With smartphones and tablets eating into our traditional content consumption time, TiVo has finally decided to build a DVR box for this “on-the-go” generation; hence, the “roam” in its new Roamio line of DVRs. The company is packing a number of new features into the new DVR boxes, but the star of the show is definitely the out-of-home streaming from a Roamio box to an iPhone or iPad.

For those who are familiar with Dish Network’s Hopper, it may seem like TiVo is simply following the trail already blazed by the original “Best in Show” winner at CES. And while that could be the case, the TiVo Roamio’s ability to work across multiple cable providers makes that device more useful, especially since it’s one of the first cross-provider DVRs to combine recording capabilities with Sling-esque streaming out of the home.

The apps that can be run on TiVo's new Roamio line of DVRs.
The apps that can be run on TiVo’s new Roamio line of DVRs.

In addition to classic DVR functionality and streaming TV to iPhones and iPads, the Roamio can also serve as a streaming box. If you’re the owner of an Apple TV, a Roku or even a DVD player with built-in streaming apps, you may find these other devices redundant once you realize you can get to most of your favorite services (Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, Pandora, Spotify and more) from the same box you use to watch TV. Not having to switch inputs will save you a couple of seconds at the most, but over time, those seconds add up.

I do have a couple of concerns about the Roamio line and its features, and they mainly revolve around the out-of-home streaming.

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For starters, if you pick a box up today — which you can do on the TiVo website, Amazon and BestBuy.com — the iPhone/iPad streaming feature isn’t quite working yet. It’s designated as “coming soon,” which is not something you want to see for the most trumpeted feature on a product. Imagine Apple releasing the iPhone 5S with a disclaimer attached: “the fingerprint scanner doesn’t work yet.” You’d have a phone that was a lot like the previous generation, and until TiVo gets out-of-home streaming working with the Roamio DVRs, I have to ask — why is it being released?

TiVo’s release about the product also made a small mention of the fact that some shows may not be streamable.

Due to content provider restrictions, not all content can be streamed out of home and some content may only be streamed while a mobile device is on the same local network as the subscriber’s DVR.

This is somewhat troubling. As a consumer paying a cable provider for access to these shows, it seems silly that a content provider would prevent me from streaming a live or DVRed TV show on my iPhone or iPad. If I was sitting on my couch at home, I could enjoy a live or pre-recorded show without issue, but streaming that same programming to my mobile device is unacceptable? It’s that stone age-type thinking that makes these content providers — and the cable providers they work with — some of the most despised companies in existence, and it makes the Netflix/Amazon models of television look better and better.

We’ll keep you up to speed on the Roamio DVR line and we’ll especially let you know when the most touted feature of these boxes is actually usable. Until then, do you plan on picking one up or are you content with your current DVR? Let us know where you stand.


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