Need help buying DVR: opinions on what can replace a VCR's functionality - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 12 Old 10-09-2009, 08:50 AM - Thread Starter
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I just had a horrible experience with my DTVPal DVR. It stopped working after a little more than 4 months, and DISH will not provide even a reduced-price repair or replacement.

Are there any other products out there with similar features? All I want to do is what any $40 VCR could do before the digital transition: Record one show while watching another, and record shows on more than one channel while I'm away on vacation.
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post #2 of 12 Old 10-09-2009, 09:02 AM
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To get that functionality for HD without a cable or satellite subscription, there are only two choices: the DTVPal DVR and TivoHD. The TiVo the most reliable and functional HDTV DVR solution available, but that added reliability and functionality comes at a price.

If you are willing to give up HD recording, the program guide and program information, and ability to record more than one show at a time, then the Magnavox H2160 is an option to consider. That's basically a digital SD VCR with the ability to pause liveTV.

All three products are compared below:

   
PRICE          
  Price online
  DVR fees
None
None
$129/year or
$330-$399 lifetime
Included
  Total online cost without any future fees
$229
$300
$580 - $650
$799
TUNERS          
  Tuners for off-air antenna
1
2
2
None
  Tuners for analog and digital cable
1
None
2
2x digital cable
1x analog with dongle
  Supports encrypted digital channels on cable    
X
X
BASIC          
  Program guide  
X
X
X
  High-definition output
(Only outputs in SD)
X
X
X
  Pause and rewind liveTV on both SD and HD channels
X
X
X
X
  Record one channel while you watch another live  
X
X
X
  Record one HD channel as SD while you watch a previously recorded show in SD
X
     
  Record two different HD channels, while you watch a previously recorded HD show  
X
X
X
  Pause, replay, 30sec skip, slow mo, and multiple speeds of FF and RW
X
X
X
X
  Skip-to-tick or comparable function (i.e. skip 15 minutes at a time)    
X
X
  Progress bar (on trickplay) shows current position in video
X
X
X
X
  Dual live buffers (i.e. saves pause position and video on inactive tuner)    
X
(Does not save position)
  Remembers where you left off in every recording
X
X
X
X
  Conflict management (i.e. ability to skip a scheduled recording to record something new)    
X
X
  Closed captions on recordings
(Analog only)
X
X
X
RECORD          
  Records HD at 100% original quality
(Only records in SD)
X
X
X
  Records all programs using VCR-like timers (ex: every Monday from 8:00-8:30pm)
X
X
   
  Records and tracks programs by their name    
X
X
  Ability to record only new episodes and ignore repeats    
X
X
  Automatically adjusts record schedule when programs change their days, times, and/or lengths    
X
X
  Series manager to prioritize what two programs are recorded when 3+ programs conflict    
X
X
  Automatic rescheduling so programs missed due to conflicts are recorded the next time they air    
X
X
  Overlap protection to eliminate conflicts when three or more programs overlap by up to five minutes    
X
 
  Automatically deletes oldest recording (not set "keep until I delete") when space needed for new recording    
X
X
  Start recordings early or end late  
X
X
X
  Keep only the last X episodes of a show    
X
X
  Keep recording until I delete or until space is needed  
X
X
X
GUIDE          
  Create recording from program guide selection  
X
X
X
  Guide filters and favorites    
X
X
  Delete individual channels from guide  
X
X
X
  Days of program information
None
8 days on many channels
14 days on all channels
14 days on all channels
  Comprehensive program information available on all channels in all markets    
X
X
  Detailed episode information and original airdate; distinguishes between new and repeat episodes    
X
X
  Downloads guide data without an Internet connection (wired or wireless) or phone line  
X
(Requires Internet or phone)
(Requires Internet)
  Integrates off-air and cable channels into a single guide  
N/A
X
N/A
  Maximum number of 30min timeslots shown on guide screen  
6 in grid
3 in grid, 8 in TiVo-style
6 in grid, 4 in Moxi-style
SEARCH          
  Search program titles and descriptions  
X
X
X
  Search program titles, descriptions, actors, directors, and categories with boolean operators (AND/OR/NOT)    
X
 
  Record a single program found with search  
X
X
X
  Automatically record all future programs matching a saved search    
X
 
DVR UI          
  Single-click delete    
X
 
  Deleted Items folder with recording undelete    
X
 
  Number of programs shown on recorded list screen
?
6
8
10
  Recorded list shows name of every recording  
X
X
X
  Recorded list shows date of every recording    
X
X
  Recorded list can be sorted by name, date, or grouped  
X
X
 
  Program groups (folders) can be sorted by name or date  
(Name only)
X
(Name only)
  Inside program groups (folders), recordings are sorted by recorded date    
X
X
  Inside program groups (folders), episode names are listed    
X
X
  Record schedule shows names of upcoming programs    
X
X
  Recorded history shows why programs didn't record  
(Limited)
X
 
  Free disk space estimate
X
X
(Recently Deleted)
X
  No advertising of any kind
X
X
X
STORAGE          
  Built-in capacity
160GB
250GB
160GB (1TB on XL)
500 GB
  Supports external drive expansion    
Up to 1TB
Up to 6 TB w/ RAID
  Allows internal hard drive upgrades
X
X
X
?
TRANSFER          
  Allows download/transfer of HD and SD recorded files to a computer    
X
 
  Allows transfer of PC videos to DVR for viewing    
X
 
  Allows streaming of PC videos to DVR for viewing    
(Limited)
X
  Software to automatically download favorite series and convert them for portable players (ex: iPhone)    
X
 
MULTIROOM          
  Access and view recordings on a DVR in another room    
X
X
  Pause a recording in one room and resume it in another    
X
X
ONLINE          
  Connects to Internet time server each night to set clock    
X
X
  Download software updates using ethernet connection  
X
X
X
  Remote scheduling via the web and mobile phone    
X
X
  Real-time conflict management for remote scheduling      
X
  Edit and/or delete scheduled recordings online      
X
  View list of recorded programs and upcoming / scheduled recordings online    
X
X
  Subscribe to specific RSS video feeds and podcasts (i.e. so they automatically download when available)    
X
 
  Support for Amazon's "TV Passes" (i.e. purchase a cable series and new episodes are downloaded in HD)    
X
 
  Support for Netflix SD/HD streaming    
X
Netflix SD Only
(Requires third-party software)
           
OTHER          
  Requires phone line? Requires Internet connection? Requires one or the other?
No/No/No
No/No/No
No/No/Yes
No/Yes
  Native output mode to output all video as is without conversion    
X
X
  Downconverts HD video to SD over s-video and composite connections for non-HDTVs
X
(Composite only)
X
X
  All SD and HD outputs active simultaneously  
X
X
X
  Allows 16:9 anamorphic output through SD connections    
X
 
  DLNA compliant      
X
  Built-in DVD writer
X
     
WARRANTY          
  Parts warranty
One year
90 days
One year
One year
  Cost to replace after warranty expires
?
$300
$150
$?
  Cost to transfer lifetime service to a replacement DVR for three years
N/A
N/A
$0
N/A
  Cost to transfer lifetime service to a replacement DVR after three years
N/A
N/A
$199
N/A
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post #3 of 12 Old 10-10-2009, 05:42 AM - Thread Starter
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bfdtv,

Thanks for your quick response! So, your saying that it now costs $800 to duplicate what could be done with $40 before the Digital transition? Another strike against big government intervention… That’s very depressing news; but thank you for the information! Is Tivo XD the only one that would work, or could I buy a used older Tivo off eBay? I don’t care about high-definition or anything; my TV is 8 years old, and I don’t plan on replacing it until it breaks.

I don’t need to tape 2 shows at once, but I do need to tape one while watching another. Since this DVR functions as my digital converter box, I suppose this means the Magnavox is out. Correct?
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post #4 of 12 Old 10-10-2009, 05:54 AM
 
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You actually could not do what the TiVo HD can do with an older DVR, i.e., record digital television. The only other TiVo that can do that is the TiVo S3. Other stand-alone TiVos don't have ATSC tuners.

You can use older TiVos, such as the TiVo S2, along with your ATSC digital converter box, as per these instructions:

http://www.tivo.com/assets/pdfs/prm/...structions.pdf

Note that you can still use your old $40 solution (whatever that might be), combined with a digital converter box. You just need to tune the channels in manually, or find one that can be programmed or controlled by your solution (just like the S2 can control converter boxes, as per the instructions above).


While some folks would have been better off if analog was not being supplanted by digital, many folks prefer the way things are going. I'm very happy with the way things are working out; I'm sorry that you are disappointed.
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post #5 of 12 Old 10-10-2009, 06:59 AM
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You didn't say if you were OTA or Cable, but OTA you could do as bfdtv suggested. That is team up a Magnavox 2160a and a $40 CECB fed to a different input on your TV.
You'd use the Maggy to record scheduled events and watch TV(when you weren't recording a different channel than you wanted to watch) and use the CECB when you wanted to watch a different show than you were recording.
The Maggy frequently sells refurbished at J&R online out of NY for $159 (not available now) which would bring your total cost with the CECB to ~$200.
You may see other DVDRs with digital tuners but the HDD really makes the 2160a the best choice and also much more reliable than direct to DVD burning. With a HDD DVDR you generally record everything to the HDD and only offload to DVD things you want to keep long term.
My father liked his DVDR so much he ended up buying a second so he could record 2 different channels at the same time. You could also do this and skip the CECB but going referbs it would end up costing $320 for the both, although still less than half a dual tuner Tivo w/lifetime for ~$650.
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post #6 of 12 Old 10-10-2009, 02:04 PM
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Some other options to consider (assuming that you're interested in recording digital OTA, not cable or satellite):

1. If you want an HD solution, there is the DVICO R3310, which has a thread devoted to it here. It's around $350 with an installed tuner card and hard drive -- and would cover HD record/playback functions as well as being a versatile video player if you download videos from the Internet.

2. If you're happy to record in standard definition, you can consider any DVD recorder with a built in ATSC tuner. If you've been happy with a VCR in the past, you may be satisfied with a DVD recorder that does not have a built in hard drive, as the Magnavox does. For example, the Toshiba DR570 is available online for around $160 -- and it might be worth checking your local stores to see what are available as close outs. But make sure that you buy a DVD recorder that does have a built in tuner -- many are now tunerless.
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post #7 of 12 Old 10-10-2009, 02:25 PM
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Yet another option - look at tuner cards for your computer. Hauppage makes a few models that can record in HDTV both OTA and ClearQAM. I have a WIN HVR1600 in my PC and it seems to do pretty well.

You CAN put antennas on your owned and/or controlled property...
http://www.fcc.gov/mb/facts/otard.html

Being A Beacon of Knowledge in the darkness of FUD
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post #8 of 12 Old 10-10-2009, 02:39 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jjeff View Post

You didn't say if you were OTA or Cable,

He was using a DTVPal DVR, so he must be OTA.

Quote:


but OTA you could do as bfdtv suggested. That is team up a Magnavox 2160a and a $40 CECB fed to a different input on your TV.

Agreed. That's probably the cheapest way to accomplish what he wants. Or if he doesn't need the HDD capacity that the Magnavox has, he could get a Panasonic DMR-EZ28K instead. It doesn't have a HDD, but it uses DVD-RAMs which behave like small, removable HDDs. You can record something, then delete it just like from a HDD and record something else.

You can also re-use DVD-RWs, but you have to re-format them in order to erase, which removes everything on the disc. With a DVD-RAM you can delete one program and re-use the space while leaving the other programs untouched. The main problem with DVD-RAM is capacity: 2 hours in SP mode or 4 hours in LP mode. Longer modes have terrible picture quality and I doubt many people would want to use them.

However, that Panasonic isn't a whole lot cheaper than the Magnavox (about $235 versus $300).
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post #9 of 12 Old 10-10-2009, 03:35 PM
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Good catch jt, the reason I didn't get into the HDD less DVDRs was because the OP said they wanted to record when they were on vacation. As you said with a standard DVD that wouldn't leave much time for quality recordings.
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post #10 of 12 Old 10-10-2009, 10:30 PM
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Good point. I was focusing on the "VCR replacement" concept, and of course a single tape has limited capacity like a DVD does. If the OP is comfortable with the time limitations of VHS tapes, then a DVD should be similar. If he's gotten used to the disk space on the DTVPal, on the other hand...
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post #11 of 12 Old 10-10-2009, 10:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rworkman98 View Post

I just had a horrible experience with my DTVPal DVR. It stopped working after a little more than 4 months, and DISH will not provide even a reduced-price repair or replacement.

Are there any other products out there with similar features? All I want to do is what any $40 VCR could do before the digital transition: Record one show while watching another, and record shows on more than one channel while I'm away on vacation.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rworkman98 View Post

So, your saying that it now costs $800 to duplicate what could be done with $40 before the Digital transition?

I never saw a $40 VCR. I did see a $60 VCR just before they left the store shelves -- it was a piece of chinese crap. This is the dilemma facing many. They want advanced digital technology at the same price point that obsolete analog technology sold for as it was on it's deathbed. In time adjusted money, I paid more for my first Sony stereo VCR than a TiVo HD with lifetime costs today.

Since you need a dual tuner solution, I think you would have more value for a single dual tuner DVR (and single remote) to do the job rather than multiple units. IMHO, buying a TiVo HD for an 8 yr old analog SD TV that you have no intention of upgrading is a waste of money. I think in your case the best solution would be to buy another Pal DVR. I'm sure that has a bitter taste to it, so I would recommend you buy it from Sears this time (so you can easily return it if DOA) along with the 2 yr extended warranty. Total cost this time around will be ~$350.

- 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

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post #12 of 12 Old 10-11-2009, 12:33 AM
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How about the Panasonic EZ28 with digital tuner? Is it still available?
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