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To long-term TiVo users, most other personal video recording solutions, whether they’re PC-based or provided by your cable or satellite provider, just fall short. TiVo takes a complex task—recording your favorite TV shows for later playback on-demand—and makes it simple, easy, and even fun. As officially licensed TiVo software for your PC, LiquidTV delivers all the TiVo features you know and love in a PC-friendly software package.
The LiquidTV package comes with the software, a year of complimentary TiVo service (the annual fee thereafter is $40), a standard TiVo remote, a TiVo IR receiver/blaster combo, and a Hauppauge USB ATSC/NTSC/QAM combo TV tuner. The software requires a relatively unobtrusive activation process, although if you want to move it to another machine after you’ve activated, you’ll probably need to make a phone call.
While the package came with only a single tuner, you can use up to four tuners with the software. Setup was relatively simple, and unlike other PVR software we’ve tested, the TiVo software allows you to easily configure multiple sources with different channel information. For example, we set up the USB Hauppauge tuner with local over-the-air HD channels, then connected a cable box to an ATI TV Wonder 650, using the IR blaster to change channels. We had no problems getting the software working with over-the-air HD or connecting the PC to our cable box, but we couldn’t get the unencrypted QAM support, which our cable provider says is not supported for our area.
All the standard TiVo functionality is present, and shows that you record on other networked Series 2 or higher TiVos in your home can be shared with each other. The LiquidTV software also adds features that users of dedicated TiVo boxes might not be familiar with—auto-convert for portable devices and record-to-DVD. In the options for every show you watch, you can choose to automatically convert recorded programs to versions for your PSP, iPod, or other portable media player after the show is finished recording. For obsessive archivists or frequent travelers, this feature can be a real boon.
As with other PVR software, the big problem for home users is high-def content. Viewing over-the-air ATSC HD content is easy and free, but the HD equivalent for cable, QAM, is poorly supported and works only for basic cable stations. There’s no way for end-users to get HD signals from their cable or satellite providers into their PVR box.
Beyond that, the software includes all the limitations of dedicated TiVo boxes. Content from certain channels is “protected” from transcoding or burning to DVD. Currently, the only affected channel is HBO.
As the TiVo service for set-top boxes costs around $12 a month, $100 for Liquid TV is a great deal, especially if you have a dedicated PVR or home server machine running that you can install it on. (We’d love to pair this software with an always-on Home Server machine, but the Home Server OS isn’t officially supported.) We love the TiVo service, which makes this our new favorite PVR software solution for the PC.
Super-slick TiVo software for your PC. Works well with multiple tuners and multiple TiVos.
No HD for premium cable channels; "protected" channels; QAM support is spotty nationwide.