In my service call to TiVo, I figured out it will cost me about $60 all in all to get the exchange -- $49 to be paid to TiVo plus ~10 to ship my five-month-old broken TiVo unit back. So, I decided to check out alternative solutions before I say goodbye to the $60.
The (Attempted) Fight-Back
There are, actually, a number of alternative technologies around, but two of them do not fit into my case:
• Moving to Satellite: Satellite providers like Dish Network and DirecTV offers free DVR with one-year commitment. Satellite is not really an option for me, because my landline via Vonage is dependent on my cable-based broadband internet connection, and it will mean too much hassle if I trade Cable for a satellite/DSL cable. Plus, I already got a good deal from Comcast, and I don't like the one-year commitment.
• DVR from Cable Company: Yes, Comcast offers DVR for $10/month without the need to purchase the unit. Good enough, but I realized I need to drive to a remote location to pick up the unit -- it's 2 hours round trip, and my time is worth something.
The only meaningful option left seems to be ReplayTV, an independent DVR solution provide just like TiVo. And it works out financially as well: a 40-hour brand-new unit sells for $99 after $50 mail-in rebate, and a Google search of "replaytv coupon" landed me a 40% off coupon (code "SAVE40"). All in all, I only need to pay $48 ($98 upfront with tax minus $50 rebate).
I ordered ReplayTV on Tuesday, and the unit showed up on my doorstep on Thursday morning. Great!
But things only went downwards: later that night, I found out ReplayTV is no compare to TiVo. First, the package misses certain necessary cables and I have to reuse those from TiVo. In addition, the setup process requires lot of manual adjustments (while TiVo intelligently detected most configurations). The worst: the interface is just as dull as the 286 computer I used in high school, and the remote control design is just amateur. I admit I must be spoiled by TiVo's intuitive interface, but I really don't think I cannot live with ReplayTV. I decided to invoke the 30-day money back guarantee, bite the bullet and and stick to TiVo.
Taking a cue from my negotiation with Comcast, I gave TiVo another call, and intentionally brought the name of ReplayTV. As expected, someone at the other end of the phone cheerfully waived the $49 fee. (I think it is the right thing to do, considering my TiVo is only out of warranty by 2 months and in my case, it is really TiVo's defect.) So, what's on my part is only two shipping charges totalling $20.
Now I'm close to be a happy man again: a replacement TiVo is on my way and I will soon return to an ad-free zone :-) (I'm also glad TiVo went strike after the season finale of all my favorite shows, so I didn't miss much during the blackout.)
P.S. The next plan of attack: reduce my monthly TiVo subscription fee to $6.95.