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TiVo Bolt vs. TiVo Roamio OTA

Readers of the blog know that I recommend the TiVo Roamio OTA when it comes to purchasing an OTA DVR. A few commenters have questioned why I do not recommend the TiVo Bolt. It has better tech specs than the Roamio OTA.

To that point I agree. However, the Bolt costs more than double the Roamio OTA if you were to purchase the lifetime guide. As a cord cutter looking to record broadcast TV only, I really don’t see the value.

Difference Between Bolt and Roamio OTA

Below is a list of major differences between these devices as listed in my OTA DVR guide.

  • The Cost of TiVo Bolt with a Lifetime Guide subscription costs $849, TiVo Roamio OTA comes with a lifetime subscription and cost $399.
  • The Bolt has 4K video streaming, where the Roamio supports 1080p
  • The Bolt has a slightly faster processor and a bit more RAM
  • The Bolt has MoCA built in, so it will work as a cable box. (useless for cord cutters)
  • The Bolt supports 802.11ac for WiFi where the Roamio tops out at 802.11n.
  • TiVo Stream is built into the Bolt allowing you to stream to iOS and Android devices. The Roamio requires the purchase of TiVo Stream device for that capability.
  • The Bolt has GB Ethernet, where the Roamio offers 100 MB Ethernet.

So let me start by breaking down which of these differences matter and which do not. First, as I already mentioned, the price is a massive point in the Roamio OTAs favor.

Before I get into the next point I want to point out, that majority of those looking to cut the cord either already have a streaming device or are strongly considering one. I would only recommend using TiVo as a streaming device if you are trying to save money. Those folks are concerned with price, which Roamio OTA wins out on anyway.

TiVo makes DVRs, they are not known for their streaming devices. I’d stick with Roku, Apple and Amazon when it comes to OTT streaming. With that in mind, and considering broadcast TV isn’t in 4K video, the Bolts 4K streaming ability is rendered useless for most cord cutters.

The tech specs win out for the Bolt. However, when comparing it with the Roamio, much of its technical specification advantage is extraneous. The faster processor and RAM only benefit the streaming app performance and it’s hardly a noticeable improvement.

The 802.11ac Wi-Fi is a nice addition. However, while 802.11ac is about 3-4 times faster than 802.11n in practical situations within 20 feet of an optimally placed router, 802.11n has a longer range. So while this is a legitimate perk, its benefit is situational. However, note that extending TiVo to multiple TVs using a TiVo mini requires an Ethernet connection.

If you want to stream to iOS and Android device, the Bolt does that natively. However, the Roamio OTA can accomplish this with the purchase of $130 TiVo Stream. At that point, there is still over $300 separating the two devices.

The 1000 Mbps Ethernet support it nice, but 100 Mbps Ethernet is more than enough speed for the DVR functionality. For example, to stream a 1080p HD feed without buffering you only need about 5 Mbps to stream without any buffering.  1000 Mbps is just overkill.

Which is Better

From a strictly cord cutter viewpoint, the TiVo Roamio OTA is clearly a better value than the TiVo bolt. It packs all the functionality you need to DVR broadcast TV and a much better price point.  I’d only purchase the Bolt if you were in one of the two following situations.

  1. You were possibly going back to cable TV at some point, since it can work as a cable box.
  2. Money is of no concern to you.

Everyone else should go with the TiVo Roamio. For information on everything you need to know about purchasing a DVR check out my guide on the best OTA DVRs

If you want to check out the specials on either device you can check them out on Amazon through the links below.

TiVo Roamio on Amazon

Tivo Bolt on Amazon

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Categories: Media Storage
Dennis Restauro :Dennis is the founder of Grounded Reason. He also hosts the Grounded Reason Podcast. Follow him on Twitter: Follow Dennis on Twitter

View Comments (52)

  • If I purchase a TiVo Mini for a second tv in my house do I also need to purchase TiVo Stream?

    • An important detail is that the Stream will only 'stream' within your wifi network to phones/tablets. If you are outside of your wifi network, it will only let you download your recordings before you can watch them on your mobile device. No streaming of live TV outside of your house. 'Stream' is really only accurately named if you never leave your house. This was kind of a bummer for me. But I don't blame Tivo, they can't guarantee your signal quality, but for sure they would get blamed for low quality video streams.

    • Hi Frank,

      No, you would only need a Mini for the second TV. The Stream is purely for mobile devices.

  • Welps, I know someone will criticize this "advantage" of the Roamio OTA, but here goes anyway!

    The "Bolt" is just plain UGLY (It looks like someone heated the darn thing up and BENT it);
    whilst my Roamio is a BEAUTIFUL machine, sleek and lovely!!!

  • Does the Roamio do the unified program list? If not, then the Bolt is worth it to me just for simplicity sake.

  • One additional reason to not buy the BOLT WHITE OTA (for me)-all my AV furniture and equipment is BLACK and the White Bolt would stick out like a sore thumb ! What were they thinking !!!

    • I've owned Tivos for more than a decade now and hate the white box. I use my Tivo for antenna and cable and would get the Bolt +, but they dropped the OTA tuning from it. F'kn crazy! I guess I'll just wait for a future generation of devices.

  • If I get a Tivo for my upstairs TV, but want to watch something I've recorded on it downstairs, would I need the Tivo Mini connected to my downstairs TV? How do the 2 Tivo's talk to each other?

    • The mini doesn't need to be hard wired to your router. It works fine and communicates wirelessly to the roamio.

      • Unless there is a new Mini, then I don't think that is accurate. You need an ethernet or MoCa connection from the Mini to the TiVo DRV.

    • C.R., if you use a power over ethernet adapter, you won't need to run cables throughout your house.

    • Thanks CR for that! I had assumed that the Mini was wireless. That makes it useless to me as well.

    • Beware. The mini must be hard wired to your router. It does not communicate wirelessly with the TiVo. Found this out the hard way. Makes it completely inconvenient and useless to me and probably most people. Only helpful if your router and the TV you wish to connect your Mini to are in the same room.

  • Can you stream from either the Bolt or Roameo to a second wi-fi equipped TV like you can a laptop, tablet or phone?

    Do the Minis require a separate monthly or lifetime subscription to operate?

    • There is no added costs for the mini. The TiVo stream will let you extend your TiVo OTA to mobile devices like phones and tablets. That functionality is included with the Bolt.

  • We have limited cable service (most basic TV channels). Can we used the TiVo Roamio to record these shows?

  • Your comment that Tivo doesn't make streaming devices is ludicrous. Thats all it really is! The absolute best feature is its ability to connect to multiple content providers and have a common interface to search and record from. I appreciate your dedication to 'cutting the cord' but do a disservice by sayng that a roku/firestick/etc does a better job streaming.

    • Scott, I think you misread. I wrote TiVo isn't "Known for their streaming devices." Which is true. Ask 100 people what TiVo does and they will almost all tell you they make DVRs. While TiVo has a few apps it only supports only a handful of apps cord cutters care about like Hulu, Netflix, Amazon. Roku and Firestick supports any app you could want. I love the common interface, but the streaming is limited if you watch things like crackle, ConTV, Curiosity stream, or tons of other free\cheap streaming. You'll almost always want a streaming devices if you're into that sort of programming. That said, I have said TiVo is one of easiest ways to cut the cord.

  • Thank you very much for this blog post. No card cutter here but much of what you cover applies to Roamio line vs Bolt.

    Had tough decision black Friday/cyber Monday between refurb/renewed Roamio Pro 3TB vs refurb/renewed Bolt, both were $500 w/lifetime. Would've done the slightly risky/unsupported 2TB Bolt internal upgrade myself for an extra $75 or so.

    Main concerns were platform robustness/maturity & app speed difference, read of Bolt heat & possible increased failure reports vs nice big black box Pro. And didn't fancy doing surgery to the Bolt, esp. inserting a non-A/V rated 2TB drive & have had issues in past w/external drives.

    Went Pro but app speed is an issue. Your "The Bolt has a slightly faster processor and a bit more RAM" seems echoed about, that speed diff is not that great. Guess a new Roku or something will "solve" that if the app speed thing gets to me:)

    • I prefer a Roku. TiVo makes great DVRs but are really only adequate for streaming if you haven't experiences a true streaming device.

  • I want to do away with cable. I already own a lifetime subscription to Tivo from 2005, that they say I can transfer to a new device. I also have a Roku stick. I plan on getting broadcast tv with an antenna, but want to record with a dvr. Which Tivo dvr would you suggest for me?

  • great info.. I am trying a tablo now.. and for the most part it works well. My biggest complaint is that it does not do 1080i transcoding well.. there are some "framerate" issues where 1080i content looks very "jerky" - not sure if its a deal breaker yet or not. But.. the fact that it is truly whole house running on a roku makes up for it. I wish there was another option besides the HDhomerun / plex dvr option..

    • What is the signal source of your HD channels? Are they broadcast at 1080P?

  • Hello,

    I have the Roamio OTA with a 3TB HDD. That really seems to be plenty of space. The DVR is really, really, really working well. The DVR is better than Uverse, TWC, Verizon and Dish. I find it on par with DirecTivo (no surprise). Just better overall, except I kinda miss the auto-skip of Dish. However, what's bumming me out is the need for the stream to use my house full of tablets to watch my shows. I was considering getting the small Bolt and adding it to my Roamio OTA. But, I'm curious will the Bolt's builtin streaming allow me to stream all my shows? Do the different generation head units have the ability to swap shows between them so they can be streamed from the Bolt? In other words, would adding a Bolt kill two birds with one stone (adding a second TV as well as streaming)?

    Thanks!

    • I've never tried that, but I don't think so since the heads are the brains of the system. I'd call support and see what they say. Let us know.

  • Tivo Bolt has:
    Netflix,Amazon Video, HBO Go, XFinity VOD, Hulu, Youtube, MLB TV, Plex, VUDU, HSN, Veto, ALT Channel, FlixFling, WWE Network, Yahoo, YuppTV,

    Roku certainly can do “more” and Kodi is a nice to have (but you can stream to Tivo with pyTivo).

    A chromecast 1080p is $35 and chromecast ultra 4k/2160p is $70.

    Tivo+Chromecast Ultra sets a good starting point

    4k is astonishing - even with unconverted content, anything 720+ looks great.

  • I just got off the chat with the Tivo customer service. Here's what he said when I asked about the subscription. Roamio does not come with it he said.
    "We apologize for the misinformation, the TiVo subscription does not come with the Roamio, you'll have to purchase it separately like the TiVo BOLT.
    You may want to contact our Sales Support Team so that we can assist you further. You can reach them at 877-289-8486 or 877-BUY-TIVO
    Monday - Friday, 7am-6pm PT
    Saturday - Sunday, 8am-5pm PT "
    "We currently do not have a direct link to the subscription prices. However, the prices goes as follows: monthly at $14.99/month, annual at $149.99/year and the lifetime service at $549.99."

    • That is incorrect. You can buy the Roamio OTA with the "All-in" Lifetime Subscription for $399.99. It's both on Amazon and their website.

    • The Amazon link in the article takes you to the Tivo Roamio OTA with All-in subscription for $399.99

  • Does the Roamio support DLNA servers, like Mezzmo or Plex? I've gotten a lot of mixed answers.

    • They don't support DLNA. I think there are some apps that simulate some DLNA functions, but it's not true DLNA.

  • For the know...
    As of June or July 2017 TiVo is supposed to comply with FCC over DLNA. I am hoping TiVo will not fight it again, and just add the support. Right now, Plex is your only true option. And it sucks that if your Internet is down (happens), that you loose all ability to view your (home pc library), because Plex is all Internet-Driven.. aka.. Stream to Plex to Stream back to TiVo. DLNA would make that a mute point.

    I love my Roameo OTA + Mini setup. Oh BTW... If you have a family, an Xbox One with $60 a year gold membership does great streaming (and benefit of games).

  • Thank you for this review / comparison. I just bought and received a Roamio OTA and was kicking myself saying why did I not get the bolt... the price (absent the $500+ lifetime plan) was the same. (I got the Roamio OTA for $299!). However, I realized as you point out the huge price difference, and your comparison makes it clear that for strictly OTA usage this is the way to go....

  • I'm ready to ditch DirecTV, the Tivo Roamio appears to be a great choice. I have a HD antenna in my attic, GB fiber internet, house is Cat5e wired everywhere. How do you add a Roku (or similar) device to the Tivo? I have one older but excellent plasma without any HDMI ports.

    • I would recommend getting an HDMI capable TV, but there is a Roku with AV cable connections.

  • Thank you for this article pointing out comparisons. I am a cord cutter but still use an older TiVo model and was considering upgrading to either a Bolt or Roamio OTA. Here is my question: TiVo is currently offering me the ability to transfer their lifetime service to a new Bolt for 'only' $99 which would then make the cost of either a new Roamio OTA 1TB or a new Bolt 1TB virtually the same cost (if I'm understanding correctly). Therefore, my question is: Would this circumstance sway your advice to purchasing the Bolt over the Roamio?

    • Yes. My issue with the Bolt is it's price. If you can get it for the same price as the Roamio, then go with the Bolt.

  • I plan on purchasing a used Tivo Bolt for OTA and streaming services. You mentioned above that MoCA is useless for cord cutters......but I plan on establishing a MoCA network to support other TV's throughout the house (via Tivo Minis). Please advise