So, it was with some trepidation and careful thought that we recently decided to look at going back to TiVo and switching to FiOS TV (we are already FiOS internet and phone customers). After months of deliberation we finally decided to move ahead last month. We got two TiVo Roamio Pro DVRs and 5 Minis (the Tivo Mini is roughly equivalent to the DIrecTV Genie clients like the C-41). The specs for the Roamios are quite impressive:
- 6 tuners on the Plus and Pro, 4 tuners on the base Roamio
- 500GB disk on the base Roamio, 1TB on the Plus, 3TB on the Pro
- Built-in TiVo Stream (equivalent of the GenieGo)
- RF remote standard (with a back-lit, slide out QWERTY keyboard, remote available as an add-on)
- Bulit-in Web apps for Netflix, Hulu Plus, You Tube, Spotify, Pandora and more.
The Verizon DVRs (made by Motorola) are, however, atrocious. The UI is confusing, cumbersome and buggy. They are currently rolling out a 6 tuner model (the VMS1100) but it has the same lousy UI. So, if we were going to make the switch, it had to be with TiVo equipment.
Unpacking the TiVo Roamios, the first thing you notice is that they are smaller and lighter than most DirecTV DVRs. They are about the same size and weight as the HR-44, but with an internal power supply. The RF remote is the classic TiVo peanut shape, but is a bit shorter and heavier than the old Series 2 remotes. The are not heavy - the weight feels good in your hand. Starting up the TiVos takes you to guided setup, which asks for network connection details (the Roamios support Ethernet, MOCA and wireless connections) and then downloads the current software. Being designed for digital cable, the TiVos require a CableCard to decrypt the digital video channels. Verizon charges $4.98 per month for each cablecard, but that is our only monthly equipment fee (for 7 TVs). Slipping the card into the back of the TiVo launches the CableCard configuration screens at which point you call you cable company to activate and pair the cards with your TiVos. This is where the process gets sticky - some cable companies make getting and activating a CableCard very difficult, but lucky for us, Verizon is pretty easy to deal with in this respect. The installer that came to connect the coax to the ONT brought the cards and we were up and running within 30 minutes.
Everyday operation of the system is quite good. The Minis provide the exact same interface as the DVRs themselves. Like DirecTV's Genie system, clients are associated with a DVR, but you can have multiple Roamios on the same network. In our setup we have 3 Minis attached to one DVR (for the adults) and 2 attached to the other DVR (for the kids). Unlike DirecTV, there is no unified playlist...to play a recording from a remote DVR you select the remote DVR from the local playlist and you are then presented with the remote playlist. This is both a plus and a minus. On the plus side, it allows you to segregate playlists by user(s), but it requires an extra step or more to browse multiple DVRs. The Netflix and Hulu apps are identical to what you'd see on a RoKu or similar device. The performance of the web apps is better than any of our Rokus (except perhaps our Roku 3) and the apps on our BD player. The Minis are also quite fast, but not quite as fast as using the DVR locally. They don't use RVU (I assume, since they don't have a "boxless" option), and they don't support wireless (although several users have reported that they work fine through an external wireless bridge). The supported network topologies are Ethernet or MOCA. BTW, the Roamios can function as a MOCA/Ethernet bridge.
Overall, the TiVos are faster, more reliable and just generally more enjoyable than the DirecTV DVRs. That we can have the same channels, at the same or better quality, with better, faster DVRs, with integrated OTT apps, all for half the price we were paying, has made the decision a no brainer. As soon as we have watched all of our recordings, we'll be cancelling DirecTV and shipping most everything back (except the one HR24-500 that we own).
The real bonus for us is the monthly cost savings. We have been paying FiOS about $85/month for 75/35 Internet and voice service, while paying DirecTV over $200/month for the Premiere package, HD, DVR and Whole Home fees, plus 7 outlets. We will now be paying FiOS $145/month for everything, including the CableCards - a savings of over $140/month. While there was a sizable cash outlay to purchase the TiVo equipment with lifetime service, at $140 per month, it won't take very long to earn it all back in savings (less than 18 months) and then that $140 goes into our pockets every month.
This is, I believe, part of the goal of the AT&T acquisition of DirecTV. The ability to offer a bundle can make a huge difference in competiveness. If AT&T can offer ALL of the customers in their service areas a bundle of internet, phone and TV (and TV that doesn't limit you to 3 or 4 simultaneous channels, and doesn't consume a big chunk of your internet bandwidth) for a price similar to the competition then that will be good for both AT&T and DirecTV.
Added on 6/13/14 at 10:55 am...
NOTE: This thread devolved into pointless arguments after page 5 or 6, so there is little reason to read any further that that.