TiVo Stream 4K review: Affordable Android streamer with HBO Max, Peacock

Roku and Amazon Fire TV make the best affordable streaming devices, but both still lack support for two of the biggest new services, HBO max and Peacock . We have no idea when these apps will be out, but if you own a Roku or Fire TV you might be fed up with waiting. Enter the TiVo Stream 4K. This streamer costs 50 US dollars – cheaper than other options with Max and Peacock, such as the Apple TV or a brand new Smart TV – and of course thousands of other apps are Netflix streamed on YouTube Sling TV .

To like

  • Affordable for 4K HDR streaming
  • Has apps for HBO Max and Peacock
  • The Google Assistant works well for voice searches
  • Great remote control
  • The stream app combines various services

I do not like it

  • Didn’t work with a TV we tested
  • Not compatible with existing TiVo devices
  • More complex menus than Roku

TiVo has made a name for itself with DVRs for recording cable and aerial TV shows, but the Stream 4K is not a DVR at all. It’s a media streamer that competes directly with two of our favorite such devices, the Roku Streaming Stick Plus and the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K . It runs the Android TV system with extras like Google Assistant voice control, 4K resolution, Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision compatibility.

Here’s the bad news: the TiVo Stream 4K just didn’t work with a TV, an LG CX OLED . Videos on apps, including Netflix and Disney Plus, will stop playing and start again from the main menu, essentially rendering the stream unusable. TiVo promised a solution back in June, but Tips Clear has since announced that the update “has unfortunately been delayed and we will publish further details as soon as possible”.

The stream worked flawlessly on three other TVs we used for testing, from Sony, Samsung, and TCL, so this issue isn’t a deal breaker for this review. However, it is impossible for us to test the stream with every TV, so we cannot guarantee that it will work well with yours. In short, it’s worrying enough to prevent our full recommendation.

There’s also the fact that the Stream 4K doesn’t (yet) work with any existing TiVo hardware, so it won’t be able to play back or stream your cable or aerial DVR recordings to your phone. Also worth mentioning is the rumor about Google’s own $ 50 Android TV streamer slated to be announced on September 30th.

The TiVo Stream 4K is out now for the introductory price of $ 50 , but TiVo says this will rise to $ 70 at some point. Right now, if you want to get access to HBO Max and Peacock, or just like the features and goodness of Google, this is a solid deal – provided it works with your TV. Otherwise, you could wait for Google to reveal their hand or buy one of the excellent Roku or Fire TV streamers instead.

Lernen Sie TiVo Stream 4K kennen

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Sarah Tew / Tips Clear

The TiVo Stream 4K, a credit card-sized widget with an integrated HDMI port, is designed so that it is not visible behind your television. Unlike most adapters of this type, it has a bit of personality – a large TiVo logo on the front and a distinctive wedge shape like a miniature Edge DVR .

The most famous feature of the Stream 4K is the legendary peanut remote control. It’s roughly two-thirds the size of TiVo’s standard DVR remote control and has a few extra features. Press and hold the Google Button, wait a moment, then speak to access voice search through the Google Assistant. The well-known silver TiVo button gives you access to the Stream app, while the circular button to the left of the wizard button takes you to the Android TV start page. There are no thumbs up or down buttons, which is a shame, but otherwise there are a ton more buttons than on a typical Roku or Amazon remote. It also controls your TV’s power, volume, and input.

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Sarah Tew / Tips Clear

 

The TiVo Stream 4K dongle is not particularly powerful in terms of technical data: there is an Amlogic S905Y2 processor, 2 GB of RAM and 8 GB of storage space. In comparison, the more expensive Nvidia Shield offers the same RAM and storage, but has the Nvidia Tegra X1 Plus processor and a microSD expansion (Android PC TV made a comparison between the two processors.) In practice, we found the TiVo very fast for 1080p, but it didn’t have the performance for some advanced features like the Steam app .

The main feature currently missing is the lack of integration of the device into existing TiVo devices. It can share a name with the older stream product , but it cannot share recordings or otherwise communicate with thousands of TiVos already in the wild. A TiVo spokesperson told Tips Clear back in January that TiVo integration was on the roadmap for the future of Stream 4K, but the company hasn’t been able to give us a timing update since then.

TiVos Spezialsauce: Die Stream App

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Die TiVo Stream-Schnittstelle. Sarah Tew 

The TiVo Stream 4K has an exclusive app called Stream, which TiVo developed as the heart of this device. It integrates TV shows and movies from apps, including Sling TV (see below). Netflix , HBO Now , Amazon Prime Video , Hulu , Disney Plus, and Google Play Movies, and also suggests new content that TiVo thinks you might like. It’s on the standard Android TV interface, so it can be confusing: the device effectively has two home pages.

Many of the buttons on the remote lead you straight into Stream. The main menu of the app is located to the side, similar to Neflix. Categories include My Shows, Guide, TV Shows, Movies, Sports, and Kids. There’s also a Search tab, but the Google Assistant search is faster and less complicated than the Stream version. We also liked that Google search was available everywhere you are on the device, not just the Stream app.

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Der TiVo Stream-Leitfaden. Ty Pendlebury

The Stream 4K offers a free week of Sling TV, and TiVo names the service its preferred partner. This means that Sling users will see the Sling TV guide in the Stream interface, which also allows you to set recordings on Sling’s cloud DVR. The Guide button on the remote brings up the grid, a clear indication of similar functions on DVRs and cable boxes. The Google Assistant was able to search for both Sling TV channels and now play shows, but was unable to access recordings from the Sling Cloud DVR.

Of course, a sling TV subscription on the device is completely optional, and numerous live TV streaming services will work just fine – they just won’t be built into the Stream app. If you don’t subscribe to Sling, the remote’s guide button will still be called Tivo Plus , a proprietary network that offers free content from TMZ, Outside TV, PowerNation, FailArmy, Hell’s Kitchen, Cheddar, and thanks to a new partnership from Pluto TV. (Disclosure: Tips Clear and PlutoTV are both owned by ViacomCBS.)

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Ty Pendlebury / Tips Clear

 

Outside of the Stream app, you’ll see the standard Android TV interface, which acts like any device of its type, with lines of content highlights mixed in with recently used apps and favorites. Most of the apps are supported, with the exception of AT&T Live TV services, such as AT&T TV Now .

Software updates have helped, but problems remain

We tested the TiVo Stream 4K on a variety of TVs including the TCL 65Q825 , LG OLED65CXPUA , Sony XBR-55X950G, and Samsung PN59D8000 .

As mentioned above, the main problem that I encountered with several TiVo stream review samples is pausing the midstream and returning to the menu. In addition to the LG, it also happened with Sony, but with the latter TV it seems to have been fixed after a software update. It still happens to the LG.

We also experienced a couple of minor issues. During the setup on the remote pairing phase, the device tries to establish a connection after pressing the requested buttons. Then it times out and returns to the pairing page. With perseverance and quick reflexes on the Next button, we got it going. We also experienced sound dropouts with the Sony TV and an Onkyo receiver, although a software update seems to have fixed this issue as well.

In addition, the stream worked well in our tests. Navigating the various screens was quick and we didn’t notice any lag when opening apps. The handover of TiVo Stream to Sling TV, a potential throttling point, went smoothly. We were also able to use the TiVo Stream 4K’s Chromecast feature to stream video from a PC browser and from a phone’s Spotify app. If you’re familiar with the Android TV ecosystem, the Stream 4K will make you feel right at home, and the Stream app is a useful and fun addition.

Initially, we were hoping this device could replace the Nvidia Shield as a way to stream PC games to TV through the Steam Link app, but it didn’t work. It wasn’t possible to stream with enough bandwidth to make the interface stable at all, let alone play games, and the device also doesn’t offer the ethernet port recommended by the app. According to TiVo representatives, the USB-C port can be used to connect an Ethernet adapter. This can be helpful if you live in a noisy Wi-Fi environment. Regular Android TV games worked just fine , however, and we played some entertaining rounds of Crossy Road and fast as a fox with the peanut remote.

4K, HDR, and Dolby Vision tests

To test 4K and HDR, we connected the TiVo Stream 4K to the Dolby Vision and Atmos-enabled LG CX OLED and Sony televisions. As expected, the video quality on apps that support HDR formats was as good as the Apple TV 4K.

As is usual with streamers, this does not mean that the apps themselves support these formats. In TiVo’s favor, Netflix, Disney Plus, and Amazon Prime were all streamed in 4K and Dolby Vision, but movie services were more mixed: Google Play Movies was available in 4K HDR, but not Dolby Vision. Movies Anywhere said, “This device does not work.” Support 4K playback ”and while we had some issues logging into Vudu it was only HDX (1080p). Meanwhile, Dolby Atmos wasn’t available on Netflix or Disney Plus, however. Atmos support on the Fire TV 4K is also relatively spotty.

Like the Apple TV 4K, the TiVo converts everything to Dolby Vision or HDR by default, including the menu systems themselves and videos from each app (including the myriad of streams that aren’t in HDR). Unlike Apple , however, there is a way to change this default. On a TV as beautiful as the LG, that’s not a big problem – everything looks fine – but on a smaller set that doesn’t do HDR justice, the option to switch to SDR if you want is nice.

 

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David Katzmaier / Tips Clear

Should you buy it?

Like Channel Master Stream +, the TiVo Stream 4K is an ambitious but imperfect Android TV streaming device. Months after launch, TiVo is still working on fixing some issues. The Stream app is a laudable attempt at unifying different streaming apps, but ultimately there’s no compelling reason to buy a TiVo Stream 4K – unless you love Sling TV. Impatient HBO Max and Peacock fans, or fans of TiVo or Android TV in general, will find a lot to like, but anyone else looking to buy a $ 50-70 worth of streamer should check out the Roku Streaming Stick instead Plus and the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K .

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