Streaming has taken over entertainment for millions of people, but when it comes to the live TV experience, that transition has changed a lot. With the TiVo Stream 4K, the company tries to deliver a product that appeases the typical streamer, but also the cord cutter. Here’s what you need to know if you’re in the market.
TiVo Stream 4K is a one-stop content shop
With the Stream 4K, TiVo clearly had one goal in mind. The brand wanted its dongle to offer a single spot for users to access not just content from TiVo, but from everywhere. That’s accomplished by the Stream+ app, preloaded on the Stream 4K.
That app is set up with a home screen that pulls in trending content, shows, and movies you’ve recently watched, live TV, recommendations, and much more. On this page and the dedicated TV show, Movie, Sports, and Kids pages you’ll find content from a wide variety of sources. Those sources include Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, Prime Video, and plenty of other streaming services, too — just not HBO Max. Once you pick a piece of content, TiVo will show everywhere it’s available from, and with a click, you’ll be directed to that app to watch.
On top of streaming services, TiVo Stream+ also pulls from live TV. TiVo has its own streaming channels which are completely free and, if you have it, Sling TV is also integrated.
I think live TV is perhaps the biggest strength of the TiVo Stream 4K. Not only is there a familiar-feeling guide within the Stream+ app, but there’s a dedicated shortcut button on the remote to access that guide. Further, there’s a proper channel rocker. Finally, actual channel surfing on a streamer!
An example of how Stream+ can help you find new content
Stream+ promises a lot, but does it really deliver? There’s a lot I really like about TiVo’s service. It makes it easy to quickly find content if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Plus, if there’s something you want to watch but aren’t sure where to find it, TiVo makes that process easy. I’m not sure everyone will want to use this app, but it delivers on its promise extremely well.
Honestly, my biggest complaint is just that Stream+ only works with Sling TV. Sling is an excellent service, but there are equally excellent competitors. YouTube TV is perhaps the most well-rounded offering, and Hulu with Live TV can be an excellent value with Disney’s bundles. You can still access these services through their own apps, but it would be great to have choice with the Stream+ app.
Android TV is under the hood, and it performs well
Outside of the TiVo Stream+ app, the Stream 4K is powered by Google’s Android TV platform. It comes out of the box with Pie and shipped with an April security patch. Overall, that’s solid for this sort of device.
The Stream 4K is built off of a pretty standard internal package, too. Its processor and RAM leave the device running mostly smoothly. There’s a hiccup here or there, and sometimes the homescreen has to reload, but I’ve had very few complaints in the performance department. This dongle runs loops around Xiaomi’s Mi Box S, but isn’t quite as speedy as the Nvidia Shield.
On the Android TV homescreen, you’re also getting the same basic experience. TiVo has a customized, subtle background, but the app layout, “channels,” and other features are completely intact. Google Assistant also works great, with a dedicated button at the center of the remote to trigger a new command.
Android TV’s app library has been growing considerably, too, and the TiVo Stream 4K can take full advantage of that. The core group works fully here — Netflix, Prime Video, HBO Max, Disney+, and others. Really, it’s a well-rounded device when it comes to content availability.
A fantastic remote you probably won’t use to the full
Perhaps one of my favorite things about the TiVo Stream 4K is its included remote. The remote is something that should be simple, but a lot of Android TV makers fall on their face here. With TiVo, you get a compact “peanut-shaped” remote complete with a D-Pad, volume, home and back, an Assistant shortcut, and Google Assistant too. Beyond that, though, there’s also a dedicated TiVo Stream+ button, as well as functions you don’t always see on streaming remotes.
There’s a mute button. A guide button, skip, live, and even a proper channel-rocker, too. All of these make, as mentioned, the live TV experience just so good. Bar none, this is the best remote you’ll find on a streaming device if you’re looking to get a traditional live TV experience. The remote is also just super comfortable to hold and the buttons are all very tactile and clicky. Really, it’s just a home run.
The only issue? The set of number keys at the bottom. Those would be great, but they don’t work with Stream+, the primary Live TV offering on this device. Rather, they’ll only work with the Live Tuner app built into Android TV, something I bet most people will never actually use.
There are/were some annoying quirks
Ok, so let’s talk about some negatives. When it launched, the TiVo Stream 4K had some bugs that anyone would be fully justified in considering a deal-breaker. HDMI CEC worked wonderfully, but it would randomly turn the TV on when nothing had been touched. For the first couple of weeks, my TV just stayed on overnight because the Stream 4K would turn itself on after I’d left the room.
Another annoying quirk at launch was a blank homescreen. After leaving an app, the homescreen just wouldn’t load at all. The fix? A reboot.
TiVo rolled out an update that crushed these bugs in early June, though, leaving the only major issue left with HDR content. For reasons unclear, the Stream 4K will leave HDR on all the time, and often, use the wrong HDR standard for the content you’re watching. Luckily, there’s a fix incoming for that, too.
I’ve also heard of some users having trouble with the USB-C port. I’ve not run into those myself, but apparently it has trouble with USB hubs and ethernet connections.
Quirks happen on most TV streamers, but TiVo came out of the gate with some really bad ones. While they’re on the mend, this is something that tarnishes the device’s reputation. Hopefully, none of them will come back in the future.
Is it worth it?
The TiVo Stream 4K is, overall, a pretty solid device. It delivers a lot without many major flaws and for a decent price. However, that price is about to go up. Since launch, the Stream 4K has been sold for a $49.99 introductory price, but on June 25, that price goes up to $69.99.
So the question, is this device worth $70? I personally paid the introductory price for my Stream 4K, and I’ve been happy with it at that price point. It’s served well in my office, especially following bug fixes. At $70, I don’t think as many people will impulse buy the product, but it’s still worth the cost.
The next step up in the Android TV world is the $150 Nvidia Shield TV, and compared to the AirTV Mini that has similar features for the same price, TiVo’s offering is much better. Should you buy it over a cheap Roku or Fire TV? If you value an ad-free interface with a better live TV experience — which you should, in my opinion — absolutely.
You can buy TiVo Stream 4K directly from the company’s online store.
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