TiVo Enters the 4K-Streaming Arena With Its New Bolt Box
What a difference a couple of weeks makes. At the beginning of last month, your options for streaming 4K video were limited to the Nvidia Shield and the Nuvola NP-1 set-top box—and, of course, the services built into the latest generation of Ultra HD TVs.
Now, the A-listers in the set-top box game are releasing 4K streaming boxes in droves: Amazon unveiled its 4K-capable Fire TV a few weeks ago, Roku is rumored to have its first 4K box waiting in the wings, and TiVo just jumped into the 4K streaming landscape as well.
Meet the Bolt
Aesthetically speaking, the new TiVo Bolt looks more like a next-gen gaming console than TiVo’s previous DVRs. It has a little bulge, a curvy, off-center A-frame design that helps keep it cool. The UI has also received a big overhaul, with colorful icons that make it a bit easier to find what you’re looking for in a sea of cable channels: In the channel guide, the logos for each station jump out a bit more than the old plain-text treatment. They’ve also pepped up the performance, as TiVo claims the new box reacts three times faster to your remote-control whims this time around.
While the TiVo is still a DVR—there’s a 500GB and a 1TB version of the new Bolt—it’s meant to cover both cable and streaming sources. New to the mix is 4K programming, only via “over the top” streaming services at this point. TiVo says the new Bolt has 4K Netflix and YouTube apps built in, as well as HEVC and VP9 decoders to handle both sources.
The Bolt box supports the HDMI 2.0 spec and HDCP 2.2 copy protection, which means it should be able to dole out 4K video at 60fps from the next generation of sources. 4K video at 60fps isn’t exactly commonplace yet, but there are a few good-looking options on YouTube. In terms of input/output, there’s a Gigabit Ethernet port for handling those heavy 4K loads, 802.11ac Wi-Fi and MoCA support, HDMI and optical audio out, and support for Bluetooth and RF4CE remotes.
New Software Features
Some of the box’s new features are built to save you time while binge-watching a stash of programs. There’s a new Quick Mode, which speeds up playback of your recorded shows by 1.3x. That makes it possible to watch a 30-minute program in 20 minutes, and TiVo says the sped-up video was engineered to be just on the brink of watchable without everybody sounding like the Chipmunks.
In SkipMode, TiVo has tagged the exact in- and out-points for recorded shows cutting in and out of commercials, so you can jump past ads with more accuracy. The company says Skip Mode only works with some shows; any recorded sports programming or local programming, for example, doesn’t support Skip Mode. TiVo says the process differs from Dish Network’s AutoHop mode, as TiVo doesn’t actually delete the commercials; it just skips over them.
Like previous versions of the TiVo, the new box supports cross-source searching, although there have been a few tweaks to the way it works. Notably, local sports has been weighted more heavily in the new box. There’s still no voice search in the mix, although TiVo says that feature is in the works.
The new Bolt box also makes it easier to stream recorded programs to your mobile devices—as long as you’re in the house. Onboard transcoding provides a mobile-friendly feed from the Bolt’s hard drive to iOS and Android devices and browsers, although support for that feature will ramp up through the beginning of next year. At launch, the transcoded feed will allow for one in-home stream, jump up to two in-home streams in November, and allow for out-of-home streams to mobile devices in early 2016.
Pricing plans have also changed. The 500GB Bolt will sell for $300, but that price includes a free year of TiVo service. The 1TB Bolt is priced at $400 with a free year of service. After that, you’ll need to fork out the usual $15 per month or $150 per year to keep your TiVo TiVoing.
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