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I tested TiVo’s new smart TV platform, and Google TV isn’t enough anymore

 A Sharp TV running the new TiVo operating system
A Sharp TV running the new TiVo operating system

When you're looking to pick up your next TV, if you're anything like me you'll obsess over details like resolution, screen size, display technology, and audio capabilities, and pay little attention to anything else – but we might want to care a little more about our choice of TV operating system, and be on the lookout for anything running on the new TiVo OS.

TiVo, a brand that's best known for its DVRs, was showing off its smart TV OS at IFA 2023 and I had the chance to give it a whirl. Admittedly I wasn't all that excited before the presentation; with IFA filled with drones, dancing robots, and exciting Dolby Atmos innovation, I didn't think TiVo would make much of an impression. I was wrong.

Initially, TiVo OS looks a lot like Google TV. The layout looks good, and it's intuitive, with a content-first approach – the OS will recommend films and shows for you based on your viewing habits, and you can set it to only show you content from services you pay for. Neat, yes, but nothing all that new. The only noticeable advantage for the end user over Google is that recommendation cards are portrait rather than landscape (allowing TiVo to show you more on the screen before you scroll to the side).

Where TiVo really stands out is its voice search functionality.

Show me the movies

Voice search is also nothing that new, but TiVo's implementation is smarter than anything I've tried before – which I why it was worthy of one of our best of IFA 2023 awards. That's because of the refinement follow-ups you can request after your initial search to gradually trim the selection of recommendations to your precise wants.

In the demo, we started by asking for TiVo to "show us action movies". The list was eclectic, but not what we were looking for, so we followed up with "only from the 90s" and the on-screen list shrank. It still wasn't quite right, so we asked for "only films with Sylvester Stallone" and again the selection shrank to show us the flicks that matched our exact criteria.

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The TiVo OS shows off a range of mostly modern action movies like Puss in Boots, Top Gun Maverick and  Guardians of the Galaxy 3.
The TiVo OS shows off a range of mostly modern action movies like Puss in Boots, Top Gun Maverick and Guardians of the Galaxy 3.

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After asking for
After asking for

Alternatively, rather than looking for movies with descriptions, you can use quotes like "Hasta la vista baby" or "Show me the money" and TiVo will show you what you're looking for. The TiVo representatives I spoke to admitted that the OS can be stumped – quote your favorite obscure B-movie and you likely won't get a result – but in the demo, it performed surprisingly well for a broad range of films.

What's more, I can already see the use cases for these features. During our next movie night, when my partner and I can't decide what to watch, we no longer need to doom-scroll through the best streaming services; we can just ask TiVo to curate a list based on our individual wants. And when a movie is just on the tip of our tongue – we can remember every detail except its name – we can simply quote a line to TiVo and it should be able to show a result, or at least give us its best guess.

So when you're next looking to buy a TV, you might want to look out for models that offer the new TiVo OS; I know I will. It may be a relative newcomer, but it's already proving itself against the competition, and I'm excited to see what useful features Tivo will add to it in the future.

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