Once upon a time TiVo’s name was synonymous with DVRs… but then pretty much every cable company started offering its own DVR service and folks were left wondering why they should pay for TiVo hardware and subscriptions.
TiVo has been trying to answer that question ever since… but the company’s newest product takes a different approach altogether.
The TiVo Stream 4K isn’t a DVR at all. It’s a dongle that you can plug into the HDMI port of just about any modern TV to stream online media.
It’s set to go on sale in April for $50, making it the company’s most affordable hardware to date (which will still be true even after the price will eventually go up to $70).
But in some ways it’s TiVo’s most innovative product in years.
Yes, on one level the TiVo Stream 4K is the company’s answer to the Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast, Apple TV, and Roku line of products. There are already plenty of similarly-priced gadgets that offer functionality that seems similar at first glance.
The difference is that TiVo is promising a simpler user experience. The TiVo Stream 4K supports Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, HBO Now, CBS All Access, Vudu, YouTube and TiVo+. But as The Digital Media Zone points out, you won’t actually see the apps for those services on the home screen.
Instead, you’ll just see a list of shows that are available to watch. You can dig into the service to find specific apps, but theoretically the personalized home screen (you can set content preferences for each member of your household) will just show you the content you want to see — no need to remember which app you need to open to find your favorite shows.
Want to watch live TV? There’s no option to hook up the TiVo Stream 4K to an antenna, cable, or satellite box. But TiVo has partnered with Sling TV to be the exclusive live TV-over-the-internet provider for this product.
That means that if you pony up the cash for a Sling TV subscription, not only will you be able to stream live TV and watch shows saved to your Sling TV cloud DVR, but you’ll be able to navigate the service using TiVo’s program guide.
Under the hood, the TiVo Stream 4K experience is powered by Google’s Android TV platform, and there’s a Google Assistant voice search button on the Stream 4K remote control. TiVo’s Voice search taps into that, which means you can ask the Google Assistant to find a show, and the Stream 4K should pull it up no matter which service it’s on.
As the name of the product suggests, the TiVo Stream 4K can handle 4K Ultra HD content. TiVo points out that it also supports Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos audio.
Overall, the TiVo Stream 4K honestly seems like one of the most promising products from the company in years… but like most media streamers, it’s important to note that the hardware only gets you so far.
While TiVo isn’t charging a subscription for access to its program guide data for once, customers will need to pay $20 or more per month if they want to stream live TV from Sling TV, not to mention the subscription fees for Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, or any other video services you’d care to use. There’s also no support for Disney+ yet, although it’s possible that could change in the future.