Review: New TiVo Bolt Is a Heckuva Product, the Ultimate DVR/STB/NTB/Content Search

But the CableCARD Creates Major, Major Problems  … writes The Online Reporter‘s Charles Hall in this review.

The new TiVo Bolt DVR is a heckuva product.

This is because TiVo has kept the important features of its prior Premier DVR such as having most OTT services like Netflix available within the same menus that offer a TV guide.

It has also added two major new features: 4K compatibly and the ability with a single click on the remote to fast forward through an entire bundle of commercials.


Tivo Bolt


TiVo’s Bolt: “heckuva” product, once CableCARD difficulty was overcome


However, on the way to this nirvana, two major problems were encountered when it came to install the unit.

Firstly, the Bolt caused the 4K TV to which it was connected to show a worse picture than the 4K-less Premiere had.

After a number of support contacts with TiVo phone support and a TiVo executive, the company decided to ship a replacement.

Everything other than the poor picture quality – everything else – on the first Bolt was working. That was not true of the second.

The second Bolt took about 9 hours over two days to install, first because the CableCARD, which is installed inside the TiVo, and which was in the first Bolt and the prior Premier did not work in the new one.

A local technician had to be called to assist and I spent about three hours on the phone with the cable TV company’s (Cox Communications) telephone support person, who specializes in CableCARDs, trying to synch the previously working CableCARD and the new Bolt. Having tried everything she knew, the Cox support person finally gave up and placed a call for a Cox technician that also specializes in CableCARDs to come to the house and try to sort out the problem.

The Cox technician arrived the following day – a Saturday – as promised and then proceeded to spend another 2-3 hours trying to get the CableCARD working. During that time, he also spent time on the phone with his company’s tech support for CableCARDs. He finally gave up and decided to try installing a new CableCARD and the accompanying tuner adapter that is an external device that is needed for the CableCARD. The tuner adapter was reportedly developed by Motorola to help make CableCARDs work.

After another call to Cox support, the new CableCARD and tuning adapter began to work, slowly populating the new Bolt with TV channels.

It’s not clear how Cox and other cablecos make money on CableCARDs. It first has to buy them and their accompanying tuning adapter. It always takes at least one call to the cableco’s CableCARD support to activate the device. For that, Cox charges $2.99 a month – and in this case it had to send a highly trained technician out to get it working, which required more calls by the onsite technician to Cox’s CableCARD support specialist.


Calls to Support

Then the next problem appeared.

The TiVo Mini remote STB in the bedroom would not access the new Bolt. That required two calls to TiVo’s support, neither of which immediately resolved the problem. It turns out that somehow TiVo had not included the second TiVo in my account and as a result the Mini could not access the new Bolt, even though it had accessed the first Bolt and the prior Premier. TiVo said it would make some changes to my account and the Mini should be able to access the new Bolt. Well, it didn’t and it finally did. It took over 24 hours.

The next problem was that the new Bolt could not connect to the first Bolt and the Premier for the purpose of copying recorded content from them to the new Bolt. That took another 24 hours. During that time the new Bolt would black out the TV screen for 1-3 seconds every 10-20 minutes.

Finally, all the stored content was transferred from the prior TiVo’s to the newest Bolt and the blackouts stopped occurring.

The results came at a cost with which not many consumers would put up and difficulties through which most consumers would not persevere:

Total cost:
– Over $200 for the technician that was hired to help install
– 4-6 hours, maybe more, of Cox telephone support with CableCARD specialists
– A truckroll and two plus hours spent onsite by a highly trained and very experienced Cox specialist technician.
That is not including the time I spent – probably 10 or so hours.

The cable TV companies and TiVo have to solve the CableCARD problem or CableCARD won’t be around much longer.

I did learn one factoid. Someone in the same city where I live had seven TiVo’s – yep, seven. That makes my three seem positively minor league.

In summary, we repeat: The new TiVo Bolt DVR is a heckuva product. To that we add that TiVo’s and Cox’s support people, with one exception, knew their stuff and bent over backwards to…

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About the Author

The Online Reporter is the weekly subscription-based strategy bulletin about the enabling technologies of broadband, Wi-Fi, HDR, home networks, UHD 4K TV & OTT services; identifying trends in the Digital Media space. Only a fraction of our material here is published here. To see 4 free copies, follow the links above or go to

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