Go to Reviews.org AU Edition
TiVo Stream 4K Review
The TiVo Stream 4K, TiVo’s first streaming device, has arrived. But is it any good? We do a deep dive into the device to show you whether it’s worth it or not.
You've seen one, you've seen them all, right? So why do I keep reviewing new streaming devices? Well, because one day one of them is going to blow our minds with something new and innovative. And now we've got the TiVo Stream 4K, and I've got to say- it's pretty great, honestly.
I don't know about revolutionary, but honestly I went into this with some pretty low expectations and those were definitely exceeded. There are actually two reasons why you might want to let this one grab your attention even if you're not historically a TiVo user. So, let's dive in.
What is the TiVo Stream 4K?
Let's talk about the TiVo Stream 4K. Now, this is not the TiVo you're used to. TiVo came to prominence something like 20 years ago or more with its DVRs. But this is a departure from that because TiVo, honestly, the DVR thing—it’s kind of a shell of its former self, and the TiVo Stream 4K might be its chance to reclaim some relevance.
So, how did they do? Let's find out. We're going to talk about that, but first of all, what is it? Like I said, it's a 4K streaming device: the TiVo Stream 4K. It's a bit like a nice version of a Roku or a Fire TV. It's like an Apple TV device. That's a comparison I'm going to come back to in a bit, but it runs on Android TV, just like the NVIDIA SHIELD.
How much does the TiVo Stream 4K cost?
The TiVo Stream 4K is about a third the cost or a quarter of the cost of the NVIDIA SHIELD if you go with the pricier Shield model. Anyway, the introductory price is still going on as I'm recording this.
So as of now, you can snag this for 50 bucks before it jumps up to 70 at some point. So what does it promise to give you?
What do you get with the TiVO Stream 4K?
Well, let's take a look at the box here. It says no more app switching: you get everything together, all in one place, your live TV, your on-demand stuff, but a lot of things promise that. So we'll see how that goes.
TiVo promises voice control and Google assistant—it’s got Chromecast built in, which is nice, and it runs 4K UHD and Dolby Vision. So pretty great.
What's in the box? Pretty simple. You get a remote with the batteries, the device itself, and a cable to plug it in. That's it. These devices are really simple, and this one is no exception.
So the device itself does have an extra USB-C port that you can use for storage or a game controller, maybe something like that. Honestly, with the look of the device itself, it's lucky that it's a dongle that hangs off the back of your TV so you don't have to look at it too much. Because it does just look like a couple of blocks that were stacked by an untalented child. But that's going off of the company’s design that they've had with their previous devices.
Setup and device performance: How do I use TiVo stream 4K?
So how did setup go on this once I got it plugged in? Well, luckily there's not much dimension here because it was pretty simple. It's an Android TV platform, so if you have an Android phone or a Gmail address, you can sign in with that address.
And then if you're signed into streaming services like Netflix on your other device or in Chrome, it will carry that over to TiVo. So I never even had to sign into Netflix. It just did that automatically.
So yeah, simple enough. You do have to activate your device, which is usually fine. You have to go to their website and put in the code and all that stuff. But the website was actually pretty sluggish when I tried it—same when I tried to actually buy the device. Eventually I got in, and then I had no problem, but, yeah, their site seemed really sluggish.
And once I did get in, once I got the device up and running, how did it operate? Well, I want to come back to that word I used a couple of times—sluggish—because that's what I kept thinking for my first few minutes with the TiVo Stream. It was like . . . it was taking a while to warm up or something. Once I'd gone through and opened up most of my apps and tried watching a few shows on them, and then I went back to them later, it was really quick.
Eventually the device worked really quickly, but your mileage may vary. Keep in mind that if it feels slow at first, you're not crazy. It was the same for me. It may not stay that way, though. It did eventually perk up, and it started to move pretty quickly.
Navigating the TiVo Stream 4K menus
Now, once you're in, there are two menus to talk about. There's the standard Android TV menu that's going to be recognizable to anybody who's used a device that runs on this platform. This is where you go if you want to launch any given app. So Netflix, Disney Plus—whatever you want there.
The other menu—and the more interesting one to talk about—is the TiVo Stream menu, which you access with the big silver button in the middle of the remote. This is where you can add shows to your list from across different services.
This is what TiVo was touting when it said “all your stuff in one place.” And it is pretty great. You just voice search for a show—or type it out, I guess, if you really want to—or you can browse through the device’s menus. And then when you find a show or a movie that you like, you can add it to my shows.
I'm going to come back to the My Shows menu in just a second. But let me also say that right away I noticed there’s a TiVo live TV service that operates a bit like Pluto TV. If you're familiar with that one, it's a free live TV service. It is commercial supported, and it's not going to have any of your standard channels from your cable or satellite package, but it'll have a lot of off-brand free content for you to enjoy.
It was pretty nice. You can also integrate Sling TV into the mix, which could be pretty convenient if you're a Sling user, but be aware that is the exclusive live TV service on this device. If you use YouTube TV or Hulu + Live TV or Fubo or whatever, you're not going to be able to integrate it into that TiVo menu.
So if you don't intend to switch to Sling, or if you do use Hulu Live a lot, then honestly this is not the device for you—at least not yet. Hopefully TiVo fixes that in the future.
Pros of the TiVo Stream 4K
So I mentioned at the top that there are two reasons that I love this device, and why I think you should consider it. The first reason is that My Shows menu that I mentioned a few moments ago where you can gather shows from across apps.
TiVo Stream 4K’s My Shows menu
So this is something we've all wanted for a while because it’s annoying sometimes to go back and forth between apps, right? So it's nice to have it all in one place. TiVo’s My Shows menu actually reminds me a lot of the Apple TV app, not to be confused with the Apple TV Plus service.
Anyway, the Apple TV app has been doing this for years, gathering shows into one location, but there are two big differences between these two menus. First of all, Apple TV doesn't include Netflix. It doesn’t integrate Netflix into their mix there, which is a huge omission. It would be really nice if it had that.
The TiVo app does pull in stuff from Netflix, and right now it’s got seven other major streaming platforms in the mix, including HBO Max—ahem, Roku and Fire TV take note, please. Anyway, the TiVo app is missing some key players; it's missing CBS All Access, Apple TV Plus, and a few others that you may want in there, but they do have eight major streaming services that can all feed into that My Shows menu.
Now the second big difference between this and the Apple TV app is that Apple TV gives you a “continue watching” menu that lets you resume shows and movies where you left off. So it gives you a little progress bar right in there to show you right where you left off on a movie or what the next episode of a show is, whether it's on Hulu, or Amazon Prime, or what have you. So it's pretty nice and convenient that way.
TiVo’s My Shows menu does not have that, unfortunately. If it did, I'd be a happy man. But basically, in the TiVo menu, it'll show you what all of your shows are in one place. But you have to click on that show and go into that streaming service to see what the next episode is, how much you have left in the movie, or what have you.
Now, the second reason I want you to consider the TiVo Stream 4K is the built-in Chromecast.
If you're a Chromecast person already, then this is going to be really great news, but why? I mean, that's not a big deal, right? You can get a Chromecast for $30. Ahah—but this is a 4K device. The $30 Chromecast does not run in 4K.
The Chromecast Ultra does have 4K, but it goes for about $70. The TiVo Stream 4K, again, as I'm recording this, is on sale for $50. Eventually, it might start selling for its suggested price of $70. But even if that's the case, you get a Chromecast Ultra, plus an Android TV platform, plus the TiVo app that I was talking about all for the same price as the Chromecast Ultra, and you get a remote—the lack thereof being the big drawback to the Chromecast, as far as I'm concerned.
Anyway, the TiVo Stream 4K just gives more bang for your buck. So it's pretty nice that way.
Final thoughts on the TiVo Stream 4K
As mentioned in my intro, honestly, I was pretty surprised by the TiVo Stream 4K. I went into this review expecting something really boring and average, and the TiVo app really won me over. On the merits, honestly.
I think this device with its 4K, with its Dolby Vision—Dolby Sound as well, I don't think I mentioned that before—with all this stuff, I actually think this device is in the same league with the major streaming devices: Roku's, Fire TV's and so on. This one I would actually put it in the top tier of the Android TV devices. So if that's a platform that you enjoy, then the TiVo Stream 4K is an excellent choice for you.
But it takes more than just a good product, and TiVo is going to have to market the crap out of this thing if it wants to get into the big leagues, and it'll have to start integrating live TV streaming apps other than Sling TV—you know, little things like that.
Would we recommend the TiVo Stream 4K?
Anyway, if you're thinking about switching to a new device, you could do a lot worse than the TiVo Stream 4K. It's not a perfect device, and it does need a little finessing, but for the $50 introductory price, yeah, the TiVo Stream 4K—pretty great.
But those are just my thoughts after one solid day with the device. I'm going to use it as my primary driver for a few weeks and see if my opinion changes enough to do a follow up video. We'll see about that.
For now, let me know if you have any questions about it, or, if you've used it, let us know about your experience in the comments below.