The TiVo Stream 4K is an excellent media streamer that uses Android TV and TiVo’s own interface for a comprehensive, TV-focused viewing experience.

TiVo has long been been known for live TV DVRs with text-heavy interfaces, which helps explain why it’s lagged behind media streamers like the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K and Chromecast With Google TV, with their sleek interfaces and extensive support for multiple streaming services. The company is finally catching up with the TiVo Stream 4K, a small $49.99 box that plugs into the back of your TV and lets you access all of the apps and services available on Android TV, with a TiVo menu system on top of it. It even features live television through Sling TV and Locast, and you don’t need to set up an antenna or cable service—since it isn’t a DVR, it doesn’t require a subscription with TiVo either. It’s an excellent media streamer for TV lovers, though the Chromecast offers a more refined experience for the same price.

The Stream 4K is built like a Chromecast, only rectangular instead of round. The device is a slim black plastic block with a short, one-inch cable coming out of the top and terminating in an HDMI plug. A micro USB port is on the opposite end from the cable, and a USB-C port sits on the right side. The micro USB port is for power with the included USB cable and wall adapter, and the USB-C port enables the use of additional storage (8GB is onboard for apps) and peripherals.

The included remote looks like a miniature version of the one included with TiVo DVRs, with a gentle dog bone design and plenty of rubber buttons. It’s dominated by a circular direction pad, with a TiVo button above flanked by a volume rocker, a channel rocker, and a few other buttons. A Google Assistant button sits below, with a number pad and a dedicated Netflix button below it. It’s a little cluttered, but it’s functional.

The Stream 4K uses Android TV, which can run thousands of apps and streaming services, including most big names like Amazon, Google Play, Hulu, Netflix, Sling TV, YouTube, and Twitch (though Apple TV is currently missing from the ecosystem). It also supports Google Cast, so you can stream content from your phone, tablet, or a Google Chrome tab on your computer to your TV.

Android TV features Google Assistant, which you can access by pressing and holding the Google Assistant button on the remote and speaking into the microphone. Google Assistant can search for content, open apps, provide general information like weather and sports scores, and control smart home devices. It’s a very useful feature to have on a media streamer, and rivals Amazon Alexa on Fire TV devices.

The TiVo Stream app runs on top of Android TV and is accessible by pressing the TiVo button on the remote. TiVo Stream is the intended user interface here, and provides access to all of your content and apps through a much more TiVo-like menu system than stock Android TV.

The interface is arranged in different menus accessible through a bar on the left side of the screen, including Home, My Shows, Guide, TV Shows, Movies, Sports, Kids, and Apps. Home aggregates different recommendations for movies and shows across multiple services and live TV. My Shows provides a one-stop list of all the shows you watch, much like the OnePass feature on TiVo DVRs, letting you access any Sling DVR recordings or streaming episodes. Guide is a program guide for live TV on Sling and Locast, the latter of which is a service for watching local TV channels in certain markets. TV Shows, Movies, Sports, and Kids are self-explanatory categorical suggestion pages. Finally, Apps lets you access any installed app on the device.

The interface is a marked improvement over the very text-heavy menu system of TiVo DVRs, but it’s still quite cluttered compared with Roku and Fire TV devices, or the Google TV interface on the Chromecast. You can go back to standard Android TV by pressing the circular Home button (not the TiVo Home button) on the remote, but Android TV also feels a bit inelegant next to the aforementioned interfaces.

The TiVo Stream 4K can deliver content at 4K resolution and supports high dynamic range (HDR) in both HDR10 and Dolby Vision. I watched some shows on CBS All Access, Netflix, Sling TV, and YouTube on it, and they all loaded quickly and with the proper settings. The menu controls feel reasonably responsive.

I experienced a few small hiccups when accessing content through the TiVo Stream interface. When loading TV from Locast on the Live TV menu, the screen flashed what appeared to be the Locast app’s guide for a moment before loading the stream. This is a minor quirk, but it shows that the interactions between Android TV, TiVo Stream, and various apps aren’t perfectly smooth at all times.

The TiVo Stream 4K is a fantastic little media streamer that should especially appeal to live TV viewers who subscribe to Sling TV. Its price and capabilities put it on equal footing with the Editors’ Choice Chromecast With Google TV, though its slightly more cluttered menus and less sleek remote leave the Stream 4K a half step behind it in design. This is still by far the most useful and streamlined offering from TiVo yet, however, and the most attractive from a value perspective.

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Source: https://www.pcmag.com/reviews/tivo-stream-4k

4K resolution, Android TV, TiVo Stream, Chromecast, Computer

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