High Definition HDD PVR? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 15 Old 01-03-2008, 08:15 AM - Thread Starter
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Unless I am missing some vital information, there are no HD PVRs available aside from what Tivo or the actual cable companies offer. Since I reside in Canada, I have no access to HD Tivo (SD Tivo just made its debut here) and I really do not want to go to Rogers for my PVR.

I currently have a Toshiba 80GB PVR back from when they just started developing these things. Unfortunately it has no IR Receiver support for my new HDTV cable box (can't change the channel) and the box seems like it's starting to malfunction a bit once in a while... In other words, it's getting old. It also can't record anything in wide-screen or HD format.

So I went out to look for some new models. I'm disappointed to discover almost nothing has changed since the initial models aside from hard drive size and the useless-to-me feature of hdmi upscaling.

Does anyone know of a PVR available in Canada (no subscription, preferably) that allows you to record in a wide screen format / HD?

I took a look at LG, Panasonic, and Pioneer and they have interesting looking machines, but none seem to record in 16:9 format. Disappointing.

EDIT: I think I should clarify... I would like a HDTV recorder, but I realize that might be impossible for some reason, so I would also settle with a recorder than can record in widescreen format, even if it isn't 720p or anything.
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post #2 of 15 Old 01-04-2008, 12:39 AM
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Sony DHG-HDD500/250 and LG 3410a. Check ebay, or even the "For Sale" forum here.
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post #3 of 15 Old 01-04-2008, 08:05 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for the suggestions. I'm a tad confused about the LG one, as a review at Home Theater Mag says "Not surprisingly, there's no component or DVI input to feed your HD cable box's signals through this box". Does this mean it can't actually record HD video from my cable box? It looks as though it only does it through OTA signals (which I don't use).

And unfortunately the Sony ones require a cable card, which again, I do not have (living in Canada). I'm very confused as to why DVRs haven't improved at all since I got my first one years ago. Can't they just accept a new aspect ratio and be done with it?

Thanks for your post anyways.
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post #4 of 15 Old 01-04-2008, 03:12 PM
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Well, if your cable company passes along the local digitals in the clear, like they usually do in the US, you can pick up those, along with the analog channels with either of those units (without a CableCARD or external tuner).

With the LG, if you're using an external tuner, you can control it with the IR blaster if it has the code for it. You can just split the signal - one end to the LG's tuner, and one to your cable box. Also, hook up the cable box separately to the TV, so you can watch live any other, digital-tier and premium HD channels you may have. Then you can record the downscaled stuff from the cable box through the LG's line input or the locals in HD from it's internal tuner. You can set recordings using the TVGOS when using an external tuner.

But, no - there's no perfect solution. Actually, there never has been. Probably never will be, either.
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post #5 of 15 Old 01-04-2008, 04:06 PM
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I've seen this situation for several years now. The big companies are marketing to Japan and Europe, but not the USA because they say they can not make enough money. I've always disagreed.

My suggestion, if you're really serious about this, is to get yourself a DEDICATED PC. Get a tuner card (get a good one), and most come with software to create a DVR on the PC. Marrying the PC to your TV has gotten much easier than it used to be. It seems there are other forums here dedicated to this activity. I suggest browsing/posting in one of those forums.

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post #6 of 15 Old 01-06-2008, 09:16 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rammitinski View Post

Well, if your cable company passes along the local digitals in the clear, like they usually do in the US, you can pick up those, along with the analog channels with either of those units (without a CableCARD or external tuner).

With the LG, if you're using an external tuner, you can control it with the IR blaster if it has the code for it. You can just split the signal - one end to the LG's tuner, and one to your cable box. Also, hook up the cable box separately to the TV, so you can watch live any other, digital-tier and premium HD channels you may have. Then you can record the downscaled stuff from the cable box through the LG's line input or the locals in HD from it's internal tuner. You can set recordings using the TVGOS when using an external tuner.

But, no - there's no perfect solution. Actually, there never has been. Probably never will be, either.

Hmm I think I understand what you are saying but I may have lost you at some point. Currently my cable box is set up so that one output (the component output) goes directly to the TV, while the DVR gets the composite output. That way I can watch HD stuff in HD, and record HD stuff in scaled down and resized format if I need to. Would these boxes do the same thing? Or would they honor the 16x9 form factor?

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Originally Posted by CA_Guy View Post

I've seen this situation for several years now. The big companies are marketing to Japan and Europe, but not the USA because they say they can not make enough money. I've always disagreed.

My suggestion, if you're really serious about this, is to get yourself a DEDICATED PC. Get a tuner card (get a good one), and most come with software to create a DVR on the PC. Marrying the PC to your TV has gotten much easier than it used to be. It seems there are other forums here dedicated to this activity. I suggest browsing/posting in one of those forums.

The problem is that most of the time (almost all of the time), this setup will be used by my mom and my sister (both of whom are not tech savvy) so the user friendly box would be ideal. If I bring a computer into the equation, things might get messy. But I'll look into it, assuming the TV tuners for computers can actually record real HD?
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post #7 of 15 Old 01-06-2008, 09:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xtremesniper View Post

The problem is that most of the time (almost all of the time), this setup will be used by my mom and my sister (both of whom are not tech savvy) so the user friendly box would be ideal. If I bring a computer into the equation, things might get messy. But I'll look into it, assuming the TV tuners for computers can actually record real HD?

If you already have PC running Windows Vista Home Premium (or Ultimate), and you don't mind (1) running it 24/7, and (2) only recording local SD and HD channels, then a Windows Media Center extender option would work well to provide HD DVR capability to one or more rooms. You can read more about Windows Media Center here.

That would require at least one HDHomerun (dual-tuner) @ $169, plus a Linksys DMA2100 Media Center Extender @ $250 for each room. If you already own an Xbox360, then that will also act as Windows Media Center extender, eliminating the need to buy the Linksys.

The rest of your family never has to worry about messing with a computer, because the Media Center extender acts just like a HDTV DVR. With the HD extender on each TV, you have a program guide, you can watch and pause live TV, you can schedule recordings, and you can watch recorded programs. All the programs are saved to the hard drive on your PC and streamed to the SageHD extender. Each room with a HD Extender has access to the same recordings.


Program guide with Windows Media Center Extender

If you don't have a PC running Windows Vista, SageTV is another low-cost alternative to provide HD to one or more rooms. With SageTV, you would also buy one or more HDHomerun (dual-tuner) @ $169 and install the $69 SageTV server software on a PC. Then you buy one $199 SageTV HD Media Extender for each TV.

As with the Windows Media Center Extender, your family never has to worry about messing with a computer, because the SageTV extender acts just like a HDTV DVR. With the HD extender on each TV, you have a program guide, you can watch and pause live TV, you can schedule recordings, and you can watch recorded programs. All the programs are saved to the hard drive on your PC and streamed to the SageHD extender. Each room with a HD Extender has access to the same recordings.

There are no subscription fees with SageTV. The main limitation of SageTV is that it does not support CableCards so it cannot decrypt HD cable channels like CNN, History, SciFi, Discovery, ESPN, ESPN-2, HBO, etc etc. Basically, it is limited to local SD and HD channels unless your cable provider is one of the few that does not copy-protect its cable HD channels (in which case, you could connect a HDTV STB to your PC via Firewire and get those as well).


Program guide with SageTV HD Extender
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post #8 of 15 Old 01-06-2008, 11:44 PM
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Question:

Say the QAM tuner from it picks up the odd digital channel (or more) that should normally be encrypted.

Will/can you get guide the info for those channels?
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post #9 of 15 Old 01-06-2008, 11:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rammitinski View Post

Question:

Say the QAM tuner from it picks up the odd digital channel (or more) that should normally be encrypted.

Will/can you get guide the info for those channels?

I don't have a lot of experience with Windows Media Center, but with SageTV and a HDHomerun, you are able to manually remap QAM channels so you get guide data.

I'm guessing you can do the same thing with Windows Media Center too, but I don't know for certain.
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post #10 of 15 Old 01-07-2008, 06:43 AM - Thread Starter
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Very interesting information there, thank you!

I have a few questions though. I have an Xbox 360, so I can use that... But since I live in Canada we don't use Cable Cards for our content. I'm not sure if this means it's not encrypted, but we get all our HD content just by using a HD digital cable box and subscribing to the HD channels.

When you say I can only record "local" channels, I realize this is USA cable lingo. But I'm just wondering how this could translate for someone living in Canada?

And I am assuming that the media center pc would have to be close to the cable box, since they would have to hook up directly in order to record anything... That might make things interesting because there is only one component and one composite output on the back, so only either the TV or the PC can get HD at any given time (unless I use a splitter, I suppose...)

EDIT: I just found this

Quote:


Rogers used to offer a modicum of free unencrypted channels that could be received by any QAM-enabled tuner even without a Cable Card installed, including numerous CBC, CTV, Global, CityTV and CH channels from across the country. However, in July of 2007 the company switched to encrypting these channels, meaning that they can no longer be received by anything except the official Rogers cable box. Apparently, Rogers found the popularity of QAM-enabled televisions an annoyance and decided that even that meager selection of free Canadian content could not be tolerated.

Well there goes my hopes and dreams, heh..
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post #11 of 15 Old 01-11-2008, 04:53 AM
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you think everybody has cable or satellite, you couldn't be more wrong. In fact, if you live in an area that's well-served by digital broadcasters, now's a better time than ever to get your TV over the air (or "OTA," as the cool kids say): yeah, you get only a handful of channels, but they're in crystal-clear digital quality--DVD quality at "worst," uncompressed high-definition at best. The problem--as we're reminded by many an e-mailer--is that there just isn't a good DVR solution for the rabbit-ears crowd, especially if you prefer high-def. (You can opt for a TiVo HD, but you'd still have to pay a monthly fee for their programming guide.) But that may finally be changing, thanks to the EchoStar TR-50. For all intents and purposes, the TR-50 takes many of the features found on Dish Networks' excellent satellite DVRs (such as the ViP622 and 722) and brings them to antenna-based TV viewers.

The unit offers ATSC and NTSC tuners, so it can view and record over-the-air HD digital, standard digital, and analog channels. Dual tuner action means you can watch (and record) one live channel while simultaneously recording a second--or record two channels while playing back a previously recorded show. There's also full control over live TV, including rewind, pause, slow motion, 10-second "instant replay," and--for recordings--30-second skip. The TR-50 also sports a 7-day electronic program guide (using over-the-air metadata on the digital band), which should eliminate the pesky VCR-style manual "timer recordings" (you remember: "8:00-9:00 p.m. / Thursdays / channel 4"). The box also has a full range of outputs, including component and HDMI (480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i resolutions supported), as well as standard-def composite and RF outputs for older TVs. Dish hasn't yet specified the internal hard drive size, but the USB 2.0 connector will ensure expandable storage. Perhaps most interestingly, the TR-50 includes an Ethernet port and the ability to decode MPEG-4 video, and EchoStar touts its ability to "access premium Internet-based TV programming via broadband Internet," as well as "DVR management and timer creation via Internet"--though the timeframe for such features wasn't disclosed. Likewise, the exact release date and pricing information remain a mystery. But if it's affordable--and lacks TiVo's monthly fee--the TR-50 may be the perfect fit for TV viewers without satellite or cable who still want to enjoy HD programming on their own schedule.

Separately, EchoStar also announced the TR-40. That model is merely a digital set-top box (no DVR). It will let analog TV owners (or those with HD monitors that lack a tuner) receive digital and high-def signals over the air--a necessity after the scheduled February 2009 analog TV shutdown.
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post #12 of 15 Old 01-11-2008, 05:51 AM - Thread Starter
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I have to admit, your post almost sounds like a press release for EchoStar, but it had some useful info so whatever.

It does look like an interesting box (the TR-50) but would this be available standalone? Or do you have to get it with some sort of provider? The cnet video preview of the box shows a Dish Network skin for the GUI.

Also, as this is probably for the States it's likely to use a Cable Card so it makes it fairly pointless for someone in Canada.

I think I'm going to settle on a HTPC and be done with it...
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post #13 of 15 Old 01-11-2008, 09:44 AM
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Finally! There were good standalone units, but the market has gone stagnant and no new products have come. I have beensitting on the sidelines waiting to see the next DVR with built-in TVGUIDE (or equivalent). That is, I'm a cheap SOB who refuses to pay 20 bucks a month for a tvguide from tivo. Bah humbug.

This Echostar thing is GREAT news for us OTA junkies. (and by the way, the post above was copied verbatim from: http://ces.cnet.com/8301-13855_1-9840910-67.html so in fact, it really was a press announcement of sorts).

Anyhow-- I currently have an LG42LB1Dr hdtv with a built-in DVR, and it's GREAT. But, LG stopped developing future tv'S with built-in DVR functionality, and whenever I replace the tv in a few years to upgrade (50 inches, baby!), I'll need something like this.

I also think that as Feb 2009 approaches, the market for this sort of thing will start heating up. Manufacturers are of course HOLDING BACK on releasing standalone HDTV tuners (in hopes you buy their TV's instead) - and when the standalone tuners are eventually released-- it's only natural that some (many?) of them include recording capability.
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post #14 of 15 Old 01-11-2008, 01:00 PM
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post #15 of 15 Old 01-12-2008, 02:14 PM - Thread Starter
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I appreciate the thread, though after reading through it I believe it has confirmed my worst fears.

That box only does OAT, and so as a digital cable consumer that makes it useless to me. Why is it so difficult for DVR makers to include some component input jacks and just accept a wide screen format? The hard drives in there are pretty large anyway and I wouldn't mind some form of compression (I don't need perfect HD quality recordings, just wide screen would be nice so it doesn't squish the video).

I'm still looking into HTPCs simply because they just seem to be the only HD solution.
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