New TiVo Bolt Seems Like a Binge-Watcher's Dream

Love watching TV shows without commercials? Then you might be interested in the new TiVo Bolt, an all-in-one DVR with a mode that lets you zip through advertisements with the press of a single button.

In fact, the new player seems to be all about speed. Not only does it rocket you through commercials—one at a time or an entire block—using SkipMode, it also has an innovative QuickMode, which the company claims wisks you through recorded shows up to 30 percent faster without causing any audio sync issues. Imagine watching a replay of the Academy Awards, for example, in less than three hours—all without missing a word.

Like other TiVo models, the distinctively angled Bolt box offers multiple sources of content—cable, video on demand, over-the air (via an antenna) broadcasts, and streaming—with universal search capability. It can also record up to four shows at once. And its HDMI 2.0 output makes this the first TiVo to support 4K video content.

The SkipMode ad feature frees you from repeatedly hitting a 30-second skip button or futilely trying to pull your finger off the fast-forward button precisely at commercial's end. For now, though, it's somewhat limited. It only works with recorded programs from specific providers—TiVo says that includes the top 20 most-watched networks—and (unlike QuickMode) it's not offered at all on sports programs. To see if a show is skip-enabled, look in your My Shows folder, where titles will be listed with skip icons beside them.

The TiVo Bolt will start appearing in stores October 4th. It's already available online at TiVo, Amazon, and Best Buy. It comes in two flavors: The 500GB hard drive model costs $300 and the 1TB version is priced at $400. Both include one year of TiVo service, which currently costs $150.

TiVo says it will offer a few updates this fall, including the ability to create a personalized "what to watch" screen based on your hobbies and interests, and a social sharing feature that provides links so your friends can watch the same show as you.

The TiVo Bolt replaces the basic TiVo Roamio model in the company's lineup, but the other Roamio models will still be offered.

The pursuit of commercial-free TV is nothing new, of course. More than two decades ago a company called Arista introduced a product called Commercial Brake that let you skip past ads on your VCR, and more recently the AutoHop feature on Dish's Hopper DVR offered auto ad-skipping on some recorded shows. We can't say for sure if this new one is a step forward until we've actually tested the TiVo Bolt.

In comparison to the Roamio DVRs, however, the Bolt has a faster processor, improved Wi-Fi (it supports 802.11AC), and more memory, so we imagine it will operate more quickly. If you decide to get a TiVo Bolt, let us know what you think of it, and how well the commercial skip feature works.

Copyright © 2005-2015 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. No reproduction, in whole or in part, without written permission. Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this site.