TiVo Stream 4K review: A reboot for streaming (and for TiVo)

In more ways than one, the TiVo Stream 4K is an attempt to let the past die.

The $70 TV dongle (on sale for $50 through May 27) has little connection to TiVo’s storied DVR history. Instead of recording movies and TV shows, it streams them from online services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime.

But the TiVo Stream 4K is also a break from how most other streaming devices work. Rather than serving up a big list of apps to launch, TiVo funnels programming from several popular apps into one big TV guide, so you don’t have to bounce aimlessly between sources.

This is kind of rethinking has been long overdue in the streaming world, and it will become only more important as new streaming services proliferate. Still, it’s too early to declare TiVo’s big pivot a success. Unless it expands beyond the handful of services it supports now, TiVo’s streaming venture will succeed more as a proof of concept than as a killer consumer product.

This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best media streaming devices, where you’ll find reviews of competing products, plus a buyer’s guide to the features you should consider when shopping.

tivostream4kshowsmenu Jared Newman / IDG

A unified streaming guide is the TiVo Stream 4K’s main draw.

Downsizing from DVRs

Compared to TiVo’s DVRs, the Stream 4K looks like an adorable miniature. The dongle itself has the same staggered edges as last year’s TiVo Edge DVR, but is small enough to hang away from the TV through its built-in HDMI cable.

The TiVo Stream 4K remote is equally cute, retaining the same peanut shape as TiVo’s DVR remotes, but with slightly less button bloat. It has TV controls for power, volume, mute, and input switching, along with Guide and Info buttons for TiVo’s live TV menus. There are channel number buttons and a “skip” button as well, but I haven’t found much use for those. Unfortunately, TiVo’s downsizing left off dedicated play/pause/rewind/fast forward keys, which would have been helpful.

tivostream4kremote Jared Newman / IDG

The TiVo Stream 4K remote has lots of buttons, but not all of them are useful.

I’ve also run into a problem with my review unit: After a couple of days, the TiVo remote’s volume keys stopped working with my TV. Strangely, the remote still controls my TV’s power and switches inputs, which means the core infrared blaster is still working. As of this writing, TiVo has not addressed the issue.

The device runs on Google’s Android TV platform, and inside there’s a quad-core Amlogic S905Y2 processor, 2GB of RAM, 8GB of storage, and Wi-Fi 5 connectivity. These are typical tech specs for a low-price Android TV streamer, and I didn’t run into any issues scrolling through menus or moving in and out of apps.

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