Now that I’ve got your attention, I want to tell you about this super-sizing that has ME so excited and happy, and it’s good for you, too.
Super-sizing your TiVo is what has me so giddy. I did it to one of mine and I have never been happier! Let me tell you about it . . .
First, there’s TiVo itself, one of the best life-changing inventions ever, and I mean this sincerely. If you enjoy watching TV, and I don’t mean watching the nightly news, TiVo can (almost) be your best friend. Watch what you want, when you want. Pause live TV while you run a quick errand, grab a snack, take a phone call or take a quick bathroom break, then pick up where you left off. Now, there are other so-called DVRs (Digital Video Recorders) that can do many of the same things as TiVo, but only TiVo is TiVo, the real deal. ALL the others I know about and have seen are not as easy to use or as feature rich as the real thing. There is just no comparison, only most consumers are not aware of the many wonderful differences. Many of you are being wooed by your cable companies to buy into their plan of a low cost/no cost cable box with their own version of built-in hard drive recorder or DVR, but let me assure you, these devices cannot hold a candle to what TiVo is. TiVo is easier and more fun to use, and has tons more useful features the others simply do not have. (Read more about the TiVo advantage in my article here.) My advice is to ONLY get the real thing, even though there is a cost for the TiVo service. It is money well spent. You simply have to experience it to see what I mean, and then I am sure you will love TiVo and be glad to have purchased it. In fact, the satisfaction rate of TiVo users is among the very highest for ANY consumer electronics product. TiVo users are nearly universally, 100% thrilled with their TiVo and would NEVER part with it.
MAKING TiVo EVEN BETTER
Now that I have that rant off my chest, for those of you who, like me, love TiVo and can’t get enough of a good thing, I have great news! That’s right, you can super-size your TiVo as I did recently.
We have four of these wonderful machines here at Gadget Central – our first one, an original 14-hour Philips model now belongs to daughter Marnie, my own combination DIRECTV receiver with 35-hour TiVo service built-in, another one, (I think it is), a 40-hour stand-alone that belongs to my son, Douglas, and our newest acquisition, one of the cool 80-hour Humax models with built-in DVD recorder that is connected to cable TV as are all but the one that is with DIRECTV.
The original model runs out of space fast due to its limited capacity, and it’s getting really old. The DIRECTV combo unit also has its limited capacity and it’s getting old, and it makes lots of noise because the hard drive is probably on last legs. The 40-hour model is also old and of low capacity. Finally, the new Humax, while a fine machine, also has variable recording quality available. That is, on the stand-alone TiVo units, their capacities are stated as maximum numbers of hours, when using the lowest recording quality to maximize the time available. In other words, you can get, in this case, up to about 80 hours of recording, but at much lower than the original broadcast quality. Setting these units for maximum quality drops that 80-hour unit down to, as I recall, about 27 hours, and that is just not enough in my house and probably not enough for most avid TV watchers.
By the time I set it to grab our family favorite weekly TV series, and then a movie or two, it’s more than filled in a couple of weeks. Not that we watch all of what is recorded, but it’s nice to have the flexibility and availability to watch what I want when I want to watch it, even if it is weeks before I get to it.
And for those of you who, like me, travel quite a bit, these units just don’t cut it. And that’s where the idea of super sizing TiVo comes in.
SUPER SIZING 101
Simple super sizing is possible and grandma-easy thanks to two companies I visited at this year’s CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas – Maxtor (the hard drive company providing the excellent and recommended external OneTouch II hard drives I use and recommend and the leading supplier of specialized Maxtor QuickView hard drives to companies INCLUDING TiVo for their DVRs) and another little company called Weaknees. Weaknees and Maxtor have teamed up and I’m here to tell you it’s a match made in computer and TiVo heaven.
Through Weaknees, a SoCal-based startup that has been in business only a few years, you can get a pre-configured kit that includes one or two ready-to-use and install higher capacity Maxtor QuickView hard drives, the simple tool and even simpler instructions for transforming your TiVo, new or old, into a super-sized behemoth. In my case the recording capacity jumped to a whopping 259 hours instead of the 35 hours of recording capacity on my DIRECTV unit. Yes, you read it right. Let me just say I am more than thrilled with my upgraded DIRECTV DVR with TiVo service.
They offer kits starting at just $99 that can change a standalone TiVo into up to a 900 hour recording powerhouse and a DIRECTV DVR with TiVo into a unit that can record as many as 527 hours of programming! Now, before you stop here wondering why anyone would need so much capacity, I can’t think of an answer for this one. But it’s not a matter of why, it’s a matter of the fact that some people just want the biggest and baddest whatever it is around, and this takes the cake. However, as you will read, there are practical reasons for increasing the capacity, even to more modest heights. So, keep reading, please.
MY WEAKNEES VISIT
I was privileged to visit the Weaknees facility in Culver City, CA where I toured their warehouse and met the founders, Michael Adberg and Jeff Shapiro, a couple of nice (and smart) young men with a TiVo passion and an even better idea – to help all of us soup up our TiVo viewing pleasure without geeking out and making it so tough and too technical that the average consumer could not get the job done. And the cost had to be reasonable, too. It was great to get to meet them and to see their enthusiasm and passion at work. They truly love what they do, and it shows.
They have come up with this simple concept of offering packaged upgrade kits, pure and simple, as well as already modified NEW TiVo units carrying their own Weaknees warranty. They are authorized resellers of TiVo and of DIRECTV hardware and service, so TiVo is far from mad at these two entrepreneurs. On the contrary, I am certain they are pleased with the sales of new units Weaknees generates. And consumers like me have to be happy at their upgraded TiVo which can have seemingly unlimited capacity.
In addition to the kits and new, modified units, they offer at the modest extra charge of $49 to do the work for you. Send in your TiVo and THEY will perform the super sizing operation for you and send back your TiVo ready for you to set up as when it was new, because, technically speaking it IS new. Actually, it is better than new, whether you do the modification or they do it. The hard drive and the fan are the only moving parts inside, so, really, there is nothing that typically wears out.
The fastest and easiest plan is the do-it-yourself method. Of course, since the hard drive inside is removed and replaced with a new one, all old programming is lost. For those who just can’t live without whatever is on the original drive inside, for an additional fee of $79, they will transfer all original programming to the new drive(s) so you lose nothing!
I brought the DIRECTV unit with me for my visit. I just could not believe it could be so easy, so they offered to let me do the upgrade in their warehouse while they watched, just in case I had a problem. I am pleased to report that everything went super-smoothly.
The process begins . . . open the case and remove the old drives –
Instead of using the special hand screwdriver they send out with their kits, I was able to use their speedy power screwdriver, but I could just as easily have done it all by hand. Four screws out and I removed the cover. Then I strapped on the anti-static wristband and attached the other end to nearby ground (Don’t worry about this if the terminology is foreign – it’s all simple and routine, and painless! However, it’s standard operating procedure any time one is inside an electronic product or computer and no big deal.)
Next, I removed two screws that held in the carrier for the two hard drives that were inside. Then, I removed the power cables and data cables, the so-called ribbon cables, just as if the hard drives were inside a computer. These cables just pull off and press back in place easily. I removed the “sled,” which is that carrier onto which the hard drives were mounted, turned it upside down on the table and removed four screws on each drive that held them in place. That was half the job. Reversing the procedure with the new drives was all that remained, plus one other piece. Since I was already inside, I opted to replace the original fan with a new, better one that costs only $19. That way, I would have a new fan inside my renewed and better than new TiVo.
In with the new drives –
The entire job took less than one half hour and it was fun!
Put the cover back on –
Weakness makes it all so easy because they do something very special for the consumer. You can’t just stick any old hard drive inside one of these TiVo units. In essence, TiVo is a computer, with an operating system on the hard drive. Weaknees installs this needed operating system on every one of the Maxtor QuickView drives sent out in their upgrade kits, so the operation is a simple swap out of old for new. You never need to deal with a computer for a Weaknees upgrade! I watched the process of “blessing” the new drives on their bench using their own proprietary software for the job. It takes only about 30 seconds. They have even developed their own specialized bracket for adding a second drive to many TiVo units that did not come with this capability originally.
I could go on and on. These guys are geniuses and very nice, too.
On my own upgraded DIRECTV, I plugged it in while there, just to see if it was going to work, and, of course, it did!
Test it on their bench. It’s up, it’s good, now with about 259 hours available –
Here is, perhaps, the best part of the deal. Sure, I now have a super-sized DIRECTV DVR with TiVo, but I have already long since paid for the TiVo lifetime programming. When I did it on this unit, it was only $149. So, now, I get what is, in effect, a NEW TiVo, and I’ve already paid for the lifetime programming. It’s a new lease on life for a product that, otherwise, might have died sometime soon. Oh, and it’s now whisper quiet with the new fan and the new, quiet drives inside. Since it lives in my bedroom, I appreciate the lack of noise.
There is another advantage to the DIRECTV DVR with TiVo service – the unit has two tuners, so I can record two programs on two channels at the same time! Standalone TiVo units, the kind that connect to an outside antenna or to your cable TV service have only one tuner.
So, how much does it cost for an upgrade? As indicated earlier, upgrade kits start at only $99. Super sizing my own unit had a kit cost of only $289 with free shipping. I think it’s a bargain to gain so much capacity so easily for so little money, and, remember, it’s actually fun to do. There certainly is a sense of satisfaction knowing I did the upgrade myself. Getting inside the box was NOT intimidating as you might think. It was actually interesting to see the inner workings of the unit. They have even written their own instructions that are simple and easy to follow. It was as easy as I indicated. Check prices on their Website for your own TiVo options and for prices of NEW, already modified units. You’ll like what you see.
Now, I plan on upgrading our entire fleet, thanks to my positive experience with Weaknees, only now I have the confidence knowing I really can do it myself at home. If I can do it, so can you, but don’t be afraid to just send yours in for them to do the job reliably and quickly.
WHAT’S THE BENEFIT?
What a freeing feeling it is to know I have such extreme capabilities on this DIRECTV with TiVo. For example, I can set the recorder to catch my favorite shows and movies, even if I am gone, as I recently was, for three weeks. It was all there when I returned home, with plenty of space to spare. Of course, there is NO way for me to really get caught up, and, again, I am not concerned. I am looking forward to the end of the regular TV season and to any time I feel like turning on the TV and thinking, “There is nothing new to watch.” But there IS! I will have all my saved programs, and likely have room to spare. So, I will always have something new and fresh to watch. Then, if I get bored, I can always quickly, simply delete any program I think I will never watch, for any reason. It’s just that easy, and with three actions – select the program, scroll down the where it says “Delete” and press “Select” to delete.
The only thing I have noticed is that it takes a little longer for this unit to display the list of all the saved programs, and that is because the list is getting so long. I understand and accept this minor difference as a welcome tradeoff for the alternative, the same unit I had before with its aging, noisy hard drives and limited capacity.
For a few of you, there will be familiarity with upgrading TiVo another way. First of all, I do NOT recommend it for the average consumer, even for myself. This way is through what I term the less legitimate modifiers out there in Internet land. They are mostly made up of the computer hacker community. There are companies that say you can use just about any hard drive, which, technically, you can, though, with less than assured results. These companies also can sell you software for you to install on your PC that can “bless” your new drive, or install the needed software. Some also offer more extreme modifications. Already, it’s too complicated and cumbersome for me. I’m not a hacker and I do not want anything that complicates what is already such and easy and elegant product as is TiVo.
Prices are VERY reasonable at Weaknees, and they have a track record of success, along with their own warranty, not to mention the legions of fans who are discovering that this is, in fact, the best and easiest way to say, “Super size me!” for their TiVo. I would not think of doing it any other way, and I recommend the same to you. I’ve done the homework and legwork for you on this one as thoroughly as I know how. All you need to do is to take my advice!
Whether you are buying your first TiVo, a DIRECTV DVR with TiVo, including their latest High Definition model, and want it super sized before you get it home, or you are super sizing an existing TiVo like I did, call on Weaknees for the kits and TiVo parts and accessories that assure your success and ultimate, long term pleasure and satisfaction.
Just say, “Weaknees, super size me!” and tell them Mr. Gadget sent you! The fastest way to reach them is via email at [email protected]. You can also reach them by telephone at 888-WEAKNEES (888-932-5633) or 310-842-4700.