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Review: New TiVo delivers for avid TV viewers

  • This image provided by TiVo, Inc shows a sports menu from the new TiVo Roamio Plus. TiVo Inc. announced a new line of digital video recorders Tuesday Aug. 20, 2013, to give television viewers more control over what they watch on traditional channels and over the Internet. (AP Photo/TiVo, Inc.)

    This image provided by TiVo, Inc shows a sports menu from the new TiVo Roamio Plus. TiVo Inc. announced a new line of digital video recorders Tuesday Aug. 20, 2013, to give television viewers more control over what they watch on traditional channels and over the Internet. (AP Photo/TiVo, Inc.) Purchase photo reprints »

  • This image provided by TiVo,Inc shows the new Roamio Plus and remote,left, with the TiVo mini, right. which extends the functionality of the main TiVo into another room. TiVo Inc. announced a new line of digital video recorders Tuesday Aug. 20, 2013 to give television viewers more control over what they watch on traditional channels and over the Internet. (AP Photo/TiVo, Inc)

    This image provided by TiVo,Inc shows the new Roamio Plus and remote,left, with the TiVo mini, right. which extends the functionality of the main TiVo into another room. TiVo Inc. announced a new line of digital video recorders Tuesday Aug. 20, 2013 to give television viewers more control over what they watch on traditional channels and over the Internet. (AP Photo/TiVo, Inc) Purchase photo reprints »

  • This image provided by TiVo,Inc shows the new Roamio Plus and remote,left, with the TiVo mini, right. which extends the functionality of the main TiVo into another room. TiVo Inc. announced a new line of digital video recorders Tuesday Aug. 20, 2013 to give television viewers more control over what they watch on traditional channels and over the Internet. (AP Photo/TiVo, Inc)

    This image provided by TiVo,Inc shows the new Roamio Plus and remote,left, with the TiVo mini, right. which extends the functionality of the main TiVo into another room. TiVo Inc. announced a new line of digital video recorders Tuesday Aug. 20, 2013 to give television viewers more control over what they watch on traditional channels and over the Internet. (AP Photo/TiVo, Inc) Purchase photo reprints »

  • This image provided by TiVo Inc. shows a TiVo Roamio DVR, one of the companies new digital video recorders. TiVo Inc. announced a new line of digital video recorders Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013, to give television viewers more control over what they watch on traditional channels and over the Internet. (AP Photo/TiVo Inc.)

    This image provided by TiVo Inc. shows a TiVo Roamio DVR, one of the companies new digital video recorders. TiVo Inc. announced a new line of digital video recorders Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013, to give television viewers more control over what they watch on traditional channels and over the Internet. (AP Photo/TiVo Inc.) Purchase photo reprints »

  • This image provided by TiVo Inc. shows a TiVo Roamio DVR, one of the companies new digital video recorders. TiVo Inc. announced a new line of digital video recorders Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013, to give television viewers more control over what they watch on traditional channels and over the Internet. (AP Photo/TiVo Inc.)

    This image provided by TiVo Inc. shows a TiVo Roamio DVR, one of the companies new digital video recorders. TiVo Inc. announced a new line of digital video recorders Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013, to give television viewers more control over what they watch on traditional channels and over the Internet. (AP Photo/TiVo Inc.) Purchase photo reprints »

  • This image provided by TiVo, Inc., shows the new Roamio Plus and remote, left, with the TiVo mini, right, which extends the functionality of the main TiVo into another room. TiVo, Inc. announced a new line of digital video recorders Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013, to give television viewers more control over what they watch on traditional channels and over the Internet. (AP Photo/TiVo, Inc).

    This image provided by TiVo, Inc., shows the new Roamio Plus and remote, left, with the TiVo mini, right, which extends the functionality of the main TiVo into another room. TiVo, Inc. announced a new line of digital video recorders Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013, to give television viewers more control over what they watch on traditional channels and over the Internet. (AP Photo/TiVo, Inc). Purchase photo reprints »

  • This image provided by TiVo, Inc., shows the new Roamio Plus and remote, left, with the TiVo mini, right, which extends the functionality of the main TiVo into another room. TiVo, Inc. announced a new line of digital video recorders Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013, to give television viewers more control over what they watch on traditional channels and over the Internet. (AP Photo/TiVo, Inc).

    This image provided by TiVo, Inc., shows the new Roamio Plus and remote, left, with the TiVo mini, right, which extends the functionality of the main TiVo into another room. TiVo, Inc. announced a new line of digital video recorders Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013, to give television viewers more control over what they watch on traditional channels and over the Internet. (AP Photo/TiVo, Inc). Purchase photo reprints »

  • This image provided by TiVo, Inc shows a sports menu from the new TiVo Roamio Plus. TiVo Inc. announced a new line of digital video recorders Tuesday Aug. 20, 2013, to give television viewers more control over what they watch on traditional channels and over the Internet. (AP Photo/TiVo, Inc.)

    This image provided by TiVo, Inc shows a sports menu from the new TiVo Roamio Plus. TiVo Inc. announced a new line of digital video recorders Tuesday Aug. 20, 2013, to give television viewers more control over what they watch on traditional channels and over the Internet. (AP Photo/TiVo, Inc.) Purchase photo reprints »

  • This image provided by TiVo, Inc shows a sports menu from the new TiVo Roamio Plus. TiVo Inc. announced a new line of digital video recorders Tuesday Aug. 20, 2013, to give television viewers more control over what they watch on traditional channels and over the Internet. (AP Photo/TiVo, Inc.)
  • This image provided by TiVo,Inc shows the new Roamio Plus and remote,left, with the TiVo mini, right. which extends the functionality of the main TiVo into another room. TiVo Inc. announced a new line of digital video recorders Tuesday Aug. 20, 2013 to give television viewers more control over what they watch on traditional channels and over the Internet. (AP Photo/TiVo, Inc)
  • This image provided by TiVo,Inc shows the new Roamio Plus and remote,left, with the TiVo mini, right. which extends the functionality of the main TiVo into another room. TiVo Inc. announced a new line of digital video recorders Tuesday Aug. 20, 2013 to give television viewers more control over what they watch on traditional channels and over the Internet. (AP Photo/TiVo, Inc)
  • This image provided by TiVo Inc. shows a TiVo Roamio DVR, one of the companies new digital video recorders. TiVo Inc. announced a new line of digital video recorders Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013, to give television viewers more control over what they watch on traditional channels and over the Internet. (AP Photo/TiVo Inc.)
  • This image provided by TiVo Inc. shows a TiVo Roamio DVR, one of the companies new digital video recorders. TiVo Inc. announced a new line of digital video recorders Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013, to give television viewers more control over what they watch on traditional channels and over the Internet. (AP Photo/TiVo Inc.)
  • This image provided by TiVo, Inc., shows the new Roamio Plus and remote, left, with the TiVo mini, right, which extends the functionality of the main TiVo into another room. TiVo, Inc. announced a new line of digital video recorders Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013, to give television viewers more control over what they watch on traditional channels and over the Internet. (AP Photo/TiVo, Inc).
  • This image provided by TiVo, Inc., shows the new Roamio Plus and remote, left, with the TiVo mini, right, which extends the functionality of the main TiVo into another room. TiVo, Inc. announced a new line of digital video recorders Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013, to give television viewers more control over what they watch on traditional channels and over the Internet. (AP Photo/TiVo, Inc).
  • This image provided by TiVo, Inc shows a sports menu from the new TiVo Roamio Plus. TiVo Inc. announced a new line of digital video recorders Tuesday Aug. 20, 2013, to give television viewers more control over what they watch on traditional channels and over the Internet. (AP Photo/TiVo, Inc.)

In many ways, TiVo’s digital video recorders have become redundant as cable and satellite TV companies offer their own DVR services. Yet the company that pioneered DVRs 14 years ago keeps churning out new products.

Avid television viewers will appreciate that. The fifth-generation TiVos, called Roamio, continue the tradition of giving you more than you can get from your cable or satellite company. That includes the ability to watch recorded shows when you’re away from home, starting this fall.

But you’ll also pay more for the experience — $400 for the mid-range model, plus a monthly service fee of $15. By contrast, you can often get DVR service through your TV provider for a comparable monthly fee, with no extra equipment to buy.

If you don’t watch a lot of television, Roamio isn’t for you. It would be like going to a five-star restaurant when all you want is bread. But it’s a worthwhile investment if you have hundreds of television channels and Internet video services and can’t figure out where to start.

Like other DVRs, you can pause live television to answer the phone or the door. You can rewind live sporting events and create your own replays. Get home 15 minutes late? You can start watching a show from the beginning as it’s still being recorded.

Where TiVo has excelled is in helping you find programs to record. You can create lists of favorite actors and have TiVo automatically record movies or talk shows they appear in. You can do the same with keywords, such as “national park” or “dolphins.” You can even have TiVo offer suggestions based on your past viewing.

Roamio also lets you customize the on-screen television listings. If you’re in the mood for a movie, you can have TiVo show you just the movies when you scroll through the listings. You can customize that further and scroll through comedies or documentaries, sports, news shows or kids programming.

If there are channels you never watch, such as something in Korean or Russian, you can have TiVo remove them from your lineup. You can also do that with Internet services you have no interest in paying for.

Roamio has a number of hardware improvements, mostly on the mid-level Roamio Plus ($400) and the high-end Roamio Pro ($600):

— Those two models will let you watch live or record up to six shows at once. That’s up from a maximum of four. (The $200 base model has four tuners, up from two.)

— Both will let you watch your recorded shows on an iPhone or iPad. Before, you needed a separate $130 TiVo Stream box. Streaming is currently limited to iPhones and iPads connected to your home wireless network, but TiVo will start offering out-of-home streaming this fall. Users will be able to stream video in various ways, including through a hotel Wi-Fi on the road. Android streaming is promised by early next year.

— All three models come with a remote that uses radio signals rather than an infrared beam. What that means is you don’t have to point the remote at the TiVo.

— All three models also have Wi-Fi built in, so you no longer need to attach an Ethernet cable or buy a separate TiVo Wi-Fi adapter for $90.

— The Roamio offers speed improvements over the previous model, which you’ll notice when navigating menus. That said, the system did hang on me for a few seconds now and then as TiVo sifted through all the data.

The base model comes with 500 gigabytes of storage, enough for 75 hours of high-definition recordings. The Plus model, which is the one I reviewed, has 1 terabyte for 150 hours, while the Pro has 3 terabytes for 450 hours. That’s nearly 19 days of TV without any sleep. There’s even more room for non-HD recordings.

Roamio isn’t compatible with satellite TV or video service through AT&T’s U-verse.

It works with cable TV service, but you’ll need to keep it. While the base model can accommodate over-the-air broadcasts, the Plus and the Pro models can’t process signals from antennas. You would be stuck with TiVo as a streaming device, which isn’t its strong suit. Both Roku and Apple TV offer access to many more Internet services than TiVo. TiVo is largely limited to Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon.com and a few others.

I have stopped channel surfing since I got my first TiVo in 2001. There’s always something better to watch now that TiVo has helped me find and record programming. After just a few hours with Roamio, I was discovering even more shows and movies I want to watch.

And with streaming video, it does a good job of finding all that content. With one search, I can tell that Netflix has only the first four and a half seasons of “Breaking Bad.” That same search tells me that if I want more recent episodes, I need to buy them through Amazon Instant Video or wait for reruns on AMC.

You can probably cobble together a bunch of services and devices that do what TiVo does. With the new Roamio, TiVo is the one that does it all and does it well.

Anick Jesdanun, deputy technology editor for The Associated Press, can be reached at njesdanun(at)ap.org.

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