Monday, December 10, 2007

Amazon Unbox works great with TiVo
(except for one thing)

As I wrote on November 6, I hate football because of its endless stop-go-stop-go sequences, and -- even if I am not forced to sit through a dumb game -- Sunday night NFL games always take longer than planned and ruin the Sunday night CBS schedule.

I like to watch 60 Minutes, The Amazing Race, Cold Case, and Shark. If I set a TiVo to record normally on a football night, 60 Minutes runs far into Amazing Race, Cold Case starts in the middle of where Shark should be, and often some or all of Shark is missing.

I've tried fighting this by recording the alleged 11PM news in the hope of catching the end of Shark, but sometimes the added half hour is not enough.

I've tried setting a TiVo to record everything from 7pm until 12:30am, but it's a major PITA to find the beginning of a show.

My major difficulty has been in recording Shark, the last show of the evening. CBS lets me view it for free on a PC screen with minor commercial interruptions, but a 21" monitor can''t compete with a 52" HDTV.

Last week I tried something different. I used a TiVo to download six Sharks from Amazon's Unbox service. I paid a reasonable $1.99 each, download time was very fast, quality was excellent, and there were no commercials to fast-forward through. I also downloaded Ocean's Thirteen, for $3.99.

Some movie downloads cost $2.99. I don't think any cost more than $3.99. Some are available for "purchase" as well as for rent, which means they're yours for viewing on your TiVo forever, not just for 30 days; and you can make a backup copy on a DVD or external hard drive. There are also some freebie downloads.

Using Amazon Unbox on TiVo is easy. After a simple registration process, you'll be able to shop for Unbox videos to your TiVo DVR from the Amazon Unbox website and directly from your TiVo.

If you're shopping on the Unbox Website, just look for the TiVo logo to find TiVo-enabled videos. You'll be able to select your TiVo DVR as a RemoteLoad download destination each time you purchase or rent a video at

To shop for Unbox videos from your TiVo DVR, select "Find Programs" > "Download TV & Movies" > "Amazon Unbox". In both cases your videos will appear in your TiVo Now Playing List.

Unlike other digital video-to-TV services, Amazon Unbox on TiVo is not an extender service so you don't have to connect your PC to your TV or extender device. Instead, your TiVo DVR communicates directly with the Unbox service through your home network and the Internet, so your videos get downloaded directly to your TiVo DVR, where you already watch movies and TV shows.

Any broadband-connected TiVo Series2™ or Series3™ DVR can download and play Unbox videos. The service is not available for DIRECTV TiVo subscribers, TiVo Series1™ owners, or TiVo subscribers who use a telephone phone line to access the service.

Unbox videos watched on a TiVo DVR are of equal or better quality than videos recorded at the Best Quality setting on a TiVo Series2 DVR. They are NOT hi-def.

Download times vary depending on your actual Internet connection speed, the speed of your home network, and the length of the video. With a fast broadband connection (5 Mbps), a movie can download in about an hour, while a 1-hour TV episode can download in about 30 minutes. However, on a slower broadband connection (less than 1 Mbps), a movie can take up to 5 hours. All Unbox videos can be watched while they are still downloading. If you have a high speed broadband connection, you will be notified that your video is ready to be watched after just a few minutes.

The Unbox RemoteLoad feature allows you to order from and download anywhere. So, you can order a video while at work and it will be ready to watch by the time you get home. You can also discover new and interesting videos by watching previews. You will find a player at the top of the Unbox store webpage which shows previews of popular videos. If you'd like to watch a preview of a specific movie or TV show, you'll also find a preview player located at the top of the detail page for that video.

THE BAD NEWS: You can't record on one Tivo box and watch at another, as you can with regular Tivo recordings. However, videos from Amazon Unbox can be downloaded on up to two PCs or TiVo DVRs and two portable devices at any one time.

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