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TiVo HD XL DVR Review
December 4, 2008 By David Birch-Jones
THX’d and Super-Sized
Throwing down the HD DVR gauntlet, TiVo’s top HD XL model ups the storage ante by including a comparatively huge one terabyte hard drive, making the typical cable HD DVR’s 160 GB capacity look downright puny.
The HD XL also provides an E-SATA port for an external hard drive that can further add to the already large HD recording capacity.
Plus, the HD XL is TiVo’s first THX-certified model to ensure top notch picture and sound quality.
Of course, everyone knows that TiVo virtually invented the hard-drive DVR category, and have recently taken steps to aggressively pursue competitors that it thinks have infringed on their time-shifting patents, scoring a whopping nine figure judgment this past fall against Dish Network, for example.
For me, a DVR is a once-with, then never-without affair, like air conditioning or an iPod. Sure the core concept is the same with cable and satellite DVRs that provide unattended recording, time-shifting, pausing and super-quick fast-forward and rewind speeds.
What sets the TiVo apart is their unique artificial intelligence that allows the DVR to search out similar programs according to your viewing preferences and automatically add them to the record list.
That process is aided by red “thumb down” and green “thumb up” buttons on the remote. If you really like a program that the TiVo found for you or you’ve selected yourself, give it one, two or three thumb up button presses. Likewise, the thumb down button works the same for TiVo choices or programs you don’t care for.
The HD XL has two tuners, which allows simultaneous recording of two shows, and playback of a previously-recorded third.
The top-line TiVo HD XL model’s massive hard drive provides for a whopping 150 hours of high definition recording, and is equipped with an E-SATA port that permits connection to an external hard drive to up the storage capacity even further.
At the moment though, TiVo is taking perhaps a too-conservative approach to particular external hard drive choices, specifying only one external drive model, Western Digital’s 500 MB My DVR Expander drive. At $199.99 suggested list, it’s a tad pricey compared to other comparable high capacity external E-SATA-equipped hard drives, but TiVo reports brisk sales of the model to their customers from their online store (it’s also easily available at computer stores and online outlets).
With the My DVR Expander drive connected, the HD storage capacity is upped substantially to 215 recording hours total, which should be enough for even the most voracious couch potato. Unlike Dish Network, which charges a $39.99 one-time fee to unlock their DVR models’ external hard drive capability, that functionality is provided by TiVo at no charge.
The TiVo’s WishList artificial intelligence works as well as ever, so when I gave a thumb up to a cooking show, within hours the box had already begun recording similarly-themed shows. I...