I have a new Retina display iPad. I have a TiVo Premiere DVR, which records HD programming. Naturally, my geeky self got to thinking: “Wouldn’t it be cool to transfer my favorite shows from the TiVo to the iPad?”
Yes, it would be cool. But the TiVo-sanctioned software I used for the job proved to be expensive, time consuming to use, and ultimately didn’t deliver the quality I had hoped for.
The TiVo Web site lists two software suites for converting TiVo recordings into file formats compatible with portable devices like the iPad: Roxio Creator 2012 for PCs (list price $100; price for TiVo users, $70) and Roxio Toast 11 Titanium for Macs (list price $100; price for TiVo users, $80). Since I’m a Mac guy, I bought Toast 11 Titanium.
To start, I launched the TiVo Transfer program that comes with Toast 11 Titanium. After launching the software, I chose my TiVo Premiere DVR as the transfer source (your TiVo and computer must be connected to the same network).
Next, I selected the recordings I wanted to transfer to my iMac. I could either create an “Auto Transfer,” which means all current and future episodes of a TV series will be automatically transferred to my iMac. Or I could click “Start Transfer” to transfer an individual program. I chose the latter option, to transfer an episode of “American Horror Story.”
And then, I waited. Depending on how fast/slow your computer is, the transfer process can take a while. The 60-minute “American Horror Story” episode took 15- 20 minutes to transfer, more or less. The TiVo Transfer app doesn’t show a progress bar, unfortunately.
Afterwards, I launched Toast 11 Titanium, clicked the “Convert” tab, and selected TiVo on the “Video” tab. The episode I’d transferred to my iMac was visible in a pane, so I dragged it into the software’s transfer queue and clicked the big red “Convert” button. At this point, you have the ability to edit the video file—to only convert a selection, for instance. I tried this with another recording (of a news program), and it worked well.
From there, I selected the device (options include Apple TV and the third generation iPad) for which I wanted the file formatted. I also selected the video quality and the folder in which the file would be saved. Toast 11 Titanium offers the option to schedule the file conversion, a nice touch. You can also preview the file.
Once my settings were chosen, I clicked to start the conversion. Unlike TiVo Transfer, Toast 11 Titanium displays a helpful progress bar. The final step was to import the converted video file into my iTunes library and sync it to my iPad, and this is where things went badly.
Resolution-wise, it’s basically a horror story. The end result was merely good, not great, video quality, because TiVo limits maximum quality of video conversions to 640 x 480 resolution. That’s a far cry from the new iPad’s native 2048 by 1536 resolution or even the first two iPads, which have 1024 x 768 resolution.
Buying an HD program through iTunes and downloading it directly to an iPad is way faster and easier. And it delivers a program with noticeably sharper video quality. If you plan to regularly transfer tons of programs and you don’t mind going to the trouble and the inferior video quality, Roxio’s software will ultimately save you money. Otherwise, just buy your entertainment through iTunes and get your geek on some other way.
James A. Martin is a seasoned tech journalist and blogger based in San Francisco and winner of the 2014 ASBPE National Gold award for his CIO.com blog. He writes CIO.com's Living the Tech Life blog and is also a content marketing consultant.