August 01, 2011
| by Julie Jacobson
Here’s a riddle: What is a TiVo if it doesn’t come with a DVR, electronic programming guide (EPG) or CableCard slots?
Answer: it’s a new smart TV from Best Buy’s Insignia brand.
That’s right, you can’t record with it, but as a platform for running smart TV applications, it still looks pretty interesting.
The LCD TV is the first to utilize the TiVo GUI, providing an “intuitive user experience for accessing live broadcast and online content, all without a paid TiVo subscription,” according to a Best Buy press release.
The TVs (two models) simply employ the TiVo interface, not its full suite of services like DVR capabilities and integrated EPG.
Still, if you love the TiVo experience, then the LED TVs are a great buy at $499 and $699 for the 32- and 42-inch models, respectively (as of this morning, the TVs still weren’t listed on Best Buy’s site).
The units have a couple of other goodies. For one, they have a proprietary slot for adding Best Buy’s Rocketfish Rocketboost wireless card. With a $40 card inserted, the TVs can distribute audio to compatible products including wireless soundbars and multiroom speakers.
Users can stream music from built-in apps like Napster or Pandora. The TVs also support Netflix, YouTube Leanback and CinemaNow.
Thanks to the TiVo interface, users also can search video content via any of the usual characteristics – title, genre, actors, etc. – from the movie services. But the searches won’t include content from cable, satellite or over-the-air TV.
Best Buy Insignia connected TV with TiVo inside.
In addition, the displays support the Chumby suite of TV-friendly apps such as Twitter, Facebook, Photobucket, Accuweather, Reuters News and Sports, Stocks and Traffic.
Finally, the universal remote control for the Connected TVs utilize Z-Wave RF technology for navigating the interactive features, reports CNET.
CNET writer John P. Falcone sums up his preview of the new TVs:
The quick, behind-closed-doors demo we received from Best Buy/Insignia last week didn’t offer enough exposure to make a buying decision, of course. My gut reaction is “wait and see.” For TVs with built-in Wi-Fi and Internet streaming, the prices are reasonable, if not downright competitive—especially when looking at a comparable bundle (same size LED TV, $99 Roku or Apple TV, $70-ish universal remote). I’d like to see how Best Buy and Insignia flesh out the app offerings (both for the “built-in” and Chumby apps). Moreover, the addition of smartphone or tablet control apps could significantly enhance the value offering here. Company reps confirmed that the TV should offer an “audio-only” mode; that plus the Rocketboost compatibility could make the TVs a decent streaming audio hub, for instance.
Best Buy announced its collaboration with TiVo in early 2010.
The new TVs are expected to be available this week.
Julie Jacobson is co-founder of EH Publishing and currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro, mostly in the areas of home automation, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. She majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. Julie is a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player with the scars to prove it. Follow her on Twitter @juliejacobson.