The TiVo HD is a good, cheap alternative to the recently de-listed TiVo Series 3 for people who didn't need all that much storage and all that many fancy features. But what if someone wants even more built-in storage than the 20 hours of HD that the TiVo HD provides? They've now got the TiVo HD XL.
This beast offers 150 hours of HD recording, plus it's THX certified; useful not for watching Rachel Ray's spunky explanations, but for Jack Bauer action packed video and audio. (We watch Rachel on mute.) The XL also has the same dual-tuner HD recording as the previous models, plus all the same expanded non-TV features: photos, YouTube, Amazon Unbox, Rhapsody and Music Choice, the music video service. The only downside to all this increased storage is that the box costs US$600, the same price as the TiVo Series 3 when that first arrived; but it does come with a Series 3 backlit remote.
The Install: Super easy. Comcast was great about getting a guy down to our house that was experienced with CableCARD installs, and the installer (who shall remain nameless) did an excellent job getting the card in and active. It's pretty much exactly the same as the TiVo HD in terms of the install, and provided your local cable provider has them, one M-Card is enough to get both tuners working. Otherwise you'll need two standard ones. Great job to both Comcast on TiVo on this part.
The Experience: For those of you who are familiar with TiVo, the XL is the same user experience you're familiar with in previous HD models. Not much UI change here except for the fact that you're going to be scrolling through a lot more shows saved up on your big drive.
The Verdict: Very good. We extend our recommendation of the TiVo HD easily to the beefier TiVo HD XL, which despite the 2x price point, still offers a great DVR experience for the money.
The Recommendation: If you had to pick between the TiVo HD and TiVo HD XL, what would we recommend? It depends on your watching habits. If you can make do with only having 20 hours of HD sitting on your machine at once, because you clear out shows shortly after watching or you just don't have all that many shows to record, the regular HD is fine. If you're like Brian Lam and horde shows like they were being cancelled the next week, or like Mark Wilson, who records and saves every show with the word "dance" or "dancing" in the title (he claims it's for his wife), we'd recommend the XL.
On the other hand, you could also get a TiVo HD and expand the storage by purchasing a compatible external eSATA drive and just plugging it in, which increases the storage by 65 HD hours with a 500GB drive. See more details here. The plug-and-play eSATA port only supports up to 500GB, but you can hack it to support up to 1TB if you really wanted to. Or, if even the TiVo HD XL isn't enough, you can shove another 65 hour drive on there . [TiVo Store]