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TiVo Bolt review: The best DVR gets better

Michael Brown | Oct. 7, 2015
Whether you’re a cord cutter or a cable-TV devotee, this is the DVR you should be using.

TiVo bolt
Press the button on the far left and the Bolt will cause its remote control to emit a sound to help you find it. Credit: Michael Brown

OTA recording features

If you watch a lot of over-the-air programming, you’ll dig the Bolt’s SkipMode: TiVo embeds tags in the recording that identify where the commercial breaks begin and end. An icon appears on the screen when a commercial break starts, suggesting you tap either the D button or the channel-up button on the TiVo remote: Press one and your program will skip directly to the next segment of the show. This is vastly superior to repeatedly tapping the fast-forward button to get through commercials, but it’s available on only 25 shows at launch (and only broadcasts between 4PM and midnight). If the shows you’ve recorded support it, you’ll see a logo next to them in your queue.

QuickMode is the Bolt’s other coolest new feature. Press the Play and then Select on the remote with and the DVR will play the content 30 percent faster (1.3x normal speed) with pitch-corrected audio. Voices will sound normal—not like chipmunks—it will just seem as though they’re talking faster than normal. And you can skip back and forth between quick and normal modes as many times as you want. The soundtrack will sound different, though, especially if you’re listening through a receiver or home-theater-in-a-box system. That’s because most broadcasts use Dolby Digital, and the soundtrack will drop back to ordinary PCM while in QuickMode. Unlike SkipMode, QuickMode will work with any program you’ve recorded.

TiVo Bolt SkipMode
This text displayed in the left corner of the frame is your cue to push a button on the remote to skip past an entire commercial break. 

TiVo program guide

The TiVo program guide is much better than what you’ll find in the typical service-provider’s DVR. But that’s always been one of TiVo greatest strengths. In addition to displaying live and future programming from the networks (and premium channels such as HBO and Showtime if you’re using a CableCARD), you can find on-demand content from such over-the-top services as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Vudu. Services such as HBO Now, Sling TV, and Hulu, however, are currently missing in action. A unified search feature will help you find the content you’re looking for across all of these services, or you can narrow your search to live recordings only, streaming only, or both. There is no support, however, for voice search.

Beyond a slight tweak in graphics—the guide now features channel logos and not just text—the Bolt’s user interface isn’t appreciably different from the Roamio’s. You still push the big TiVo button at the top of the remote to call up TiVo Central, and you still create a OnePass for each TV series that you want to record. As with the older DVR, TiVo provides lots of suggestions as to what to watch based on your expressed preferences, and you can do lots of manual exploring to find other content you’d like to see based on the casts of shows that you’ve decided to record. There’s also support for Plex if you like to rip and encode discs and store the files on a NAS box. Plex will serve digital music and photos in addition to video.

 

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