Okay, we'll be the first to admit it. The new Cisco Tuning Adapter isn't the most glamorous new product out there, but the STA1520 will certainly make TiVo owners quite happy. Kinda like how a fuzzy old bathrobe ain't exactly sexy, but it does serve a purpose.
The STA1520, along with a similar device from Motorola is a tuning adapter that's necessary if you want to record Switched Digital Video (SDV) on your TiVo. In fact, it's needed for most third-party cable boxes and DVRs. What exactly is SDV, and why should you care?
Cable operators have been struggling with trying to cram HD content into their current pipeline. SDV lets them preserve the quality of HD, while reducing the needed bandwidth. How? Simple. At any given time, they assume that there will be unwatched channels. Seriously, how many homes are tuned into C-SPAN at any one time? SDV is a kind of on-demand idea. A channel isn't sent out until someone wants to watch it. The cable company saves bandwidth because they're only sending out channels that people need. No need to supply every channel all the time if no one is watching.
Because the signal is different, the use of SDV had made many CableCard devices such as TiVo and some Digital Cable Ready TV's incompatible with SDV channels.
The new Tuning Adapters from Cisco and Motorola lets your TiVo work seamlessly with SDV. The switching time between channels isn't lightening fast, but it's still better than tossing out your TiVo. Sexy? No. Functional? You betcha. —Leslie Shapiro
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