Katherine Boehret

New TiVo Remote Tackles Clunky Text-Entry

TiVo owners are a proud bunch. Give them a few minutes to tell you why they adore their digital video recorder, and they might get googly-eyed talking about their favorite WishList that auto-records every George Clooney appearance on TV. Or they’ll wax on about a time when TiVo made the perfect suggestion of a new show to record, or the way its trademark bubble popping sound effects make them smile after a long day at work.

What they won’t tell you are the things that drive them crazy about TiVo. Chief among them is the arcane text-entry system, which requires hitting directional arrows to move a cursor around a screen of letters and numbers, selecting one and then repeating again and again to spell out an entire word. Letter by letter, this hunt-and-peck process is enough to leave users yearning for a real keyboard.

This week, TiVo Inc. (TIVO) solved that problem with the $90 Slide, which the company says is the first remote control with a slide-out QWERTY keyboard. The Slide is shorter than normal TiVo remotes and is a bit chunkier for housing the slide-out keyboard. But it’s a pleasure to use and takes away the particularly painful process of typing text on a TiVo screen.

It’s currently available at TiVo.com and will be in Best Buy Co. (BBY) stores starting this weekend.

The Slide works with TiVo Premiere and Premiere XL, TiVo Series 3, TiVo HD and TiVo HD XL models, but it doesn’t come with any of these devices in place of the regular TiVo remote; rather, it’s a stand-alone accessory.

Until now, the next most expensive TiVo remote was the $50 TiVo Glo, so named because of its backlit buttons. The Slide remote also has buttons that glow in the dark, but its real selling point is its slide-out keyboard.

I tested the Slide with a TiVo Series 3 and found that its keyboard greatly eased the process of entering text in TiVo apps, as well as services like YouTube, Amazon Video on Demand, Netflix, TiVo search, WishList and Season Pass Manager. It even comes in handy when programming the remote: Rather than scrolling through hundreds of alphabetized TV models, I typed P-I-O and instantly jumped to Pioneer.

Unfortunately, this same trick doesn’t apply to other spots in TiVo. For example, I opened my Now Playing list and wanted to jump right to “Mad Men” by typing “M-A-D M-E-N.” Nothing happened. This list of recorded shows stays put and isn’t searchable by using the Slide remote’s full keyboard. A representative from TiVo said that the company is aware of the other opportunities to use the Slide QWERTY, such as for shortcuts like the one I tried, and that it is working on upgrades.

Instead of using infrared, the Slide communicates with a TiVo using Bluetooth technology. I was told by a TiVo representative that infrared isn’t reliable enough for sending text entries to the TiVo box, and that Bluetooth is a stronger, more reliable technology for this QWERTY remote. Another reason the Slide uses Bluetooth is that infrared needs a direct line of sight, and using the Slide’s QWERTY keyboard requires turning the remote sideways before sliding the keyboard out, meaning that the infrared blaster doesn’t face the TiVo when used.


TiVo’s new $90 Slide remote control has a keyboard that slides out from under the device when it’s rotated horizontally.

I plugged the remote’s included Bluetooth receiver into one of the TiVo’s USB ports, and my Slide remote instantly paired with the TiVo. Though many buttons worked automatically, including the TiVo, playback and channel buttons, other functions had to be programmed, including power, input, volume and mute. So I followed simple instructions to enter the correct four-digit code for the Pioneer Elite I was using, and seconds later, my Slide remote was fully functional with the TV and TiVo.

A symbol button on the Slide’s QWERTY keyboard can be held down to type the second function of each key, like hitting Alt on a BlackBerry. Other helpful keys include a back arrow that deletes letters and a clear button that erases text in the entry box. Without the Slide, users would have to slowly navigate to a delete icon on the screen and select it for each letter you wanted to erase.

Along with its full keyboard, the Slide also has a number panel on its far right side. Its left side offers a set of four directional arrows built around a select button, and I used these to navigate through TiVo screens.

If you tire of the Slide’s glow-in-the-dark buttons, hold the TiVo and thumbs down buttons together for five seconds to turn this feature off; holding TiVo and thumbs up turns it on again.

If you dread using your TiVo for text-entry searches and you’d like a better way of doing so, the Slide remote—while pricey—will save you from struggling with the old text-entry style. But it’s a shame that TiVo Inc. hasn’t yet created more smart shortcuts for this slide-out keyboard.

Write to Katherine Boehret at mossbergsolution@wsj.com

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