TiVo HD XL: The Technologizer Review

By  |  Monday, December 8, 2008 at 9:58 am

dscf0001TiVo was kind enough to send us over a TiVo HD XL — its “super sized” DVR — for us to take a look at. Essentially the device is the successor to the Series 3 units, however it is enclosed in the TiVo HD casing. From here on out, it looks as if the TiVo HD and its bigger cousin will round out the DVR maker’s lineup.

Like the TiVo HD and Series 3, the XL uses a CableCARD, which eliminates the need for the user to rent a set-top box from the cable companies. At least here where I live, Comcast doesn’t charge for CableCARD usage, so I’m saving myself the $8 monthly or so fee it costs to rent the box.

It has dual-tuner functionality, so if you have the right card (an ‘M’ instead of an ‘S’ card), you’ll be able to take advantage of that. You can record two channels at once, and both in HD, so that is nice.

Really, there is not much different here: it’s essentially the same old TiVo with a big hard drive. That 1 terabyte hard drive should be plenty: it would allow for the recording of about 232 hours of standard def programming, and around 150 hours of HD programming.

This is a serious jump from the previous unit, which only allowed for about 20 hours of recording time in HD.

Altogether, our experience with the device was positive. Being that this was the first TiVo I’ve used that didn’t need the cable set-top box to operate, it was nice not to have to deal with the annoying banner of the set-top box, or the connection process there.

Picture quality was excellent, and the digital recording does not lose as much of the sharpness of HD programming as you’d expect.

You will lose On Demand, so if that’s a big hit in your household, the TiVo HD XL may not work. However here, we rarely use it, so at least in my own personal case, I’m not missing it.

I found one negative, and its very annoying. When selecting programming, and there is both a standard def and high def option, the Season Pass automatically defaults to SD. You have to manually go in and change it to HD, or use the online website to ensure it records only the HD channel.

If this is an HD DVR, it should be recording the high def versions by default, but thats only my opinion.

Overall, we’d recommend this unit over its smaller sibling. If you’re going to spend $1,000+ on a good HDTV, why skimp out on the DVR? Add to this the fact that the difference between recording times is like night and day, and this is a no brainer.



3 Comments For This Post

  1. Jim Says:

    Thanks for the review. Perhaps I can clarify a few things.

    I have both the Series 3 (in my den) and the HD (in my living room), so I know whereof I speak. :^)

    If you have 150 hours of HD recording capacity, you’re going to have over 600 hours of SD capacity. I’ve found it to be around 1.6 Gb per hour of standard def (480i) programming versus about 6.5 Gb per hour of high-def (1080i) programming. Your mileage may vary.

    Regarding the thing that you think is very annoying, check to see if your cable provider doesn’t have different channels for the SD station versus the HD station. That’s the way my cable provider does it. Channel 4 is the local CBS affiliate’s standard definition station and Channel 784 is the same station’s HD broadcast. With TiVo, you simply tell it what program (channel) you want and it obeys.

    By the way, when you search for a program, you can start the search by specifying you want HD only. TiVo will then only show you the programs that are in HD (720p or higher).

    TiVo is just light years ahead of other DVRs, and it continues to add value with new features all the time. One that just came out is the ability to stream Netflix movies. This is paradigm-shifting. I could watch TV through TiVo for weeks, and never watch one broadcast channel.


  2. Joe Says:

    “It has dual-tuner functionality, so if you have the right card (an ‘M’ instead of an ‘S’ card), you’ll be able to take advantage of that. You can record two channels at once, and both in HD, so that is nice”

    Just wanted to clarify the above. You do NOT have to have an M card to get dual tuner capability. You can use S cards to get dual tuners. It just takes 2 S cards to do so.

    I know this to be a fact because I just (over the weekend) took my 2 S cards from my Vista media center DVR and put them into my newly purchased Tivo HD XL.


  3. Keith Says:

    Howdy- I think the XL is also supposed to have higher end audio and video processing circuitry to give it the THX cert, but have no idea what the exact differences are in comparison the regular HD.

    It’s also good to note that it’s trivial to upgrade the hard drive in the regular Tivo HD. I did it with a simple Windows tool, which copied my old Tivo hard drive contents to the new hard drive. If you Google this topic, you will come up with all kinds of documentation, and easy to follow instructions. The Western Digital “Green” 1TB drive is what I use, and it worked perfectly. Western Digital also makes A/V specific hard drives, which offer very high reliability, high heat resistance, and low acoustics. I found the Green hard drive to be the best for my situation.