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I’ve had a TiVo in my home for about as long as I’ve had kids. Over the past 18 years, the venerable DVR company freed us from the hassles of traditional TV. First by giving us a better option than a TV Guide and a VCR for recording shows. Then by pulling recorded TV and streaming services into a single device. Now, TiVo has innovated again, releasing the TiVo Stream 4K to make us break up with our smart TVs.
Smart TVs are fantastic devices. And, not to bury the lead, at its core the TiVo Stream 4K uses the same Android TV base that a lot of dongles and TVs out there use. You can even get to your apps (of which TiVo Stream is one) with a press of the button on the adorable peanut remote.
The problem is, smart TVs are built around a combination of content and apps, muddling the interface and often leading to you having to jump through hoops to get to your shows. TiVo Stream 4K is hyper-focused on content.
TiVo Stream 4K is an Android TV-powered dongle that connects to your TV via an HDMI cable. Like an Apple TV or Amazon Fire TV device, there’s no cable to plug in or cable card to install. Everything you need to stream your shows is right there on the device.
The adorable little TiVo (it looks like a miniaturized TiVo Edge) serves up Dolby Atmos audio and Dolby Vision HDR video. TiVo has partnered with Sling TV, integrating their content into the Stream 4K’s guide and offering a 7-day trial for new Sling TV users. You can also use all of your favorite streaming apps: Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, HBO, YouTube, Disney+, and more (if it’s on Android TV, it’s on the TiVo Stream 4K).
You’ll navigate the TiVo Stream 4K with an adorable little peanut remote (just like the big ones that come with TiVo’s DVRs). There are just enough buttons to navigate the new interface and quickly access all the commands you need. Though TiVo faithful will note that the venerable “Thumbs Up” and “Thumbs Down” buttons are a thing of the past. In this age of streaming TV, when our viewing is hyper-focused on exactly what we like, they’re superfluous. Besides, the Stream 4K’s algorithms are smart enough to make solid suggestions without extra input.
You don’t have to rely on the remote, if you don’t want to, however. A press of a button brings up the Google Assistant. Say what you’re looking for and TiVo will find it.
Plug in the TiVo Stream 4K, connect it to an HDMI port, and it springs to life (no more waiting for the hard drive to spin up, yay!). As part of the activation process, you’ll connect your Sling TV and the TiVo Stream 4K (or set up a new account). But that’s really the most “traditional” part of the whole set up.
Anyone who’s used a TiVo knows that the setup can be a slog. You have to tell it what your region is, what cable provider you use, maybe manually set up cable cards, choose your level of programming. It’s maddening. The Stream 4K doesn’t need to do that. All it needs to know is what apps you use (you can sign in later, hopefully from your computer, yes, I’m staring pointedly at you, Netflix).
Once that’s taken care of, TiVo Stream 4K wants to know what you like to watch. You choose between two shows and the Stream 4K figures out what kind of programming is your jam: Reality or Scripted? Comedy or Drama? True Crime or Fantasy/Sci-Fi? Each screen narrows the focus a bit more. At the end, you can get a jump on personalization by favoriting shows from a carousel that TiVo’s cultivated based on your previous answers.
Once you’re in the Stream 4K app (you can select it from the Android TV menu or press the TiVo button on the remote), all of your shows are at your fingertips.
The home screen serves up a collection of your favorite and most recently watched shows. Click left to the menu and you’re offered categories and a guide to what’s on Sling TV and TiVo+. Search for a show (or a content category or an actress) and it will give you options, along with where to watch them. Apps are secondary to the process. TiVo Stream 4K wants to help you find what you want to watch as quickly as possible.
While recording shows might be an anachronism in our new streaming content reality, there’s still the occasional program that you’d like to record. What’s interesting is that TiVo isn’t the one recording this time around. For that, you’ll need to sign up for Sling TV’s cloud DVR service.
Still, I can count on one hand the times I’ve watched recorded TV in the past six months. Even live sports is quickly moving to streaming platforms (though if there’s a game that isn’t on streaming, you can always grab an indoor antenna from Sling TV to grab it via over-the-air HD channels).
The picture and sound on the TiVo Stream 4K are gorgeous. I tried a little experiment and streamed Star Wars: The Clone Wars from my phone to the device (it can also serve as a Chromecast), then accessed the same content directly from the Stream 4K. The difference in picture quality and sound was immediately apparent. The TiVo device delivers on its promises.
At $49.99, the TiVo Stream 4K is a no-brainer. Especially if you have an older television with last gen (or, gasp, no) smart capabilities, this can leapfrog you into the next generation of streaming.
With its focus on content, ability to pair with all of your streaming apps, and a guide to help you navigate the vast sea of content provided by Sling TV and TiVo+, the TiVo Stream 4K is the perfect cord cutting companion.
It can find the shows and movies you like across every service you subscribe to, eliminating the need to hunt around, trying to find what content is streaming on which service. All of this comes free with your TiVo Stream 4K. Unlike TiVo’s traditional DVRs, there’s no monthly subscription (after all, aren’t you already subscribing to enough things?).
The TiVo Stream 4K is available right now for the limited time price of $49.99 (it’ll be $69.99 once the offer expires). You can pick it up at traditional retail outlets as well (once they reopen). Find out more at www.tivo.com/streamNOW.
I’ve been writing about technology, gadgets, and pop culture back before Apple had even thought of the iPhone. I’ve seen the rise and fall (and rise again) of Apple. I’ve
I’ve been writing about technology, gadgets, and pop culture back before Apple had even thought of the iPhone. I’ve seen the rise and fall (and rise again) of Apple. I’ve watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate…
In addition to Forbes.com, I am a contributor at TheRoarbots.com. As a technical writer, I specialize in deciphering the undecipherable, untangling the kraken-like documentation tangles that software companies find themselves in, and teaching users how to successfully navigate their products on the other side. I also enjoy playing in superheroic worlds of my own creation (you can find out more about my fiction endeavors at AnthonyKarcz.com).
You can find me on Twitter (@sunstreaker84), Facebook, and Google . If there’s something you want to see me tackle, drop me an email at: anthonyATanthonykarczDOTcom.
World news – US – TiVo Stream 4K Gives You Everything You Need To Finally Cut The Cord