I'm looking for the basics in DVRs. ¬†I use only over-the-air channels for tv watching, and have no need or intention to pay a monthly fee to anyone. ¬†I want the DVR version of what used to be a VCR, if some of you were alive when those wonderful inventions existed! ¬†My tv is analog and I currently¬†receive the digital signal through a digital DVR made by Panasonic (and more tempermental than the crankiest person you can imagine!) ¬†I'd love to ditch the Panasonic for reasons such as: it doesn't recognize a recordable dvd more than 2 or 3 times; after that it spends 45 minutes or more "self-checking", turning itself and the tv off and back on, only to come back with a message that it needs to self-check again.
I'm looking for a basic box dvr. ¬†No computers, no tablets, don't care about HD - just want to simply be able to rely on recording a television show once in a while, and then be¬†able to play it back on my television. ¬†Not a lot of needs.
Is there such a product anymore?
Yes, there are two Philips/Magnavox units that might be ideal for your use, both about the same price:
Not especially fancy, more like your VCRs, but reliable.
If you want the option to easily make a perminant copy(DVD) then the DVDR(wajo's first link) would be best, if you'd like HD(which you said you didn't care so much about) the second link DVR would be a option but note it doesn't have a built in DVD recorder like the first link.
Channel Master also makes a dual tuner DVR and it's information is in this thread, you need to add a USB HDD(starts ~$60) for the CM and again the CM has no DVD drive for archiving.
You are part of what mfrs now consider to be an impossible-to-please, unrealistic, unprofitable minority group. So no, there aren't a heckuva lot of recorder options on the current market that will suit you. Thats the brutal truth: our current era of consumer electronics requires us to conform to how the recorders (and TV providers) want to work, not how we want them to work (or what we want them to cost). Economic forces in the 70s, 80s and 90s permitted us the luxury of consumer choice, at multiple price and feature levels. That is now almost completely gone: choices in "standalone recorders" are almost entirely restricted to either paying a monthly fee of some kind, or spending way, WAY more than you planned.
There is no happy medium, and nothing is as easy as the old VCRs. The smartphone paradigm has taken over everything from car alarms to TV recorders to birdcage feeders: if you can't or won't adapt to that sort of interface, your options boil down to just two units: one recently introduced (the Channel Master CM7500) and one in its death throes that probably won't be around much longer (the Magnavox DVD/HDD recorders). The CM7500 records in true HDTV quality, but can only connect to a flat screen TV (it has no connectors for the old tube TVs like the one you're still using). While the CM7500 is way more sophisticated than the Magnavox, it would require the purchase of a new TV, and cannot play or record DVDs. The Magnavox includes a convenient DVD player and can make permanent DVD copies of shows you want to keep, has connectors for the old CRT type of TV, but cannot record true HDTV and can be a pain to use if any of your local broadcasters are incompatible with its hare-brained tuner design.
Just about any alternative you replace this Panasonic with will strike you as "temperamental." NOTHING in the current recorder market "just works" like a VCR used to.
The Magnavox DVD drive is not nearly as cranky as the one in your Panasonic, but it makes up for that in spades by having the most maddeningly temperamental tuner/timer since the original Betamax of 1976. For some off-air users, it works flawlessly, for others, it creates different circles of hell. It depends on your location and how the stations in your area operate their broadcast systems. If you decide to try a Magnavox, be sure to buy it directly from WalMart so you'll have their generous 60 day return/refund warranty. Some of the Magnavox potential quirks can take a couple weeks to surface, so you'll want to test it out by making many timer recordings on all your available channels. If it works consistently and reliably for you, your local stations are compatible with it, and you should be happy with it.
But if you encounter problems with failed timer recordings (it doesn't record at all from some channels or it records dead air), you may find it more trouble than its worth to use. There are workarounds for the various tuner issues, but they don't always succeed as a permanent fix. Should you find persistent problems recording your local Fox affiliate, for example, the Magnavox will drive you up a wall. In that case, I'd recommend you return it for refund. Then save up some extra money and get a new TV so you can use a new-age recorder like the CM7500.
We're way past planned obsolescence at this point: we're at forced obsolescence.
I tried a 32GB flash drive, also experimented with a 16GB micro SD card with USB adaptor just for kicks and they both worked very well. Learning curve is not that steep, especially if you're already familiar with dvrs.
When you'll take the leap to a HD tv, you would be ready to go with this box.
Keep in mind that when recording a HD channel it uses a lot of space, I calculated to be close to 8GB/hour at 1080i.
So impressed that I both a second one so I can record stuff OTA at home and have a unit essentially just to read/play the recordings at the cottage (too far from the towers). I now plan to use both in the meantime this winter as a makeshift dual tuner pvr.
I ordered two 256GB USB flashdrives (32 hours each at 1080i) so I can test drive my makeshift dual tuner pvr and hotswap them this summer.
2 Boxes ($48/ea) + 2 256GB flash drives ($37/ea) all for under $175 CAD !!!
I have a couple of those DVRs(iView clone of the Homework) and while I use them if the OP was going that route I'd strongly suggest reading both threads here on AVS. They do work and the picture quality is great(basically as broadcast) but they are a bit "quirky". I would NOT suggest either of these DVRs for someone who just wanted something to work with very little issues, as described by others these $40 DVRs are more of a "hobbyist" box than some of the other DVRs costing >$200.
Again these $40 DVRs are great for the tech types but I'd be reluctant to suggest them to someone who "just wanted it to work" ¬†
Above forum has a thread on both the iView and similar Homework DVRs along with the CM and Magnavox DVRs mentioned above.
Already have a cable subscription and for my simple OTA needs here, only get 10 channels, too much "elbow room" in Canada, would record off only 6 of them, the Homeworx fits my bill. Wanted to give the OP some info on this option. I do have a Mag 513, works very well, again only really 6 channels worthwhile in my area, bought it just prior to our ATSC transition and now so I find it a bit of an overkill and does not record HD.
That's how I got to the Homeworx and speaking for myself, quite satisfied with it.
- kelson h
The bitterness of poor quality lasts long after the sweetness of the low price is forgotten . . . life is too short to drink bad wine