It’s been three years since I bought my last TiVo and now that I have a 4K TV I wanted to be able to watch some 4K content. Despite Rovi’s purchase of TiVo and the uncertainty of the future of the hardware business, I purchased TiVo’s latest Series6 model, the TiVo Bolt UES (Unified Entertainment System).
I went with the smaller (500gb for 75 HD hours) hard drive model because in retrospect, my six tuner, 3TB Roamio Pro seemed to be overkill for my needs: even with two Minis in the house I didn’t see a lot of tuner contention and that DVR’s hard drive hardly went above 20% utilization. Hard drive upgrades are pretty simple, though, should I need to expand the Bolt’s recording capacity. This is also the first TiVo I’ve owned since my original Series2 boxes that I haven’t purchased the lifetime service plan for. Instead, I went with the annual fee, figuring this would make it financially easier to replace the box in the next few years if something goes wrong with it (lifetimed units aren’t eligible for the Continual Care Warranty), or a newer, better model comes out (despite the Rovi’s ownership) and I want to upgrade.
Hardware-wise, the Bolt is a strange beast. All of the familiar connections are still there (coax (for cable or antenna), HDMI, eSATA, optical TOSLINK, USB, ethernet, etc.) but instead of the standard power cord connection like on all previous TiVos, the Bolt has a white power brick and small circular power connector on the back. This brick made it a little harder to connect to my home theater UPS due to the size and available space, but a 1′ extension cable solved that problem. Moving the power supply out of the case and going to an all-plastic design makes the Bolt the smallest and lightest TiVo yet (not counting the Mini, which isn’t a DVR, just an extender). And of course how could you not notice the unique shape of the Bolt? The curved case makes it look like someone tried using it for karate practice but TiVo says the “distinctive, arched design isn’t just for looks, it serves as a clever cooling system.” The arch is where the fan is, which supposedly will help improve airflow, but so far the fan seems to run slowly despite the fact that the box is very hot to the touch. Initially the System Information screen reported the temperature between 70-74C (almost 165F!) so I connected a small USB fan to blow across it which has brought the temperature down to slightly better, but still high, 68C. I’ll need to keep an eye on that. The Bolt also comes with a white-faced version of the current standard peanut remote (the same one that comes with the Roamio line). I understand why they chose white, to match the box, but the back of the remote is still black and I wonder how long that white face will stay clean-looking. The Bolt does not have a separate internal Stream like the Roamios, instead using the features of its Broadcom BCM7449 CPU to handle transcoding/streaming duties. When the Bolt originally launched last fall, out-of-home (OOH) streaming wasn’t supported due to this change but as of the latest TiVo software update (20.6.1.RC14) paired with version 3.7.2 of the TiVo mobile app, you can stream your recorded content while not at home (but still not over a cellular connection, WiFi only).
Software-wise, the Bolt has the same great user interface as its successors. There are a few more screens converted to HD (like System Information) but it’s puzzling that there are still a few SDUI holdout menus (like Network Connections). It’s been over 6 years since the HDUI was introduced with the Series4 (Premiere) line and it’s still not done? The UI is very snappy and responsive and has been made slightly cleaner looking by switching from a blue/gold color scheme to just blue/white (again, I assume, to match the white hardware). The Bolt was the first TiVo box to include SkipMode (a favorite in my household) and QuickMode, although those features are now available for the Roamio boxes as well. I don’t use the streaming apps like Netflix or Hulu, but I do use Amazon Prime Video and VUDU occasionally and use Plex a lot, all of which work great on the Bolt.
Setting up the new Bolt presented me with my first opportunity to really use TiVo Online. It was incredibly easy to copy all of my OnePasses and recordings from the old DVR to the new one through the web. Some third-party apps (like kmttg) can do this, but having an easy-to-use “built-in” feature like this is a definite plus for TiVo and made the transition to the Bolt very easy.