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We Try It: Tivo Roamio

The first show I recorded on my first Tivo® was the pilot of Firefly. I’ve been in love ever since. 

Tivo logo in a heart.
Tivo logo from

Last month, Tivo® introduced a new DVR, called the Roamio, which includes several features not available in previous models. I had a pretty good job month in August, so I splurged. I’m so glad I did, because this gadget is delightful.

Tivo® Roamio comes in three price ranges. The base model will store 75 hours of HD programming for $199.99. The Plus model will store up to 150 hours of HD, will stream to all your devices without an extra component, and costs $399.99. The Pro model will store up to 450 HD hours, will stream to devices, and costs $699.99. Tivo also charges $12.99 for monthly service, or offers lifetime service for $399.99.

Tivo® is compatible with most cable providers and some satellite providers, but is not compatible with AT&T Uverse, as that service doesn’t use cable cards, which the Tivo needs to decode the cable signal. I’m a Comcast customer, it costs me $1.50 per month for a multi-stream cable card, and $9.99 for an extra digital port, since I use the Tivo box in lieu of a cable box.

But Selena, you’re asking, what the hot apple fritter is a multi-stream cable card, and where do they come from? A cable card is a small, 3″ by 2″ metal whoosits that slides right in the back of the Tivo®. Multi-stream cards allow devices with multiple tuners, like DVRs, to receive and decode the cable signal. The Roamio Plus and Roamio Pro models are able to record six simultaneous programs off a single M-Card, while the basic can record up to four. Cable customers can usually either pick up or order an M-Card from their cable providers. (The look surprisingly like the Cytron card that was a major plot point in last season’s Scandal, but as best I can tell, M-Cards cannot be used to steal a presidential election.)

Once the cable card is inserted into an activated Tivo®, the cable company will need to provision it. This can be a challenge, depending on your cable company and how much their customer service reps know about cable cards. It’s been hit or miss for me, with the most recent provisioning requiring five separate calls.

Setting up the Tivo® is painless and simple. The box needs to be connected to a cable outlet, it needs a network connection, and it needs audio/visual connections. My particular configuration is wired network (instead of wireless or MoCA {media over co-axial cable}), HDMI to the television, and RCA to the stereo tuner. The wired network allows me to stream from my Roamio to the Tivo Mini upstairs as well as all my gadgets.

The Roamio is set up to work with Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, my cable company’s OnDemand, and Netflix, and includes both streaming and pay-per-view options in search results. Previous Tivo® models did this as well, but the integration with the Roamio is a lot more user-friendly and easier to navigate than on my old Tivo®.

There are several new-to-Tivo® features on the Roamio. The most obvious is the ability to continue watching your program in picture-in-picture while playing with the Tivo menu screens. There’s a new menu line item which allows you to find something on TV right now that aligns with your interests, divided into Popular TV, Movies, Sports, and Kids sub-menus. There’s also a bar filled with suggestions from the current listings and your saved programs that displays on the My Shows menu. One of my favorite new features, as I am a lazy asshole, is the “play all programs in this folder” feature, which allows me to passively enjoy hour upon hour of Detective Unstabler and Ice-T solving crime. All of these are great, but the icing on the Roamio cake is the button on the front of the box that makes the remote play the Tivo® theme song. No more lost remotes.

Screenshot of Tivo discovery bar.
Tivo Roamio discovery bar, image from
Tivo Roamio what to watch now screen
Tivo Roamio what to watch now screen. Image from

Tivo® has some of the best customer service I’ve ever encountered. Any time I’ve had a problem with my service (which has been very, very rare) I’ve been able to get it resolved with a few minutes on the phone.

I’ve been a Tivo® fan since 2001, and no cable DVR or other alternative has even begun to woo me away. While it’s always been an awesome toy, as a person in charge of a blog that reviews a dozen or so television shows each week, it makes it a lot easier to keep up with all the shows we cover. Plus, I have an endless supply of SVU at my fingertips, no matter where I happen to be.

By [E] Selena MacIntosh*

Selena MacIntosh is the owner and editor of Persephone Magazine. She also fixes it when it breaks. She is fueled by Diet Coke, coffee with a lot of cream in it, and cat hair.

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