"Spectacular!"4.5 starson by Kafowler
Pros: Very easy to use, very fast / responsive, highly reliable, incredible picture quality; extremely high wife acceptance factor (WAF)
Cons: Some features like TivoToGo not enabled yet
Summary: I had to drive 45 minutes to buy this thing yesterday. Guess they are selling pretty fast at the moment. Thankfully, I was able to pickup two CableCards from the local Comcast office on the way home. They wanted to schedule a truck roll, but I insisted on doing it myself and they gave in after a few minutes.
The Tivo Series3 is priced like a high-end product, but from what I've seen, it delivers high-end performance. If you have cable and are serious about picture quality, sound quality, and reliable recording, this box is a must have. After using this thing, I don't know how I ever managed to live with the crap-in-a-box that Comcast calls a DVR. I didn't think the Comcast DVR was that bad until I used this thing; the Comcast box was annoying at times, but hell, it worked for the most part and was only $10/month. In that regard, using the Tivo Series3 has really been an eye-opening experience.
My expectations were pretty high from all the hype going around, but the box lives up to it and more. I never realized how much the Comcast DVR was degrading my picture. If you've ever felt like there was a haze over your HD channels at times...this box fixes it. I guess the old saying applies...sometimes you get what you pay for.
I spent some time with the original Tivo a few years ago before I gave it up for HDTV. If you've ever used an older Tivo, this box differs in the following ways:
1) completely -replaces- your cable box;
2) records any two SD or HD channels simultaneously, while allowing you to watch a third pre-recorded program;
3) seamlessly integrates SD and HD channels from analog and digital cable (and an antenna if you have one) into a single guide with 14-days of program information;
4) interface and DVR functions are very fast and responsive compared to past Tivos and cable company DVRs;
5) tunes channels as fast as your cable dvr;
6) records all digital channels at 100% original quality;
7) records analog cable channels at higher quality than any previous DVR / DVD recorder;
8) features high-definition widescreen menus and program guide - no more crappy low-res interfaces with black bars on the sides;
9) potential for much larger storage capacity with external SATA port for hard drive expansion;
10) 100Mbps networking built-in (wireless adapter optional) to play back music and pictures stored on your PC or Mac.
This will be a 10/10 product as soon as Tivo drops the price a little and enables a few more features like TivoToGo. TivoToGo is a feature on other Tivos that allows you to transfer recordings to your PC, but it's not on the Series3 yet. I asked about this when I called Tivo today and they said a software update was coming in November that would enable some additional features.
Ok, so is it really worth $800? Is it really worth half your mortgage payment? From what I've seen so far, it probably is worth the price. Like I said before, this box has a high price but it also delivers very high performance. It gives me a noticably better picture than I got with the Comcast SA DVR. I think it would be a value at $500, but it's not at $800, especially since some features like TivoToGo aren't enabled in the current software. My advice for more value-conscious buyer is to wait until this thing hits $400 or $500 and Tivo enables some of those extra features in November. Then it'll be a steal for what it offers.
As an aside, this is the first purchase in recent history that my SO actually approved of after using it. She didn't think the HDTV was worth $2500, she didn't think the Harmony remote was worth $150, and she didn't think the surround sound system was worth $1000. So far, she DOES think this box is worth $500. Of course, I lied and told her that was how much I paid. After seeing the expression on her face after buying the $150 Harmony, I couldn't bear to come home and tell her I just spent $800 on a box for the TV.
(Wish I could get my money back for the Harmony remote, the new Series3 remote is incredible -- gloss piano back, great ergonomic design, wonderful feel and feedback on the buttons, light sensor based backlight, and it's a learning remote. It makes my Harmony look and feel like a cheap piece of plastic.)