TiVo unveiled the first working prototype of its upcoming CableCard-capable digital video recorder here at the Consumer Electronics Show.

The new Series3 HD DVR will be the first non-DirecTV TiVo to record HD, and the first ever with CableCard functionality, which lets it record and playback encrypted digital cable broadcasts.

The Series3 will include two tuners, combining NTSC, ATSC and QAM. That means that both SD and HD video can be recorded from over-the-air sources or via cable. By adding CableCard support, the Series3 will be able to record protected HD content from premium channels, including HBO HD, ESPN HD, and more.

The Series3 will support video encoded in MPEG2 format, along with WMV9, VC1 and AVC. It will include a 250GB hard drive, capable of recording about 250 hours of SD video, or 25 hours of high definition content — in either 720p or 1080i. It will not support 1080p, but it will include an option to playback in native format.

Native playback instructs the TiVo to send the video to the TV in the format it was recorded in—rather than converting 1080i to 720p, for example, if a 720p output has been configured as the default.

Unlike the latest Series II TiVos, it will not allow programs to be transferred from one TiVo to another in a home. That's due in part to technical issues, explained a TiVo representative, but mostly because of unresolved DRM issues. The box will support downloaded content from the internet, which lets users acquire HD and SD movies and other programs via a broadband connection.

The Series3 includes an SATA port on the back, which lets users add additional storage capacity without opening up the unit. TiVo's CES demo showed a 350 GB external serial ATA drive hooked up to the Series3, delivering a whopping 600GB of video storage. Although SATA Raid drives will not be supported, the single drive can be as large as technically feasible.

The back of the Series3 looks almost identical to the current HD TiVo sold via DirecTV, with the addition of the two CableCard slots and the SATA port. HDTVs can be connected either via HDMI or component video, while a single SVideo and composite connector supports older sets.

As with the current HD TiVo, only one port can be active at a time, which means that without a splitter the Series3 will only drive a single screen at a time, unlike the ability of the Series II to drive two screens through the dual composite connectors.

The familiar dog-bone remote has also been slightly redesigned for the Series3. The buttons are more flush with the remote's face, giving it a sleeker look, and the Thumbs UP and Down buttons have been de-emphasized.

On the back, a row of horizontal ridges at the bottom of the remote let you know when you're pointing it in the right direction. It's also two-tone, with a silver stripe running around the top face.

TiVo showed off a number of other new features in its meeting rooms as well. The company highlighted its integration with Intel's new Viiv platform, showing how content from a TiVo can be downloaded to and viewed on a PC — along with handheld media players including the Video iPod and Sony's PSP and media adapters.

TiVo also showed off its new TV scheduling feature with Yahoo, along with the ability to see photos, check traffic and weather, and play podcasts. The company also demonstrated its integration with Live365, which lets TiVo users playback music via the online radio service.

TiVo was less than forthcoming about ship dates and price, though. The Series3 should be available "midyear", and the company representatives categorized it as a "premium" product. The current DirecTiVo HD launched at $1,000, and can be found for around $600 today; the new TiVo Series3 will probably cost around the same.

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