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Thread: DVR question

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    DVR question

    Question about DVR:

    I was told at an electronics store that they are not carrying DVRs because they want people to rent those from cable companies. Is this true? It seems like a bad deal to pay the cable company $20 per month indefinitely ($240 per year!) in order to have a recording capability. That sounds like a rip off to me.

    Are there any alternatives? Amazon.com lists TiVo and some DVD players with recording capability. Anyone has experience with buying a DVR/TiVo/anything else instead of renting it from a cable company? I am seriously considering returning the DVR I just picked up from Cox cable and buy one from amazon.com. Any recommendations will be appreciated.

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    Not sure what the US situation is but I just brought a Panasonic DVR with DVD burner. It has 115 hours of recording time. I do have Pay TV which also has a Personal Video Recorder but that only has 40 hours of recording time. That is why I got the Panasonic.
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    Our DVR costs an extra $7 a month to rent. Your cable company is screwing you.

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    You want a DVR or DVD Recorder with a hard drive. Then you can save, watch, and later delete shows. Get one with a DVD burner if you want to be able to archive. Note, though, that AFAIK, you can't get one that records in high-definition if that is important to you. I believe only the cable company boxes record in high-def, but then, you can't burn to DVD in high-def anyway. I bought one just before 2006 US Nationals and it still works perfectly today after heavy/daily use. There is no monthly fee. It's basically a VCR but without using tapes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vash01 View Post
    I was told at an electronics store that they are not carrying DVRs because they want people to rent those from cable companies. Is this true? It seems like a bad deal to pay the cable company $20 per month indefinitely ($240 per year!) in order to have a recording capability. That sounds like a rip off to me.
    In terms of "motive," I think it's more likely that there are just fewer DVRs available since proprietary PVRs started dominating the market. When I got my first DVR there about 15 different models to choose from. When I got my 2nd one a couple of years later there was only 1 model. Not sure what's available now in terms of DVRs. I don't think it's a conspiracy, just simple market economics.

    I personally love my DVRs, but don't know what I'll do if either of these breaks down. So far no troubles (one is about 7 years old, the other is 3), but they're bound to fail eventually.

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    I bought 4 DVD player/burners that are also DVRs off of the Tiger Electronics web site for $80 each way back when. I still have one of them. So I know you can get them but I don't think they are the sort of item regularly carried by a place like Best Buy because so many people get them from their cable/satellite company and because these days they are made to work with a specific provider because that's how digital tv works.

    Plus, depending on what you want to do with it and how it's going to be hooked up to your tv, you may be better off getting it from your cable company because they usually need a subscription to some sort of television guide to work. So you are still paying a monthly fee.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cherub721 View Post
    You want a DVR or DVD Recorder with a hard drive. Then you can save, watch, and later delete shows. Get one with a DVD burner if you want to be able to archive. Note, though, that AFAIK, you can't get one that records in high-definition if that is important to you. I believe only the cable company boxes record in high-def, but then, you can't burn to DVD in high-def anyway. I bought one just before 2006 US Nationals and it still works perfectly today after heavy/daily use. There is no monthly fee. It's basically a VCR but without using tapes.
    Is there a brand/specific model that anyone recommends? I looked on Amazon but it seems most of the comments are older. I almost might go back to the VCR as I don't care about high-def either and just want to set it to record the occasional thing and easily extend the time for a few minutes for those shows that over run a bit. I do have a cable box if it needs to hook into that but I think some can just hook into the TV....or maybe not.....I am not going to pay any extra monthly fees that's for sure, and I may even cancel cable and go the other routes some of you have mentioned on this site.
    Thanks for any help.

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    Quote Originally Posted by smileyskate View Post
    ... I do have a cable box if it needs to hook into that but I think some can just hook into the TV....or maybe not....
    This might complicate things. DVRs are really only practical if you have a direct coaxial connection from the wall to the TV to get your channels.

    Is your cable box required for you to access a cable signal? If you do, recording to DVR means you have to connect from cable box to DVR to TV, and then manually select the channel on the cable box before you can access that channel to record. Which means you can't ever program to record 2 different shows on 2 different channels without manually changing the channel in between. It also means you can't split the signal to be able to record 1 show and watch another at the same time if that's ever something you need/want to do.

    That's the benefit of PVRs over DVRs (and part of the reason for their popularity): they're both a recorder and a "cable box" in one, so recording is more straightforward. Plus they often have 2 or 3 tuners, allowing you to record 2 programs at once or watch one and record another.

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    To make matters worse for me, I picked up a HD box ($10/month) from my cable company on Fri. I went back on Sat. and picked up a DVR. The cable guy told me the DVR would be $20 a month, even though I told him that I had picked up a HD box the day before. Today when the TV installers came, I did not show them the DVR at all, because I had made up my mind to not get it. So they hooked up the HD box. When they were about to leave, I asked if I could put the DVR on top of the HD box if I get one later. They said if I have the DVR, I wouldn't need the HD box. They did not swap out the two; they were almost out of the door. I am stuck with - "how am I going to swap the DVR & the HD box, which I did not need it after all?" If I cannot hook up the DVR I will just take it back to the cable company. It's disappointing that the cable guy did not give me complete information when I picked up the DVR.

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    Quote Originally Posted by smileyskate View Post
    Is there a brand/specific model that anyone recommends? I looked on Amazon but it seems most of the comments are older. I almost might go back to the VCR as I don't care about high-def either and just want to set it to record the occasional thing and easily extend the time for a few minutes for those shows that over run a bit. I do have a cable box if it needs to hook into that but I think some can just hook into the TV....or maybe not.....I am not going to pay any extra monthly fees that's for sure, and I may even cancel cable and go the other routes some of you have mentioned on this site.
    Thanks for any help.
    I have this panasonic model, but it came out in 2005. No complaints. If I had to buy a new one, I would just see what's available with a hard drive (there aren't that many) and get the one with the best reviews. I think my DVR is hooked up into the cable box.


    Quote Originally Posted by Artemis@BC View Post
    Is your cable box required for you to access a cable signal? If you do, recording to DVR means you have to connect from cable box to DVR to TV, and then manually select the channel on the cable box before you can access that channel to record. Which means you can't ever program to record 2 different shows on 2 different channels without manually changing the channel in between. It also means you can't split the signal to be able to record 1 show and watch another at the same time if that's ever something you need/want to do.
    That's a concern. When mine was set up in 2006, it was with a cable splitter so I could watch one channel while recording another, but after the digital changeover, I can no longer do so. I can record two different channels without manually changing the channel, but not at the same time, ie, I can set my cable box to record CBS from 8-9 PM and NBC from 9-10PM, then I set the DVR to record from 8-10:05 PM. It's an extra step but it doesn't bother me because I like to set it a few minutes extra anyway.

    Can't watch one channel while recording another, but that doesn't bother me since I have more than one TV. I can record while watching a previously recorded show or time shift the show that is recording (even when I want to watch something "live" I'll start watching about 20 minutes in so I can ff the commercials).

    Another good thing about the recorder I have is it has multiple inputs - I have it connected to the cable box, the VCR (for transferring tapes to DVD, although I never did bother converting most of my skating tapes, oops), and I can use the third to connect my laptop to the DVR. During Euros, I recorded the Latvian stream to my DVR and then watched it when I came home from work (this only works if the feed is reliable cause if it craps out you aren't home to refresh it).

    I do think the PVR is probably better if one wants easy, one touch recording and doesn't mind the monthly fee, but the DVR allows for some things the PVR does not. The ability to save skating broadcasts, edit out commercials, and record to DVD was the most important for me.

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    Thanks. Yes, my cable box is needed to get cable. HD channels (not sure how many) are free if you have the attenna-but I don't watch those at this point.
    I thought maybe the ability to watch one channel and record another had something to do with whether or not it has it's own tuner.
    Last edited by smileyskate; 02-04-2013 at 12:53 AM.

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    I've got a tivo which I love, but you have to pay for the monthly service, even though you've purchased the dvr. You can get a "lifetime" subscription which covers the life of the machine instead of paying monthly, but if the machine breaks quickly it's not a good choice. I haven't used a dvr from my cable company, but the user interface on tivo is very intuitive and there are lots of ways to auto record particular shows or types of shows, and search for different programming.

    Tivo was out before a lot of the cable companies were renting dvr's, but I suspect now the cable company machines are as, or more, sophisticated. But I'm used to my tivo and am not likely to change it unless something breaks and I have to redo the whole system. The tivo in the living room attaches to the cable box, and the tivo in the bedroom uses some "card" from the cable company that costs $1 a month, but then I don't need a cable box, but I can record on one channel while watching another (or record on two channels while watching stuff I've already recorded).
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    Quote Originally Posted by Garden Kitty View Post
    I've got a tivo which I love, but you have to pay for the monthly service, even though you've purchased the dvr. You can get a "lifetime" subscription which covers the life of the machine instead of paying monthly, but if the machine breaks quickly it's not a good choice. I haven't used a dvr from my cable company, but the user interface on tivo is very intuitive and there are lots of ways to auto record particular shows or types of shows, and search for different programming.

    Tivo was out before a lot of the cable companies were renting dvr's, but I suspect now the cable company machines are as, or more, sophisticated. But I'm used to my tivo and am not likely to change it unless something breaks and I have to redo the whole system. The tivo in the living room attaches to the cable box, and the tivo in the bedroom uses some "card" from the cable company that costs $1 a month, but then I don't need a cable box, but I can record on one channel while watching another (or record on two channels while watching stuff I've already recorded).
    This

    You can buy a DVR but you still have to buy some sort of monthly service (as far as I know). Not much different from getting the service from you cable/satellite company.

    I have DISH with 2 Hopper/DVR's. I pay $17.00 a month total for both. I have over 1000 standard hours on both DVRs (over 2000 hours in total) and can record up to 6 programs at once. It's worth it for me.

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    I am wondering if buying a tuner may be the solution if you already have a DVD player? I don't know difficult it will be to connect to a TV and enable the DVD player to record programs from the TV?

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    Although my preference is to record to a suitably-equipped PC for ease of editing, that pretty much means having a computer in the same room with the TV, which not everyone wants. For time-shifting and dumping programs without commercials to DVD, I'm also happy with my multiple Magnavox DVRs. They have hard drives as well as the ability to burn DVDs. The HDD is very helpful because it tends to be more reliable than recording straight to a DVD and it makes it easier to trim extraneous video from the beginning and end of your programs before burning the DVD. Also, if you just want to time-shift, you don't have to waste a DVD. Editing out commercials in the middle of a program is not a fun (or perfectly accurate) experience, however, thus my preference for PC-based recording.

    The current Magnavox models are the 533, 535, and 537. They differ only in the size of their hard drives, which range from 320 GB to 1 TB. If you record in SP mode, as I generally do, a one-hour program will take up about 2.2 GB, and a 2-hour program will almost fill a DVD. Price-wise, Walmart seems to be the best source; I think you have to order online. Info here: <http://www.walmart.com/search/search-ng.do?search_query=magnavox+dvr&ic=16_0&Find=Find& search_constraint=3944>. If you're nervous about reliability (I did have one with a bad hard drive almost from Day 1), Walmart's extended warranties are not expensive.

    I've read online that Walmart is good about taking returns if you can't get the hardware to work with your own cable/TV set-up, but I can't vouch for that myself. I didn't find it very difficult to set up the equipment, but I had done a lot of reading online in advance (mainly here: <http://www.avsforum.com/t/940657/magnavox-537-535-533-515-513-2160a-2160-2080-philips-3576-3575>. Warning: The amount of info there is overwhelming.

    You can connect both the raw cable feed and the 3-cable analog output from your cable box to the DVR. The raw feed will give you whatever unencrypted and not copy-protected local channels your cable company sends out in digital or analog form whose transmission frequencies you can identify (this varies in difficulty with your cable provider), and it will work--for those channels--like a VCR, changing the channel for you at the time you indicate. Unfortunately, there are still some PBS sub-channels I haven't been able to record off the raw feed, although the DVR passes the video through to the TV. Comcast at work, I'm sure!

    If you prefer, you can connect to an antenna rather than the raw cable feed, but that's not an option for me and I have no experience with that process. People say that the antenna feed is often of noticeably better quality than the raw cable feed.

    The analog input from the cable box will probably give you some additional channels, but you must change the channel on the cable box manually (or program the cable box to change the channel; mine allows seven programmed changes). I say that you'll probably get "some" additional channels because cable companies vary tremendously in which programs they flag as "Copy Protected"; the DVR will probably refuse to record some channels. In my case (Comcast DC) the DVR connected to the composite (Red/White/Yellow) cables from my main cable box will not record TCM, AMC, and the like, but the same model DVR connected via RCA (?? the old-fashioned single cable) to Comcast's freebie digital converter will record those channels. TWC in Raleigh is still sending out TCM in raw analog form, and the same model DVR can record that stream. You never know till you try.

    I've read that the Magnavox DVRs do a good job of capturing video from non-copy-protected video tapes if you attach a VCR, but I am still using a PC to do that since it's much easier to edit out commercials on a PC.

    There is no on-going charge for using the Magnavox DVR, which is a fabulous deal. One thing you give up is a TiVo-like program guide of the sort you find on cable-company-provided DVRs. This is one of the reasons I prefer to use a PC when I can: Windows Media Center provides a free program guide I can click on to set up recordings. However, the latest TV cards for PCs seem to have stronger built-in copy protection; my new PC is refusing to record some analog channels out of the cable box that my old PC has no problem with. Or I guess it could be a difference between Windows XP and Windows 7, or a combination of both. On the other hand, some of the new PC TV cards will record two or more channels at the same time.

    Assuming you have a TV with multiple inputs, you can include a splitter in your set-up so that you can watch one channel while recording another.

    I suspect I'm making this sound more complicated than it is. If you'd like to discuss this via phone, PM me.
    Last edited by acraven; 02-06-2013 at 12:59 AM.

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    I will look into the Magnavox DVR. Non-cable is not an option for me. Without at least a basic cable we get zero channels here.

    I looked into buying a tuner to enable my DVD/VCR player to record, but that does not sound as easy as I had thought. So I am dropping the tuner from my options.

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    In my experience, the more different pieces of equipment you're trying to integrate, the tougher it gets. I have no experience with stand-alone tuners, though.

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    Quote Originally Posted by acraven View Post
    You can connect both the raw cable feed and the 3-cable analog output from your cable box to the DVR. The raw feed will give you whatever unencrypted and not copy-protected local channels your cable company sends out in digital or analog form whose transmission frequencies you can identify (this varies in difficulty with your cable provider), and it will work--for those channels--like a VCR, changing the channel for you at the time you indicate. Unfortunately, there are still some PBS sub-channels I haven't been able to record off the raw feed, although the DVR passes the video through to the TV. Comcast at work, I'm sure!
    For the raw feed, does the DVR itself have to have a digital tuner installed?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cherub721 View Post
    For the raw feed, does the DVR itself have to have a digital tuner installed?
    The Magnavox DVRs I mentioned in my earlier message have both digital and analog tuners, so no separate tuner is required. I should also have said that they are the only DVRs with hard disks and tuners currently being manufactured for the US market.

    There's a gray market (intended for Australia/New Zealand/Middle East) Panasonic product with a hard disk available from a few sources, but it has no tuner and can only take the composite (3-cable) analog feed from a cable box. It has nicer editing capability than the Magnavoxes--though not as good as what a PC provides, but there's a significant problem with the black level it captures. When captured from US TV, black comes out dark gray. This is reportedly caused by a technical difference between TV signals in the US versus the intended markets for the product. I hoped the grayish blacks wouldn't bother me, but they do.

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    We have Optimum Tripple Play. The DVR box is part of the cable box (though it is different from the standard one). It costs $10 a month per box. We only have it on one. But, it is very easy to use with the cable guide set up.

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