TiVo – The Unit and the Customer Service

I’ve been through several HD set-top boxes in my time already. The first one was a Toshiba. Being my first I didn’t know what to expect, and was a bit shocked by some of the problems and bugs. For example, the display clock lost about 20 minutes per day. The only way it managed to record programs at the correct time was by turning itself on every few hours and re-syncing its clock with whatever channel it was last tuned to – and some of those didn’t even remember to switch themselves to daylight savings. And then there were frequent bursts of pixelation and occasional “lost” segments of 1/2 of minute or so in the recordings. These didn’t happen on the live TV – only on the recordings. But being so new I put up with that and enjoyed it anyway.

My next was a Foxtel iQ unit. This was much better. The recordings were no different from live shows – perfect quality, reliably labelled, easily accessible via the menu system. The only drawbacks were that it wasn’t actually HD and couldn’t easily record anything from the TV channels with which they had no commercial agreement in place. Another small gripe ws that the unit remained on permanently, and was always very hot to the touch – not so great in this era of global warming and need to minimise power usage. But again, I really enjoyed using it. I only gave it up because I decided that Foxtel didn’t offer enough content of interest to warrant continuing the subscription.

The third was a Sony unit. This one was a bit of a dog, I’m sad to say. When you recorded a program, there was no title saved with it. So you ended up with a list of programs identified only by date, time and channel. Great if you have a photographic memory of the TV guide! And navigating its menu system was a mind-numbing process – being both slow and convoluted. But it did work most of the time. Eventually though it developed a bad fault. It kept freezing during bootup – at least once per day, and required a tricky 20 second button push to reset it each time. Either that or just pulling the plug, which was quicker but didn’t sit too comfortably with me. It was this ongoing problem that led to the fourth unit – the TiVo.

In many ways the TiVo unit is bliss. By connecting it to the home WiFi, it downloads two weeks worth of coming program listings. And the menu system (although still with its quirks) is, by comparison with some of the others, a pure delight to navigate through. It even records various programs speculatively based on your previous preferences, so if you don’t like anything thats on live, you can browse through a list of what it recorded for you, and you might just be pleasantly surprised to find something you like in there. If not, nothing lost. They just get recorded over whenever you need the space.

But – all silver linings have a cloud, and the cloud here was that it started to reboot spontaneously within the first week of acquisition. The first contact with tech support (submitted via online form on their website) was promising – they suggested it might be due to corrupted files, and gave instructions on how to perform a “severe error” scan, which could fix the problem. An extract from the (fairly lengthy) set of instructions was as follows:

Reboot and keep the TiVo remote pointed at the front of the DVR so you can be prepared to do the next step as soon as the DVR begins to restart.

As the DVR restarts, all four LED lights on the front bezel of the DVR will be on at the same time. As soon as all four go out,  immediately (within 2 seconds) press and hold down the yellow Pause button on the remote. (If you are unable to catch the timing, you may also hold the pause button down continuously during the restart until only the yellow light comes on.) When the yellow light comes on,  release the yellow Pause button and then press 57 on the remote control. (You will have approximately 10 seconds to do this.)

If the numbers have been keyed in successfully, the DVR will restart.

I must point out here that rebooting takes about 4 minutes. So I sat there for 4 minutes, watching like  hawk, waiting for 4 red LEDs to appear. But they never did. Not even 1 red LED. I tried several times. But still no red LED.

Well, this led to a few more exchanges with tech support, and eventually they sent a modified list of instructions:

As the DVR restarts, keep your attention fixed on the front panel of the Tivo. After approximately 5 minutes you should see the green light go out for a second and then come back on. Following this the yellow and red light will be displayed also. Hold the yellow pause button down for 2- 4 secs and then press the number “57”.

The box will appear to be restarting and then “powering up”

I’m afraid that one was a bit off the mark too… After about half an hour of experimentation I finally found out how to do it, and wrote back to them with my (rather different) findings:

1) About 1 minute after reboot (during transition from first screen to “almost there” screen, the green light very briefly goes off and on, and the yellow light comes on. If you press the Pause button while the yellow light is on, the red light will also come on, and you can then release the Pause and enter 57.

2) Following this, there is no sign at all whether or not it worked – it appears to continue booting as normal. But after 15 to 30 seconds it then starts rebooting.

Phew! After all that it worked. It is to TiVo’s credit that they said they would use my feedback to update their help system – but I pity anyone else who may have got the same set of initial instructions that I got from them…!

But – although the reboot and “severe error” scan completed successfully, another spontaneous reboot occurred – so back to TiVo support. This time the only solution was to exchange the unit for a new one. And this is where I started to become really impressed with TiVo support. Firstly they sent a brand new unit to me via courier – arriving the next day. Then they sent an empty package with a courier form, and in my own time I was able to place the old unit into it, call the courier company, who promptly collected it. All free of charge, all simple and straightforward. No need for me to revisit the shop, or take the unit to a repair centre etc.

TiVo – take a bow! Too bad about the glitch, and the inaccurate instructions initially – but they were responsive and kept at it, never blamed me for anything, and got the problem fixed. Now lets just hope this meme spreads a little. This kind of service deserves to be contagious.

5 thoughts on “TiVo – The Unit and the Customer Service”

  1. Hi Ajanware,

    Nice article, I would be interested to know how it’s going now, after a few months of using.

    I heard that you cannot fast forward ads more than two times the speed and also that all of your show preferences, recordings etc, are sent back to the networks.

    1. Hi David,
      I’ve had no further problems since, and am glad I purchased. The built-in guide is the big factor for me – make life so much easier. You can fast forward through ads just as fast as anywhere else – there are three FF speeds you can use. Your personal preferences must be recorded somewhere for their personal programme recommendations to work, but personally this doesn’t bother me. I give away far more useful info than that when I use the web!
      Graham

      1. Hi there
        just wanting to back that up
        “Great Service” tivo australia !!!!!
        I am going through the same thing at the moment
        and have the old tivo unit packed and ready to go back
        Mine also started rebooting but I never got the instructions regarding “severe error” scan.
        They also replied to me and kept in contact with me constantly

  2. Yeah the Foxtel IQ units are terrible for heat. Flatmate got Foxtel the other week and he has to unplug the unit every time hes finished using it cos it get dangerously hot. Living it Australia the last thing we need is a fire hazard like the IQ.

    The tech guy said the hard drive is spinning round all the time doing stuff. No appliances I’ve seen do this. Foxtel needs to understand that that’s not what appliances are meant to do when a consumer wishes to switch it off, standby shouldn’t be just switching off the output to the display… it means shutting down the unit to SAVE power.

    He hates having to unplug it all the time but I’ve told him he’ll pay for my new stuff when a fire breaks out and that’s enough incentive.

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