TiVo Does HDTV for Less

The DVR company offers a $300 device that can record high-definition programs.

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So I get my high-definition programming free, tapping new digital, over-the-air broadcasts. But recording them has been a bear. I've tried a rare DVD recorder that has a digital tuner, which is what's needed to pull in those new broadcasts, and found it disappointing. I've tried assembling my own, TiVo-like PC that acts as a digital video recorder, and that's been a struggle. Now TiVo itself may finally come to my rescue.

The best brand in TV recording, TiVo said this week that it would soon ship a $300 "TiVo HD" that can record high-definition programming. That's not cheap, but it's a lot cheaper than TiVo's only other HD offering, the Series 3, which costs $800. "We'll still offer the Series 3 but expect it will be more for more for high-end customers, such as those using custom installers," says Jim Denny, TiVo's vice president for marketing.

The new version will record fewer hours of programming—20 hours of HD programming versus 32 for the Series 3. It also does away with the older sibling's backlit remote, high-end audio, and a front-panel screen that says what program is being recorded.

But it can record HD programs, and that's the point. It even has two tuners that can record two programs at a time, something I haven't even tried with my roll-your-own DVR. TiVo does come with a $13 monthly fee, although I am hoping the company will let me transfer my lifetime subscription from my old TiVo to the new HD box. If not, $13 a month doesn't seem high for TiVo's service, which is continually adding new tricks, such as downloading movies from the Internet.

Even the cable company charges $10 a month for a DVR that can record high-definition, and the software is clunky, with few Internet features. Plus, I had to have cable service to even have that DVR as an option. Maybe, just maybe, the new TiVo will cement my independence from cable fees.