Help me choose a DVR

OK, so my VCR finally ground to a halt. I figure this is a good time to join the 21st century and get digital cable and a DVR. I could go with whatever Comcast (NJ) is offering, or get a TiVo or similar.

I’m also open to satellite instead of digital cable.

Please share your experiences and help me make a decision.


Rats. I’m not going to be much help. I thought you said TVR, and I was going to recommend the Tuscan:

My recommendation - don’t buy a DVR. Ours worked fine until it was out of warranty, and now it doesn’t record half of the things we want to record each week (we get a message that says, “Record signal blocked”). Other people in Calgary aren’t getting the same signal, so for whatever reason, our DVR is either getting it and not able to deal with it or creating it. Either way, we’re not able to use it for what we bought it for, and I’m not impressed. I could have saved hundreds of dollars and just bought another VCR.

If you can rent some form of DVR, maybe you should try that first.

I’m giving this a bump as I’d like to hear more opinions as well.

We have both a Tivo and the DVR that comes with Time Warner cable. The Tivo is incalculably easier to use, more accurate, and does a better job of suggestions. It also pulls waaay more data about future shows (we’ve had trouble scheduling shows as little as 10 days in the future on the TW DVR).

I have never, ever had the problem featherlou describes with the Tivo in the 2 states where we’ve used it, or with the current DVR. We’ve had the Tivo since 2003.

I have the DVR that’s provided by Comcast (my cable provider), mostly because it’s very convenient to record stuff from the programming guide. The alternative is a TIVO box. From everything I’ve heard, it has the best interface, but I would need to buy the box outright, pay $13/month to TIVO and get CableCards if I want to eliminate the cable box entirely and getting the CableCards to work is a long process involving multiple visits from the cable company technicians.

But I’m semi-seriously considering getting the TIVO box because the Comcast box is so buggy.

I have had a TiVo since ~2000 and honestly don’t know how I could live without it. The only down side is the 13 bucks a month. I think it’s so worth it.

My parents have the cable company-provided DVR and they hate it. Apparently it doesn’t know when a show is going to be an hour and fifteen minutes, say, instead of the usual hour. TiVo automatically does all that for you. I highly recommend it.

I have FIOS (in NJ). I have their DVR and I like it just fine. It is not quite as good as TIVO, but it works for me (the interface has gotten much better since I started about a year and a half ago). My suggestion is to get the cable DVR on an approval basis & use it for a month. See how much more a TIVO will cost and go from there.

I fucking love my TiVo. It’s a snap to use, the installation was pretty easy, I’ve never had any “blocked signals,” and you can easily program it to record a margin of time before and after a show airs so nothing gets cut off. And if you’re recording a show that’s airing live (like football or the Emmys), it will automatically prompt you to tack on an extra half-hour or more (your choice) in case it runs over time. Searching for programs and creating a wishlist for things you can’t find are also a piece of cake.

I’ve never had another kind of DVR so I can’t speak to comparisons, but TiVo is awesome.

(However, I could have sworn that I got my basic-model TiVo box for free ~2 years ago. I see on their website that they charge $149.99 for it now. Is this a recent change, or am I misremembering?)

Used to have a Tivo, then went to Comcast’s HD DVR, now have DirecTV’s HD DVR.

My opinion is that Tivos are both very good and extremely overrated. People tend to get a bit evangelistic about them. It’s a nice system, but they are ridiculously expensive compared to the rental DVRs from your cable provider, and, at least last I checked, they were lagging in features. This may have changed. The interface is nice, though.

The DirecTV DVR I have now is just as good as my Tivo, in my opinion. And of course, it was much, much cheaper. It’s a little different, but if you told me to choose between the DirecTV DVR and the Tivo, I’d probably just flip a coin. No difference in reliability, functionality, or ease of use.

I wasn’t crazy about the Comcast DVR. It wasn’t bad, but it sure wasn’t great. That said, there’s no way I could justify plunking down $300 up front and $13 a month for Tivo instead of $10 a month and no upfront cost for the Comcast DVR. It was a step down, but it wasn’t that big a step down.

Coming from a VCR, any of them will be a huge step up in functionality and ease of use.

I’ve had my series 2 Tivo since they first came out. Not to get all evangelical on you, but I absolutely love it! I had the Comcast one for about 3 months, and hated it. Tivo is hands down better than what Comcast offers. I purchased the lifetime subscription with my Tivo, so I pay no monthly fee.

Tivo is easier to use than anything I’ve ever owned to record TV programming, and you can’t beat being able to schedule recordings remotely. Other than the stupid ad links they now place when you have your programs grouped (another neat feature), I like the automatic updates, like the recently expanded search function. I also like the very useful thumbs up / thumbs down utility, and the on-screen guide, since Comcast in my area doesn’t have a programming guide channel, and the ability to record an upcoming program just by clicking on it from within the guide. And Season Pass has totally spoiled me.

I shut off Suggestions because it became a little annoying to constantly have to delete programs I didn’t want recorded in the first place.

I haven’t had a lick of trouble with my Tivo in the years Ive owned it. It just works.

I got a message from DirecTV the other day that they will be switching back to using TiVo as their DVR providor sometime next year (they were more specific than that, but I can’t remember the date they gave). So, if you have DirecTV…

Anyway, I love TiVo. I have used both Time Warner and DirecTV DVRs and don’t think either work as well as TiVo.

I wish they would make a dvr you don’t have to buy a service with.

I’m capable of programing my own channels and times thankyouverymuch.

That’s what I have, SHAKES - it’s an LG DRV, bought from Futureshop or some such big box store. We bought it a year ago, and a year later, as soon as the warranty has expired, it’s not working right (I still don’t know if it’s my DRV or the stations that are the cause of my lack of being able to record about five different shows). Maybe if you got a Sony or something you’d have better luck.

A TV card for your PC and Windows Media Center, and you don’t even have to give up the guide and auto-programming. Also much easier to increase your drive space.

More info on TV cards for the PC. All I originally wanted was to record TV shows just like my old VCR, and occasionally put one on a DVD so’s I could watch it on a regular DVD player. Doesn’t seem like much to ask. I’ve tried three different TV cards so far and the common thread is that they all required a LOT of twiddling and it never ends.

They are all USB connected with a choice of RF antenna input, RCA composite, or Svideo. I’m running Win XP.

One was an oldie called a Dazzle. Sorry I don’t have the model number since it’s currently buried somewhere in the mess. When I find it, it’s hitting the trash. 'Nuff said.

The next one was a Happauge WinTV PVR 2. It’s about the size of a paperback book. It worked well enough, although the user interface seemed specifically designed to piss me off. Every once in awhile it would randomly lose it’s little mind, requiring a re install. The stinkin thing only encodes MPEG2 using a proprietary Happauge codec, which means that most editing software and other people’s PCs can’t play the shows I record. Thus requiring me to become something of an MPEG hobbyist. If I ever meet the IEEE scrotes that designed that MPEG standard… well, never mind. I did like the remote control though, especially the ‘skip ahead 10 seconds’ button. It sucks up around 650 MB per hour of recording on extended play resolution setting.

Then I decided that I should get with the modern age and go to ATSC digital TV. So I got a KWorld PlusTV. The thing is amazingly tiny, about the size of a pack of gum with a USB plug on one end and a coax plug on the other. No remote with
this one, although the wireless mouse & keyboard make that no big deal. Once again the hardware works as advertised. But the software. It’s called Arcsoft Totalmedia, but I call it total shit. It’s like a cartoon, as though your brat sister just learned to code HTML and intentionally put together the world’s most annoying web site. And as usual, it occasionally loses it’s mind and needs to be re installed. To give you an idea what crapware it is, after using it for a couple months it stopped recording. After reading the manual cover to cover and pushing every button I accidentally found that you need to clear the recording history once in awhile. Nobody knows why. Also it gradually loses the ability to display the program listings that are broadcast with the digital signal. You need to un install and then re install to fix it, and they don’t make that easy since it installs a stealth process that seems to do nothing but protect it’s program files from deletion. And of course like the Happauge it uses some strange-ass codec so my recorded shows don’t play on other PCs or with typical editing programs. It sucks up around 1.5 GB per hour of recording on extended play resolution setting. Unfortunately if the program is being broadcast in hi def then it automatically switches to highest resolution, and then it sucks up around 5 GB per hour and you can’t make it stop doing that. So plan on getting a terabyte hard drive too. But it needs to be an internal HD because the hi res is too much bandwidth for the stinkin USB connection on playback. So what you get with a USB hard drive is crystal clear stop motion video.

On the plus side, it’s a standard BDA 2883 device, so other software packages could run the KWorld hardware. I’ve tried a few but none of them can seem to access the digital channels so I’m still looking.

I’ve cracked the MPEG editing problem but it takes a lot of twiddling and hella processing power, and even then it’s way slow. Like, fire it up and leave it overnight kinda slow. I never really wanted to know about frame servers but there ya go.

Bottom line, if you don’t want to make it into a semi aggravating hobby, stay away from the TV card for the PC approach. If you do decide to take the plunge, let me know if you find something that actually freakin works, willya?

Like TheFifthYear I have the DirectTV HD DVR and like it. I did just recently get two of their non-HD DVR boxes as replacements for older DVR’s that we had, and one of them doesn’t work at all. I’ve heard that their boxes are a bit more unreliable than Tivo. Other than that I like it. I like the fact that I only pay once for the DVR service, and then can use it on any number of boxes. So right now I have 4 DVRs in the house. I pay the DVR service of $4.99 (like the Tivo monthly cost) and then pay $4.99 for each of the other DVRs in the house. I’m not sure if you have to pay again for each Tivo unit you have. I do know that Tivo has some nifty features that allow you to tranfer (via software you have to purchase) your recorded movies to iTunes for download to an iPod or other device. Which is a feature I’d really like to have.

If you’re looking for that home-buit/no subscription option, may I suggest While I don’t use it personally, it’s gotten some pretty good reviews.

At least you knew what a DVR is. I was several posts into this thread before I realized that a DVR is a recording device. Consder my ignorance fought.

I recently decided to build my own DVR PC in order to stop paying the monthly fees for the old ReplayTV we had (similar to Tivo), but I can’t say I would recommend going that route unless you are fairly technical. As mentioned above, constant fiddling/attention is required and it’s not unusual to sit down to watch a previously recorded show and find that the damn thing failed to change the channel, so instead of the NBC Nightly News, you got Hanna Montana…

On a positive note, it does allow us to stream movies, photographs, MP3’s, home videos etc from the server I have setup in the office to the TV in the living room, but I know for a fact if I mentioned to my wife that I was going to build another one, she’d whack me on the head.

I have a Windows Media player that works ok, except it freezes up on fast forwards. Not much good to have to watch commercials. I asked here and got info on a program that removes commercials, it works ok, but sometimes it removes the ends of programs and does a couple of other odd things, like slows down to one frame every two or three seconds. For the most part it works well enough.

However, there is now DTVPal, which will record OTA broadcasts, which I have. No subscriptions, and it’s supposed to have guides with it. I’m really thinking of picking it up, but money’s tight right now. It’s $250, but it might be worth it. I’m not sure if you can save stuff though, but I don’t do that anyway so I don’t really care.