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TiVo Buying Guide - Which TiVo Do you Need?

TiVo / DVR Buying Guide
Copyright (c) 2001-2016. WeaKnees.com. All Rights Reserved.

If you are new to TiVo, or even if you are not, choosing the right unit is really quite straightforward. There are a few basic choices and these guidelines should help you purchase the correct unit. If you find yourself with specific questions, feel free email us.

This guide will help you answer the following questions (among others):

Which TiVo is right for me? What are the differences among the various TiVo models?

Once I decide what model I want, how many hours should I get?

Choosing the Right Model: Current Models vs. Older Models

The chart below shows available TiVo models

Model Description

Model Number(s)

Factory Drive Capacity (Upgradeable?)

Compatibility with cable (including FiOS), antenna, satellite

SkipMode /

Works with TiVo Mini


Number of Tuners

TiVo Service Options

TiVo Bolt


500GB (Yes)
1TB (Yes)
Cable OR digital antenna (but not both) Yes Yes Yes. MoCA, wired Ethernet or wireless Ethernet (built in) 4 Annual or Lifetime
TiVo Roamio Pro TCD840300 3TB (Yes) Digital cable only Yes Yes Yes. MoCA, wired Ethernet or wireless Ethernet (built in) 6 Annual or Lifetime
TiVo Roamio OTA TCD846000 1TB (Yes) Antenna only Yes Yes Yes.Wired Ethernet or wireless Ethernet (built in) 4 Lifetime (included)
TiVo Premiere TCD746320
500GB Cable (digital, analog) and antenna No No Yes 2 Annual or Lifetime
TiVo Premiere XL4/Elite TCD758250 TiVo Digital cable only No Yes Yes 4 Annual or Lifetime

The chart below shows older TiVo models, some of which are still available from weaKnees (from time to time), but are no longer manufactured. Many of these units come from weaKnees with TiVo Lifetime Service already paid. Others have DIRECTV built in and are only available from weaKnees.

We have not listed the Series 1 model TiVos, but those can be great units in the right situation. Diving, swim, golf and other coaches love Series 1 TiVo units and use them to play back athletic practices. We keep a supply of Series1 TiVos for that purpose, so contact us or see this page.

If you are looking for a Series 1, 2 or 3 TiVo, remember that you *must* purchase one with with TiVo lifetime service already activated (such as the ones here). If you purchase one without service, TiVo will not activate it for you.

Model Description



Built-in DIRECTV

Built-in DVD Recorder/ Player

No. of Recording Quality Options

Networking between units?

Dual Tuners

Standalone Series2 TiVo (Standard Definition--SD)









Standalone Series2 TiVo (SD) TCD649080
TiVo No No 4 Yes Yes*

Standalone Series2 TiVo (SD)








Standalone Series2 TiVo (SD)








Standalone Series2 TiVo (SD)





















DIRECTV DVR with TiVo (High Definition--HD) HR10-250 DIRECTV Yes No 1 No Yes
Standalone Series3 TiVo (HD) TCD648250 TiVo No No

1 (HD)
4 (SD)

Yes Yes
Standalone TiVo HD and TiVo HD XL TCD652160
TiVo No No

1 (HD)
4 (SD)

Yes Yes
TiVo Premiere and TiVo Premiere XL
TiVo No No 1 (HD)
4 (SD)
Yes Yes
TiVo Premiere 4 TCD750500 TiVo No No 1 (HD)
1 (SD)
Yes 4 Tuners
TiVo Roamio Base TCD846500 TiVo No No 1 (HD)
1 (SD)
Yes 4 Tuners
TiVo Roamio OTA (500GB) TCD846510 TiVo No No 1 (HD)
1 (SD)
Yes 4 Tuners

*Does not support recording from two digital cable or satellite channels at once. Supports recording from cable and satellite sources only; does not support recording from over-the-air antenna.

Choosing the Right Model: Content Source

The most critical question when deciding among TiVo models is: What is your TV source? Are you getting TV from cable (or Verizon FiOS), antenna or satellite? If you are getting content from cable, is it digital or analog?

If you have DISH Network (satellite) or AT&T U-Verse, there is no compatible high definition TiVo, so you'll have to get a non-TiVo DVR or change your provider. weaKnees cannot help with DISH or U-Verse-compatible DVRs.

If you have DIRECTV and want a TiVo (with the TiVo operating system, menus, remote, etc.), then the only high definition option is the THR22.

If you have digital cable only, then just about any current-model TiVo will work for you and you just have to decide which one is best, based on the charts above and below.

If you have cable AND antenna, then you will want a Series3 or two-tuner Premiere Series4 TiVo. Newer TiVos will not record both antenna and cable.

If you have antenna, you can use a Series3, Series4 Premiere (2-tuner), Roamio OTA or Bolt.

Finally, if you have an older standard definition TV and do not care about high definition, you can possibly use an older-model standard definition TiVo (see the SD only option below), but you will need a compatible cable box or DIRECTV receiver and you will only be able to record or watch one show at a time if you get a box that is "SD only."





Off-Air Antenna Only

Cable/FiOS and Off-Air

HD and SD



SD Only

See Comparison Guide, below.

All off-air signals are digital (HD), so a TiVo-compatible digital converter box is required along with a compatible TiVo:


All off-air signals are digital (HD), so a TiVo-compatible digital converter box is required along with a compatible TiVo:


DVR Features and Availability



TiVo DVRs1 for Cable/Antenna


Number of Tuners

The ability to record one (or more) channel while watching another channel. The ability to record two (or more) shows at the same time, on different channels. With TiVo DVRs that are 4+ tuners, the number of tuners also determines the number of TiVo Minis that you can use simultaneously.

The TiVo Bolt and the base-model TiVo Roamio (and TiVo Roamio OTA) have four tuners. These units can have 2 connected Minis running simultaneously. (You can connect more than 2 Minis to your network, but only 2 can be active at the same time.) These units all require only one CableCARD from your cable company if you are using them with cable. No card is required if you are using them with an off-air antenna.

The TiVo Roamio Pro (TCD840300) has 6 tuners, requries one CableCARD and can power up to 4 Minis at one time.

The TiVo Premiere XL4/Elite (TCD758250) can record 4 digital cable stations at once, requires a single CableCARD from your cable company, and can power up to 2 Minis at the same time.

The TCD648250 (Series3), TCD652160/658000 (TiVo HD) and TCD746320 (TiVo Premiere) will record two off air stations or two cable stations. To record two HD stations or two digital stations, you would need a CableCARD (or two cards, in the case of the TCD648250), available from your cable company. These units cannot use TiVo Minis; Minis require units with at least 4 tuners.

All standard definition TiVo DVRs for cable, with the exception of the TCD649080/TCD649180 have only a single tuner. However, even the dual-tuner standard definition TiVo has been relegated to single-tuner status in virtually all situations, because it requires one digital station and one analog (non-scrambled) channel or two analog (non-scrambled) channels. You cannot record off-air signals with the TCD649080/180.


DIRECTV's own line of DVRs--the HR20, HR21, HR22, HR23 and HR24--all can record two shows simultaneously with either two lines from a non-SWM system, or one line from a SWM.

The DIRECTV Home Media Center (DIRECTV genie) HR54 DVR has the ability to record 5 channels simultaneously (and it must be connected to a SWM network).

The DIRECTV THR22 HD DVR will also record two shows at once and can do so with either two lines from a non-SWM system, or one line from a SWM.

The standard definition DIRECTV TiVo DVRs will record two shows at once provided there are two lines from the satellite connected to the back of the DVR.



Recording Capacity The amount of TV you can record and store before having to delete shows to make room for more

All TiVo DVRs can be upgraded. The number of options and amount of hours depends on the TiVo model. The TiVo Bolt, because it uses smaller laptop hard drives, cannot accept large internal drives. Therefore, to get significant recording capacity, you must use an external drive. The Roamio and Premiere lines use standard-sized drives, so they will accept larger drives.

Series 3 units have a maximum capacity of 2TB and Series2 units have a maximum capacity of 1TB.

Two-tuner DIRECTV DVRs (THR22 and HR24) have a maximum capacity of 2TB. The HR54 has a maximum capacity of 8TB. The HR44 can use up to 16TB.
4K Compatibility Ability of the DVR to stream and record content in 4K (UHD) As of this writing, only the TiVo Bolt supports 4K. As of this writing, to get 4K with DIRECTV, you need a DIRECTV HR54 genie and either a DIRECTV-ready 4K TV or a DIRECTV C61K.
Stream Recorded Content Ability to access your TiVo's recorded content on other devices (phones, tablets, PCs, laptops). The TiVo Bolt, TiVo Roamio and TiVo Premiere Series 4 line of DVRs (TiVo Premiere, TiVo Premiere XL and TiVo Premiere Elite) can stream, but the 4-tuner Roamio and all Premieres requires a separate TiVo Stream to provide this functionality. The TiVo Bolt and TiVo Roamio Pro have streaming functionality built-in. DIRECTV DVRs require the GenieGo to stream, but this has been discontinued as of this writing. We hope that streaming functionality will be built-in to future DVRs.
Access Streaming Services Ability to use your DVR to access third-party service such as YouTube, Hulu, Netflix, etc.

The TiVo Bolt, TiVo Roamio and TiVo Premiere Series 4 line of DVRs (TiVo Premiere, TiVo Premiere XL4/Elite) have the broadest networking features. These units will allow you to stream (but not record) content from Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Hulu Plus, You Tube and many other sources.

The older Series3 TiVo DVRs (Original Series3 TCD648250/TCD648250B, TiVoHD TCD652160, and TiVoHD XL TCD658000) can stream much of the same content as the TiVo Premiere line, but not all of it.

DIRECTV boxes have very limited access to a very limited number of services, such as YouTube.

Share content among DVRs

Ability to have multiple TiVos (and/or Minis) in your home and share content between/among them.

There are two ways to share content between two TiVos: You can transfer the show from TiVo A to TiVoB or you can stream it. Streaming allows you to begin watching nearly instantly, wheras transferring a show can take quite a bit of time.

All TiVos Series2 or newer, if they are networked, can share playlists and content with other TiVos. The way the content is shared (streaming vs transferring) depends on the TiVos that are on your network. Any Premiere, Roamio or Bolt can stream or transfer to any other Premiere, Roamio or Bolt. However, those units cannot stream to a Series3 or Series 2 TiVo. In other words, if you have a Series3 or Series2 unit on your network, you can only transfer to/from that model TiVo.

If you have a TiVo Mini on your network (along with a Mini-compatible DVR), then all sharing from the TiVo to the Mini is streamed.

If you have multiple TiVos and mulitiple Minis, the TiVos will have one unified playlist and that playlist can be shared with the Minis.

High Definition DVRs from DIRECTV (HR20-HR24, HR34-HR54) can all be networked and share content. The content will be streamed from one box to another.

Archiving content to PCs

Ability to move recordings from your TiVo to a PC or Mac, in order to watch, edit and/or burn to DVD

This has become far more difficult now that TiVo has stopped supporting the TiVo Desktop software.

Moving digital files from a DIRECTV DVR to a PC is not currently possible. However, DIRECTV DVR users can record programming in real time using a video capture card connected to a PC.

Saving programs to DVD

Ability to archive shows from a TiVo to a DVD, without a PC

Saving to DVD is possible with the standalone TiVos with built-in DVD recorders. Alternatively, standalone DVD recorders can be connected to standalone TiVos for DVD archiving (in real time).

There are no HD units that also have DVD burners, nor do we expect any to be produced.

DIRECTV DVRs do not come with built-in DVD recorders, but it is possible to connect a standalone recorder to a DIRECTV DVR to record shows in real time (just as you would tape a program to VCR from a TiVo).

Cost of Service

Once you purchase the hardware, how much the actual TiVo / DVR service will cost

Owners of standalone TiVos must purchase the TiVo service from TiVo. The fees vary depending on the model of receiver and whether the service is monthly or product lifetime service. Some TiVo DVRs, such as our TiVos that include lifetime service require no additonal fees to TiVo and can be a very cost-effective way of getting a new TiVo. In addition, the TiVo Roamio OTA is also now sold with service included. If you purchase a TiVo without service, then you can contact TiVo directly to purchase service. "All In" (lifetime service) costs $549.99. Monthly and annual plans are also available.

DIRECTV DVR owners must subscribe to the DVR service from DIRECTV. The cost varies depending on your programming and installation package with DIRECTV.

Phone Line

Need to have the TiVo connected to a phone line

Standalone units must be connected to either a phone line or a broadband computer network to function. All television guide data comes from the phone line or broadband connection.

The TiVo Premiere line does not have a phone jack and requires a network or a USB to modem adapter. The TiVo Premiere 4 and TiVo Premiere XL4 require a broadband connection and cannot take a phone line. The USB to modem adapter does not work with these 4-tuner TiVo units.

TiVo Bolt and TiVo Roamio units require Internet connectivity, either wired or wireless (built-in). Keep in mind that if you are using a TiVo with one or more Minis, the Mini must be wired with Ethernet or using MoCA.

DIRECTV DVRs without TiVo can be connected via broadband or phone. While it is strongly recommended that they be connected in some way (phone or network), it is not required.

The THR22 HD TiVo can also be connected with either phone or through a broadband network.

Standard definition DIRECTV TiVo DVRs must be connected to a phone line when set up initially, and should be connected thereafter. Technically, if these units are not connected to a phone line after initial setup, they will function, but nag screens will pop up reminding the user to dial in. Units that do not dial in will not get software updates. All television guide data comes from the satellite.

Changing Channels

Means by which the TiVo communicates with the cable box/satellite box

Standalone Series 2 TiVos that are connected to a cable box generally use an infrared "blaster" cable, which sends the remote control frequencies to the cable box. Using these cables generally results in a slight (1-2 second) delay when changing channels. Some cable boxes can use a direct serial cable connection, which is much faster. For more information, see our FAQ entry here: http://www.weaknees.com/stb.php. If you have a standalone TiVo and DIRECTV, then only certain DIRECTV receivers are compatible with the serial connection.

HD Standalone TiVos cannot use a cable box at all. They must use CableCARDs for encrypted cable shows.

DIRECTV DVRs contain the satellite receiver and TiVo in one box. Changing channels requires no additional cabling. It is fast and easy.

Compatibility with cable boxes and satellite boxes

Standard definition TiVo's ability to control a specific cable box or satellite box

Almost all cable boxes and satellite boxes are compatible with standard definition TiVo units. However, some are not. For a complete listing, see the FAQ entry here.

Again, no HD TiVos can use a cable box - see above. Also, high definition TiVos (such as the Series3, Premiere, Roamio, Bolt) do not work with satellite.

Because the DVR and DIRECTV receiver are in one box, compatibility is not an issue.

Compatibility with cable/satellite systems

TiVo's ability to work with your satellite/cable provider

Standalone TiVos work with cable providers throughout the US, some US territories and Canada. Standalone Series 2 TiVos are also compatible with DIRECTV and DISH Network, although you should refer to the link above for compatibility with specific boxes.

HD TiVos work with cable, Verizon FiOS and (depending on the model) off-air antenna only. HD TiVos do not work with U-Verse. The Roamio OTA, however, works only with antenna.

DIRECTV DVRs work only with DIRECTV.

Compatibility with high definition

TiVo's ability to record and display high definition signals

Standalone Series 2 TiVos do not work with high definition.

The standalone Series 3 TiVo, TiVo HD, TiVo Premiere, TiVo Roamio and TiVo Bolt lines of TiVos do work with high definition.

DIRECTV has a line of DVRs that receive, record and display HD. That line started with the HR20, through the HR24. All of the HR20-HR24 DVRs have two tuners. The HR34/HR44/HR54 has 5. These DVRs lack the TiVo operating system and use DIRECTV's own internally-developed OS.

The THR22 is DIRECTV's HD TiVo.

The older HR10-250 HD TiVo no longer receives HD signals from the satellite, but still can pull in HD from an off-air tuner.

Picture Quality

The degradation, if any, of the picture quality when connecting a cable box/satellite box to a TiVo.

This is a factor only if you are using a standard definition TiVo with cable or antenna.

Series 2 Standalone TiVos: No matter what the input source (whether digital cable, analog cable, digital satellite or over-the-air antenna), the TiVo will receive an analog signal and then convert that signal into digital. When converting from analog to digital, you will have the ability to tell the TiVo how much to compress the picture. With standalone TiVos, there are FOUR recording options, and each one offers a progressively better picture. Although the highest recording quality generally looks pretty close to the picture quality you'll see without a TiVo, there will be some (although in most cases not a noticeable) difference between the TiVo's quality and the quality without the TiVo.

Series 3/4 Standalone TiVo, TiVo HD and TiVo Premiere: These units, like the DIRECTV DVRs, will record a digital signal provided that it is being fed a digital signal (via an off air antenna feeding HD, or via a signal from your cable company).

This is a factor only if you use a standard definition, standalone TiVo with a separate DIRECTV receiver. If you are using any DIRECTV DVR (which has the DVR functionality and a DIRECTV access card in one unit), then this is not a factor, as the unit records the digital DIRECTV signal directly to the DVR's hard drive.

The same is true for the entire line of DIRECTV DVRs, with or without the TiVo operating system.

We are often asked whether the picture quality on two different DIRECTV DVRs (eg. the HR24 vs the HR34/HR44 or the HR21 Pro vs the HR24) are different. As a general rule, the answer is no. DIRECTV sends its signal through the air digitally (as a series of 0s and 1s). That digital signal is written to the hard drive and then is digitally transmitted to your TV (if you use HDMI). For the vast majority of users, picture quality should not be a factor when deciding between two different DVR models from DIRECTV.

In addition, all new DIRECTV DVR models now can process 1080p and 3D signals.

NOTES from Chart Above

1. For cable systems, we consider only at DVRs made by TiVo. DVRs provided by cable companies vary tremendously from city to city (and cable company to cable company), so it's impossible to analyze those features. As a general rule, our customers tend to dislike generic cable company DVRs and prefer the feature-rich TiVo-brand.
2. For DIRECTV, we consider both the line of HD DVRs from DIRECTV (HR2X, HR34, HR44, HR54, etc.) as well as DIRECTV DVRs with TiVo.

Buying Advice: Which TiVo should you Buy?

This is a tough question, depending in large part on the answer to the questions above (DIRECTV vs cable? Standard vs High Definition?). Here is a summary of your options:

  High Definition Standard Definition

The TiVo Bolt is the newest 4-tuner and the TiVo Roamio Pro is the newest 6-tuner unit. The Bolt is faster than the Pro, but lacks the additional 2 tuners and also has storage capacity limitations due to the small drive used internally. Both the Bolt and Pro have SkipMode (one button commerial skip for applicable programs) and QuickMode (the ability to watch shows 30% faster without audio distortion). Both of thse units require TiVo service, which is roughly $149/yr or $549.99 for All-In (Lifetime) TiVo service. All units require a single CableCARD from your cable company (generally about $2-$3/month).

The TiVo Premiere unit has dual-tuners and works with cable, FiOS and off-air antenna signals. The Premiere XL4/Elite has 4 tuners, but works with cable/FiOS only. The two-tuner Premiere is great for customers who want to use both antenna AND cable or who live in apartment or other complexes (such as senior citizens' homes) that have cable systems that require an analog tuner.

For discounted pricing, we recommend a visit to our page that has TiVos with prepaid lifetime service included. These are typically older-model TiVos but they are priced aggressively and have lifetime service already paid.

Your choices are our supply of refurbished Series 1 and Series2 units with pre-paid product lifetime TiVo service. These are single-tuner units that include "All In" TiVo service. No additional payments to TiVo are required. You may need a cable box from your cable company to work with these TiVos.


The lastest technology from DIRECTV is the high definition "DIRECTV genie" line of DVRs. The DIRECTV genie records up to 5 shows at one time and can use genie minis/clients at other TVs. The genie requies a SWM system, which we can help you with or DIRECTV can install for you. The genie has one satellite line running into it.

As of this writing, DIRECTV only permits one genie on an account, so if you want more DVRs or if you want a more basic DVR, then we recommend the DIRECTV HD DVR (HR24), which is a two-tuner unit.

The genie and the HR24 both use DIRECTV's own operating system. They are *not* TiVos and do not have the TiVo remote or the TiVo menus.

If you want a TiVo for DIRECTV, then the THR22 is DIRECTV's only HD TiVo. This unit has the TiVo operating system and has TiVo menus and a typical TiVo peanut-shaped remote. However, you cannot share content between units or with any other DVRs and there are other feature limitations. For those who truly love the TiVo operating system and its unique features (Wishlists, Suggestions, Swivel Search, Kids Zone, etc.), we recommend the THR22.

The older HR10-250 HD TiVo no longer receives HD signals from the satellite, but still can pull in HD from an off-air tuner.


Just about any standard definition DIRECTV DVR will work equally well. WeaKnees has units in stock. If you do not have a high definition TV, then these standard def TiVos are a great choice.

The other option is to get an HD DVR from DIRECTV, which will also play back in standard definition. However, if you activate an HD DVR, DIRECTV will require you to pay for the HD service. If you get an HD TiVo (THR22), you'll also have to pay $5/mo for the TiVo service--a charge that is not incurred with the standard definition DIRECTV TiVo DVRs.

We find the standard definition DIRECTV TiVos still to be a compelling choice for customers who do not expect to move to HD in the near future.

Buying Advice: How much capacity do you need?

We really don't have much useful advice here, as capacity is hugely dependent on your own viewing habits. Here are some things to consider:

  • How many people will be recording shows on your TiVo?
  • Will you be recording a good deal of high-action shows (sports, cartoons), which tend to take up more space?
  • If you will be purchasing a standalone TiVo, will you be connecting it to a large-screen television (if so, you will likely need to record programming at a higher recording quality, which will take up more recording space)?
  • Do you expect to use your TiVo to store movies, childrens' programming or other shows (if so, you might prefer more recording capacity)?

Are you purchasing a DVR that records in 4K? If so, remember that while there isn't much 4K content out there, when it comes, it will likely take up a lot of disk space.

If purchasing a DIRECTV DVR, your actual hours will depend on what you are recording, but you should expect to yield about 75%-90% of the total hours quoted. Where we quote a range of HD hours (eg. 280HD-480HD hours, you should expect about 80% of the high-end of the range.

If purchasing a standalone non-HD TiVo, keep in mind that all capacity quotes (for example, 40 hours, 80 hours, 180 hours) are at Basic quality, which is the lowest recording quality. At the highest quality (Best quality), you will get about 1/3-1/4 as many hours.

When choosing capacity, keep in mind that if you purchase a unit that WeaKnees has upgraded, it is fairly cumbersome to add hours down to those units down the road. Thus, you might prefer to err on the side of more capacity.


Please feel free to email us with any questions.


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