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Last updated on December 2, 2003

Includes ReplayTV 5500 series (5.1) and TiVo Series2 (4.01)

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ReplayTV and TiVo are personal television (PTV) products. Sometimes they go by personal video recorders, digital video recorders, digital network recorders, smart TV, video recording computers, time-shifted television, hard disk recorders, personal television receivers, television portals, or on-demand TV. Choose your favorite, or coin your own lingo by mixing and matching the above terms. Some naming conventions distinguish between the hardware unit (supplied by a third-party manufacturer) and the personal television service (supplied by ReplayTV or TiVo). This site only covers "stand-alone" units. Other personal television systems are available that combine functionality with satellite receivers, televisions, and cable boxes.

What do they do? They sit in between your television and your cable box, satellite receiver and/or antenna. Ideally, they act as a personal assistant, changing channels for you, recording programs that interest you, and helping you watch them when you want. They are more than just digital VCRs. Features common to both units include live TV buffering (the ability to pause/rewind television shows as they are broadcast), simultaneous digital recording and playback (the ability to watch a recorded show while recording another), short-term storage of recordings, dumping of recordings to videotape for long-term storage, an electronic program guide (EPG), time-shifted viewing, and timed recordings.

ReplayTV Models. Denon and Marantz Digital Networks North America (D&M/DNNA) manufactures ReplayTV's primary offering, the 5500 series, which consists of the 5504 (40-hour), 5508 (80-hour), and the 5516 (160-hour). SonicBlue previously owned ReplayTV, where they made several models (4000, 4500, and 5000 series units). Panasonic's "Showstopper" models are discontinued, which were the PV-HS1000 (20-hour), PV-HS2000 (30-hour), and PV-HS3000 (60-hour). ReplayTV manufactured their own models for a while, back when they were an independent company. These were the 2001 (10-hour), 2003 (14-hour), 2020 (20-hour), 3020 (20-hour), 2004 (28-hour), 3030 (30-hour), and 3060 (60-hour). Discontinued models are supported by the ReplayTV service, although they may not receive the latest software upgrades.

TiVo Models. TiVo manufactures their own branded unit, called the TiVo Series2 (40 and 80-hour). Discontinued models are TiVo Series2 (60-hour), AT&T's 130040/230040 (40-hour), 140060 (60-hour), 240080 (80-hour), Philips PTV100/HDR112 (14 hours), HDR212 (20 hours), PTV300/HDR312 (30 hours), and HDR612 (60 hours), Sony SVR-2000 (30 hours) and SVR-3000 (80 hours, Series2-compatible), and Thomson Scenium (40 hours) from the U.K. Discontinued models are supported by the TiVo service, although they may not receive the latest software upgrades.

Feedback. If you own a ReplayTV or TiVo unit, please let me know how I'm doing. Submit additions, corrections, and comments to Eric W. Lund. Thanks to everyone who has written!

Links. TiVo Community Forum | PVR Compare (informative, highly recommended) | ReplayTV Revealed (Steve Martin) | AV Science Bulliten Board (PTV discussion forum) | | Marc's TiVo Experience (Marc Shannon) | ReplayTV Notes (George Snyder) | The Future of Television (Don Meyer) | TiVo FAQ | TiVo UK FAQ | ReplayTV FAQ | TiVo News | ReplayTV official website | TiVo official website | Can I really cram these links in here, or what?

Changes to this page are annotated at the bottom.

What you get out-of-the-box
Plug your cable box, satellite receiver, and/or antenna (collectively, your "input sources") into the personal television (PTV) unit, setup any infrared (IR) blasters, connect the output from the PTV to your television, and plug in the power and phone. Turn it on, configure your input sources and you're about ready to go. Your PTV unit controls your input sources; you use the PTV remote to change the channel, it ferries the signal to your input source and changes the channel for you. Your PTV remote can control other devices as well. After wiring the PTV to your home system, but before you can start using it, there is a waiting period while it downloads channel lineups and configures itself ("initialization time").

Feature ReplayTV TiVo
Personal Television unit
5000/5500 series:

4000/4500 series:


Panasonic (Showstopper):

TiVo-branded Series2:

AT&T Broadband:


Sony (SVR-2000):

Sony (SVR-3000):

Thomson (U.K.):

Remote control
The 4000 and 4500 series come with the backlit 46-button remote control shown on the left. It includes a Bypass button to see the raw input signal unbuffered. The quick skip button is awkwardly located near the bottom. The 5000 and 5500 series include the redesigned 40-button remote control shown on the right. It is not backlit, and resembles the Sony TiVo remote.

This remote comes with the 2001, 2003, and 2004: 48 buttons, many of them tiny; QuickSkip button; universal remote can control up to 6 devices; traditional remote shape.

The left remote comes only with the 2020, 3020, and 3030: Slims down to 45 buttons, controls up to 4 devices, redesigned look and shape. The right remote comes with the Panasonic models and is functionally identical.
The TiVo Series2 remote has 34 buttons; separate Live TV and Guide buttons; additional Standby, TV Input, and PIP buttons (the latter currently does nothing); additional DVR switch for controlling multiple units; otherwise it is the same as the Philips remotes. The AT&T Broadband remote (not shown) is functionally identical.

The Philips remote is on the left, and the Thomson on the right. They each have 30 buttons, many of them do double-duty; volume/mute can control either TV or stereo; power can control either one, or both simultaneously; contoured remote.

This heavy-bottomed, 37-button remote is bundled with Sony units. It comes with an additional button that brings you directly to the list of recorded programs. It also has a PTV power button. Like the other models, you can control the TV and volume through the remote, except this one can also learn the codes directly from the TV remote.
Accessories Documentation
1 RCA audio/video cable
1 S-Video cable++
1 Phone "Y" splitter*
1 Dual IR blaster cable
1 A/C power cord
1 25' Telephone cord
2 AA batteries
1 RJ-11 to 9 pin adapter
1 Pass-through serial cable
1 9 to 15 pin adapter
1 Coaxial cable+
1 Ethernet cable++

+ Only with 4000 series and newer
++ Only with 4000s/4500s
* Only with older pre-4000 models
2 RCA audio/video cables**
1 S-Video cable++
1 Phone "Y" splitter
1 Dual IR blaster cable
1 A/C power cord
1 50' Telephone cable*
2 AA batteries
1 RG-6 coaxial cable
1 DB-9 serial cable
1 DB-9 to DB-15 converter+

+ Not with Series2/AT&T/SVR-3000
++ Not with Series2/AT&T
* 25 feet with Series2/AT&T/SVR-3000
** Only 1 with Series2/AT&T/SVR-3000
Optional accessories Wireless phone jack ($49.95)
Replacement IR blaster cable ($6.95)
Extra remote ($29.99)
Wireless phone jack ($69.99)
Extra remote ($29.99 and up)
Surge protector ($39.99)
USB Network Adapter ($43.99)
Wireless USB Network Adapter ($64.99)
Initialization time About twenty minutes Takes two hours to fully initialize but it is usable after 30 minutes

About your PTV
So, you're holding a PTV unit at this moment, aren't your imagination, but that's ok, don't stop. No one's looking. Inspect it, give it a shake, pry it open a little, and here's what you find.

Feature ReplayTV TiVo
(Width by Depth by Height)
5000 series and newer
16.9" x 14" x 3"

Older SonicBlue
16.9" x 13.9" x 3.5"

Older Replay-branded
17" x 11" x 3"

7" x 11.5" x 3"

TiVo Series2/AT&T
15" x 12" x 3"

17.1" x 12.6" x 4.1"

Sony (SVR-2000)
17.25" x 13.1" x 3.9"

Sony (SVR-3000)
16.9" x 12.3" x 3"

435mm x 335mm x 100mm

Weight (pounds) Panasonic
TiVo Series2/AT&T
Philips and Sony SVR-2000
Sony SVR-3000

Hard drive/Size (gigabytes) All 40-hour models: 40
All 80-hour models: 80
All 160-hour models: 160
SonicBlue (320-hour): 320
PV-HS1000 (20hr): 20
PV-HS2000 (30hr): 30
PV-HS3000 (60hr): 60
2001 (10hr): 10.2
2003 (14hr): 13.6
2004 (28hr): 2x13.6
2020 (20hr): 20
3020 (20hr): 20
3030 (30hr): 30
3060 (60hr): 60
Series2 (60-hour): 60
Series2 (80-hour): 80
AT&T (40-hour): 40
AT&T (60-hour): 60
AT&T (80-hour): 80
HDR112 (14hr): 13.6
HDR212 (20hr): 20
HDR312 (30hr): 2x13.6
HDR612 (60hr): 2x30
SVR-2000 (30hr): 30
SVR-3000 (80hr): 80
Thomson (40hr): 40
Front panel indicators 5000/5500 series

Older SonicBlue models
New Content

All others
Power on/Standby
New content
Power on
Recording/On phone
Front panel buttons All models
Power (puts unit on standby;
when not recording, this will
spin-down the hard drive)

SonicBlue 4000s/4500s only
Arrow Pad
Early AT&T models only
Live TV/Guide
Arrow Pad

Inputs 1 S-Video
2 composite video RCA
2 pair audio RCA
1 RF/antenna coaxial
1 S-Video
1 composite video RCA
1 pair audio RCA
1 RF/antenna coaxial
Outputs All models
1 S-Video
2 composite video RCA
2 pair audio RCA

Also on series 4000 and newer
1 optical (digital audio)
1 RF/coaxial
(Channel 3/4 software selectable)

Also on 4000s/4500 series
1 VGA DB15 (progressive)

Also on 5000/5500 series
1 component (progressive/YPrPb)
1 S-Video
2 composite video RCA
2 pair audio RCA
1 RF/coaxial
(Channel 3/4 switch on back)
Ethernet RJ-45 4000 series and newer

Older models
Phone jack 1 1
IEEE-1394 (FireWire) 2001/2003/2004

Other models
USB ports 5000/5500 series

Older models
Series2-compatible units

All others
Internal fan Only on models 4000 and newer Yes
UL Listed Yes Yes
Under the hood Proprietary architecture
56k* modem

*33.6k on pre-4000 models
PowerPC architecture
Linux OS
Relational database
56k* modem
Inside view

*33.6k on Philips/Thomson/SVR-2000

What it costs
Prices have dropped significantly since these units were released in 1999, and hard drive sizes have increased. All TiVo units and recent ReplayTV models (4500 series and newer) separate the cost of the hardware from the cost of the service, so after you buy the hardware, you have more to pay. The older ReplayTV models (4000 and older) have the cost of the service built into the selling price of the unit.

Feature ReplayTV TiVo
Unit price (MSRP) 5504 (40-hr) $499.99
5508 (80-hr) $599.99
5516 (160-hr) $849.99
TiVo Series2 (40-hr): $249.99
TiVo Series2 (80-hr): $349.99 Price

In Association with

Prices last updated
Aug 17, 2009
3:00PM EST

Also try GoodGuys

Leo Laportes Guide To Tivo
Leo Laportes Guide To Tivo ()

Manufacturer rebates None currently. These rebates expire December 31, 2003:
TiVo Series2 $50
Fees 4000s, 4500s, and most 5000s
$12.95/month or

5500 series and some 5000s*
Service free for 3 years
Then $11.88/year

Older models
Service included in price

*From Radio Shack
Service fees
$12.95/month or

Home Media Option
$99 to enable first unit
$49 for subsequent units
This feature is optional.

Gift subscriptions
Circuit City
The Wiz
Direct from DNNA
In U.S.

Best Buy
ABT Electronics
American Satellite
Direct from TiVo
Discontinued models 5000 series
4500 series
4000 series
ReplayTV 2000 series
ReplayTV 3000 series
Panasonic models
Philips HDR series
TiVo Series2 60-hour
Thomson (UK)
Sony SVR series
AT&T 40-hour
Guarantee/warranty 30-days, money back
One-year parts
One-year labor
30-days, money back
One-year parts
90-days labor
Date of release April 26, 1999 March 31, 1999

Live TV buffering
Normally when you watch television you are seeing more or less a live broadcast, but when you are watching personal television the signal is being transparently and quietly recorded by the unit. Whatever you're watching on live TV is now buffered. The benefit of live TV buffering appears when you want to "instant replay," or stop watching for a moment without missing anything. Live TV can be rewound and paused -- while you are playing back what is in the buffer, the unit is still recording the live signal so you won't miss anything. But you can't leave it paused forever, you'll run out of hard drive space. Each PTV allocates space differently, so how far out-of-synch the buffer and the live signal can be is the unit's buffering limit. Both PTV units allow you to resume watching the live signal by pressing a button on the remote. Your unit may allow you to create a new recording using part of the live TV buffer (convert buffer to recording). If you are watching a program live that you wish you had set up as a recording before-hand, this feature will save the current channel's show as if it were a regular recording. The ability to record the whole show is ideal -- not just from the point you hit record. This won't work if you've waited too long so that start of the show is no longer in your buffer.

Feature ReplayTV TiVo VCR
Buffering limit (minutes) All models, at least 20, up to maximum recording length. Limited by unused HD space. 30, all models. N/A
Convert buffer to recording No. Yes, up to 30 minutes, but only if you record the rest of the show at "best" quality. N/A
Resume live signal Fast-Forward or Return to Live button; flashes "LIVE" on screen when you catch up to live; warns you when channel-changing if not caught up to live. Fast-Forward or Jump button. N/A
Save or clear buffer when changing channels Clear. Clear. Save.

Television listings
How do you pick what to record? How do you know what's on? Browse the listings, use the electronic program guide, enter search criteria or even ask for a hint; PTV gives you many ways to find the shows you're looking for. Both units download program schedules, but there's only so much memory to store this data, so it stores a week or two (listings coverage). The importance of this feature depends on how much in advance you like to plan your recordings. Setting up repeat recordings is one way to get around this limit. Units that offer "past listings" help you to find out what you missed, presumably so you could go kick yourself. Are the channels in ascending or descending order? Is the order user-selectable? Can I hide channels I never watch? What if I only like science fiction? Behold the chart...

Feature ReplayTV TiVo
Browse by time/channel grid Yes, electronic program guide (EPG) is a traditional time/channel grid; familiar feel. Opaque layout, but underlying channel visible at borders. Units with 4.0 software or earlier have a unique two-panel EPG. Left panel lists channels/shows for one timeslot, right panel lists (usually upcoming) show airings for selected channel. Units running 4.01 have the option to use a more traditional time/channel grid. Transparent layout, underlying channel visible through EPG.
Browse all channels by time Only by scrolling around the EPG (see Browse by time/channel grid). Yes, with "Browse by Time." List may be filtered by your "favorite channels." Also may scroll left/right in the left panel of the EPG.
Browse one channel by time Only by scrolling left/right in the EPG (see Browse by time/channel grid). Yes, with "Browse by Channel." List may be filtered by a particular genre or your "favorite channels." Also, may scroll up/down in the right panel of the EPG.
Browse all shows No, but you can get a chronological listing of the airings of all shows that belong in a particular zone or match your search criteria. Yes, alphabetically, by searching for "0" (see Search).
Browse shows in one genre Replay Zones will list all upcoming airings matching the zone (genre/category). Can set up repeat recordings that monitor new shows for a zone (see Recording and scheduling). A genre-filtered "Search by title" for "0" returns an alphabetic list of genre shows. A genre-filtered "Browse by time" returns a chronological list of genre shows, by airing.
Genre filtering Yes, when listing the contents of Replay Zones, or in a zone-based Replay Channel. Yes, when searching, browsing by time, or viewing the EPG.
Browse suggested content "Replay Zones" provides many categories to examine. Categories contain an exhaustive list of shows which may be used to create a zone-based Replay Channel (see Recording and scheduling) or find an individual show to record. "TiVo's Suggestions" provides a list of suggested shows based on your show thumbs-up/thumbs-down preferences. These shows may also be recorded automatically (see Recording and scheduling). "TiVolution Magazine" provides several categories of a handful of staff-picked shows to peruse. "Network Showcases" provides lists of show offerings (usually in subcategories) for a limited set of networks.
Search interactively Search actor, title, director, and/or description keywords with "Find Shows." Returns list of all shows that match your criteria. List is ordered chronologically, by the airing time of each show. Shows with multiple airings appear multiple times. The search criteria may be saved as a theme-based Replay Channel (see Recording and scheduling) which will continually record anything that matches the criteria. Look at a list of all show titles, in alphabetical order, with "Search by title." May be filtered by a genre. As you enter more of the show title, the list centers on the first show that matches your criteria. Entering "0" brings you to the top of the list. Shows appearing on multiple channels are listed multiple times.

Search by actor, director, title, category (genre), or description keywords with "Create Wishlist." May be filtered by a genre. May use wildcards (asterisk *) in keywords. Returns list of all shows that match your criteria in chronological order, by the airing time of each show. Wishlists are saved automatically and may be deleted or set to "auto-record," which will continually record anything that matches the criteria. (See Recording and scheduling.)
Find show airings Yes. Replay Zones and "Find shows" both return airings of shows that match your critera. See Search. Yes, with "View upcoming episodes," everwhere but in "Now Playing" (which lists all saved recordings).
Listing coverage (days) 11-13 (4000 series and newer)
7+ (Others)
Past listings (days) 1 3, although the left panel of the EPG cannot access them.
Channel order Ascending only, from top down; EPG wraps around Ascending only, from top down; EPG wraps around
Ability to "hide" channels Yes, new channels are visible by default. Yes, new channels are hidden by default.
Menu layout Many are partial screen; underlying show is audible at most menus. All are full-screen; underlying show is muted (if live) or paused (if recorded).

Recording and scheduling
These PTV units will give you a list of shows they recorded (or started recording) and are now available for you to watch. You may record individual shows, but repeat recordings make the recording of episodic and serial shows much more flexible. Repeat recordings handle -- with varying success -- the vaguaries of shows changing timeslots, shows in multiple timeslots, shows on multiple channels, weekly/daily events, and conflicts amongst other scheduling requests. Both PTV units have other ways of suggesting things for you to watch, and even have the audacity to go off and record them for you. Duplicate episode handling prevents the PTV from recording an episode if it is already stored on disk. Sometimes a program regularly starts earlier or runs later than advertised. Under standard operation, a personal television unit might miss some of the program; a unit with event time tweaking tries to automatically correct such irregularities. Manual recordings are particularly useful if service ever becomes unavailable, or if you want to record just part of a show. Raw recordings let you record any random input source without having to specify what it is. Instant recordings let you start recording what's on right now, immediately. Usually the unit will stop recording automatically, but there are times you'll want to force the recording to stop.

Feature ReplayTV TiVo VCR
Record a single specific show (see Television listings for ways to pick shows) Yes. In software prior to 5.x, shows may be marked as guaranteed. Guaranteed recordings will never be automatically deleted (you must delete them manually). See scheduling conflicts. Yes. Individual recordings will be saved for two days, but their expiration may be extended at scheduling time. A "manual recording" may also be used to record a single show (see Manual recordings). Yes, but you must specify time/channel/duration; may require separate programming of cable box, etc.
Repeatedly record a show appearing on a specific channel at a specific timeslot Yes, a "show-based Replay Channel"; will still record the show if the timeslot changes (assuming no conflicts); can specify which days of the week to record on (see Repeat types); can specify the number of shows to keep in the Channel at any time. In software prior to 5.x, shows may be marked as guaranteed. See Scheduling conflicts. Yes, a "manual recording" may be repeated daily or weekly. If the timeslot changes it will record the wrong show. Yes, operation varies but most support daily and weekly recordings and will allow you to record any time period even if it spans multiple shows; may require separate programming of cable box, etc.
Repeatedly record a show appearing on a specific channel at any timeslot No, but show-based Replay Channels are a little flexible with the timeslots (see previous feature) Yes, a "Season Pass." No.
Repeatedly record a show appearing on any channel at any timeslot No, but theme-based Replay Channels may achieve the same effect, however it could record different shows than you intended (e.g., "Star Trek" will record any show with Star Trek in the title, even if you only want the original series). No, but you could create multiple Season Passes, one for each channel that carries the show. Also a wishlist may achieve the same effect, but this technique has the same caveats as with theme-based Replay Channels (see left). No
Repeatedly record any show that matches user search criteria Yes. A "theme-based Replay Channel" will continually record any show that matches your search keywords. Criteria may be by title, actor, director, or description. A "zone-based Replay channel" will repeatedly record any show it finds that matches the zone (genre or category) you specify. These Replay Channels specify the maximum amount of time they may take up, in half-hour increments. In software prior to 5.x, shows may be marked as guaranteed (see Scheduling conflicts). Yes, a "WishList" will record any show that matches any specified actor, director, title, category (genre), or description keywords. May be filtered by a genre. Wishlists may specify the maximum number of recordings they may take up, but these recordings may be of any duration each. Wishlists act as a Season Pass and may be prioritized in the Season Pass manager. No.
Repeatedly record any show that matches viewer ratings No. With "TiVo's Suggestions" enabled, TiVo will record shows from its suggestion list and fill available space with them. These recordings will never overwrite other events. Suggestions are based on your show thumbs-up/thumbs-down preferences; each show you watch you may mark as one-to-three thumbs up, no rating, or one-to-three thumbs down. No.
Manual recordings Can create time/channel/duration events including repeating events which can record on any combination of days (see Repeat types). Can specify down to minute increments, and record any time period Can create time/channel/duration events including repeating daily/weekly events; start and end times restricted to five-minute increments. Yes, this and Instant recording are the only options on a VCR.
Raw recordings Yes, by specifying the input source in manual or instant recordings. No, not with service. You can fake it, but it's not pretty. Without service, yes, in manual or instant recordings, but that's not how most people will use the unit. Yes, it's all raw to a VCR.
Instant recordings Can record live TV by pressing Record; in raw recordings, you may also specify duration. Can explicitly stop a recording, see Stopping recordings. Can record live TV by pressing Record, but cannot specify duration -- records until the end of the show. Can explicitly stop a recording, see Stopping recordings. Yes, wholeheartedly, all hail the VCR. Some VCRs let you specify duration.
Stopping recordings Regular recordings stop automatically when the show ends. Manual recordings stop at the end of the recording period. All recordings may be stopped by hitting the Stop button. Regular recordings stop automaticaly when the show ends. Manual recordings stop at the end of the recording period. All recordings may be stopped by selecting Stop recording under the recording's Now Playing entry or changing the channel and responding appropriately the alert that comes up. Varies. Most let you hit the Stop button, all stop automatically if a duration or end time was specified.
Repetition by date All repeating events can specify daily, once-a-week, or exactly which days to record on (e.g., "Every Tues and Thurs"). All events default to a daily recording; changing to a once-a-week recording requires unchecking six other days. All repeating events can specify daily or once-a-week. Most can do it in one form or another.
Event management Replay Guide lists all Replay Channels in alphabetical order, grouping Channels that have recordings in them at the top of the list. You can change the recording options of any Replay Channel, or delete a Replay Channel (which removes all recordings under it). "To-Do List" shows all future recordings in chronological order, including individal Season Pass episodes. You can cancel any future recording or Season Pass episode (without affecting the Season Pass), cancel a Season Pass, or edit any of the Season Pass recording options. Season Passes with no activity are grouped at the bottom of the To-Do list. You can see why certain shows were not or will not be recorded via "View Recording History," and attempt to reschedule them. Usually can delete/edit all the events
Event start/end-time tweaking When it can, starts recordings a few seconds early. All recordings can be padded up to four hours earlier and up to four hours later. All recordings can be padded up to ten minutes earlier and up to three hours later. Since you generally set the recording times manually, you can pad the recordings as much as you want.
Scheduling conflicts Alerts you if scheduling a show causes a timeslot conflict. Units with 5.x software give you the choice to record only the non-conflicting episodes, cancel the conflicting episodes, schedule the recording on another networked ReplayTV (if available), or cancel the event. Units with older software give you the choice to record the resolved schedule shown or cancel the event. If a show changes timeslots, guaranteed events supercede non-guaranteed (pre-5.x software only), show-based events supercede theme-based, and other conflicts settled by the order they appear in the Replay Guide (pre-5.x) or by the internal priority established through conflict resolutions (5.x). Alerts you if scheduling a show causes a timeslot conflict and gives you the choice to record only the non-conflicting episodes, cancel the conflicting shows, or cancel the event. Also alerts you if there's a disk space conflict, and offers to let you shorten the expiration of the some shows or cancel the event. If an alert is not possible (e.g., when a show changes timeslots), events created earlier supercede newer events. User may prioritize Season Passes and WishLists using "Season Pass Manager." Usually warns/stops you
Duplicate episode handling Will not record two copies of the same episode of a show in a Replay Channel, if the show has unique episode descriptions and hasn't yet been deleted from the hard disk. Units with software 5.x can optionally skip shows conservatively flagged as "reruns." Will not record two copies of the same episode of a shown in a Season Pass, if show has unique episode descriptions and the airtimes are within 28 days of one another; can turn off this feature by setting a Season Pass to "all (with duplicates)." Can optionally skip shows with an original air date older than a week ("repeats"). No
Impromptu scheduling No. Some shows may be selected for recording by pressing Select when a special icon appears, usually during a commercial about the show. It's called a "iPreview", but it's not available on most channels. No.

Space management
Since PTV units have a limited amount of space, there will be times when you'll want to archive (or "dump") your recordings to your VCR, make recordings disappear, and trim fat (i.e., commercials) from recordings to make them more space efficient. Both units allow basic dumping to tape. In order to save space, you can tell your unit to resist recording more episodes of a show that you can handle. With hard drives bigger than when PTV debuted, having too many recordings on the unit at once is becoming more common. User categories may help you get your shows organized. Neither unit supports any form of video editing.

Feature ReplayTV TiVo VCR
User categories Yes, with "Show Organizer" you may create your own categories and organize your recordings into them. All recordings appear on the Now Playing screen in recorded order. Units with 4.0 software can also sort by date or name, and can store related recordings into folders. Different colored stickem labels perhaps?
User limits on repeat recordings You must set the maximum number of episodes (1-99) that a show-based channel can take up, and the maximum number of hours a theme-base channel can take up. For users of pre-5.0 software these settings literally reserve space on the hard drive. 5.x software does not reserve space, which is actually more flexible. You can set the maximum number of episodes (1-5, 10*, or no limit) to store in any Season Pass.

*4.x software only.
No, without your constant tending it will rage out of control.
Manual deletion of recordings Yes, from "Replay Guide." Gives "Are you sure?" confirmation. Deleting a Replay Channel removes all recordings belonging to that Channel. Yes, from "Now Playing." Gives "Are you sure?" confirmation. Deleting a Season Pass does not affect the recordings created by that Season Pass. May overwrite whole tape or any portion.
Automatic deletion of recordings Repeating, non-guaranteed recordings deleted oldest-first. New episodes overwrite old ones, keeping up to seven shows at once (for a show-based Replay Channels) or within a maximum space alotment (for zone and theme-based Replay Channels). Guaranteed recordings will never be auto-deleted. With units using software version 5.x, recordings may instead be deleted (earliest recordings first) to make space as needed. This is an option available when the show is scheduled. TiVo Suggestions deleted as needed to make room for other recordings. Scheduled recordings are saved for at least as long as their expiration (default is two days), and deleted in order of their expiration dates when room is needed for other scheduled recordings. All individual shows and Season Passes may have their expiration extended. Shows may also have their expiration shortened, at your option, when there is a scheduling conflict (see Recording and scheduling). If you leave a rewound tape in, new recordings will overwrite old ones.
Save a recording permanently Yes, any show may be saved permanently after it has been recorded or when scheduling it. Yes, any show may be saved permanently after it has been recorded or when scheduling it. Yes, take out the tape and hide it in your sock drawer.
Video editing No, get over it. No, don't even think it. May overwrite portions of recordings; some allow audio dubbing; programs may be duped (and in some cases edited) in two-machine setups.
Delete portions of recordings No. No. No, short of cutting the tape with scissors.
Dump to videotape Displays an episode slate" with show name and details while displaying a countdown timer from 10. Philips boxes display a countdown timer from 10 (but no episode slate). Sony and Series2 units display an episode slate with show name and details while pausing ten seconds (but no countdown shown). SVR-2000/3000 have VCR control for Sony VCRs only. It's already on tape, silly.

The quality/space tradeoff
PTV units are digital; they record shows on hard drives that can read and write simultaneously. Some of this hard drive space is used to store program guide information, some for live TV buffering, and the rest for recording shows. The amount of space used by a recording depends on its compression rate: the number of bits it writes to the hard drive per second. The higher the rate, the better the recording quality, but the more the drive space is used up. Some of the recording rates and lengths are (bad) guesses on my part.

Feature ReplayTV TiVo VCR
Change recording quality Globally or per-recording Globally or per-recording Usually both globally and per-recording
Recording rates
(Mb/sec, low-to-high quality)
2 (Standard)
4 (Medium)
6 (High)
Video (Estimated):
1.9 (Basic)
3.2 (Medium)
4.1 (High)
6.2 (Best)

Always at highest quality
(most are analog)
Recording lengths
(hours, low-to-high quality)
40-hour model:

80-hour model:

160-hour model:

320-hour model:
30-hour models:

40-hour models:

60-hour models:

80-hour models:
6, 4, 2 for standard tape; 10-hour tapes not unheard of

Input sources
Your PTV unit works by changing the channels of your cable box, satellite receiver and/or tuner for you. These are your input sources. Your unit may be able to control multiple input sources simultaneously, limited by the number of input connections. This means you could get your channels from antenna, cable, and satellite receiver at the same time, and the unit will know which channels in the EPG belong to which input source. "Raw" input support is convenient if you want to record from any arbitrary input source. Some input sources support direct serial connection. If this method isn't supported, the unit can talk to the source using an infrared signal blaster (IR blaster). The serial method is technically more reliable and faster. Some input sources have UHF-controlled remotes instead of IR, and might not work with your unit.

Feature ReplayTV TiVo VCR
Device control IR for all, unidirectional serial data interface for some satellite receivers. IR for all, bidirectional serial data interface for most DSS receivers (can ensure box is on, verify channel changed sucessfully, etc.) No.
Max number of input sources 3 2 Varies.
"Raw" input supported Yes. No, you can fake it, sorta Yes.
Guide integration Seamlessly integrated into lineup. Seamlessly integrated into lineup. No.
Special channel handling Issues with Pay-Per-View. Issues with Pay-Per-View, unless you're using a combo unit like DirecTiVo. Cannot tune pay stations; must set VCR to 3/4 and feed through converter/receiver

Watching a recorded show or the live TV buffer gives you controls "like a VCR." In some respects, PTV is better. Some features allow you to playback shows from different points without needing to play "fast-forward, watch, and wait." PTV is also a replacement interface for changing channels, which is why being able to quickly jump to favorite and recent channels is handy. Overshoot correction occurs after fast-forwarding; your PTV rewinds (backs up) a little to account for reaction time.

Feature ReplayTV TiVo VCR
Fast forward/rewind 5X, 10X, 20X, 50X, 60X 3X, 20X, 60X Varies; 2X and up
Overshoot correction No Yes, on the two fastest speeds. Some Sony models have "Smart Cue," which is user-adjustable
Frame forward/back Frame forward only Frame forward; key frame backward Most allow forward
Skip backward 7 seconds (Instant Replay button) 8 seconds (Instant Replay button); 15 minutes (Advance button while fast-rewinding) No
Skip forward 30 seconds (QuickSkip button) 15 minutes (Advance button while fast-forwarding) Some, varies
Slow-motion Three-speeds. 1/4X Usually, several speeds offered
Stop/Pause Both. Stop button blanks image. Pause only. Both.
Skip over commercials 5000 and 5500 series units can manually skip commercials with Show|Nav. Automatic skipping is described in Miscellaneous features. No Dah, no
Playback/Bookmarks When you select a show, unit asks if you want to play from the beginning or from where you left off. On recorded shows, playback continues where you left off. Playback position may be reset to the beginning or end. On live TV, pressing pause before leaving live mode holds your position for when you return, otherwise play resumes live. Play recordings from where you left off. Some also allow setting of bookmarks to fast-forward/rewind to.
Jump to position entered numerically Yes No No
Favorite channel lists No You can show what's on just your favorite channels when browsing by time or channel. Varies
Return to last channel Yes, Jump button can also toggle between a live channel and a recording Yes, Enter button Usually

Miscellaneous features
Some of these features you may have already on your VCR. Others are not really features, like Macrovision, which is a copy-protection scheme used by some input sources. Macrovision pass-thru does not add Macrovision to shows that never had it, and most shows don't anyhow. It's fairly exclusive to videotapes at this point. Watching a Macrovision-encoded show from your PTV will not have problems, but if you dumped that show from your PTV to tape, playback of that tape would be affected. Multiple unit support addresses the luxurious world of owning multiple PTV units of the same kind. Ideally, they would work together, share recording duties, share hard drive space, and not confuse one unit's remote control signal with another's.

Feature ReplayTV TiVo VCR
Dolby Digital 5.1 Newer models (4000 and up) have digital audio output, but no Dolby. No. Perhaps on digital VCRs.
Automatic clock set Yes. Yes. Some models.
Closed captioning (CC) Yes, pass-thru from input source. Yes, pass-thru from input source. Usually, pass-thru.
Commercial removal/automatic bypass Series 4000, 4500, and 5000 support Commercial Advance to automatically bypass the majority of commercials. The current 5500 series and older legacy units do not support this, however the 5500s (and 5000s) can manually skip commercials with Show|Nav. No, but see Navigation/Overshoot correction. Some models offer automatic fast-forwarding past commercials.
HDTV support Newer models (4000 and up) have 480P progressive output, but no HDTV. No. Only on expensive models.
Parental control Set lock-outs by channel, TV rating (e.g, TV-14, TV-MA), movie rating (e.g., PG, R), or content rating (e.g., sexual content, violence). Four digit password for overriding a show lockout or changing parental control settings. Set lock-outs by channel, TV rating (e.g, TV-14, TV-MA), movie rating (e.g., PG, R), or content rating (e.g., sexual content, violence). Four digit password for overriding a show lockout or changing parental control settings. Lockouts may be turned off temporarily, and will relock automatically four hours after last remote control use. Hide the tapes in optional combination safe
Second audio program (SAP) No Yes, global setting Pass-thru audio from input source
Macrovision Passes-thru Macrovision, except on newer models (4000 and up) when using the progressive video format. Passes-thru Macrovision Most are unable to record Macrovision successfully
International support US only US only. Thomson models were previously available in the United Kingdom, but no longer. Apparently existing units are still being supported. World-wide
Broadband support 4000 series and newer only
Ethernet connection may be used to hook up units to the internet, which obviates the need for a dial-up phone connection.
Yes, on Series2 units with a USB to Ethernet adaptor. This allows you to hook up your unit to the internet, which obviates the need for a dial-up phone connection. It's possible to add a TurboNet card to older models, which is not officially supported by TiVo. This will void your warranty. No
Multiple unit support With newer models (4000 and up), you can record programs on one unit and watch them "streaming" on a compatible networked unit. All 5000s and 5500s are compatible with each other. As are 4000 and 4500s. You can additionally copy recordings from one networked unit to one other instead of streaming, but this is not supported by 5500 series units. 1. You may copy recordings from one networked Series2 unit with Home Media Option (HMO) to another HMO Series2 unit. You can start watching before the show has finished copying. 2. On any TiVo, remotes may be configured to address a specific unit, however Series2 and AT&T Broadband remotes have a DVR switch right on the remote for this. Different model remotes will usually work without conflicts. Tapes are exchangable among all VCRs.
Web access MyReplayTV provides web interface to all units that use the ReplayTV service. You can search television listings, manipulate your replay channels and recordings, and schedule new recordings over the internet. It's pretty full-functional, and any changes you make will be synchronized with your unit within 24 hours. Networked Series2 units with Home Media Option enabled can instruct their TiVo to record shows over a web interface. It's not as functionally useful as the ReplayTV counterpart, but any changes you make will be synchronized with your unit within 2 hours. Not that I know of
Direct access to files on the unit No, but you can send (photo) images to newer models (4000 and up) and create a picture slideshow on your television. No, but with Home Media Option enabled on a Series2 unit you can remotely play MP3s and display photographs stored on a networked PC or Mac. Well sorta, it's a video tape.
Screen saver Yes. No. Some.

Service and updates
One of the cooler features of PTV is how it keeps up to date. It uses your phone line to call up big brother and download software updates, new television listings, changes in the channel lineup, and more. This "and more" part also has some people concerned with privacy. Your PTV unit may be capable of automatically detecting and integrating new channels when your cable or satellite provider adds them ("automatic lineup changes").

Feature ReplayTV TiVo
Phone call Every night or when user forces connection (unofficially, using 243-Replay Zone); phone number may not be local; stutter dial tones (i.e., voicemail alert) will cause problems. Ethernet-supporting models may use broadband internet connection instead. Every twenty-four hours or so (not necessarily at night) or when user forces connection; phone number may not be local; disconnects if on pick up or call waiting; call waiting disabling; message beep ignore; prefix dial
New software releases Downloaded and installed automatically; note that discontinued models will probably not receive any new features in software, only bug fixes (if any) Downloaded and installed automatically; note that discontinued models will probably not receive any new features in software, only bug fixes (if any)
Messages/Alerts Central messages screen lists connection status, recording conflicts, changes in channel line up, etc. Separate screens for phone call status, changes in channel line up, unit information, messages/announcements, and others. Recording conflicts presented in popup dialogs.
Privacy Usage preferences and viewing habits collected anonymously; See Privacy Policy. Usage preferences and viewing habits collected anonymously; you may request a "block" on this collection. See Privacy Policy.
Automatic lineup changes Yes. New channels are visible by default. Yes. Changes are noted in the messages mailbox. New channels are hidden by default.

Hey, this is a lot of money
The PTV units they have been selling since 1999 need to connect to their manufacturer frequently to keep updated. If the business folds, this connection will not happen, and the unit will not operate at 100% functionality. You don't want to be the proud owner of a high-tech paperweight. Usability without service describes how well they operate in solitude. There's a good chance that if one company folds they may make a deal where the other provides service.

Feature ReplayTV TiVo VCR
Hard drive upgradability and other hacking issues None. It was thought firewire upgrades would be supported, but that never happened. Some users have performed their own warranty-voiding upgrades. Information about this may be found in the hacker section of the ReplayTV Advanced FAQ. Those interested might also find the reading at the AVS ReplayTV Forums helpful. None since Philips quietly discontinued their upgrade program. However, user updates have become exceedingly popular over the years. You will void your warranty if you try it. For more information, visit Hacking The Tivo FAQ, Unofficial TiVo Hackers Site, the TiVo Update Center at AVS, and the Hinsdale How-To. N/A, but new videotapes are cheap
Usability without service Useless out-of-box; requires service to configure or change lineups. All functions will disable themselves without service. Lifetime subscribers can still do live TV buffering, manual recordings, and instant recordings. (see Recording and scheduling for details). Useless out-of-box; requires service to configure or change lineups. All functions will disable themselves without service. Lifetime subscribers can still do live TV buffering, manual recordings, and instant recordings. (see Recording and scheduling for details). Hey, it's still a VCR
Staying power In the market since early 1999. ReplayTV had the headstart in media attention, but gradually lost their lead and settled in as the runner-up in the marketplace. In late 2000 they shut down their manufacturing division in an attempt to refocus. In mid-2001 SonicBlue, electronics manufacturer, acquired ReplayTV. They came out with a new line of ReplayTV units and packed in quite a number of great features, but some of them (internet show sharing and commercial advance) were the target of lawsuits. SonicBlue applied for bankruptcy protection in early 2003, and they were bought by Denon and Marantz Holdings, Digital Networks North American group shortly thereafter. To avoid future lawsuits, new ReplayTV releases from DNNA do not have the controversial features. Let's hope ReplayTV has finally found their footing. In the market since early 1999. TiVo got their units out the door first. It didn't take long for them to overcome ReplayTV's strong pre-release PR and take the lead position in the marketplace. Since then they've been going strong, entering the hardware manufacturing business for the first time, in 2002. TiVo nomenclature has entered popular culture, and it's getting rare for people to ask, "What's a TiVo?" I don't see them going away any time soon. Everyone has one


December 2, 2003

December 1, 2003

January 1, 2003

December 19, 2002

December 8, 2002



Comparison Chart