TiVo Stream 4K: Specs
Size: 3 x 2 x 0.6 inches (housing); 5.75 x 1.75 x 0.9 inches (remote)
Number of channels: 5,000+
Ports: HDMI, USB-C, Micro-USB
Max video resolution: 4K at 60 fps
Supported HDR formats: HDR10, HDR10+, Dolby Vision
Supported audio formats: Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, and Dolby Atmos
The TiVo Stream 4K has a lot going for it – a sleek design, a voice-enabled remote, the ability to cast from your phone and an Android TV platform with access to thousands of apps. And it all comes with a $50 price tag. Unfortunately, our Chromecast with Google TV review shows how that device (which came out later) makes the TiVo Stream 4K redundant.
The TiVo Stream 4K tries to stand out with its own app, which aggregates content from other channels, including Netflix, Prime Video, Hulu, Disney Plus and HBO Max. What TiVo really wants to highlight is the integration of live TV, yet it’s limited to just a few services.
Still, the Google Assistant feature works well and the interface is easy to use (though the recommendations are bad). This TiVo Stream 4K review will show that if there weren’t a brand-new $50 streaming device running Android TV on the market, the TiVo Stream 4K would be a very attractive and unique alternative to the Roku and Fire TV Sticks.
TiVo Stream 4K: Price and availability
TiVo Stream 4K: Design
Similar to many other streaming devices, the TiVo Stream 4K is a dongle with a “tail” that plugs directly into the HDMI port on your TV. The rectangular dongle fits into the palm of my hand. It’s lightweight and unobtrusive, and completely hid behind my television. This is similar to the Fire TV stick and Chromecast with Google TV, where your TV makes the streaming device’s design almost irrelevant.
On the other end from the tail is a micro-USB port to connect the power cable. There’s also a USB-C port that could connect to an external drive or Ethernet adapter, if you don’t want to rely solely on Wi-Fi.
The remote (which comes with two AAA batteries) is a pleasing peanut shape with easy-to-identify buttons, including a directional pad, power, volume, channels and Google Assistant.
A few buttons make the TiVo Stream 4K remote better than its competitors (including the new Chromecast). The Guide button takes you to the Stream app live TV grid, while the Live button plays whatever channel/program you last watched. There’s also a dedicated Netflix button (which the new Chromecast does have).
The only negative about the remote is that the numerical keypad seems unnecessary. I didn’t use it even once while trying out the device.
TiVo Stream 4K: Interface
The TiVo Stream 4K interface is a tale of two sections: Android TV and the TiVo Stream app.
When I first set up the TiVo Stream 4K, it allowed me to choose my streaming services, much like Fire TV and Roku. Then, it prompted me to personalize recommended content by selecting shows and movies that I like. You can skip this step — and you should, because the choices I made here led to some disappointing and head-scratching recommendations. For instance, I liked a few true crime shows, which resulted in TiVo suggesting I watch a bunch of crime drama procedurals (including the entire NCIS franchise). No, thanks!
The Android TV interface consists of a home screen listing your apps in a row across the top, very similar to Fire TV’s home. The first is the TiVo Stream app, followed by the ones I selected when setting up the device — Netflix, Sling, Prime Video, YouTube, Hulu, Disney Plus, HBO Max, Peacock and Google Play Movies & TV.
Scrolling down, the rows display featured thumbnails of various shows and movies from those corresponding apps. So, in the Netflix row, I got Umbrella Academy, Lucifer and several titles for which I have zero interest. But at least that gave me a preview into what was available on each service; on the Fire TV home screen, for example, you those content rows tout only Amazon-native content, either from Prime Video or IMDBTV.
Selecting the TiVo Stream app (or pressing the TiVo-branded button on the remote) takes you to a different homepage. At the top are rows of recommended shows and movies, based on the personalization step I mentioned above. As I said, TiVo thought I’d want to watch NCIS: New Orleans, Chicago Fire or Last Man Standing, but I really don’t. The movie choices, Black Panther, Bill and Ted Face the Music and Little Women (2019), fared better.
Below that, the home screen displays rows based on genres, like “This Year’s Emmy Winners,” “Living Room Comedy Club” and “Only ‘90s Kids Will Remember,” providing much more interesting and relevant recommendations.
Then you get separate screens for TV Shows, Movies, Sports and Kids. There’s also a page for My Shows, which houses what are essentially favorites/bookmarks. When I added Outlander, the TiVo Stream app displays where I can watch it (Netflix, Starz, Prime Video, Google Play) as well as “May Also Like” suggestions. When I select one of those services, the relevant app opens to play the content; this is similar to how the Apple TV app provides content.
What the TiVo Stream app really wants to sell you on is the Guide, which pulls in live TV from Sling, Pluto and other free channels. This is really great — if you’re a Sling subscriber. Unfortunately, if you use YouTube TV, Hulu With Live TV or Fubo TV, the TiVo Stream app won’t pull them in. You can still use those apps separately; they just aren’t integrated into the Guide.
Even if you subscribe to Sling, the TiVo Stream app doesn’t provide access to all of Sling’s features, such as recording or managing your DVR. Essentially, the Guide is simply a shortcut to watching live TV. It’s still a nice-to-have, since Fire TV’s Live section doesn’t do much except feature apps like Sling, Philo, Pluto and others.
TiVo Stream 4K: Streaming services
The TiVo Stream 4K works with just about any streaming service you can think of. You can download the apps of Netflix, Sling, YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, Spotify, Disney Plus, Hulu, ESPN, HBO Max, Peacock, CBS All Access, Fubo, Philo, Starz, Peloton, Tubi, PBS, and more.
HBO Max used to be hard to find on other platforms, but it’s since landed everywhere — including Roku and Fire TV. Peacock eventually found itself on Roku, but is still missing from Fire TV.
TiVo Stream 4K: Performance
The TiVo Stream 4K operated smoothly and with very few hiccups. I plugged it into a TCL Smart HDTV, running off a medium-fast home Wi-Fi network.
The device supports streaming up to 4K UHD (at 60 fps) and HDR10 and Dolby Vision formats. When playing shows and movies, the video resolved almost instantly to full HD. But sometimes, I noticed a bit of buffering time when opening apps (especially Sling) or after selecting a show.
Otherwise, the TiVo Stream 4K felt zippy and fast when scrolling through menus and the guide. The Chromecast with Google TV offers similarly snappy and speedy performance.
TiVo Stream 4K: Search
The Google Assistant search function returned good results quickly for entertainment-related queries. When I said “Brad Pitt,” the TiVo results included the actor’s recent movies including Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and Ad Astra. I could click on any title and get info on where to watch it.
I could also use Google Assistant to open apps; I just said “Hulu” and it loaded up.
Search also works with more general questions, but the results aren’t as useful. I asked Google Assistant to show “tacos near me” and the results showed me several restaurants. However, I couldn’t select any to see further info.
TiVo Stream 4K: Features
Since the TiVo Stream 4K runs on Android TV, it has Chromecast abilities, so you can cast easily from your mobile phone to your television screen. Roku and Fire TV are much more limited in screen mirroring. The TiVo’s almost-twin, Chromecast With Google TV, does have casting functionality.
TiVo Stream 4K: Verdict
The TiVo Stream 4K is a great, very affordable 4K streaming device. The Android TV platform works smoothly, the live TV integration app is useful if you’re a Sling subscriber and the Google Assistant-enabled remote is well-designed. It’s also compatible with just about every streaming service out there, including HBO Max and Peacock. And it’s just $50.
So, what’s the catch? TiVo’s biggest problem is that it has a twin: The new Chromecast with Google TV. They are essentially the same device. TiVo does come with its own Stream app, which aggregates content from multiple channels. However, the interface didn’t wow me with helpfulness and TiVo’s personalization is definitely a bug, not a feature.
Just a few weeks ago, I would have said the TiVo Stream 4K is an excellent alternative to Roku and Fire TV. But with the launch of the new Chromecast, it doesn’t stand out as much.