you to install them at your leisure and not let Windows reboot spontaneously after installing any updates automatically.

    You should check and see what updates you're getting before letting Windows install them at random. For example, Windows has a tendency to install generic driver updates for hardware in your PC instead of getting them directly from the manufacturer's website, which could end up doing more harm than good. I never allow Windows to install any drivers unless they're for Microsoft products. If I see a driver update being offered I'll hide the update and then check for an actual update from the manufacturer's website.
  19. shwru980r

    shwru980r Well-Known Member

    Jun 22, 2008
    I think some cost should be attributed to the time and effort it takes to assemble the HTPC and install windows and then the ongoing task of managing windows updates.
  20. mr.unnatural

    mr.unnatural Well-Known Member

    Feb 2, 2006
    HTPCs are a labor of love. How do you put a price on that?;)

    I can generally put together all of the hardware for a PC in less than an hour. I can also install Windows with minimal interaction. I'll initiate the installation and then just let it do its thing while I go about my business. The next time I check on the progress I may have to click a few buttons to get past some prompts until the process completes.

    Installing the huge backlog of Windows updates tends to take the longest, but it's only because it has to be done in stages. Select the updates you want from the list you're presented and let it do its thing. You may get an occasional prompt before it will continue, but it doesn't happen all that often. Overall, I can get an HTPC built and configured in about a half day. It mostly depends on how much software you install. If you add a lot of extra hardware it's going to require drivers and possibly some configuration of parameters and user options.

    I like to set it up so I can take care of any interactions while I'm watching TV or surfing the web. My main PC is in the next room so I just poke my head out and see how it's going while doing other things. It's not like you have to babysit the PC while the installation is taking place. I sometimes just do things piecemeal and spread the installation over several days as I can get to it. The bottom line is that the actual amount of time you have to dedicate to the installation and setup may only amount to a few hours at most.

    Performing periodic Windows updates is no more taxing than getting your Tivo to dial in manually and check for updates or get the latest guide data.

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