Thursday, February 07, 2008

Comcast TiVo Review

It has been a month now since we upgraded from Comcast DVR service to Comcast TiVo service. Comcast is (I believe) the first cable company to partner with TiVo to provide the critically acclaimed TiVo interface on cable company DVR boxes. More information on the offering here:

What you get:
  • A new TiVo remote
  • TiVo interface
  • Comcast On Demand works with the guide
  • One box, one bill- all from Comcast

What you don't get:
  • A new box- the old Comcast DVR box remains
  • Amazon Unbox support
  • TiVo "to-go"
  • I'm a sucker for the cool TiVo sounds
  • WishList programming has found shows I never would have found with regular DVR
  • The TiVo remote is pretty nice
  • On Demand still works

  • Slow channel up/down
  • Slow/Flaky channel guide behavior
  • Flaky overall behavior

We've had a bit of a love/hate relationship with the TiVo so far. It is a very new product and as such it is downright flaky. The thing goes off in the weeds for minutes at a time quite often. I've had to reboot it a couple of times. I don't know how "snappy" most TiVo boxes are, but this box is a little slow at times, especially for common tasks like "channel up".

I thought I'd lost the secret squirrel "30-second skip" trick that is available on TiVo boxes (and on the Comcast DVR), but I found a way to re-enable it.

Comparing the cost of this to buying a box from TiVo and subscribing to TiVo service is a tricky equation. There are some general pros and cons of going the TiVo route vs. renting the box and service from Comcast, and perhaps some compelling arguments can be made for buying a real TiVo box. But for the purpose of simplicity, let's assume that Comcast TiVo delivers value to you equivalent to a TiVo HD box. The TiVo HD box costs $299. Monthly TiVo service costs $12.95/mo. If you pay for 3 years of service up front, the cost comes down to $299. If you get the TiVo, you have to get 2 cable cards. Comcast charges $1.91 per month for the 2nd cable card. If you get Comcast TiVo installation is $17.95; TiVo installation is free/do-it-yourself.

The monthly cost of TiVo service (if you do a 3-year pre-pay) is $8.30 + $1.91=$10.21. The monthly cost of the Comcast TiVo service is $15.90. If we look at a 1-year scenario, TiVo costs $450 vs. $208 for Comcast Tivo. For a 3-year scenario, TiVo costs $667 vs. $590 for Comcast TiVo. The break-even point is around 4 years. After that TiVo becomes a better deal.

Given the pace of change in this space, I like the model where I don't have to pay anything up front for the box and I can cancel any time. I think we'll see how things go with this Comcast TiVo box for the next few months to a year and re-evaluate things at that time. Who knows, maybe I'll convince Deanna that we need to upgrade to a massive flat panel TV, a TiVo Series 4, *and* an AppleTV for good measure.


The Comcast TiVo continues to be flaky and for as much as it is nice having a DVR, it does some seriously stupid things:


We eventually abandoned the Comcast TiVo in favor of the regular Comcast box because new features like Comcast Caller ID and online programming weren't available on the Comcast TiVo box. It doesn't feel like Comcast is investing a lot of effort in sustaining their proprietary TiVo box.
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