Bro, Do You Even DVR? TiVo Pumps Up the BOLT with BOLT+

Gadgets Products Reviews
Insert “Back in Black” reference here (Image Credit: TiVo)

The BOLT is dead. All hail the BOLT+. The newest version of TiVo’s premiere DVR sports more storage, better recording hardware, and a shiny new black case. Maybe it’s a bit premature to sing a dirge for the BOLT; but while it is still being sold alongside the BOLT+, there’s no reason other than price to pick up last year’s tech.

The BOLT+ is the answer to the retired Roamio Pro. It sports six tuners, which is handy when you’ve got multiple TiVo Minis (or phones, or tablets) accessing the BOLT+ from other TVs. To accommodate all that recording capacity, the Plus sports a 3TB hard drive, a major upgrade from the 1TB max of the original BOLT.

Setup is just as simple as its predecessor. Unbox, run through the Setup Wizard and you’re ready to go. If you have a CableCard, it can be a bit more daunting; but chances are, if you’ve forded the waters to set up your CableCard once, you’ve figured out where you can get the (REQUIRED BY LAW) assistance for pairing it with your new TiVo. After getting the BOLT+ on your network, you’ll be able to transfer over recordings from existing TiVos. If you’re replacing a TiVo that’s compatible with TiVo Online, you’ll also be able to transfer over your existing OnePass subscriptions online, no need to navigate menus with your remote.

And once you transfer over the entire contents of your BOLT to your BOLT+, you’ll see what you’ve been missing…or, more accurately, what you’ve been losing. Between Olympics coverage and the start of football season, the hard drive on my BOLT has been bumping up against 90% capacity for months. Luckily, a lot of the shows that we enjoy are on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, or HBO, so our OnePass subscriptions makes all episodes of those easily accessible. But as the Fall TV season has started, there’s been a danger of losing new episodes before we could watch them (I’m looking at you Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.). After tripling the amount of storage capacity (and making a few executive decisions on what to finally delete), the storage space on the BOLT+ is at a very comfortable 27% capacity.

Yes, it really is that glossy (Image Credit: TiVo)

The BOLT+ runs TiVo’s latest OS which means access to all kinds of streaming services, OnePass, QuickMode (which is still annoying my son during NFL games), SkipMode (which skips entire commercial breaks with one button and which I adore), and Remote Access (which lets you watch recorded shows or live TV from your phone or tablet anywhere in the house). Not to mention, the BOLT+ is now TiVo’s second 4k enabled device.

But, yeah, there’s that price. You’re going to pay for that extra capacity and recording power. The BOLT+ costs $499.99, a pretty big markup over the $299.99 1TB BOLT. TiVo also seems to have done away with the “first year of service included” deal that they had for the original BOLT. That was a nice way to cushion the hit that people took for the initial hardware cost. It’s a sizeable premium to pay; but if you’re bumping up against storage limits or constantly having to Sophie’s Choice between shows to record, it’s worth it. And this could be completely coincidental; but the MoCa network broadcast by my BOLT+ seems much more stable than the one from my BOLT. My TiVo Mini hasn’t “lost connection” in weeks (something that would happen once every four or five days with the BOLT) and not having to deal with the hassle of troubleshooting has been lovely.

There are rumblings from TiVo fans (yes, they exist) that this is the BOLT that should have been released initially, that the company is floundering for ideas after being acquired by Rovi and this release is merely iterative instead of evolutionary. I say, I’ve got 3TB of space and more tuners than I know how to keep busy. I haven’t had a MoCa outage since the BOLT+ spun up its disks for the first time and every time I wake it up, I wish that I’d had the BOLT+ over the summer so that I could’ve recorded even more Olympics than I already did. If you’d like to take a stand and not get the BOLT+ out of principle…well, that’s your right. But you’d be denying yourself what is possibly the best iteration of TiVo hardware to date. For everyone else – if you’ve been considering jumping on the TiVo bandwagon, this is your new favorite streaming device.

Disclaimer: TiVo sent me a unit to review. Opinions are my own.

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