|Who are the two manufacturers?
TiVo Inc., the creator and leader of television services
for digital video recording technology, was founded on one
driving vision: to create and continually enhance a new, easy
- and much better - way to watch television. The idea that
every consumer, no matter how busy or hectic their lives may
be, should still be able to enjoy the television entertainment
of their choice on their time established the cornerstone
of the TiVo philosophy: watch what you want, when you want.
TiVo is a US company. Their standalone box was launched in
the US in 1999, and in the UK during October 2000 (the hardware
being manufactured by Thomson as part of their Scenium range).
Newer products in the US include a dual-tuner satellite combo
box, and Series 2 expanding the multimedia capabilities (neither
of these are currently available in the UK).
The Sky+ project started at around the time of the launch
of Sky Digital (3 years ago); a joint effort between Pace
(Hardware), OpenTV (middleware) and NDS (with their PVR technology
XTV). In addition Sky worked heavily with NEC, whose chipset
provides the PVR functionality.
Sky+ was released September 2001.
|Channels Available / Compatibility
|Support for Sky Digital channels
||Yes - controls an external Sky box.
||Yes via built in tuner.
|Support for Freeview channels
||Yes - controls an external Freeview box. See here for supported hardware.
||No - the hardware does not support this.
|Support for Digital Cable
||Yes - Pace 1000 and 2000 owners, and Telewest
Pace 4000 users need to purchase a seperate IR adaptor from
customer services for £30 (NTL Pace 4000 owners do not). See here for supported hardware.
||No - the hardware does not support this.
|Support for Analogue Cable
||No - the hardware does not support this.
|Support for Analogue Terrestrial
Yes via built in tuner. Some early models (Pre Feb 2001)
had NICAM reception problems. A small hardware modification
is available free of charge.
The internal analogue tuner may be used in addition to controlling
an external box.
|No - the hardware does not support
|Support for external sources (eg Camcorder,
||Yes. Although the software currently
contains no specific support for this, it is easy to connect
any RGB or composite device via the SCART connection and record
from it. TiVo will also strip off any macrovision encoding (such
as on DVD's), however it will reapply it when outputting to
||No - the hardware does not support
|Can I record two channels at the same
No - unless you purchase two TiVo's. You may only record
one programme at a time, and you may not pause Live TV on
a different channel whilst recording.
- Record one channel and watch something else you have previously
recorded (or watch what is being recorded).
- When not recording - watch Live TV with the ability to
- Record one channel from the built in analogue terrestrial
tuner, and watch a live programme on the AUX (or VCR) input
using bypass mode (can not pause).
Yes Sky+ contains two tuners so you can record two programmes
at the same time.
- Record one or two channels and watch something else you
have previously recorded (or watch what is being recorded).
- Record one programme and watch Live TV (a different channel)
with the ability to pause.
Limitations when recording two channels at one:
- Guide data is available for the next 48-hours only.
- Programmes in the future do not contain a synopsis.
- Interactive services can not be used.
|Can I use more than one source for
||Yes, you may have Terrestrial aerial
channels plus any set top box; or Sky Digital via SCART and
either Freeview or Cable via RF.
||No only the Sky platform is supported.
|What programme guide data is available?
TiVo provides up to 21 days of listings for each of the supported
platforms (see above).
Terrestrial channels (1-5) usually have between seven and
fourteen days worth of data. Cable/Satellite data usually
goe further ahead.
Sky+ provides one weeks worth of listings of all of the Sky
Whilst two programmes are being recorded simultaneously,
only the next 48-hours of listings are available.
Sky are not planning to increase the amount of guide data
that they provide.
|How is the programme guide data updated?
||TiVo makes a free telephone call each
|How often is the programme guide data
||Once per day. More frequent updates
can be forced.
||Changes occur in real time as they
|Can I record radio channels?
||Yes - guide data is provided for all
major BBC services.
Yes via a manual recording only (there is no programme guide
data for radio channels). Radio recordings take up a minimal
amount of disc space due to the low bitrate.
|Picture and sound quality
|What is the picture quality like?
TiVo offers four recording quality levels to allow the user
to select an appropriate quality to disc space ratio.
Best Quality = 7.65Mb/s
High Quality = 4.77Mb/s
Medium Quality = 3.62Mb/s
Basic Quality = 2.24Mb/s
Additionally Variable Bit-Rate (VBR) recordings may be made.
This works best with a good quality source signal.
TiVo has to MPEG encode the signal in real time which means
the quality will not be as good as Sky+ which records the
bitstream direct - however quality is still extremely good.
TiVo will record RGB thus PAL colour artifacts are not a problem.
The Sky+ box records the digital stream directly meaning
that what you see on a normal Sky box is what is recorded
by Sky+. Since no MPEG encoding is done the picture quality
recorded by Sky+ is exactly the same as the original.
It is not possible to reduce the disc space used by a recording
at the expense of quality.
|What is the sound quality like?
32Khz stereo at all recording qualities (see above). Dolby
ProLogic encodings remain intact.
Dolby digital encoding will not be possible with the current
|Most programmes are received in stereo, however
Sky+ offers a Dolby Digital optical output. A few programmes
on channels 301 to 303, and disney channels 611 and 612 are
broadcast in Dolby 5.1 surround sound (indicated in the guide
|Is widescreen switching supported?
||Yes via the RGB scart, and via line 23 on the
TV signal (for both Scart and RF users). No SVideo connection
||Yes via the RGB scart but not via the SVideo socket.
|Find Programmes: By Title
You can find programmes via their title by entering the name
or scanning the A-Z list. All programmes in the guide data
(up to a month) are shown.
Optionally you can specify a genre (eg documentary, sport
etc) to filter on whilst using this option.
You can set a Wishlist which will automatically record programmes
based on their title or description by entering keywords.
You can find programmes via their title in an AZ list but
this only contains programmes showing on the current day.
Optionally you can specify a genre (eg entertainment, scifi
etc) to filter on whilst using this option.
In a future software release Sky are looking at extending
the AZ to more than 24hrs but there are issues with available
memory for this function; so no date when it might become
|Find Programmes: By Channel
||You may view all programmes on a particular
channel. The date and time can be specified (defaults to current
date and time).
||Sky's standard EPG and personal planner
|Find Programmes: By Time
You can find all programmes being shown at a specified time
across either all channels, or your favourite channels.
Optionally you can specify a genre (eg documentary, sport
etc) to filter on whilst using this option.
|Sky's standard EPG and personal planner
|Find Programmes: By Genre
You can find all programmes being shown which are of a particular
You can set a Wishlist which will allow programmes that match
your genre to be automatically recorded (with optional keywords
that must be in the title / description).
|You can specify a genre in the A-Z
search (only searches programmes on in the next 24 hours).
|Find Programmes: By actor or director
A Wishlist can be set which will find programmes that contain
specified actors / directors, and can optionally automatically
recorde them. A genre may also be specified with this option
to make searches more precise.
|Not available, and not likely to ever
|Manual Recording (like a VCR)
Yes: One time (choose any date), Every M-F, Everyday, Every
|Yes: One time (up to seven days in
advance), Repeating (as One time but repeats each week).
|Onscreen EPG overlay (allowing uninterrupted
An onscreen (transparent) Live TV guide is available similar
to Sky's standard EPG.
Programmes can be filtered based on genre, or only your favourite
channels to be shown.
A seperate overlay is also available showing details of the
programme currently being played.
|Sky's now & next banner can be
displayed during playback or recording.
|Suggesting programmes to watch.
||Yes - TiVo allows you to give thumbs
up or down ratings to programmes you watch. Programmes you record
are automatically thumbed up. TiVo will build a profile of what
kind of programmes, actors, and genres you like and suggest
programmes you might like to watch. Optionally you can have
it automatically record these suggestions, however it will always
remove these to free up disc space for your explicit recordings.
|Can I see for a given programme what
other times it aires.
||Yes - TiVo has a "View upcoming
||Yes - TiVo has "Inside TiVo"
and "Channel Highlights" which details the best programmes
of the week (similar to "Pick of the week" style entries
in TV guides).
|What Personal Video Recorder (PVR)
functions are available?
|Record the programme you are currently
|Record a programme you are currently
watching including what you have already watched? (This means
if you are watching something and wished you had recorded it
for someone else to see you can!)
||Yes. TiVo will add to the recording
the part you have already watched - up to thirty minutes or
to the start of the programme.
||Yes. When the live TV buffer is enabled
from the setup screen, you can save the contents of the buffer
(up to sixty minutes).
|Pause Live TV?
||Yes for up to 30 minutes.
||Yes until you run out of available
|Live TV Buffer?
TiVo has a 30 minute buffer that is always recording the
currently selected channel. This means that if you press pause
you already have up to thirty minutes of programme behind
you. You can stay paused for thirty minutes after which play
resumes. When the next programme starts the buffer carries
on recording that so you may watch the next programme delayed
You can return to the menus whilst watching delayed TV (for
example to set a recording) and return to Live TV where you
If you press record whilst watching Live TV, TiVo will start
to record, and stitch the contents of its buffer (the whole
30 mins or up to the start of the programme) to the start
of the recording.
Sky+'s buffer either starts when you press pause, or you
can configure a buffer similar to TiVo's so that it starts
buffering immediately (buffer lengths are 0, 5, 15, 30, or
You can not enter the menu systems when watching delayed
Live TV without losing the contents of the buffer (though
you can use the search and scan banner to record programmes
on now or next).
You can record the contents of the buffer.
|Fast forward and rewind.
TiVo has three different speeds of fast forward and rewind
(3x, 20x, 60x). At the two higher speeds you will zoom past
where you actually want to stop so TiVo jumps back a little
bit for you.
The speeds and amount of jump back can be altered via backdoor
options (not via the normal menus).
|Sky+ has four different speeds of
fast forward and rewind (2x, 6x, 12x, 30x). No auto jump back
at fast speeds. The box has the option to disable fast forwarding
through adverts, but this has not currently been used by Sky.
|Season passes? (This means programmes
that are a series are linked, allowing you to say record every
episode of Coronation Street on ITV).
Yes - all series programmes are linked together where appropriate
on all terrestrial, cable, and Sky channels.
TiVo can destinguish between a new and old season. An example
of this is Stargate SG1 on Sky1 which often runs both the
old series and new one on different days. You can ask TiVo
to only record the new series.
TiVo detects programmes you have already recorded in the
last 28 days and will not record these again as part of a
Yes - however the number of channels using this is very limited,
and they are often wrong.
Update: At the moment, the problems people see with series
links are that either channels mess up the ID information
or the Series Links arent as robust as they could be.
Both issues are being worked on. The goal is to make the series
links sufficiently robust so that changes in EPG IDs will
not cause the links to fail. Over 3000 Series Links are now
running on 60 of the channels.
|Can I jump to the end of the programme?
|Can I jump to a specific part of a
You can jump forward or back in 15 minute steps.
Backdoor codes (unsupported) allow a thirty second skip to
quickly jump over adverts.
|Sky+ has the facility to bookmark
places in a recording for later retrieval. You can also start
playback at any point by entering the time offset from start
|After pausing Live TV can I advance
to the current time so I am watching Live again (not delayed).
||Yes via a dedicated one button press on the remote
(or fast forwarding).
||Yes - either press Stop, or hold fast forward down.
|Can I see an instant replay of what
||Yes - press the instant replay button
to jump back eight seconds (or rewind)
||No, however if you are watching either
paused TV or a recording you can rewind. You can not rewind
Live TV unless you paused at some point (or have a buffer enabled).
|Can I play in slow motion speed?
|Can I have favourite channels?
||Yes you may select your favourite
channels (unlimited number) and opt to only view these channels
when looking for a programme to record (see above).
||Yes you can add up to 20 channels
into your favourites list, and then cycle through them using
the now/next banner using the blue button on the remote.
|Can I play a recording whilst recording?
|Can I play the programme I am currently
recording before it has finished recording?
|Can I archive my programmes to a VCR?
Yes one at a time.
TiVo outputs a title screen for you to record at the start
showing the programme title and description.
|Yes, you may queue a number of programmes
for archive all at once in a user specified order.
|Are subtitles supported?
||Yes, Teletext 888 style subtitles
are recorded along with the programme.
||Supports digital subtitles and teletext
|What if two programmes clash?
TiVo will warn you of the clash and allow you to continue
and remove the clashing programme, or cancel the recording
you are trying to set.
TiVo has a Season Pass Manager. This is an ordered list of
all your Season Passes, Wishlists, and repeat manual recordings.
Items higher up the list are recorded in preference to those
If TiVo can't record a programme when it is first aired due
to a clash with a higher priority season pass it will try
and record a repeat showing.
A Recording History is available to show you why programmes
have not been recorded, and why programmes in the future won't
be recorded (eg clashes with a higher priority recording).
Sky+ does detect clashes and gives you the option of canceling
if you wish, the item that you're clashing with.
If the programme times change after you've scheduled recordings,
resulting in a clash, by default Sky+ will record all of the
first programme and miss the start of the subsequent programme.
This behavior can be overridden by marking the subsequent
programme as "Keep", in which case the first programme
will be truncated to allow the whole of the second programme
to be recorded.
|Is it possible to pad programmes?
Both start and end padding times can be set on a per programme,
Season Pass, or Wishlist basis (1min, 2min, 5min etc). End
padding can be extended by as much as three hours.
Two minutes are added to the beginning and end of a recording
(where this would not affect another recording), but in addition
to that there is the potential for triggers to be sent by
the broadcaster (only the BBC and Sky can currently do this),
which are to provide a more extensive real-time control.
When two consecutive programmes are recorded Sky+ will use
a different tuner for each programme, allowing each to have
both start and end padding.
The two minute Pre Recording And Post Recording padding times
can be preset to Automatic,0,1,2,5,10 Mins (Global Setting
Except Manual Recordings).
|What parental controls are available?
Programmes and channels can be blocked based on BBFC classification
and content type. A pin number is required for access.
Both recordings and Live TV is blocked. You can say restrict
all programmes with a rating more than 15; restrict all programmes
with sexual content; restrict the adult channels completely.
The parental locks can be disabled for a few hours. TiVo
will automatically reenable the locks after a few hours should
you forget to.
|The Sky+ uses the parental controls
as per built into a standard Digibox - including spending controls
(Like only £3 per month on Box Office movies, etc).
|Can the software in the box be upgraded?
Yes via a free phone call. Software releases are included
as part of the subscription.
The next software release is V2.5.5 and is due Spring 2002.
Yes via satellite. Software releases are included as part
of the subscription.
|Storage of programmes
|How many hours of programmes can be
This depends on the quality setting used:
Best Quality = 11 hours 55 mins
High Quality = 19 hours 5mins
Medium Quality = 25 hours 10 mins
Basic Quality = 40 hours 34mins
Using the Save Disc Space option which uses variable bit-rate
encoding may give you more space than quoted above.
It is not possible to say as it depends
on the bit rate the broadcaster is using for any particular
channel. Typically around 20 hours of programmes may be stored on a standard box.
The box will give you an estimate of the size required to record
A "Sky+ 160" model has been announced which will have a capacity of around 80 hours.
|Can more storage space be added?
Not officially, but unofficially a whole hacking community
exists helping users to upgrade. This is a relatively straight
forward process for those used to working with computers.
TiVo can be upgraded to 250GB which gives over 250 hours of
storage space. Two IDE channels can be utilized allowing two
large hard discs.
Other hacks for TiVo include adding a network card to connect
the box to the Internet allowing web based control of the
box, and increasing the amount of RAM to slightly increase
For a list of some of the many hacks available see here.
Not officially. Some users have now successfully upgraded
their machines and the process is easy to perform. Only one
IDE channel can currently be utilitised allowing one large
Upgrading causes the free space indicator not to work properly.
This is not likely to be fixed in a future software update.
Some users with upgraded hard drives have experienced difficulties
after software updates, such as previously recorded programmes
|How long can I save a Sky Box Office
||As long as you want, but you have
to pay for the movie to be able to record it in the first place.
TiVo will record Macrovision encoded programmes without a problem,
but it will still output a Macrovision encoded picture so you
can't save these to VCR (This also means you can record DVD's
You can record a Box Office programme without paying for
it. This may be saved for up to seven days. Once you start
viewing you have to pay and from the time of first viewing
you can watch as much as you want for 24hrs.
Sky+ prevents the recording of some Pay Per View events such
as PPV Premiership Football.
|Can I specify how many episodes of
a series to keep?
Yes, you can tell TiVo to save between one and five episodes,
or all of them.
You can set an ITV NEWS season pass for example and set "Keep
at most" to one, so you always have the latest ITN NEWS
on demand. Use the option on programmes that are on too often
to watch but you always want a selection of available for
|Cost and installation
|How much does the box cost?
||£300 RRP when the box was being
manufactured. There is high demand for new or second hand boxes
so expect to pay a similar price.
||£99 RRP (since the price of the box or subscription sometimes changes check with Sky).
|How much does the subscription cost?
||£10 per month or £199
for the lifetime of the box (if it breaks TiVo will usually
transfer your lifetime subscription).
||£10 per month (and you must
subscribe to a Sky package - minimum £12.50 per month).
The £10 per month fee is waived if you subscribe to one
of more premium channels. No lifetime subscription is available.
|How much does the installation cost
and what is involved?
||Nothing - installation is performed
yourself. This takes around an hour but most of the time is
spent waiting for the box to index the guide data (so you just
wait). The procedure is easy to follow and comes with easy instructions.
Optionally you may have an engineer come out and set up the
box for you for £50.
||£50 for existing Sky Digital
subscribers, and £100 for new subscribers. A new LNB is
required and a second wire from this to the Sky+ box. Installation
can not be performed by yourself - you need to arrange a date
for a Sky engineer to visit.
|What happens if I stop paying my subscription?
||You can only pause Live TV and use
trick play, or record the current half hour slot. No timer based
recordings are possible with V1.5.x, but manual timer recordings
are possible as of V2.5.5.
||The box behaves like a normal Sky
|Where can I buy one?
Thomson have now discontinued their Scenium product. Most TiVo's can only now be found on eBay.co.uk. For further information on this please see here.
TiVo as a company provide the TiVo subscription service and
plan to continue this in the UK. They are currently looking
for a new manufacturer to provide TiVo hardware, though no
announcement as to the make, type, or release date has been
|Dixons, Currys, Comet. Direct from
|Where can I find out more?
|Where can I find an unofficial FAQ?
||There isn't one yet! Someone email
me if you make one.
|Where can I discuss the product?
Spy Forums (recommended)
Comments about future software versions are subject
to change as they obviously haven't been released / finalised yet.
10-Nov-2004: Minor corrections.
21-Mar-2004: Minor updates.
7-Dec-2003: A few minor updates.
6-Dec-2003: Updated for latest Sky+ software updated (dual record).
25-Feb-2003: A couple of minor corrections and updates.
1-Jan-2003: A few minor updates.
5-Aug-2002: Few minor corrections and updates regarding Sky+ software
update changes (more info on Manual Record for both TiVo and Sky+
to better explain differences, update of channels with Season Links
on Sky+, and mention of Dolby Digital indication in guide data for
4-Aug-2002: Sky+ software update changes added: Manual recording
and Radio recording.
4-Jun-2002: TiVo now supports digital cable, and provides BBC radio
21-Feb-2002: TiVo V2.5.5 software has now been released. Updated
to incorporate this new functionality.
9-Feb-2002: A couple of Sky+ corrections.
5-Feb-2002: Major updates throughout. New information about Sky+
added to sourced from Alan Jay's article in Digital Spy (see link
above). Information about next TiVo software (V2.5.5) updated according
to latest information known about this.
13-Dec-2001: Updated Sky+ Dolby Digital info.
12-Dec-2001: Updated Sky+ fast forward speeds, jump to end, and
jump to position.
21-Nov-2001: Removed comments about lack of ITV on Sky. Added section
on recording external sources.
30-Oct-2001: Expanded Sky+ comment under advancing to the current
28-Oct-2001: Updated upgrade information, best price for TiVo, and
Sky Season Link update.
4-Oct-2001: Changed RRP for TiVo to new price.
4-Sep-2001: Updated retailers. More info on Sky+ programme clashes.
Few minor wording changes to make things clearer.
3-Sep-2001: Made changes according to comments received. In particular
added: Sky+ and TiVo FF/REW speeds, Sky+ favourite channels, Sky+
programme clashes, Sky+ parental controls, Bookmarks / jumping to
a place in a programme, software updates.
3-Sep-2001 : Created.
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