In extra methods than one, the TiVo Stream 4K is an try and let the previous die.
The $70 TV dongle (on sale for $50 by means of May 27) has little connection to TiVo’s storied DVR historical past. Instead of recording films and TV reveals, it streams them from on-line companies reminiscent of Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime.
But the TiVo Stream 4K can also be a break from how most different streaming gadgets work. Rather than serving up an enormous checklist of apps to launch, TiVo funnels programming from a number of common apps into one huge TV information, so that you don’t need to bounce aimlessly between sources.
This is type of rethinking has been long overdue in the streaming world, and it’ll change into solely extra vital as new streaming companies proliferate. Still, it’s too early to declare TiVo’s huge pivot a hit. Unless it expands past the handful of companies it helps now, TiVo’s streaming enterprise will succeed extra as a proof of idea than as a killer client product.
This evaluation is a part of TechHive’s protection of the best media streaming devices, the place you’ll discover opinions of competing merchandise, plus a purchaser’s information to the options it is best to contemplate when buying.
Downsizing from DVRs
Compared to TiVo’s DVRs, the Stream 4K appears to be like like an cute miniature. The dongle itself has the identical staggered edges as final yr’s TiVo Edge DVR, however is sufficiently small to hold away from the TV by means of its built-in HDMI cable.
The TiVo Stream 4K distant is equally cute, retaining the identical peanut form as TiVo’s DVR remotes, however with barely much less button bloat. It has TV controls for energy, quantity, mute, and enter switching, together with Guide and Info buttons for TiVo’s dwell TV menus. There are channel quantity buttons and a “skip” button as properly, however I haven’t discovered a lot use for these. Unfortunately, TiVo’s downsizing left off devoted play/pause/rewind/quick ahead keys, which might have been useful.
I’ve additionally run into an issue with my evaluation unit: After a few days, the TiVo distant’s quantity keys stopped working with my TV. Strangely, the distant nonetheless controls my TV’s energy and switches inputs, which suggests the core infrared blaster remains to be working. As of this writing, TiVo has not addressed the difficulty.
The system runs on Google’s Android TV platform, and inside there’s a quad-core Amlogic S905Y2 processor, 2GB of RAM, 8GB of storage, and Wi-Fi 5 connectivity. These are typical tech specs for a low-price Android TV streamer, and I didn’t run into any points scrolling by means of menus or transferring out and in of apps.
As the title suggests, the TiVo Stream 4K can play 4K video, and it additionally helps the superior Dolby Vision and HLG HDR codecs. For audio, it helps Dolby’s Atmos object-based encompass sound techniques (you’ll be able to read more about object-based audio in this story).
One vital observe right here: On suitable televisions, the Stream 4K at all times runs in 4K HDR mode, and it seems to use some up-conversion for traditional dynamic vary content material. Video format purists will nearly actually wish to disable this characteristic, but the corresponding choices in TiVo’s settings menu are grayed out. TiVo has not responded to requests for remark about this concern.
Like most streaming dongles, the Stream 4K doesn’t have a lot in the way in which of port choice, nevertheless it does embody a USB-C port along with Micro-USB for energy. With the appropriate cables or adapters, you should utilize this port to plug in exterior storage drives or sport controllers.
Making sense of streaming
When you first arrange the TiVo Stream, it presents a number of pairs of flicks and TV reveals, asking you to select those you want greatest. These picks assist kind the idea for suggestions in TiVo’s major menu, which you’ll be able to entry by urgent the massive silver TiVo button on the distant.
From right here, you may as well add reveals to a watch checklist, view a listing of lately watched applications, or browse by style. There are submenus for TV reveals, films, sports activities, and kids’s programming as properly.
The distinctive factor about this menu is the way in which it aggregates a number of streaming sources. Scroll over any program, and also you’ll see icons indicating if it’s obtainable on Netflix, Hulu, or different sources. You may filter out any companies to which you’re not subscribed, so that they received’t present up in TiVo’s menus.
At current, the TiVo Stream’s sources embody Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, HBO Now, Disney+, Tubi, Sling TV, and Google Play Movies & TV. It’s nice having all of those common companies underneath one menu, particularly as you begin build up a watchlist to maintain observe of all of your reveals.
Still, TiVo’s menu of eight companies doesn’t come near masking the total breadth of content material obtainable by means of streaming. Notable absences embody CBS All Access, Showtime, Apple TV+, Epix, Tubi, PBS, and each app that makes use of TV Everywhere authentication.
To watch content material from different apps, you will need to exit TiVo’s menu and return to the Android TV dwelling display screen, which requires urgent a separate round button close to the left aspect of the distant. This takes you again to a extra commonplace app launcher, and from right here you’ll be able to obtain extra apps from the Google Play Store. (Just remember that Android TV doesn’t help Apple TV+ in any respect.)
Lackluster dwell TV integration
Among the companies that the TiVo Stream 4K does help, Sling TV enjoys privileged standing as the one dwell TV service that integrates with TiVo’s menus. That means its dwell TV listings seem inside a “Guide” part, the place you’ll additionally discover free content material from TiVo’s personal TiVo+ streaming service. You can view as much as every week of information information from Sling on this menu and might add upcoming applications to Sling’s cloud DVR. Selecting any dwell program brings you to the channel within the Sling TV app.
Compared to TiVo’s different integrations, this one feels half-baked. Although you’ll be able to pop up Sling’s mini information or flip by means of channels with the distant whereas watching dwell TV, going again to the full-sized information exits dwell TV utterly. There’s additionally no approach to filter the information or conceal TiVo+, so that you’ll be caught sifting by means of dozens of dwell channels, seemingly in no order.
TiVo doesn’t present a menu for Sling TV’s cloud DVR, both. You can view on-demand applications in TiVo’s information, and recorded applications are marked with a crimson dot, however filtering out simply your recordings requires a visit to the Android TV dwelling display screen to entry the Sling TV app correct.
TiVo hasn’t stated whether or not it can help different dwell TV streaming companies, reminiscent of YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV, FuboTV, or Philo. While the corporate has indicated that it’d sometime enable DVR customers to stream dwell and recorded TV onto the Stream 4K, it hasn’t given a timeline for that. I’d not be stunned if the TiVo Stream 4K’s dwell TV integrations by no means broaden past Sling TV.
The outcome feels just like the polar reverse of TiVo’s tie-ins with on-demand companies reminiscent of Netflix and Amazon Prime. For these service’s TiVo’s personal menu is one of the simplest ways to begin watching. But for dwell TV, the Sling integration simply isn’t well worth the hassle.
Is the TiVo Stream 4K price shopping for?
Strictly as a cheap 4K HDR streamer working Android TV, the TiVo Stream 4K has some enchantment, significantly at its $50 introductory worth. It offers a a lot smoother expertise than Xiaomi’s Mi Box S, and its much less Sling-centric than the AirTV Mini. Unlike these gadgets, it additionally helps Dolby Vision HDR.
Comparing to different gadgets is the place issues get trickier. The TiVo Stream 4K doesn’t have fairly the identical stage of app help as a Roku or Fire TV gadgets, and it’s additionally costlier at common pricing than these firms’ 4K HDR choices, the Roku Streaming Stick+ and Fire TV Stick 4K.
Still, TiVo’s unified menu is exclusive, and it really works properly for the on-demand streaming companies that it helps. Only the Apple TV offers an identical expertise, nevertheless it doesn’t combine with Netflix, and Apple’s 4K HDR streamer prices a cool $180. TiVo’s information works with fewer apps general, however even simply aggregating Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Disney+, and HBO has worth.
As TiVo’s core DVR experience festers, longtime customers may rightfully really feel wronged by the corporate’s change in route. But not less than TiVo’s newfound deal with streaming hasn’t been in useless. Even in case you don’t purchase one your self, it is best to not less than hope its core concept spreads far and extensive.