Since their announcement of the Roamio two years ago, TiVo has been a bit quiet. They’ve released great hardware additions, like the TiVo Mini, which lets you use your Roamio as a hub to stream your recorded shows to other TVs. They’ve even stuck their toe in the cord-cutting market with the Roamio OTA, a digital antenna-only DVR. But a successor to the Roamio has been MIA until today.
Today, TiVo announces the Bolt, their first 4K-capable DVR. This is also the first TiVo device we’ve seen since the sea change in their design department and it’s quite distinctive. The design is bold, its matte white plastic standing out from the expanse of glossy black that dominates home electronics. It’s fast too, with a beefier CPU and triple the RAM of the Roamio-S. Bolt is the first TiVo device to bring gigabit ethernet and 802.11 ac/n WiFi to the TiVo lineup, ensuring that it can stream content faster than ever.
Two new software features have been launched along with the new hardware, QuickMode and SkipMode. QuickMode allows you to watch shows at 1.3x the speed, with full audio. It’s a little bit chipmunk-ey; but not so much that you lose the meaning. Personally, I plan on using this feature during every single Tampa Bay Bucs game this season (Watching them lose in half the time is the only way to survive till December).
SkipMode finally gives us back proper commercial skipping! Much better than the 30-second jump implemented in the Roamio, SkipMode will use the commercial tags embedded in most prime-time shows to completely skip commercial blocks when you press the D button (and for old-school TiVo nerds like me, seeing those weird A through D buttons finally given a purpose is thrilling). The feature is currently only enabled for those shows where the network has authorized commercial skipping (prime-time content, mostly). Sadly, you can’t skip through live TV. You have to wait for 30 minutes or so after a show has aired for commercial skipping to be activated (which, if you’re using TiVo, I imagine you’re like me and watching 99.9% of your shows time-shifted already, so that’s not a biggie). TiVo is finally going to save me from myself and my complete inability to hit the end of a commercial break without having to rewind.
Speaking of the remote, it gets a refresh as well. The standard peanut remote is now white and RF-enabled (no longer will I have to explain to my kids that they actually have to point the remote at the TiVo to get it to work). There’s even a button on the back of the Bolt that you can press to activate a “song” on your remote to help you find it. Sadly, there was no word of an updated Slide-Pro remote. Maybe they’re saving that for when they make use of Bolt’s onboard Bluetooth (which is slated currently for future options).
The Bolt runs a graphically refreshed version of the standard TiVo UI. Everything is a little flatter, a little more modern. One welcome addition is Instant Apps. If enabled by the provider, like Netflix, they will launch in under five seconds. TiVo’s answer to the dearth of streaming options available, OnePass, is better than ever. With it, TiVo becomes your one-stop-shop for figuring out where to watch your shows, whether they be on Live TV or streaming, with support for Amazon Prime, Netflix, YouTube, Vudu, Plex, and many more right out of the box. You can even get VOD from COX and XFINITY (c’mon, FIOS, catch up!). Speaking of streaming, the Bolt will stream, in-house, to your phones and tablets via the overhauled TiVo app (out-of-house streaming is planned for an update later this year). The app hews even closer to the new interface, giving you practically all of the same options and content access. What’s even cooler is that the app now supports Apple AirPlay, so you can stream your TiVo recordings to your Apple TV. If you’re more of an Android person, you can stream TiVo content to the Amazon Fire TV.
Preorders for the Bolt start today and ship next week. It replaces the Roamio S and Plus boxes with 4 tuner, 500 GB and 1 TB configurations. The monstrous 6-tuner, 3 GB HDD Roamio Pro will stick around for a while. The Bolt starts at $299, with one year of service included (it’s $14.95 per month for service afterwards). An OTA version of the Bolt hasn’t been announced yet; but could pop up in the future. If you have Minis, fear not, they will work with the Bolt as well. The Mini is still $149 and has free product lifetime service.
If you have a 4K TV and have been lamenting about your lack of TiVo options, the Bolt is a no-brainer. For those looking at your two-year-old Roamios and wondering if it’s time…the Bolt makes it easier than ever to have your TV the way you want it, wherever you want it. If you’ve been hearing that tell-tale hard drive creak, it’s time to make the switch!