For a long time, I've been a big fan of Roku products. They're easy to use and their prices are great. The intro model Roku Express retails for about $30 while the HD/4K/HDR version costs around $40. And they're often available for less on Black Friday.
Then NBC's Peacock and HBO Max were released. Peacock offers a lot of free content and HBO Max comes free from my Internet provider. But I couldn't watch either through Roku because of a revenue dispute. The Variety article How Roku Built Itself Into a Major Gatekeeper in Premium Streaming covers the dispute:
"...Roku execs have delivered a basic message...to WarnerMedia and NBCUniversal negotiators: You need us more than we need you.
So far, Roku is refusing to cede ground on deal terms to add WarnerMedia’s HBO Max and NBCU’s Peacock to its popular streaming platform. Roku’s standard ask is 20% of subscription fees and 30% of ad inventory on partner channels."
Disappointed with Roku's gatekeeping, I thought this would be a great time to check out something new and that something new is the TiVo Stream 4K, a dongle that uses AndroidTV. It comes with Chromecast, so a separate Chromecast device isn't needed. Like Roku, the Tivo Stream 4K is easy to use.
What Comes in the Box?
The Tivo Stream 4K comes with the following items:
- The Tivo Streaming Device
- Power Cord
- USB Plug
- Remote Control
- Batteries for the Remote Control
While the Tivo Stream 4K uses a USB cable for power, you shouldn't plug it into a USB port on a television.
"Most USB ports on TVs do NOT provide sufficient power for the TiVo Stream 4K. Check out our YouTube video on “Setting up your Stream 4K” that recommends that the TiVo Stream 4K is plugged into the wall outlet."
Because I want to keep my Roku and I also have a Nintendo Switch, I'm using a GANA 3-Port HDMI switch to connect all three devices.
Tivo has two main sections:
- Home Screen
- Recommendations/My Shows/Guide
And four main menus:
- Home Screen
- My Shows
Each one is easily accessed using the remote, which also comes with Google Voice Assistant. You can use the voice assistant to ask for a particular show, a particular genre, or movies and shows starring a particular actor or actress. The Recommendations, My Shows, and Guide can be accessed using the My Shows or Guide buttons on the remote while the Home screen is accessed using the button with a white circle.
The Guide is a great feature if you are a Sling TV and/or Locast user. You don't have to go directly into the apps for either of these services because all the Sling and Locast channels are in the Guide. Unfortunately, other TV services like YouTube TV and FuboTV can't be used with the Guide. I subscribe to Sling and I use Locast occasionally, so I love this feature. If you don't use either, don't despair. The Guide also includes Tivo+ and Pluto TV, which are free.
This is where apps like Netflix, Hulu, CBS All Access, HBO Max, etc. are located and where to go to access the Google Play Store to download other apps. If you want to check out what's on a particular app, you can go to the Home screen and click on that app. Alternatively, you can use the Google Voice Assistant, and ask to open that app. For example, you can click the Assistant button and say Hulu, and Hulu will open. This section also provides recommendations for shows on many of the streaming services you subscribe to.
"TiVo Stream 4K makes it easy for you to discover the thing you'll love next by learning what you like and making recommendations personalized just for you."
This section aggregates multiple streaming sources, making it the go-to area for content discovery. When you click on a movie or show, it displays the various services that offer it. For example, as I write this, Black Panther is available on Sling, Disney+, Prime Video, and Google Play Movies while Bumblebee is available on Prime, Hulu, Prime Video, and Google Play Movies. When you click on a show or movie, you can choose a service you subscribe to or buy or rent the movie. Tubi, which is free, is also listed as an 'available from' option for movies and shows it offers. You can add movies and shows to '+My Shows' to watch them later.
"TiVo eliminates the need to switch among the ever-growing number of apps and brings all your shows together in one place...
Netflix, Prime Video, YouTube, and dozens of other streaming services offer so many great content options. The problem is we end up spending so much time just flipping through apps, instead of browsing through the actual shows. And we still end up missing out on knowing all the great shows that are available."
Just like Roku has the Roku Channel offering free shows and movies, Tivo has Tivo+. Tivo+ is available in the Guide. Scroll through the Guide to find it.
"Leave app-flipping in the past and find thousands of the best free shows, movies and videos, right from your TiVo home screen."
The Tivo unit has 8GB of storage. Only half of that is available for downloads. You can expand the storage, although most users probably wouldn't need to. That 8GB can hold a lot of apps.
Unfortunately, expanding the storage isn't as easy as installing an SD card. Instead, a flash drive like SanDisk with a USB C to USB Adapter like the Syntech USB C to USB Adapter is required. It is complicated because there are several steps involved in setting it up. Again, most people wouldn't need to do this.
Tivo Stream 4K:
- Every Streaming App
- Live TV on One Screen
- 4K UHD, Dolby Vision HDR
- Dolby Atmos Sound
- Google Assistant Voice Remote
- Plug-in Smart TV
When I initially set up my Tivo Stream 4K, it worked fine for most of the day. Then I got this error:
"Temporary Service Connection Issue
There is a service connection issue. Please wait..."
Turned out, this error wasn't temporary. Restarting both the device and my router failed to resolve the issue. Forgetting the network and reconnecting didn't help. Searching online wasn't much help because few users seem to be reporting this issue. I hope this means it's rare.
While I wasn't able to get help for the Tivo Stream 4K, I learned that similar issues happen with other devices like Rokus. According to the forum posts I read, interference from all the different devices using a Wifi network can cause connection problems on certain devices.
I've had this issue twice. The first time I resolved it by switching to a different network. I use AT&T for home Internet. My service has 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, with the network names for each helpfully ending in 2.4 and 5.0. Everything we use is on the 2.4 connection. When I changed the Tivo to the 5.0 connection, it worked instantly. The connection reverted back to 2.4 the next day but it still worked just fine. The second time, I moved the device to a TV closer to the router and it connected without a problem. The living room television where I use the Tivo is downstairs and on the opposite side of the house from the router. My guess is that the unit is sensitive to interference and needs a kickstart when it loses the connection. If you have another network, like a 5GHz or guest network, switch to it temporarily to see if that resolves the problem. Or if you have a television closer to the router, connect it there, and hopefully, it will maintain the connection when you move it back.*
"2.4GHz is for range, 5.0GHz is for speed—a very simplified way to look at it, but a decent rule of thumb to go by...I’d consider the bandwidth needs of your devices above all else...Your smart TV? Same deal, unless you’re doing a lot of streaming (e.g. Netflix). Then, I’d probably go 5GHz to avoid interference and maximize speed—assuming your TV is close enough to your router for that to matter."
--Which Wifi Band Should I Use for My Devices?, lifehacker.com
Using the remote control, I can power on and off my television and control my soundbar.
The Roku app has a 'virtual' remote control, so if you lose your physical remote, you can still control your device. Right now, there isn't an app for the Tivo Stream 4K which means if you can't find your remote, you can't control the device. Apparently, Tivo is working on an app. Hopefully, it will include a remote.
You can buy a backup remote directly from Tivo, but with the cost of the device and shipping, it costs $30.
Is the Tivo Stream 4K worth buying?
The Tivo Stream 4K is new and Tivo's first foray into streaming devices. Because of that, it doesn’t have the same level of support as a Roku or Fire TV device. It's also slightly more expensive. It's very well designed with four main menus and the ease of changing between them using the remote.
There's an overwhelming number of movies, TV shows, and documentaries available across various streaming platforms. Since I've started using the Tivo Stream 4K, I've discovered a lot of new content I wasn't aware of before. I can also add shows from multiple streaming services into My Shows and have them all in one place.
Since it comes with Chromecast built-in, fewer devices need to be attached to the TV.
In the Home menu, there is a 'Play Next' option.
"Movies and TV shows will automatically appear here so you can easily resume watching. Directly add programs by long-pressing the center button on your remote."
Play Next is customizable. You can choose which apps appear in this section by scrolling to the bottom of the Home screen and clicking Customize Channels. Then click on Play Next to enable and disable apps.
The Tivo Stream 4K offers a lot for a $50 device. It's easy to use, well organized, great for discovery, and fast. The major downsides are that it's new and there isn't a whole lot of troubleshooting information available if things go wrong. And it doesn't have an accompanying app with a virtual remote just yet.
TiVo's new streaming device is ... pretty great, actually?
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2020 LT Wright
Danny from India on September 15, 2020:
Amazing features, will have to try.