Tivo or Windows 8 Media Center?

Written by Steven Jordan 
Last updated  April 5th, 2013. 

My search for a better TV solution began with my Dad's retirement.  The Internet portion of his bill had been taken care of by his employer but now Dad had to foot the entire bill.  He was using Time Warner Cable (TWC) and his cable/Internet/phone bill had ballooned to over $220 each month.  Basic TV rates were an additional $30 per month for the DVR and $15 per month for each set-top-box (STB).

I had been using AT&T U-Verse for the past 5 years  (for disclosure, I worked as an AT&T U-Verse agent a few years ago).  When U-Verse began service in my city the rates were very competitive.  Unfortunately their perks disappeared and service became as expensive as TWC.  Initially extras like STBs and HDTV were free.  They now charge $10 per STB and $10 for HDTV per month.  AT&T allows use of a XBOX 360 as a STB to watch TV; but they still charge $10 per month for the privilege!  Service started out at $75 per month for both Internet and TV.  My last month's bill was close to $170.  I needed a more affordable solution as well.

As I began to research the best alternative I found TWC's digital TV service is only $49 per month.  The down side is the service nearly doubles after the TWC DVR and STBs are tacked on to the bill.  There is another option though; the cable card.  The cable card costs a paltry $2 per month and can be used with a Tivo or with a TV card tuner and Windows Media Center.

I previously used Tivo and had a great experience with it.  I also think Tivo may be a good option for my folks because of its simple user interface.  Tivo is even more attractive now than in years past because they offer an equivalent to the STB; the Tivo Mini.

A 3 TV home, at a minimum, requires:
  • 1 x TiVo Premiere XL4 w/ lifetime subscription ~ $900
  • 2 x Tivo Minis w/ lifetime service (requires dedicated tuner)~ $499
Total:  $1,399

$1,399 is a bit expensive but it is a one-time fee and the Tivo is a fine product.  I suspect the internal hard drive will last at least a few years before it will need a replacement.  Lifetime service is only good for the life of the Tivo/ hard drive, not a person's lifetime.

Even with the heavy setup fee I would still be able to reduce my monthly TV and Internet bill.  My monthly AT&T of $160 per month would be eliminated and my new TWC bill would be around $80 per month.  That's a savings of $80 per month!  It will take 18 months to fully recoup the Tivo investment.

I came close to purchasing the Tivo system but I also had Windows Media Center to research further. I will discuss the Microsoft solution in my next blog.


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