Tivo Stream 4K Streaming Device Review

For a long time, I have been a huge fan of Roku products. They are easy to use and well priced. The intro Roku Express model retails for around $30 while the HD/4K/HDR version costs around $40. And they are often available at a lower price on Black Friday.

Then Peacock NBC and HBO Max were released. Peacock offers a lot of free content and HBO Max comes free from my Internet provider. But I can't watch through Roku either because of a revenue dispute. The Variety article How Roku Built Himself to Be the Ultimate Gatekeeper in Premium Streaming covers the discord:

"...Roku executives have delivered a basic message...to WarnerMedia and NBCUniversal negotiators: You need us more than we need you.

So far, Roku has refused to give up on the terms of the deal to add HBO Max WarnerMedia and Peacock NBCU to its popular streaming platform. Roku's standard request is 20% subscription fee and 30% ad inventory on partner channels."

Now Roku is at loggerheads with Google and may stop providing the YouTube TV app on its service.

Disappointed with Roku's gatekeeping, I thought it would be a good time to check out something new and something new is TiVo Stream 4K, a dongle that uses AndroidTV. It comes with a Chromecast, so a separate Chromecast device is not required. Like the Roku, the Tivo Stream 4K is easy to use.

What's in the Box?

Tivo Stream 4K comes with the following items:

  • Tivo Streaming Devices
  • Power cable
  • USB plug
  • Remote Control
  • Battery for Remote Control

While the Tivo Stream 4K uses a USB cable for power, you shouldn't plug it into a USB port on your television.

"Most USB ports on TVs DO NOT provide enough power for TiVo Stream 4K. Check out our YouTube video on "Setting Up Your 4K Stream" which recommends having the TiVo Stream 4K plugged into a wall outlet."

Since I wanted to keep my Roku and I also have a Nintendo Switch, I used a 3-Port HDMI GANA switch to connect all three devices.

Tivo Display

Tivo has two main parts:

  • Front view
  • My Recommendations/Events/Guide

And four main menus:

  • Front view
  • Recommendation
  • my event
  • Guide

Each can be easily accessed using the remote, which also comes with Google Voice Assistant. You can use the voice assistant to request specific shows, specific genres, or movies and shows starring specific actors or actresses. Recommendations, My Events and Guides can be accessed using the My Events button or Guides on the remote while the Home screen is accessed using the button with the white circle.

The Guide, Home, My Shows, and Google Assistant buttons on the Tivo Stream 4K remote control make it easy to access the various displays


The Guide

This guide is a great feature if you are a Sling TV and/or Locast user. You don't need to go straight into the app for any of these services as all the Sling and Locast channels are in the Guide. Unfortunately, other TV services such as YouTube TV and FuboTV cannot be used with Guides. I subscribe to Sling and I use Locast occasionally, so I like this feature. If you don't use both, don't despair. This guide also includes Tivo+ and Pluto TV, which are free.

The Tivo Stream 4K Guide offers channels from Locast (where available), Sling TV (subscription required), Tivo+, and Pluto TV

Front view

This is where apps like Netflix, Hulu, CBS All Access, HBO Max, etc. are and where to go to access the Google Play Store to download other apps. If you want to see what's in a particular app, you can go to the Home screen and click on that app. Alternatively, you can use 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 the many streaming services you subscribe to.

Use the Home screen on the Tivo Stream 4K to access apps and to get recommendations on what to watch for apps you subscribe to

My Recommendations/Events

"TiVo Stream 4K makes it easy for you to find what you'll love next by learning what you love and making personalized recommendations just for you."

This section combines several streaming sources, making it a destination area for content discovery. When you click on a movie or show, it will show you 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 subscription service or buy or rent a movie. Tubi, which is free, is also listed as an 'available from' option for the movies and shows it offers. You can add movies and shows to '+My Shows' to watch them later.

"TiVo eliminates the need to switch between a growing number of apps and brings all your events together in one place...

Netflix, Prime Video, YouTube, and dozens of other streaming services offer a huge selection of great content. The problem is that we end up spending so much time just flipping through the app, rather than tracing the actual events. And we're still missing out on all the great shows that are available."

The Tivo Stream 4K recommends movies and TV shows, and also indicates which streaming services offer them

Tivo+

Just as Roku has the Roku Channel that offers free shows and movies, Tivo has Tivo+. Tivo+ is available in the Guide. Scroll through the Guide to find it.

"Leave the app reversal in the past and discover thousands of the best free shows, movies and videos, right from your TiVo home screen."

Expand Storage

The Tivo unit has 8GB of storage. Only half of them are available for download. You can expand storage, although most users probably don't need to. 8GB that can accommodate many applications.

Unfortunately, expanding storage is not as easy as installing an SD card. Instead, a flash drive such as a SanDisk with a USB C to USB Adapter such as the Syntech USB C to USB Adapter is required. This is tricky because there are several steps involved in setting it up. Again, most people don't need to do this.

Tivo Stream 4K Features:

- Any Streaming Apps

- Live TV on One Screen

- 4K UHD, Dolby Vision HDR

- Dolby Atmos sound

- Google Assistant Voice Remote

- Smart TV plug

Connection Error

When I initially set up my Tivo Stream 4K, it worked fine for most of the day. Then I get this error:

"Temporary Service Connection Problem

DIS_ERR_1000

There is a service connection problem. Please wait..."

As it turns out, this error is not temporary. Restarting my device and router failed to resolve the issue. Forgetting the network and reconnecting didn't help. Searching online isn't much help as some users seem to be reporting this issue. I hope this means rare.

While I couldn't get help for the Tivo Stream 4K, I know that similar issues occur on other devices such as the Rokus. According to forum posts I've read, interference from all the different devices using the Wifi network can cause connection issues on certain devices.

I've had this problem twice. The first time I solved it by switching to a different network. I use AT&T for Internet at home. My service has the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, with the network names for them ending in 2.4 and 5.0, respectively. Everything we use is on connection 2.4. When I changed the Tivo to a 5.0 connection, it worked right away. The connection returned to 2.4 the next day but it still worked fine. The second time, I moved the device to the TV closer to the router and it connected without problems. The living room television where I used the Tivo was downstairs and across the house from the router. My guess is that the unit is sensitive to interference and requires a kickstart when it loses connection. If you have another network, like 5GHz or a guest network, switch it on temporarily to see if that solves the problem. Or if you have a television that's closer to your router, plug it in there, and hopefully, it'll stay connected when you move it back.*

"2.4GHz for range, 5.0GHz for speed—a very simplified way of looking at it, but a rule of thumb worth following...I'd weigh your device's bandwidth needs above all else... Your Smart TV? Same deal, except You stream a lot (e.g. Netflix). Then, I'd probably go with 5GHz to avoid interference and maximize speed—assuming your TV is close enough to your router for that."

--Which Wifi Band Should I Use for My Device?, lifehacker.com

Remote Control

Using the remote control, I can turn the television on and off 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. Currently, there is no app for Tivo Stream 4K which means if you can't find the remote, you can't control the device. Apparently, Tivo is working on an app. Hopefully, it will include the remote.

You can buy a backup remote directly from Tivo, but with the cost of the device and shipping, it costs $30.

Is Tivo Stream 4K worth buying?

Tivo Stream 4K is new and is Tivo's first breakthrough into streaming devices. Because of this, it doesn't have the same level of support as a Roku or Fire TV device. It's also a little more expensive. It is very well designed with four main menus and it is easy to change between them using the remote.

There are tons of movies, TV shows, and documentaries available on various streaming platforms. Since I started using Tivo Stream 4K, I've discovered a lot of new content that I didn't know about before. I can also add shows from multiple streaming services to My Events and have them all in one place.

Because it comes with a built-in Chromecast, fewer devices need to be attached to the TV.

In the Home menu, there is a 'Play Next' option.

"Movies and TV shows will appear here automatically so you can easily continue watching. Add programs instantly 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 Channel. Then click Play Next to enable and disable the application.

Tivo Stream 4K offers a lot for a $50 device. It's easy to use, well-organized, great for discovery, and fast. The main downside is that it's new and there isn't a lot of troubleshooting information available if things go wrong. And it doesn't have an accompanying app with a virtual remote yet.

TiVo's new streaming device... pretty great, actually?

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