Having a heck of a time finding a digital video recorder

I’m trying to replace my old VCR with a digital model, but I’m having a heck of a time finding one. From what I’ve seen, Tivo and the rest are hooked to some type of service. Can anybody recommend a standalone one that they know works for a fact? I just need one with one input and output, but also with a timer, like the “old” VCRs. It also needs to have a least a hard drive, for high storage capacity. I don’t necessarily need a tuner, remote control or to record disks.

Since I’m not looking for HD, does anybody know if I can use one of those used in security systems?

There used to be quite a few DVD recorders with hard drives, but for some reason, very few of them, if any, are made anymore. Tivo and Cable company DVRs have made them obsolete I think. I have a couple from Panasonic but they are like 8 and 9 years old. I don’t think you are going to have any luck finding new ones with hard drives. There are models out there I believe that allow you to save to a DVD as well as a VHS tape, but don’t have hard drives. CNET has some reviews of DVRs: http://reviews.cnet.com/dvrs/

I have heard of people creating their own DVR functionality with their computers. You might want to look into that if you are handy.

You may have to bite the bullet and get a DVR with service.

This is exactly what you are looking for:
Magnavox 500GB HDD and DVD Recorder with Digital Tuner

It does include a DVD recorder, but you don’t have to use the DVD recorder part if you don’t want to. It includes a digital tuner that will tune all over-the-air broadcasts, analog cable, and digital unencrypted (QAM) cable.

There is a model with a smaller disk, but I would recommend spending a few exta bucks for the larger disk:
Magnavox 320GB HDD and DVD Recorder with Digital Tuner

This device gets rave reviews over at avsforums. I don’t personally own one (I have Tivo), but a close friend owns an earlier model (with a smaller disk) and it works great.

All you have to do is add a tuner card to your PC. Windows Media Center (included in Windows 7) does all the rest.

It’s quite telling that the product is billed as the only one of its kind in North America. When I was looking for an eventual replacement upgrade for my Panasonic DVD recorders a few years back, I read that most companies making DVD Recorders have gotten out of making them for the US market, apparently because most people are fine with DVRs that just save to the hard drive and don’t have the capability to saving to DVDs. For the most part, I’m fine with it too (especially since my favorite soap opera got canceled a year ago), but there are still times I want to save something permanently.

Just to add, that Magnavox unit cannot take a cablecard as far as I can tell, so it wouldn’t be useful to me as a stand-alone unit. I would have to hook it to one of my Tivos to occasionally save something to DVD. It doesn’t seem worth it to me.

LuckyDe, it would be helpful if you could expand on what you need. You say you don’t need a tuner, but most all old VCRs used a tuner along with a timer to change the channel to record your desired show at the proper time. You would have to program both the time and channel to record your preferred show. So why is it that you don’t need a tuner? If you don’t need a tuner, you should probably be looking for a “capture” device and not a DVR at all.

You mention one input and one output. What is your desired input (what source to record from) and what output (what device will display or playback your recording)? Most old VCRs used analog input and output over 75 ohm F-Type connectors (standard analog CATV). But there are hardly any analog sources anymore. And most display and playback devices are able to handle digital inputs.

The security DVRs might work, depending on your need, but not likely. They generally don’t record in “TV quality” video, but generally use lower resolution and frame rates than even standard definition TV. And they almost exclusively use cameras as sources with BNC connectors. Output is usually either BNC or VGA, which may not suit your needs either.

For general TV use (analog cable, digital cable, or digital broadcast TV), I think Fear Itself has identified the best “no monthly service fee” solution - a Windows 7 Media Center solution. A cheap tuner card for analog cable or ATSC high definition broadcast TV is about all you would need beyond the PC itself. There are even cable card tuners for the PC that enable the recording of up to four HD streams at once, including premium channels.

But without a better understanding of what you want to accomplish, it is difficult to make any more specific recommendations.

the Magnavox units are quality units.

As for AZCowboy’s question to me:

What I need is a device that will record and playback an analog TV signal, as a VCR would. The only difference is that I have a digital-to-analog tuner already that is connected to a VCR and TV already.

Of course, this device needs a timer to start and stop recording at predetermined times. I realize that it also needs a way to keep some type of archiving scheme, in the same manner as a computer keeps track of files, so a user can choose what to play back, etc. Also, since we’re at it, I prefer something with a large storage capacity, and as far as I can tell, the only device these days that can do that is a digital one with a hard drive.

If there is no security DVR that can handle analog TV quality video and have a timer to turn it on and off, archiving, etc., then I would not have a use for it. Price-wise, a brand new recorder of this type would not be an advantage, but I’ve seen some used ones dirt cheap, just for tinkering with. I haven’t had a definitive answer on the feasibility of this approach yet.

I can handle setting up a dedicated computer for this purpose, but I think an existing device would be much more practical, and from what I’ve seen in the suggestions here, also more economical.

You can get a used TiVo Series 2 with lifetime subscription off eBay for not much money.

For your purpose, you might not need the programming service itself, but you would need the subscription service to keep it activated.

You can also get new TiVo Series 2’s for really cheap. Subscribe for a month ($12.95) to activate it. Pull its Internet connection and then cancel the subscription. It will continue to work as a dumb DVR forever. (But it will nag to connect from time to time and its clock will drift.)

(I have an old Series2 dual tuner that is no longer subscribed and I still use it as a secondary DVR. The big issue is that the IR cable box control only works the RCA/composite input “tuner”. I have a digital-analog converter from the cable company but it only has coax/RF out.)

BTW: Yeah, more CableCARD ready devices are becoming available. Hauppage has a dual-tuner external box with USB output. Requires Windows7 Media Center. Presumably all of these enforce HDCP (HDMI copy protection), etc., so what programs can be recorded off cable may be limited.

Boy, ftg, that sounds attractive to a cheapskate tinkerer like me. I live about 15 minutes from a Frys. Questions: Is the Tivo subscription plan one of those “get the first month free, sign up for a year” deal, or is it month to month? And, does the nag show up on recorded material? Also, can the clock be reset?

Walmart has sure messed up the presentation on the webpage of those products.

they both also tune analog tv signals.

That is unbelievable. How can they do that? I understand the razor/blades concept, but it seems like even a tiny percentage of people doing the one-month activation thing would make it impossible for them to make a profit.

I checked with Frys in my area within 100 miles–5 or 6 of them. Not available anymore.

I found the Magnavox brochure for the MDR535H/F7

One weird thing. Why does it say Maximum of 36 programs a Month? :confused: :confused: :confused:

Is that some sort of copyright limit? A VCR didn’t care how many programs you recorded.


I see it has S video in/out. My direcTV box has rca jacks. I’d have to convert from rca to s video. Is that an issue?

I don’t see USB or any jack to connect to a computer. It would be nice to pull the programs off without burning to dvd first.

It’s just awkwardly phrased.
You can program up to 36 timer events.
An “event” can be a single recording on a single day like “8 to 9 pm on July 16 on channel 7.1.”
Or it can be a repeating recording like “8 to 9 pm every Thursday on channel 7.1.”
The single-day events can be set up to a month in advance.

There is no limit to the number of programs you can record in a month. There is just a limit on the number of timers you can have active at one time. As soon as a single-day event gets recorded, it gets deleted from the timer list and you can replace it with another event. Plus you can start as many manual recordings as you want.

Also a single event such as “record every day from noon to 1” can cause 28 to 31 programs per month to be recorded.
You could load up your list with up to 36 events that each say record something every day and you could have a thousand programs scheduled to record in a given month.

Record as many as you like until you run out of room. Most VCRs also have a limit on the number of timers you can program at any one time.

It also has RCA (composite) in/out. If you look at the picture of the back of the unit, you’ll see the RCA input jacks (yellow, white, red) in the column just to the left of the S-video input jack. You can use either the S-video or the RCA (composite) video input – your choice. No conversion necessary. There is also a second set of RCA input jacks under a flap on the front of the unit.

There are also RCA (composite and component) output jacks. The composite output is two columns to the left of the S-video output. Again, no conversion needed.

Correct. You can burn a DVD-R/W disc so that you can re-use the disc.

Here is the full manual.

Series 2 Tivos haven’t been manufactured for years now. Fry’s is just dumping its unsold inventory.

Ah, timer events. Ok, I can see why that’s limited. I would never have that many shows programmed to record anyway.

With DirecTV, I’ll probably have to program both the box and the dvd recorder. I have to tell the direcTV box which channel to tune and the time. Then set the dvd recorder for the correct time to record.

I’m ordering one of these Magnavox recorders from Walmart tomorrow.

Yes, that’s true.

Just a few tips: Even though it’s possible, don’t record directly to a DVD. Record to the Magnavox unit’s hard drive and later use the dubbing function to transfer the recording to a DVD (if you like). That way, if you have a flakey DVD, you don’t lose your recording: you can just put in a new DVD and try again.

The Magnavox unit also has a very easy-to-use editing function for programs stored on its hard drive. You can split programs in two and you can edit out unneeded chunks of programs. So, for example, if you wanted to record two different programs that played from 1:00 to 2:00 and 3:00 to 4:00, you could just tell the Magnavox to record from 1:00 to 4:00 and then (after the recording is complete) split the program in two and edit out the unneeded chunk between 2:00 and 3:00.

The Channel Master CM7400 will record over-the-air digital TV. It has software issues (the unit hangs for several minutes occasionally). It has two tuners which means that it can record two different shows at the same time.

When I looked into the Magnavox two years ago, it would not record hi-def programs, which is why I chose the CM7400 to replace my SONY HDD250. Does the Magnavox now record high-def television over-the-air?