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How to choose the DVR that's right for you

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How to choose the DVR that's right for you

Copyright Tivo Inc.

Adam Thursby

Choosing the right method for capturing, and later viewing television programming isn't always easy. There are a lot of options on the market and what you choose will come down to several factors including price, usability and the company that provides your subscription.

That said, there are several ways to go about choosing a method for capturing TV and they can be split into three general categories:

  • Set-top box
  • DVD Recorder
  • Home Theater Computer

Each method has pros and cons that will help determine the best choice for you and your family.

Set-top Box

This is easily the most common method people choose when it comes to buying or leasing a digital video recorder. Most, if not all, of the major cable and satellite companies provide a set-top box that can be leased from them for a monthly fee that can vary anywhere from $8 to $16 a month. You also have the choice to purchase your own set-top box.

One of the biggest reasons behind the adoption of the set-top box (STB) is the ease of setup. When you order service from your provider, an installer comes to your home and does everything from connecting the STB to performing any needed setup with your existing equipment. A TiVo device walks you through everything you need to do during setup and is almost as easy as having a cable technician do it for you.

Another reason is cost. DVRs provided by your cable or satellite company will typically have no up-front cost associated with them. You simply pay the lease fee as part of your monthly bill.

There are of course, other STBs on the market such as TiVo and Moxi. These differ greatly in the user experience and cost to leased set-top boxes. That said, the use of them is very similar. Your cable is connected to the device which then connects to the other equipment in your home theater or TV viewing room.

Overall, set-top boxes are easy to use, relatively cheap, depending on the company, and overall can provide a decent user experience.

DVD Recorders

While it may seem that DVD recorders would be one of the easier devices to use, they can actually be quite complicated. Not only to set up but even buying the right DVD recorder can be a challenge for several reasons.

DVD recorders work almost exactly like a VCR but instead of tapes you use disks. Recordings are created manually and once a disk is full you'll need to replace it or in the case of a re-writable disk, overwrite the already recorded programming.

Most DVD recorders have two shortcomings: no TV tuners and no electronic programming guide. While some do provide these features, it's rare and they are becoming increasingly harder to find.

With no tuners, you'll have to connect your recorder to another device and provide a way for it to change channels on that device.

Not having programming guide means that you'll have to manually schedule each recording. This can end up being easy to forget and there's always a chance of missing a show; something that typically doesn't happen with a DVR.

One advantage DVD recorders do have is price. Other than the cost of buying the device, which can range from $120 to $300, your monetary investment is minimal especially if you use DVD-RW disks that can be used multiple times. There are no monthly fees associated with DVD recorders.

If you don't mind the extra work involved in programming your recordings and want to save on monthly fees or larger upfront costs, a DVD recorder may be for you.

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  4. DVR Basics
  5. Choosing a TV Capture Method

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