Upgrading from TivoHD to...Tivo Premiere or HTPC?

Discussion in 'TiVo Coffee House - TiVo Discussion' started by ShoutingMan, Jan 28, 2012.

  1. ShoutingMan

    ShoutingMan Member

    Jan 6, 2008
    In essence: should I stay with two TivoHDs, upgrade to a pair of Tivo Premieres, get the Comcast DVR, or build an Win7 HTPC with extender? Wife Approval Factor must be met, since she manages the TV schedules :)

    I've been using Tivo since 2006; before that I was a big VCR user :) Through this forum, I got a free S2D2 in 2006, and my wife liked it so much that we upgraded to a pair of TivoHDs in 2009 when we switched to HDTV. The TivoHDs are great (and we're now changing them from OTA HDTV with about 10 channels to a cable-card config with about 1000 channels.)

    But it's been three years and I'm interested in upgrading. In particular, I want a four tuner system and faster room-to-room transfers.

    A year ago, if asked, I'd have thought without a doubt I'd get the next Tivo. But comments and reviews, online and from a trusted friend, on the Tivo Premiere are generally not good.

    So I'm considering a Windows 7 Media Center Computer. The benefit would be a unified media system. I could rip all my DVDs and Blu-rays and have those as easily available as TV. I could have a master tuner system that controls all TV recording, and is distributed to the bedroom extender (no more juggling programming of two independent boxes). It could play my music (Tivo won't play music from a Mac computer).

    Cost is not a big factor. I'm paying monthly currently. If I upgrade to Premieres, I'l get lifetime. My cost estimates for Tivo show a minimum of $800 for the next three years, and at least $1000 for an upgrade.

    Option 1:
    Keep current pair of TivoHD's
    $22/mo for 3 years
    Total: $790

    Option 2:
    Upgrade to Tivo Premiere: 2 * $100
    $20 + $15 / mo for 3 years
    Total: $1460

    Option 3:
    Upgrade to Tivo Premiere: 2 * $100
    2 x $400 Lifetime subs
    Total: $1000

    In comparison, I've priced a new Win7 HTPC with extender at about $1800. Definitely under $2000. Double a new Tivo system, but not outrageous. And it would integrate all my media.

    I've seen opinions at HTF and AVS. They're pretty pro HTPC :) As a current Tivo user, and fan of "easy to use", I'm curious how the Tivo crowd feels about the choices, in 2012, to upgrade Tivo or change to HTPC? :)
  2. Len McRiddles

    Len McRiddles New Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Paging mr.unnatural. Please pick up the white courtesy phone.
  3. mr.unnatural

    mr.unnatural Well-Known Member

    Feb 2, 2006
    Your price for a Win 7 PC with a Ceton InfiniTV 4 cablecard tuner is way off target. You can easily build one to do what you want for well under $1000. I've been using Tivos for about 12 years and HTPCs for about five. My one remaining Tivo with lifetime is attached to a TV in the family room for use as a tuner. I rarely, if ever, use it for recording chores anymore.

    Setting up and using a Win 7 Media Center PC is much easier and far less stressful than it once was, especially compared with Win XP and Vista. The current hardware works better and is geared more towards HTPC use these days. My recommendation would be to start off by adding an inexpensive ATSC tuner to an existing Win 7 PC and see how you and your wife like it before taking the plunge. Then, if you decide to move ahead with your project, check out assassin's thread over at the Home Theater Computer section at the AVSForums for recommended components to build your HTPC.

    Another option would be to wait until Ceton's Q DVR and Echo extenders are released later this year. The DVR has six cablecard tuners (only requires a single cablecard) and the Echo extender works with either the Q DVR or any standard Win 7 Media Center PC. You're get the best use of the extender's abilities if you pair it with the Q DVR. No release dates have been set for either device other than it's been promised to be out before the end of the year. Included features are still being decided on, but it looks like a real Tivo beater. The good news is that there are no monthly service fees attached.
  4. lillevig

    lillevig Cold in East Iowa

    Dec 6, 2010
    Marion, Iowa
    Here's a thought - keep both HDs, buy one Premiere, and get lifetime on all of them. Total cost would likely be $700. There is an active thread about getting $99 lifetime on long-term contract Tivos. In summary, it generally requires that you buy a new Premiere with lifetime at the MSD price of about $500. Later on, call to cancel monthly service on one or both HDs. If you get a friendly phone rep, you will get offered lifetime for $99 on each HD. Keep one and sell one on eBay for about $300. Net cost $400 for the remaining HD and Premiere, with no more monthly fees.
  5. ShoutingMan

    ShoutingMan Member

    Jan 6, 2008
    I should comment on my potential build since it's not wholly conventional: I'm looking at two 3 TB drives to rip, but not transcode, all my movies :) I've also got a Ceton planned, and allotted $300 for an extender (be it Xbox or upcoming Ceton Echo). That alone takes me to $1000. Add in an i3 system where I've not yet hunted for deals or rebates, and my top-end price is about $1800.

    I've been following along the Assassin thread at AVS. Great info, but it's centered on how-to, not how-is-it :) AVS is a superb resource but tastes there don't always prioritize Tivo / Apple ease of use. (I've also been talking with MattCR at HTF, who's got a lot of experience on HTPCs.)

    Coming here, I hope to get some good thoughts, like yours, on how the experience might compare to Tivo.

    Or, to get comments from people that the Premiere has been fixed of its problems and is now a must-upgrade for Tivo fans. Or to hear that there's a new Tivo successor coming out real soon now that will be a must have...
  6. ShoutingMan

    ShoutingMan Member

    Jan 6, 2008
    I don't have an existing Win 7 PC (or any PC. Mac only, and nothing that can be used for this). So I have build from scratch.
  7. donnoh

    donnoh Member

    Mar 7, 2008
    It sounds like you've already done your research and are waiting on comments to verify it.
  8. ShoutingMan

    ShoutingMan Member

    Jan 6, 2008
    That's an interesting plan I've not heard about. If a Tivo Premiere is the best service to upgrade, I'll look into it. :)
  9. ShoutingMan

    ShoutingMan Member

    Jan 6, 2008
    I like having my opinions confirmed. :)

    But there might be new info on Tivos since I last looked. Or there might be people that tried an HTPC and can point to very negative ways it compares to Tivo. There are extremely few reviews on HTPCs, and I've only found one detailed comparison between an Win7 MC and Tivo Premiere and it was from two years ago.

    I'm open to new data.
  10. jrm01

    jrm01 New Member

    Oct 17, 2003
    I have been using TiVos for about 10 years. I had the HD and HDXL and just recently upgraded the HD to the new Elite. I couldn't be happier. I love the four tuners, the HD menus and the faster transfers (almost twice as fast).

    There is no way I can cost justify doing this, just like I can't cost justify trading my Ford Fusion for a BMW.
  11. ShoutingMan

    ShoutingMan Member

    Jan 6, 2008
    How's the experience with the Premiere Elite? The early reviews, and even for the next year or so, were the the total experience was slower and worse than the TivoHD. Has that been improved with updates?

    On the HD interface: last I really looked into it, that was a sore point. It sounds like that's really improved.

    What's the speed boost on the Premiere for transferring files? The HD is "g" I think, and has always transferred in about real time for me (about an hour to transfer an hour-long HD show). The Premiere is "n", and can go 5x or 10x faster?
  12. mr.unnatural

    mr.unnatural Well-Known Member

    Feb 2, 2006
    A new 4GB slim XBox 360 is only $199 list and can be had for a bit less. The Ceton Echo is expected to be priced lower than the 360.

    I've used them both for quite some time now and I have to say I'm more partial to the HTPC with Windows Media Center. The wife uses the Tivo, but only for watching live TV (I love her, but she is completely inept when it comes to technology). I like being able to do everything in my home theater using a single device. From a user standpoint, it's no more difficult to use than a Tivo, IMHO. The menus are easy to navigate and the learning curve is quite short. The one major caveat that turns people off to HTPCs is the fact that they're PCs and carry all the same baggage as any standard desktop PC. The trick is, once you've got it set up the way you want it and everything is working fine, leave it alone. Don't be tempted by the upgrade bug and start tweaking things. That's where most people have problems. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

    Tivos are great DVRs, but I haven't seen anything that would make me want to upgrade from my current S3 Tivo to any of the newer models. I look at the laundry list of additional features that have been added since the S3 and it all boils down to useless fluff, IMHO. There's not too much a Tivo can do that I can't do with my HTPC, and the HTPC can do far more. If you plan on using your HTPC for movie playback from ripped DVDs or Blu-Ray discs then Tivo isn't even in the running.

    If you plan on ripping a lot of movies and need a lot of storage then you might want to consider an alternative solution such as Windows Home Server, unRAID, or FlexRaid. I've got a 20TB unRAID server and I can access it from any PC in the house. I use it mainly for storing ripped DVDs and Blu-Ray movies that can be streamed to any PC on the network.

    I tend to be more cost conscious and I just can't justify the new higher rates that Tivo is charging, especially if you're looking at the $99 Premiere offer at $20 per month. I always chuckle when I read threads about people wanting to "cut the cord" because they're still paying Tivo for the privilege of recording free TV. With a PC, I don't have to pay extra for lifetime service.

    You can certainly spend a lot more for a PC, but once you've got it built there are no other fees involved, except perhaps a monthly cablecard rental and contract with a cable or satellite service provider. You can always re-purpose an HTPC for other uses if you change your mind about using it. With a Tivo, you've got a nice expensive doorstop.
  13. unitron

    unitron Well-Known Member

    Apr 28, 2006
    semi-coastal NC
    So what did you do with that dual tuner S2?

    Was it lifetimed?
  14. ShoutingMan

    ShoutingMan Member

    Jan 6, 2008
    I hope that's so, but until there's a price announced, I'll assume they mean cheaper than the (most expensive) XBox 360 :) which is $299+

    Good info on your experience. My hope is to set it up and not fiddle after that. I'm still figuring out storage options. I'd hoped not to spend on an external RAID system. What I've seen so far adds hundreds of dollars, just for the controller and enclosure.
  15. ShoutingMan

    ShoutingMan Member

    Jan 6, 2008
    Sold it on eBay in 2009, after getting the TivoHDs :)
  16. Rkkeller

    Rkkeller Well-Known Member

    May 13, 2004
    I don't like relying on only a single device as I am a TVaholic :> and would be crushed if/when it fails which is why I didn't go for the new TiVo 4 tuner unit or a computer based one.

    I would rather pay a little more and have multiple dual units than just 1 everything one.

    I remember before when my HD died and I only had 1 TiVo and I was crushed :( for the few days it took me to order one off Ebay and it to come.
  17. mr.unnatural

    mr.unnatural Well-Known Member

    Feb 2, 2006
    Actually, I would expect it to be priced lower than the least expensive XBox 360. Otherwise, it would not likely be competitive. Based on what I've seen demonstrated and the size of the box I'd wager it will probably be priced around $150.

    unRAID runs off of a USB flash drive and there's a freeware version that supports three drives (two data and one parity). You can get away with an inexpensive AMD setup to run it. Windows Home Server goes on sale for about $50 quite often. FlexRaid is free, IIRC. I only mentioned the server option because it would allow you to keep your movies stored remotely and cause less heat and noise to be generated in the HTPC that will likely be located in the viewing area. It's just something to consider down the road if and when you decide to expand your system.

    I'm also a diehard couch potato. Having a single source unit for recording and distributing TV throughout your home is a double-edged sword. When it works, it's great. When it fails, everyone suffers. The trick is to have contingencies in case of emergencies. I always keep a few spare hard drives around in case of a drive failure. PC problems aren't that difficult to get around if you can diagnose them properly. The same goes for Tivos. I've never had a Tivo that I couldn't get back up and running within a short period of time (usually less than one hour). Then again, if it's a problem with the power supply or mainboard you've got larger issues.

    There are pros and cons for both Tivos and HTPCs. You have to decide what you want and what you can live with in case of a failure. There is no perfect solution. I would actually prefer to have multiple PCs rather than extenders, but they offer a completely different set of problems, same as multiple Tivos.
  18. fyodor

    fyodor Active Member

    Sep 19, 2006
    Just a few thoughts, having had a Windows Media Center HTPC for several years that I got rid of when I moved in with my now-wife four years ago.

    1. While things have gotten better, I think that there's still more upkeep involved with an HTPC. Updates, drivers, technical issues, etc. Looking at the now-defunct green button forums, it seems that people more regularly had disruptive technical problems. Fixing them might require reconfiguration, etc that you don't have to deal with with a Tivo. Though many people also have great experiences. I'm told that people generally have had somewhat better experiences with the cable card turners HDHR and Ceton that have come out during the last year.

    This issue above can ameliorated somewhat by using only extenders for playback (since you don't have to deal with codecs on the main machine), but this presents other problems.

    2. It's my understanding that there is not any extender that can handle blu-ray rips without significant transcoding. They all have codec issues. This is extremely frustrating since there are and have been many other streaming products released during the last few years that can handle these formats.

    3. I personally find that the amount of lag in existing extenders, including the Xbox 360, to be unsatisfactory. Many people do not mind it though. It depends how lag sensitive you are and how much you browse/fast forward, etc. The Tivo however, provides a much more pleasurable in-show navigation interface.

    4. Extenders do not support most streaming services such as Netflix or Hulu. The Xbox 360 can do so, but it requires that you go outside of the media center extender interface and pay for an Xbox membership. There are also some plugins that work with the Playon service to deliver netflix/hulu streaming but these do not support high definition and have limitations on fast-forwarding.

    5. You cannot use a computer as an extender, which would solve several of the above extender limitations. There are some solutions that allow tuners to be shared between machines, but then you're back to the Tivo model of multiple recording devices.

    6. The best-performing extender, the Xbox 360, isn't terribly attractive and is noisier than some people like for their bedrooms.

    7. 7MC has a much more attractive and HD-friendly interface and many more plugins. However, the support community isn't on average as knowledgeable and helpful as the Tivo community.

    This isn't so much a knock on 7MC so much as Tivo having a really great community, which has provided very knowledgeable support on complicated technical questions. I'll also never forget a few years ago when, after every other commercial was warning about the analog broadcast shutdown over a six month period, someone posted to complain that her analog broadcast channels weren't working. She wasn't mocked at all and received very specific instructions about how to get her adapter set up.

    Anyway, this sounds like an argument against going with 7MC, but I do still miss having a computer PVR. If Ceton's new Echo extender product is well received and addresses the issues above, I might consider going to a 7MC setup

  19. atmuscarella

    atmuscarella Well-Known Member

    Oct 11, 2005
    Rochester NY
    With Cost not being a big factor I will recommend another option:
    1. New 4 tuner Premiere Elite with lifetime cost: $900
    2. New Premiere with lifetime Cost: $500
    3. New Tuner-less HTPC (basically any Win 7 PC with HDMI and blu-ray) Cost $700+/-
    The above would give you 6 tuners, plenty of storage, streaming between the Premieres and the HTPC to do all the other things you mentioned.

    Of course I am assuming you have one primary TV and that TV would have the Elite and HTPC attached to it.

    Good Luck,
  20. mr.unnatural

    mr.unnatural Well-Known Member

    Feb 2, 2006
    Win 7 Media Center is a far cry from what was being used four years ago. Simply no comparison.

    As with most public forums, you'll hear more complaints than good experiences. People tend to post in forums only when they have a problem they can't resolve. There are probably far more HTPC users having no issues than what you're hearing about.

    While it's only speculation at this point, it is hoped that the upcoming Ceton Echo will be able to handle Blu-Rays.

    I agree about the extender lag, which is but one reason why I've stopped using them. It wasn't that much of an issue, but still a bit annoying. How much more "pleasurable" the Tivo interface is tends to be a matter of personal preference. I find WMC equally as pleasurable to use. Both user interfaces are nothing more than a graphical menu scheme that allows you to navigate between various options and settings.

    None of which are of any importance to me. Obviously, YMMV. The streaming services you mentioned are either of lower resolution and inferior audio or are riddled with commercials.

    True, but if you're with a provider like FIOS that doesn't inject the copy once flag you can still share recordings between PCs and assign tuners to each one.

    The current 360's are still unacceptable for use in a bedroom and the older ones are even worse. I'm really looking forward to the Echo extender. It may finally be the extender everyone's been waiting for.

    Seriously? Check out the Home Theater Computer section at the AVSForums, the Missing Remote, and Hack7MC. You've already mentioned The Green Button, which has been integrated into another Microsoft forum site, but it's my least favorite WMC support forum.

    Lots of good folks that support Tivos here. There's also another great Tivo forum at DDB, but it's geared more towards hackers and tweakers.

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