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Head to Head: Foxtel iQ HD Vs TiVo PVR

By David Richards | Sunday | 13/07/2008

Which is the best personal video recorder the Seven Media TiVo or the new Foxtel iQ HD offering? The answer to this question lies more in what you want from a PVR and how much you are prepared to pay.

The new TiVo which has been launched by Seven Media is in its infancy. It's a brand new offering that is currently being sold via Harvey Norman stores for a one off price of $699 and the only capability of this device right is to manage free to air content while also offering an image management and display capability.

From an ease of use prospective the TiVo comes with a sleek new management interface which is a big improvement over the poor Foxtel interface we have had to endure for several years. However Foxtel has improved their software interface for their new iQ HD PVR, changing it from blue white and yellow to an easy to read grey black and orange.

After spending a weekend running the two systems in parallel, hooked up to the same 52" Sharp LCD TV the TiVo software is superior from a functions prospective in that it offers more capability and above all a higher level of personalisation. It has features such as 'Season Pass' and 'Wish List' which allows a user to search for your favourite programme by category whether it be sport movies or a crime series through to being able to search by director or actors or by typing in their name and looking for a TV program.

One of the key requisites of the new TiVo is that one has to have broadband, this I believe is important as it eliminates making a choice between satellite and cable. It also allows for an easier install.

 For example with a Foxtel install one can end up waiting two weeks or more for a technician to arrive to do a PVR install whereas with the TiVo offering it's a simple case of walking into a Harvey Norman store, taking the PVR home and plugging it into a broadband Ethernet port.

30 minutes later and after running an extremely easy install procedure one is up and running however it can take more than an hour for the electronic program guide to populate and fully install to the PVR.

 What is offered on the Foxtel HD service is a vast improvement over the previous iQ model. The software is cleaner and easier to read and access. The TiVo offering is easy to navigate and laid out for novices.

All Foxtel have to do is improve their database capability to allow for better searches and improved customisation and they will be up their with the TiVo offering.

To test these two systems I had both boxes hooked up via HDMI. I eliminated the home theatre kit and ran the two systems straight into the TV via a HDMI port. However with the TiVo PVR I was unable to control the audio via the remote control. I was also limited by the failure of Seven Media to activate several capabilities within the PVR.

Seven Media claim that the TiVo is "The the biggest revolution since the invention of television" however if someone put a claim in for false and misleading marketing I think that they would have a good chance of winning as this system offer not much more than a Beyonwiz PVR hooked up to an Ice TV EPG offering.

At the end of the day the issue is not about who has the best box it is more about who has the best content offering and Foxtel is light years ahead of Seven Media and the TiVo offering with over 100 channels to choose from.
The Foxtel iQ HD has over 300 GB of storage space Vs 160GB with the TiVo however I do like the fact that the TiVo offering can be upgraded to a 1Terrabyte solution. Though this is not recommended by Seven Media however a trip to Yahoo Tech will show you how to do it.

On a box Vs box comparison the Tivo is a better box. It has better output capability, two USB ports and and external attachment capability for the transfer of content to an iPod. TiVo also is one of the easiest PVRs to use. The remote control is colour coded so you only need to press one button to control the easiest of functions.

Click to enlarge
Foxtel iQ HD

Click to enlarge
Tivo PVR

Click to enlarge
Foxtel iQ HD rear

On the other hand there is nothing wrong with the Foxtel offering. The remote has a shiny black finish and above all of the buttons work. Another big advantage of the Foxtel offering is their movie service however this still needs to be activated and one still needs  a telephone line to access the service.

Personally I would like to see Foxtel go to a 100% broadband service. I would also like to see Foxtel ditch their own PVR offering and instead allow the likes of Sony. Samsung and Panasonic to run the Foxtel service via their PVR offering which in some cases may have not only the Foxtel SIM card but an embedded Foxtel chipset.

I would also like to see Foxtel invest more into software development because at the end of the day it is software that makes the difference as Sony found out when Apple bought out the iPod and overnight destroyed the Walkman market.
So who has the best offering TiVo or Foxtel. The answer right now is Foxtel. However TiVo has put the frighteners into Foxtel which is a good thing because for several years Foxtel has been dishing up rubbish in both PVR functionality and in their pathetic EPG service.
And if it has taken the launch of TiVo to shake them into delivering a superior offering this is a good thing.

However at the end of the day the issue comes down to content and despite having a pretty software interface and a few better capabilities the TiVo offering is limited and at $699 is a tad expensive particularly as it only comes with a 160GB hard drive.


Tivo PVR 2/5

Foxtel iQ HD 4/5

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