MythTV vs. TiVo

I’m hooked on TiVo. If you’ve never used one, I highly recommend it. Unfortunately, the company’s insistence on charging monthly for TV schedule information, means that I turned to other sources when I got an HDTV and wanted TiVo-like features.

Specifically I turned to MythTV (or MythTVHD if you prefer). Being a bit of a do-it-yourself geek, it made total sense. I have plenty of experience with Linux and open-source software. After buying the appropriate hardware, I put together the internals of a MythTV setup. It took some tweaking, but I got the entire system working with over-the-air HD recording last March. I had intended to build a custom case and wireless remote control setup over the summer, but then two things happened.

Zap2It labs cancelled free schedule service for hobbyists (including MythTV users). While I’m sure they had good reasons, but I decided to wait and see what was going to happen with schedule service for MythTV. Then a couple of weeks ago TiVo offered to sell me a brand new TiVoHD unit, and transfer the lifetime service from my old (standard-def) TiVo for a total cost of $498. I pretty much jumped on the offer.

So after 6 months with MythTV, I’m now using a brand spanking new TivoHD box. How do they compare?


  • supports playback of DVDs
  • can rip DVDs to the hard drive
  • unencrypted HD signals only
  • can detect and skip commercials
  • works with whatever size hard drive you install
  • scheduling now costs only $2/month


  • better user interface
  • two tuners built-in
  • supports encrypted HD via 2 cablecard slots
  • can fast-forward through commericals
  • can hack it to work with any hard drive
  • scheduling costs $5-$13/month
  • it just works

Truthfully, it’s that last bit that’s the clincher. It took me days to get the MythTV setup to where I wanted it, it took me no time at all to setup the TiVo. With lifetime schedule service from TiVo, the benefits of MythTV are minimal.

So I think I’m going to punk out, and dismantle my MythTV box. I suppose I could just turn it back into a gaming rig, but I don’t really need one of those anymore…

2 thoughts on “MythTV vs. TiVo

  1. Interesting comparison.

    I’ve got a DISH Network DishPVR (about two years old) and it works very well. The scheduling is theoretically free, as it uses Open PVR software… but in my case I think it comes with having a DISH subscription. My unit has no HD at all, but then I am too cheap to pay recurring fees for HD signals anyway. My only HD comes from the internet through my Macs and AppleTV.

    Erci and I went shopping for a new TV for her office and it is very difficult to buy a standard definition TV these days – so we may get an HDTV to play our SDTV signals from DISH and Comcast analog cable (again – I hate recurring fees).

  2. I certainly agree with you about the recurring fees (hence my aversion to buying a new TiVo before now). But aren’t DISH and Comcast already getting you monthly for SD content? Around here, HD content is becoming as cheap as SD content. And since I’m currently using over-the-air HD, it’s actually cheaper than cable.

    With the appropriate antenna, you might be able to bring in HD content. I know some people in rural areas are using Satellite dishes and pulling HD directly off unencrypted sat transmissions.

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