Editor's note: Since this review was published, TiVo has since released the Series 2DT, which adds a second analog tuner and a built-in Ethernet port, but is otherwise identical to this model.The 140-hour TiVo has the exact same exterior design as its 40-hour and 80-hour brethren. Aside from two LEDs (green for power, red to indicate recording), the translucent white front face provides a backlight for the company's smiling-television logo. Fortunately, this distracting design element can be dimmed or shut off. The 3.38-by-15-by-12-inch (HWD) box is otherwise unremarkable, lacking even a power button.
Control options are left to the device's excellent remote. Shaped like a stretched-out barbell, it has a prominent TiVo button perched on its tip for accessing the main menu. Differentiation among button shapes makes navigating the remote by feel relatively easy. A smart setup system lets the remote command your TV's power and input selection, while the volume control can affect either the television or an A/V receiver.
Upon connecting the box, we dove into the unit's guided setup, a supposedly 45-minute process that obviates the need to even open the user manual. Setup took a little longer than that for us, but in the end, we didn't have any problems.
In its default dial-up mode using a regular phone line, TiVo makes nightly calls to the server to fetch program information. There's no 800 number, so you must choose a local number from a long list. If you have broadband, however, there's a better option. One of the Series2's best features is that its USB ports can connect to a broadband Internet service via compatible USB-to-Ethernet and USB Wi-Fi adapters, eliminating the need for a phone-line connection. We tried this setup with a Fallaron NetLine PN796 (wired) and a Linksys WUSB11 (wireless) adapter connecting to a Netgear router, and it worked like a charm.
An important note on TiVo's connectivity options: although we were able to run the initial setup call over our Vonage Voice over IP phone line after considerable finagling, TiVo does not explicitly support VoIP services. Broadband connectivity worked flawlessly--and is required to make use of the TiVo's impressive home-networking features--but it's not enabled straight out of the box. That means those of you in VoIP-only households may find yourselves shuttling the TiVo to the home of a neighbor so that you can use a trusty old analog phone line to do the initial setup download. It's a silly catch-22 that TiVo could eliminate by shipping its products with built-in networking support.
Setup snafus notwithstanding, we really like this DVR's easy-to-use yet powerful interface. TiVo's designers chose real English phrases, such as "Watch live TV" and "Pick programs to record," for menu choices, instead of the cryptic icons common to so many other consumer electronics devices. Text explanations were clear and timely, and we'd bet that even Granny could figure out the basics in a matter of minutes--once she gets over the shock of seeing live television on pause.The Series2 comes in three hard-drive sizes: 40 hours, 80 hours, and 140 hours. The numbers refer to the amount of recording time that each TiVo offers at the lowest quality. At its highest-quality setting, this 140-hour drive delivers about 48 hours of recording time. If that's not enough for you, check out Humax's T2500, which offers 82 hours of recording time at its highest capacity, and a whopping 300 hours at the basic level.