Amazon Unbox on my TiVo: Noobie usability with a not-so-noobie setup

I finally got around to downloading my first movie to my TiVo HD DVR using’s Unbox service. The service was a little tricky to set up given that I had to do some of the work on’s web site and some of the work using the TiVo interface. Although I stumbled my way through the setup process without too many issues, I do worry that noobies may have a little difficulty with the process.

The setup process

The setup process basically involves identifying your TiVo device, assigning a credit card to your account used to pay for the movies you download and choosing a five digit PIN that you must enter for verification every time you download a movie from Amazon Unbox to your TiVo. This is all done on’s web site. The other step, performed on the TiVo unit itself, is to enter your username and password.

Once all of the setup is complete, it is fairly easy (easy enough for a noobie) to find a movie, rent it and begin the download process. The only thing that bothered me the first time was that the movie I selected did not show up in my Now Playing List for quite a while. So long in fact that I went back and tried renting the movie again. Luckily, TiVo thought ahead of me on this and warned me that I had already rented the movie and stopped me from paying for it a second time.

To TiVo’s credit, I have since rented a second movie from Amazon Unbox and this time I paid a little more attention to the words on the screen that appear after you agree to the rental. It clearly states that the movie may take up to 30 minutes to appear in your TiVo’s Now Playing List. That’s a flaw inherent in most techies-we think we never need to read the words on the screen.

Be careful, your movies won’t last forever

One other things noobies should take note of. Movies downloaded from Amazon Unbox to your TiVo have some pretty strict (in my opinion) rules. The first is that you have to watch the movie within 30 days or it is automatically deleted from your TiVo. I’m OK with that one but the other rule that states once you start watching your downloaded movie you must complete the movie within 24 hours is a little over-the-top for me. I think they could at least give you a couple days to finish the movie. 24 hours is too short.

Overall, I am very happy with the Amazon Unbox service on my TiVo. I do hope, however, that Amazon soon starts providing high definition versions of its movies. Currently only standard definition movies are available. Apple now provides high definition movie downloads through their Apple TV service which takes Amazon Unbox down a couple notches on the coolness scale.