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post #1 of 37 Old 06-29-2009, 09:20 AM - Thread Starter
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(I'm new to AVSForum and when I searched for this topic I saw that there were a few threads that predated the recent switchover, so I'm wondering what has changed)

Background: My wife and I have a 42" LCD TV that we use for various computer and video-editing work but we watch very little TV - not enough to justify a subscription service like cable - and we've very busy anyway so we're unlikely to be home when a show is on. But a week ago, after the national switch-over we hooked an indoor antenna to our TV and discovered that its built in ATSC tuner could pick up over a dozen Boston-area and southern NH stations in crisp, sharp glorious HD!


So now the question is: how can we RECORD this HD content so we can watch our few shows on our schedule?

From the other threads as of months ago it looks like this involves either hacking a Tivo or buying a used, discontinued product. What's up with that, anyway? It seems bizarre. Has this situation improved now that all OTA content is HD?

Thanks in advance.
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post #2 of 37 Old 06-29-2009, 09:33 AM
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There are only two choices on the market for dual-tuner ATSC HDTV DVRs:
  1. DTVPal DVR ($250 w/o fees)

  2. TivoHD ($600 w/o fees, $250 w/ fees)

Click the links for more information.

HDTV Recorder Comparison Chart | DTVPal DVR FAQ | New! TiVo Premiere (Series4) FAQ |
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post #3 of 37 Old 06-29-2009, 09:44 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by plnelson View Post

........... Has this situation improved now that all OTA content is HD?

All OTA content is DIGITAL. Some of this content is HD, much of it is still SD.

Don't ever make the MISTAKE of buying a Samsung TV..
They consider
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normal on a two month old set..
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post #4 of 37 Old 06-29-2009, 10:02 AM - Thread Starter
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There are only two choices on the market for dual-tuner ATSC HDTV DVRs

I don't care if it's dual tuner. We watch so little TV that the odds of wanting to watch one show while recording another are microscopic. We may watch 1 show every week or two.

All OTA content is DIGITAL. Some of this content is HD, much of it is still SD.
I sit corrected. Although I imagine over time most new content will be HD.
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post #5 of 37 Old 06-29-2009, 10:05 AM
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The TiVo HD and the DTVPal DVR are, as bfdtv mentioned, the only two "does it all" devices available new. There are some options that you can get via the used market, as well as other options, though they require varying levels of elbow grease and good luck.
  • Sony DHG-HDD250/500. Apparently software updates are available for this unit to make it compatible with digital TVGoS, so you can use it even though analog TVGoS is gone. However, that depends on if there's a source for digital TVGoS in your DMA; this may vary. Single tuner, and storage expansion is not available. Check the owner thread for more info. eBay prices generally run in the $400-800 range for these units.
  • LG LST-3410a. Single tuner. Has IEEE1394. Not sure how its guide works; check the owner thread for more info and possible location-specific issues. No storage expansion possibilities (that I'm aware of).
  • Zenith HDR230. Single tuner. No guide, just schedule by time/channel. No storage expansion possibilities. Not a smart box, but from what I've heard, reliable.
  • Windows Media Center. Can have dual tuners, but requires a fair amount of manual setup. You do have a good deal of flexibility in how you watch recorded content, including Media Center Extenders (though most companies cancelled their standalone extenders, the XBox 360 acts as one, plus you can get used or remaining-stock units). Storage is expandable to your little heart's desire. Has a full guide, and guide data doesn't cost you anything. Doesn't require a very powerful system for capture, but playback (especially for 720p/1080i content) frequently requires a respectable system, and (almost certainly) a modern video card with at least partial support for MPEG-2 playback accelaration.
  • Various other software packages for Windows, Mac and Linux systems for recording. Features vary, but support for multiple tuners is not uncommon. Similar hardware requirements as mentioned above for video playback.

Ninja edit:

Quote:
Originally Posted by WS65711 View Post

All OTA content is DIGITAL. Some of this content is HD, much of it is still SD.

Except for low-power, Class A, and translator stations, which do still exist in many areas. So analog isn't 100% gone, though it'll probably be the minority of what's watched in many homes.
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post #6 of 37 Old 06-29-2009, 10:06 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by plnelson View Post

There are only two choices on the market for dual-tuner ATSC HDTV DVRs

I don't care if it's dual tuner. We watch so little TV that the odds of wanting to watch one show and record another are microscopic.

If you want to consider a single tuner DVR, then there is the DVICO TViX R3310 ($250 without hard drive; you add your own), plus a few discontinued models that you may find on ebay.

Giveb your very limited needs, I would opt for the DTVPal DVR, as that is the most affordable solution on the market today.

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post #7 of 37 Old 06-29-2009, 10:46 AM
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Pinelson,
Since you are already using your TV with a computer my suggestion would be to just get an "HDTV" digital tuner card for you PC it will come with PVR software. If you are running a version of Vista(home premium or ultimate) that has built in Media Center software you can use it instead of the tuner card vendors software.
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post #8 of 37 Old 06-29-2009, 10:49 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bfdtv View Post

If you want to consider a single tuner DVR, then there is the DVICO TViX R3310 ($250 without hard drive; you add your own), plus a few discontinued models that you may find on ebay.

Given your very limited needs, I would opt for the DTVPal DVR, as that is the most affordable solution on the market today.

OK, so everything that everyone has mentioned here is is pretty much the same as the start of the year, before the US went all-digital. (except that the used gear is even older! ) Why is this? Nobody wants to record stuff off the air for their convenience or to skip commercials?

I'd rather not buy used, especially stuff that's been discontinued and whose manufacturers have no commitment to this product space (Zenith, Sony, etc)

I'm intrigued by the Windows media thing, though, because we almost always have a PC attached to our 42" TV. We run XP Pro with a full sw development and video-editing environment installed on a dual-processor, 4GB PC. The display is set at 1920x1080. So we're probably capable of doing this via a PC. But how does the tuner get the content onto the HDD? The reviews of the little USB Tuner Sticks I've seen said they write to the HDD in very low res - 720x480! Cramming 1920x1080 data through a USB (or even Firewire) port at normal framerates, given the Windows OS, would be pretty impressive if they could do it.
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post #9 of 37 Old 06-29-2009, 10:56 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by plnelson View Post

OK, so everything that everyone has mentioned here is is pretty much the same as the start of the year, before the US went all-digital. (except that the used gear is even older! ) Why is this? Nobody wants to record stuff off the air for their convenience or to skip commercials?

I don't think it is a matter of nobody "wanting" .... rather it is a matter of too few people being willing to pay enough extra to motivate any manufacturers to offer additional options. Having said that, the DTVPal DVR is actually pretty new, so there is some movement in this sector.
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post #10 of 37 Old 06-29-2009, 10:56 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by plnelson View Post

I'm intrigued by the Windows media thing, though, because we almost always have a PC attached to our 42" TV. We run XP Pro with a full sw development and video-editing environment installed on a dual-processor, 4GB PC. The display is set at 1920x1080. So we're probably capable of doing this via a PC. But how does the tuner get the content onto the HDD? The reviews of the little USB Tuner Sticks I've seen said they write to the HDD in very low res - 720x480! Cramming 1920x1080 data through a USB (or even Firewire) port at normal framerates, given the Windows OS, would be pretty impressive if they could do it.

From what I understand, ATSC streams are not that difficult to record. Just about all of the ATSC tuners cards and USB sticks just record the ATSC stream directly to the Hard Drive. ATSC streams max out at 19.2 Mbps ... much much lower than USB and SATA/PATA. The CPU overhead is pretty low as well.

You will need a decent computer to playback the video ... but it looks like you have that covered.

NOTE - there is typically no conversion going on when recording ATSC streams. You get whatever the broadcaster provides. If they provide 19.2 Mbps, that's what you record. If your have some stations that re-compress down to 10 Mbps so that they can cram in a second 6 Mbps HD subchannel, then that's what you get. You also get the resolution that they broadcast as well, since there's no scaling involved either.

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post #11 of 37 Old 06-29-2009, 10:59 AM
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I use Beyond TV 4 from snapstream.com with a digital tuner card.
Works great.
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post #12 of 37 Old 06-29-2009, 11:00 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bicker1 View Post

I don't think it is a matter of nobody "wanting" .... rather it is a matter of too few people being willing to pay enough extra to motivate any manufacturers to offer additional options. Having said that, the DTVPal DVR is actually pretty new, so there is some movement in this sector.

I'd like to add to this ...

I think most people would rather pay the cable/sat company the $14 - $20 a month for a DVR. I remember when I bought my Sony DHG, my friends all laughed ... why not pay the $12/mo for the DVR. Well, it's no longer $12/mo in my area ... it's $17/mo and will likely go up again.

I bought my DVR because I don't want to be held by the whims of the cable company's pricing schemes.

Also, there aren't that many folks that are OTA viewers anymore. Although I hear that many folks are dropping cable/sat and going with OTA ... of course, this is just anecdotal evidence.

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post #13 of 37 Old 06-29-2009, 11:03 AM
 
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I'm not so sure the bottom-line, long-term dollar amount is the big discriminator, at least not in the cable/satellite space: The TiVo HD, for example, breaks-even after about 2 1/2 years. Rather, the discriminator is the difference between paying up-front versus paying month-to-month.

With OTA, though, there isn't anyone renting DVRs, so there is nothing to compare the price of the DTVPal DVR to, because it is the only box with its capabilities in current production for sale in the United States.
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post #14 of 37 Old 06-29-2009, 11:13 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ftaok View Post

I'd like to add to this ...

I think most people would rather pay the cable/sat company the $14 - $20 a month for a DVR. I remember when I bought my Sony DHG, my friends all laughed ... why not pay the $12/mo for the DVR. Well, it's no longer $12/mo in my area ... it's $17/mo and will likely go up again.

That's the thing - compared to OTA, those cable DVRs are never just the $15/mo (or whatever) - you also have to pay for some level of programming. So a fairer comparison between an OTA DVR and a cable DVR would be more like $250 for the Pal DVR and at least $50/mo going the cable route. For a typical cable subscriber that typically watches mostly local channels anyway (which could be had free OTA), the payback period for the DVR is much less than one year.

While a Media Center PC is possible to be used as a DVR, it only makes sense for the most PC savy folks who don't mind having the PC on most of the time. A Media Center PC is no where near an appliance like a dedicated DVR. If you already have a PC and display solution, adding a sub $100 tuner card is a good way to try things out.

Quote:


OK, so everything that everyone has mentioned here is is pretty much the same as the start of the year, before the US went all-digital.

The US was already all digital a looong time ago - the only thing happened was that the analog version was turned off 2 weeks ago. You could have scanned with that antenna plugged into the TV years ago and could have been watching HD for years already.
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post #15 of 37 Old 06-29-2009, 11:20 AM
 
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So a fairer comparison between an OTA DVR and a cable DVR would be more like $250 for the Pal DVR and at least $50/mo going the cable route.

You must be using the word "fair" in a wholly new and original manner. The comparisons at about $18 per month are fair: If you aren't going to pay for the level of service required for the DVR in the first place, then you shouldn't get the DVR, for sure.
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post #16 of 37 Old 06-29-2009, 11:21 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ftaok View Post

From what I understand, ATSC streams are not that difficult to record. Just about all of the ATSC tuners cards and USB sticks just record the ATSC stream directly to the Hard Drive. ATSC streams max out at 19.2 Mbps ... much much lower than USB and SATA/PATA. The CPU overhead is pretty low as well.

You will need a decent computer to playback the video ... but it looks like you have that covered.

I've read reviews of several of these products and that 720 x 480 number comes up a lot.

Example
http://www.fixya.com/support/p690487..._pro_stick_usb

Do most of them output in, let's say, at least 720p (1280x720 60 fps) resolution? How is the software on them - I've read reviews where color quality was poor or they messed up aspect ratios a lot. Are their tuners as sensitive as the one in my Samsung TV? We live 35 miles NW of Boston, but we're way up on a hill so with just an indoor antenna we have no trouble with any of the Boston or southern NH stations.
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post #17 of 37 Old 06-29-2009, 11:28 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by plnelson View Post

Do most of them output in, let's say, at least 720p (1280x720 60 fps) resolution? How is the software on them - I've read reviews where color quality was poor or they messed up aspect ratios a lot. Are their tuners as sensitive as the one in my Samsung TV? We live 35 miles NW of Boston, but we're way up on a hill so with just an indoor antenna we have no trouble with any of the Boston or southern NH stations.

These USB sticks don't output anything. They simply record the original, MPEG-2 digital bitstream (up to 19.4Mbps or 2.425MB/s) to your computer hard drive.

Your computer (and its video card) is responsible for the decoding and output of HD to your TV. Your computer (and its video card) determines the quality you get on your screen. Some video cards provide higher quality HD output than others. If your PC is set to output everything to your TV at 720p, then everything (480i, 720p, and 1080i channels) will be converted to that resolution by your video card. Aspect ratio controls are available with Vista Media Center.

The colors can be a little tricky for a novice to get right, as PC video cards generally process and output in a different colorspace than CE devices and internal TV tuners/decoders. The majority of people who go the PC tuner route are casual users who care more about cost and less about quality. High quality can also be achieved with a PC, it just requires the right hardware and more effort; this forum is full of enthusiasts that go to great lengths (i.e. video card upgrades, hours of tweaking) to obtain the best possible picture from their PC.

Some PC USB tuners are better (in terms of reception) than others. Make sure you get a tuner that is compatible with the software you want to use. You might want to see the HTPC section for recommendations.

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post #18 of 37 Old 06-29-2009, 11:48 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ftaok View Post

I'd like to add to this ...

I think most people would rather pay the cable/sat company the $14 - $20 a month for a DVR.

.. on top of whatever they're paying for cable. If you're paying _$0_ for OTA, then paying a monthly fee to record it, especially if you're used to the old VCR paradigm, is hard to swallow.

As an engineer I look at it like this - what would it cost to slap a decent ATSC tuner onto a fast, high-capacity HDD and wrap it up with a package and UI and build it in China and make a little profit? $200-250 (DVR Pal) seems a little high, but not unreasonable to me for that. $600 (Tivo) seems ridiculous.

Quote:


The US was already all digital a looong time ago - the only thing happened was that the analog version was turned off 2 weeks ago. You could have scanned with that antenna plugged into the TV years ago and could have been watching HD for years already.

I know; I just meant that turning off NTSC might force the issue and create more of a market for this stuff. I'm still surprised that there's not more competition in this space by "big name" companies.

(OT) - OTOH maybe we're weird. My wife and I have Sonos (which we love) for our music. Sonos has competition but no serious competition in that space. There are lots of little geeky products for people who like to install HD's in dedicated Linux boxes, and big companies like Philips and Sony have tried to break into that market without making a dent. But Sonos has a cult-following among people like us, and we don't understand why everyone doesn't want it. So maybe we're just too niche-y.
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post #19 of 37 Old 06-29-2009, 12:24 PM
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plnelson,
If you want to use a USB tuner instead of an internal tuner I think the 1500 from the following link would work fine for you. It does not require Media Center since you can use it's own PVR software package instead.

http://hauppauge.com/site/products/p..._external.html
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post #20 of 37 Old 06-29-2009, 01:52 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by plnelson View Post

I've read reviews of several of these products and that 720 x 480 number comes up a lot.

Example
http://www.fixya.com/support/p690487..._pro_stick_usb

Do most of them output in, let's say, at least 720p (1280x720 60 fps) resolution? How is the software on them - I've read reviews where color quality was poor or they messed up aspect ratios a lot. Are their tuners as sensitive as the one in my Samsung TV? We live 35 miles NW of Boston, but we're way up on a hill so with just an indoor antenna we have no trouble with any of the Boston or southern NH stations.

Not sure why the 720x480 number comes up at all, except that's the resolution of an NTSC signal.

That Pinnacle stick is definately capable of recording 1080i and 720p. If you PC can handle playback, you're fine.

Here's a review of that stick.
http://www.everythingusb.com/pinnacl...pro_stick.html
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post #21 of 37 Old 06-30-2009, 02:02 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bicker1 View Post

You must be using the word "fair" in a wholly new and original manner. The comparisons at about $18 per month are fair: If you aren't going to pay for the level of service required for the DVR in the first place, then you shouldn't get the DVR, for sure.

My fair comparison was in response to ft's post that said his friends compare their $15/mo DVR fee vs. the $250 up front cost of the Pal DVR. The friend that has a cable co DVR doesn't pay $15/mo - he pays at least $50 - so it totally skews the pay back period. The payback period is even less with a sub $100 tuner added to an existing PC.

As was mentioned there's lots more detailed info about tuners in the HTPC section.
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post #22 of 37 Old 06-30-2009, 07:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by plnelson View Post

OK, so everything that everyone has mentioned here is is pretty much the same as the start of the year, before the US went all-digital. (except that the used gear is even older! ) Why is this?

Because the vast majority, about 85%, of TV viewers are either Cable or DBS subs. This means the market for OTA devices is comparatively speaking relatively small.

If you were a box maker, would you be targeting only 15% of TV viewers? Not me.

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post #23 of 37 Old 06-30-2009, 08:18 PM
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I use a usb Autumn Wave GT with pc and works great . OTA currently is very crisp. The future will tell. PS: Most of the better tuners are in goverment sponsored converter boxes and incorporated in newer televisions. Separate tuners are fading.

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post #24 of 37 Old 06-30-2009, 08:28 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken H View Post

Because the vast majority, about 85%, of TV viewers are either Cable or DBS subs. This means the market for OTA devices is comparatively speaking relatively small.

If you were a box maker, would you be targeting only 15% of TV viewers? Not me.

The estimates I've seen for people who watch TV OTA in the US have ranged from 15 to 40 million. If you could get just 5% of the lowest number, above, you'd sell 750,000 units, which is plenty. And clearly there's not much competition in this space, so anything half decent at a half decent price would probably do very well!
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post #25 of 37 Old 06-30-2009, 09:01 PM
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One potential problem might be that the kind of technically inclined people who are comfortable with a DVR or computer-centric system and care about HD picture quality, are much more likely to have cable or satellite. A lot of people are getting fed up with the cablecos and satellite companies and dropping them like bricks, sure, but still.

If you want any anecdotal evidence, you can check the videos of local news stories with people in the OTA demo. The ones I've seen involve lots of tinfoiled rabbit ears and 25 year old wood-paneled TVs.
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post #26 of 37 Old 07-01-2009, 01:21 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by plnelson View Post

The estimates I've seen for people who watch TV OTA in the US have ranged from 15 to 40 million. If you could get just 5% of the lowest number, above, you'd sell 750,000 units, which is plenty. And clearly there's not much competition in this space, so anything half decent at a half decent price would probably do very well!

In this scenario though, you have to use the number of people where OTA is the only means that the household has to access content, because such a box would typically be used on the primary television in the home. So now you're looking at a much smaller number. Beyond that, you need to look at the profile of the family that does not have cable or satellite. Are these the richest people? Are they the ones who buy the most expensive things? No. They are generally either folks who cannot afford expensive technology, or don't like technology itself. Surely the worst sector of the market to direct these types of products at.
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post #27 of 37 Old 07-01-2009, 09:17 AM
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So you would focus it like Tivo and make it simple to use. Tivo could do it, calling it tivonano or something like that. However they strike me as uninterested and would not have the financial means given all that you would need to do to promote it and also given the current economic climate to do so.
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post #28 of 37 Old 07-02-2009, 05:35 AM
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Walmart (and sometimes Target) sell on-line the Magnavox H2160. It is a combination hard-drive and DVD recorder and can be used for either cable or OTA. It comes equipped with a 160GB hard drive, that you can upgrade to a 500GB hard drive. See the Philips 3575/3576 and Magnovox H2160 forum listed under the DVD Recorder forum under the Video Component section. Lots and lots of information there about this unit.

At the top of the page is a pulldown menu called Forum Jump where you can scroll to the specific area/section and jump there to see the various posts.

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post #29 of 37 Old 07-02-2009, 06:32 AM
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Originally Posted by mreedelp View Post

Walmart (and sometimes Target) sell on-line the Magnavox H2160. It is a combination hard-drive and DVD recorder and can be used for either cable or OTA. It comes equipped with a 160GB hard drive, that you can upgrade to a 500GB hard drive. See the Philips 3575/3576 and Magnovox H2160 forum listed under the DVD Recorder forum under the Video Component section. Lots and lots of information there about this unit.

At the top of the page is a pulldown menu called Forum Jump where you can scroll to the specific area/section and jump there to see the various posts.

I think the assumption was that the OP wanted to record in HD. The Philips unit is nice (my BIL has one), but it only records in SD .. so to many, it's a non-starter.

If recording in HD is not a requirement, then the Philips/Magnavox units might be right up his alley.

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post #30 of 37 Old 07-02-2009, 09:38 AM
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In this scenario though, you have to use the number of people where OTA is the only means that the household has to access content, because such a box would typically be used on the primary television in the home. So now you're looking at a much smaller number. Beyond that, you need to look at the profile of the family that does not have cable or satellite. Are these the richest people? Are they the ones who buy the most expensive things? No. They are generally either folks who cannot afford expensive technology, or don't like technology itself. Surely the worst sector of the market to direct these types of products at.

I have many friends that rely on OTA TV. As a group they are all not heavy TV watchers. My one brother is an engineer and very technically savy but watches TV mostly for sports (pro football). Have several single friends that don't spend too much time at home so can't justify $60 a month for the little TV they watch, which us usually network TV anyway. Every one of my OTA only friends could afford cable/satellite but choose to spend their hard earned money elsewhere.

Most have expressed an interest in recording. I have mentioned the Dish DTV Pal DVR at $249 but that price seemed to cool their interest.

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