TiVo Bolt

I ordered a TiVo Bolt yesterday. I’ve been using a cable company DVR ever since I upgraded from standard def to high def TV, and I’ve never been really happy with it. I had a TiVo Series 2 from 2004 to 2008. I retired it in favor of the cable company box because, at the time, I didn’t want to pay for a new HD Tivo. (I can’t remember exactly how much they cost, but I think they were pretty expensive at the time.)

The old Series 2 TiVo was pretty cool, but with a few rough edges. The IR blaster that you had to use to control your cable box was a kludge, and it didn’t always work. And, initially, the box had no connection to the internet; it had a modem connection that was used to dial directly into TiVo’s servers every night to download program guide updates. (At some point, I hooked up an external wifi adapter, which allowed me to unplug the phone cord, and allowed the TiVo to pull content down from the internet.)

The cable company DVR service costs me $12/month. And the cable box itself costs a little less than $8/month. So I’m paying about $20/month for equipment. With the Bolt, the first year of service is free, then it’s $15/month, if you pay monthly, or about $12.50/month if you pay for a full year in advance. And the cable company will charge me $2/month for a CableCARD. So. in the long run, the Bolt should turn out to be less expensive than continuing to use my crappy cable company DVR.

I don’t know why I haven’t bought a new TiVo before now. There always seemed to be good reasons not to. First would be the cost. The more recent boxes have actually been pretty affordable, and I get occasional emails from TiVo with specials on refurb units, but I could never quite talk myself into it.

Second would be perceived risk. Nearly every time TiVo releases a new unit, the reviews on it inevitably start off with a paragraph about how TiVo is a “troubled” company that can’t compete with DVR boxes provided by the cable companies. Yet they’re still out there, making new boxes, and doing well enough, as far as I can tell. And it’s been maybe ten years since cable companies started renting DVR boxes to their customers.

Third would be ambivalence and/or guilt about how much TV I’m watching. I’ve been toying with the idea of “cutting the cord” recently, but buying a new TiVo is also, in a way, a commitment to continuing to pay for cable TV. There’s not much point in the monthly TiVo subscription if I’m not also paying for cable TV. So I feel like I’m committing to cable TV for at least another year or three, if I’m paying for a TiVo now.

So I’m pretty well committed to keeping my cable subscription going for at least another year, I think. I’m having thoughts about dropping down to a slightly less costly service level, but I’m grandfathered into a plan that doesn’t exist anymore, and there really isn’t much flexibility in their current plans. I’d love to drop down to something that just has the broadcast channels, and a few basic cable channels, like Comedy Central and SyFy. But there really isn’t a plan like that.

I also need to figure out what to do with my old Series 2 TiVo. I’m a little embarrassed to say that it’s still sitting on the shelf under my TV. It’s at the bottom of a stack of equipment that’s basically stacked in “relevant” to “obsolete” order: Roku, Apple TV, Cable box/DVR, HD-DVD player, TiVo. So I can really get rid of the Series 2 and the HD-DVD player, and of course the Cable box will go back to the cable company. I did a little digging, and it looks like Best Buy will accept the TiVo and HD-DVD player for recycling (along with some other old electronics I have lying around), so maybe that’s a task for this weekend. I’d actually like to plug in the Series 2 and see if it still works, before scrapping it. Partially out of curiosity, and partially so I can wipe the hard drive. I don’t think there’s much that anyone could do with the information on the drive, but you never know.

And I’m also thinking about the best way to get the new TiVo hooked up, and in what order I should do things. The TiVo should show up in the mail next week, maybe on Tuesday. I need to get a CableCARD, and maybe a tuning adapter. I should be able to take care of that by going to my local cable company office on Saturday. Then I’ll have all the equipment I need to do the setup. Then I can hopefully return the cable company DVR next weekend. It occurs to me that there’s probably no way to transfer my unwatched content from the cable DVR to the TiVo (or anywhere else). And I don’t think I can have the TiVo and cable box hooked up at the same time. So I’m going to have to either binge-watch all the stuff on my old DVR before hooking up the TiVo, or just write it off. Well, I guess it’s good to get a fresh start once in a while, right? I am finding that I’m letting a few shows pile up, and I’m just not that enthusiastic about them, so maybe it’s time to start over and trim down on what I’m recording. I really haven’t been excited about Gotham or Blunt Talk, for instance, even though I feel like I should like them.

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