Alternatives to TIVO?

What are you experience with TIVO’s competitors? I would like to get my mother something to record on for Christmas. It would need to have an HD tuner as well.

Have you anything good or bad to say about what is out there?

(I may end up buying a TIVO, I just like to explore all options.)

There’s always the option of the DVR through your cable operator. Of course, you have to pay for digital cable as well, so that may not be the best option if you just watch basic cable all the time. I had a Cox DVR when I lived in Louisiana, and now I have a TimeWarner one in Austin. The Cox DVR was infinitely better: easy to browse/search menus, more search options, the ability to restart a program when you turn on your TV, an automatic short rewind after you fast-forward (good when you’re going through ads), pleasant interface, etc. The TimeWarner one is getting better, but still has a lot of problems. It tends to randomly cut off programs or decide not to record them (though this happens much less than it used to). You can only use the alphabetical title search for one day at a time - and you have to scroll through everything with that first letter. With Cox, you can type in the title, and it searches through the entire week. (Plus, you can usually search by actor or theme.) My DVR also tends to randomly shut off and restart itself a couple of times a week. The interface is clunky and hard to work with. There is one nice advantage that TimeWarner recently introduced, though. It’s called “Start Over” - you can press a button that starts over your program, even if you just switched to that channel. It’s not available on all channels/programs yet, but it’s handy if I tune into The Daily Show a few minutes late or if I’m channel-surfing and hit an episode of Law and Order: Criminal Intent that I don’t recognize.

Anyway, I’d definitely recommend the Cox DVR if you get Cox cable service. From the limited experience I’ve had with TiVo, I’d say they’re roughly comprable. TiVo does have some more bells and whistles, though. TimeWarner is OK if that’s all you have. I don’t want to invest in buying a TiVo set right now, so it works for me. You could do better, though. A friend of mine went from having the Cox DVR to the DirectTV DVR and she also prefers Cox. I don’t know anything about Comcast or the other cable/satellite boxes.

No one else has anything? (Thanks Lisa for your response.)

I’ve wondered about this. You have to pay Tivo a monthly fee to get the programming info (and they disable the unit if you don’t pay.) Isn’t there some way to run a DVR without a monthly fee? I’d think in this day and age, it wouldn’t be hard for people to make the programming schedules available for free on the Internet. (Although it would probably be difficult to give as much detailed info as the Tivo does.)

Okay. I bought a DVR device, (at least I think it qualifies as that,) last year from the local tech-video store.

It works essentially more like a hard-drive-based VCR than a TIVO, but that’s sufficient for my needs. If I want to record a program, I punch in the date and time to record, and I seperately program my digital cable box to switch to the right channel at the appropriate time.

Once programs are recorded on the HD, they can get categorized, renamed, (though typing in names on the remote is a little frustrating,) and sections can get trimmed out of them. There’s also a DVD recorder, so if I want to save a few programs without having them take up space on the hard drive indefinitely that’s useful. The DVD will not record an incoming signal directly, only dub from the hard drive.

It’s made by LG, though I don’t remember the serial number. Good unit, I endorse them. Hope that helps.

I am basically looking for what chrisk described - a VCR that records to a hard drive with a High Def tuner.

I recently went from TIVO to Comcast DVR, and now I’m going back to TIVO again. I had a Series 2 TIVO and wanted to be able to record in HD, so I just got the rental DVR option from Comcast. I hate it! It looks great with the HD and all, but the user interface is just not as good. It’s difficult to find the shows I want to record, there are far fewer options for making the recording, and playback is more difficult to control.

I love my TIVO.

Sony had a couple models out, my sister has one and likes it other than not being able to watch one thing while recording another. She left me a message after I called her about it and I couldn’t quite make out the name but I think it is this model.

I do not know how much it was but I do know it was a very expensive wedding/housewarming gift from her MIL.

You can build one on Linux, if you are handy at such things. Look at MythTV.

Besides making one there currently is no other option besides Tivo and whatever your provider has. I’ve been looking for a couple of years now. I ended up buying an HP machine that died after a year or so. Worked ok for the most part but had no HD output so I had to install my own video card. When it died I tried to make my own. It worked ok except that now the damn fast forward still doesn’t work.

As someone who only uses an antenna I don’t want to pay the extra money to Tivo or anyone else. The Sony from above is supposed to be good, but there’s speculation that when the digital change happens in a few months that’s it for the scheduling and then it’s worthless.

I would have tried the MythTV, but if the Microsoft Media Player is any indication it would be a royal pain in the butt. Really how hard is it to have something that I say start at this time, stop at this time on this channel?

I’ve thought about something like this DVD recorder, it has a 160GB hard drive and ATSC (high def) tuner:

The biggest downside of that particular unit is the shows are only named with the time and date (and channel?) they were recorded. So instead of “Simpsons Season 8 Episode 1” you’ll get something like “Sunday, October 5, 2008 Channel 35.”

But other than that it looks good.

I will say I have a TivoHD and it is great. $12 a month isn’t bad. For that you get things like detailed program listings and descriptions and Season Passes that will record a show whenever it’s on, even if it switches nights. It really takes the “work” out of recording TV shows, you just set it and forget it. You can watch what you want when you want to.

Yeah, that’s what I like about Tivo - all the options, like being able to tell it to record “first run only”, or record anything with your favorite actor or actress in it. For the season passes, you can rank them so if there are any conflicts you can be sure it’s going to record the one you want. It also has a nifty feature that compensates for your reaction time when you fast forward. It jumps back just enough when you hit play that you start where you want to, and don’t miss the first few seconds due to your reaction time.

The problem with TIVO is the monthly fee. If I were buying for myself, that would be one thing, but Mom is on a limited income and if I buy her something with a monthly fee, my gift becomes a burden.

Well, you’re going to have a fee if you go with a provider’s DVR, as well, although probably only about half as much. I’m not sure about these other options; I imagine you’d have to get a cable card (or two) from your provider in order for them to work, which they may charge a fee for. If the DVR is not from Tivo or the provider, then you probably won’t be able to get program information, and will have to just go by time and date for the recordings. It seems like it would be a whole lot more complicated.

How about something like this:

It works with over-the-air HDTV, and gets its listings info from there, so no subscription needed.

EchoStar TR-50. I’ve had my eye on those since spring, but they’re not available yet and I’ve never seen a price. I think it’s changed names to something else too.

You can add lifetime service to any TiVo DVR for $399. Not particularly cheap, but this is the way my siblings and I went when we bought a TiVo for my parents.

I was under the impression that Tivo had discontinued that offer. If they brought it back that would be fantastic.

I have used the DirectTV DVR at my folks house and it is decent. It was really buggy when they first got it, but DirecTV seems to have done some upgrades since then, and now it works fairly well. It isn’t as good as TiVo, but really, nothing is.

On the other hand, I got a popup from DirectTV the other day saying that they were going to be partnering with TiVo again by the end of the year including HD service. That might be a good way to go.

Looks alive & well to me.

They did discontinue for a while though.