Confused on which OTA DVR to purchase? Any advice?? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 59 Old 07-23-2012, 09:55 AM - Thread Starter
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Cutting the line on Direct TV tomorrow, and I feel like a weight is off my shoulders. But, I love having the DVR and despise commercials so I'm looking for a solution. There are several OTA DVR's listed on here, and some of the threads have started 4 or 5 years ago I'm kind of confused as to what's on the market today and what I should look for.


Of course I am looking for a good price, but I am also looking for quality and the most options.

1.) If I'm understanding correctly, these things are also tuners (remember I'm a beginner and very green here), so these will pick up both VHF and UHF stations? Is that correct? What should I look for?

2.) Are there any I should absolutely avoid?

3.) Can I mount my antenna to the roof and use the co-axial cables that Direct TV was using?

4.) I read that some of these don't have a hard drive and I would have to provide my own USB hard drive? Do I just purchase a 20g USB memory stick, or is it more complicated than that?

5.) Any links I should be reading up on? I am completely lost in the mountains of threads and forums on this site.


Any info is greatly appreciated.


Thank you!
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post #2 of 59 Old 07-23-2012, 10:35 AM
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Roll your own HTPC (lots of help in the HTPC forum here) or get a Tivo. There are other options, but those two are the most reliable.
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post #3 of 59 Old 07-23-2012, 10:46 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by slowbiscuit View Post

Roll your own HTPC (lots of help in the HTPC forum here) or get a Tivo. There are other options, but those two are the most reliable.


Sorry, what does 'Roll Your Own' mean?



And doesn't TiVo charge a monthy fee for their DVRs?
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post #4 of 59 Old 07-23-2012, 11:09 AM
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Originally Posted by NewToAntenna View Post

Sorry, what does 'Roll Your Own' mean?
And doesn't TiVo charge a monthy fee for their DVRs?
Roll your own means build a DVR using a PC, you can't really purchase a premade system so you need to build your own.
A Tivo with lifetime is between $500 and $600 depending on the cost of the basic Tivo, lifetime is $500 itself.
You have cheaper options for prebuilt DVR depending on your tolerance level for "issues" but if your one who just wants to "set it and forget it" the Tivo is your best option. Those cheaper DVRs probably start ~$250 and again some may charge a monthly fee for a upgraded guide service. Don't expect much with the basic "free" PSIP guide.
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post #5 of 59 Old 07-23-2012, 11:16 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by jjeff View Post

Roll your own means build a DVR using a PC, you can't really purchase a premade system so you need to build your own.
A Tivo with lifetime is between $500 and $600 depending on the cost of the basic Tivo, lifetime is $500 itself.
You have cheaper options for prebuilt DVR depending on your tolerance level for "issues" but if your one who just wants to "set it and forget it" the Tivo is your best option. Those cheaper DVRs probably start ~$250 and again some may charge a monthly fee for a upgraded guide service. Don't expect much with the basic "free" PSIP guide.


Never heard of RYO, I guess I'll have to research that. It will probably be a lot cheaper and easier.


Thanks for the info.


Any suggestions on the best homemade antennas???
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post #6 of 59 Old 07-23-2012, 02:36 PM
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There are basically three DVR options at this point: the CM-7400, the TViX 6620, and the PHD-VRX. The first works well if you want only throw-away recording, while the latter two allow you to archive content permanently, as you could with a VCR. The VRX was just released and is quite buggy to the point of being unrealiable, while the TViX has many known bugs that some users find annoying but that generally don't interfere with operation. I went the TViX route myself and am quite pleased, but there are no stand-alone DVRs that offer a flawless experience. The HTPC route gives the most flexibility but uses the most electricity and requires the most technical experience to configure.

As for antennas, that really depends on where you live. You can search YouTube for coathanger antenna tutorials that will show you how to make very capable antennas for almost no money. I'm using one that involves copper wire (rather than coathangers) and a piece of plywood that works almost perfectly, although I do have to adjust its orientation to receive a few channels. It works better than any of the commercial antennas I've bought in the past and was a fraction of the cost. I did invest in a cheap inline amplifier that improves my reception, which at $20 was the most expensive part of the setup.
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post #7 of 59 Old 07-23-2012, 04:08 PM
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Having used DVRs since 2000 including provider models, HTPCs (several) and TiVo. I would go with TiVo without question. My next choice would be Channel Master if I didn't care about conflict resolution and a ton of other features that typically don't jump out at you until later.

 

TiVo with Lifetime is a little more than the Channel Master upfront and it that is of concern I believe the going rate is $150 for the DVR and $15 a month for service. If you need additional storage you can drop a 2TB drive in later or transfer recordings to your NAS, etc.

 

Why not a HTPC? User experience plain and simple. For others it might be there but for me TV should be simple and effortless and that doesn't equal HTPC. Sure many will say it's better and perhaps for them it is... not in my experience... try picking up the TiVo peanut remote after a few weeks and flipping from one paused live show to another. That HTPC will cost more upfront (I paid $60 for my TiVo Premiere) unless you pay for lifetime and the current $10 a month I donate to TiVo would never cover the PC and it's ongoing upgrades I'm sure I would end up with over the years. How many years until I'd be paying more than the HTPC would cost (no I don't have a HDMI, OTA Tuner PC sitting around collecting dust)? $60 + $360 perhaps? $420 for the HTPC and I wouldn't touch it in three years? If ultimate cost is important purchase lifetime...

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post #8 of 59 Old 07-23-2012, 05:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Charles R View Post

Having used DVRs since 2000 including provider models, HTPCs (several) and TiVo. I would go with TiVo without question. My next choice would be Channel Master if I didn't care about conflict resolution and a ton of other features that typically don't jump out at you until later.

TiVo with Lifetime is a little more than the Channel Master upfront and it that is of concern I believe the going rate is $150 for the DVR and $15 a month for service. If you need additional storage you can drop a 2TB drive in later or transfer recordings to your NAS, etc.

+1 on the TiVo, without hesitation. TiVo is the benchmark to which all others are compared. It is not flawless (what is?) but it comes as close as you are going to get with what's available.

It is important to note that although the TiVo/lifetime costs $200 more than the CM-7400, the CM-7400 comes without a guide (PSIP is not a guide) while the TiVo comes with a 14 day guide. In order to get comparable guide service for the CM-7400 you have to purchase a subscription and pay $50/yr for the life of the unit. The TiVo/lifetime has no additional costs. The CM-7400 does have the unique ability to act as a space heater for your family room in the winter.

Not sure why the previous poster omitted TiVo as a "fourth" DVR option.

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post #9 of 59 Old 07-24-2012, 03:17 AM
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Originally Posted by Kelson View Post

Not sure why the previous poster omitted TiVo as a "fourth" DVR option.

If you're referring to me, I think it's safe to assume anyone who knows enough about technology to come to this forum and ask about DVR options is probably already aware of TiVo and would have chosen it already had he wanted one, NewToAntenna just dropped his pay-TV service and probably doesn't want another bill, and even without making assumptions, he said:
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Originally Posted by NewToAntenna 
And doesn't TiVo charge a monthy fee for their DVRs?

which indicates he doesn't want to deal with the expense of a TiVo, regardless of whether it's on a monthly basis or all at once.
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post #10 of 59 Old 07-24-2012, 05:03 AM
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When my contract with Directv is up in November I will be going OTA and will buy a used Tivo with lifetime on ebay . These are selling from 300 to 400 dollars.

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post #11 of 59 Old 07-24-2012, 05:39 AM
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Originally Posted by jjeff View Post
You have cheaper options for prebuilt DVR depending on your tolerance level for "issues" but if your one who just wants to "set it and forget it" the Tivo is your best option.

 

^^^

 

This.

 

TiVo with lifetime, if you want the closest experience to what you had with the Direct DVR.

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post #12 of 59 Old 07-24-2012, 05:52 AM
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You get what you pay for in this space, bottom line. Judging from the OP's posts it's obvious to me that Tivo is the best route regardless of cost, but we can't make that call for him.

OP if you need to save money, used Tivo HDs and Premieres with lifetime service are readily available on fleabay for $350-450.
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post #13 of 59 Old 07-24-2012, 09:42 AM
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Originally Posted by Aleron Ives View Post

If you're referring to me, I think it's safe to assume anyone who knows enough about technology to come to this forum and ask about DVR options is probably already aware of TiVo and would have chosen it already had he wanted one,
That's a rather bold assumption considering the number of newbees we get in these forums who ask very basic questions.

Furthermore, his comment you quote:
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Originally Posted by NewToAntenna View Post

And doesn't TiVo charge a monthy fee for their DVRs?
tells me he really doesn't know anything about TiVo.

No matter. We did manage to get all the options out on the table. The balls in his court.

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post #14 of 59 Old 07-24-2012, 10:49 AM
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Originally Posted by Kelson View Post

Not sure why the previous poster omitted TiVo as a "fourth" DVR option.

 

Can't speak to why in this case however often TiVo is represented as tainted since it offers a subscription model. Cost of (eventual) ownership and user experience is irrelevant. To a lesser degree even the Lifetime option is looked down upon... you can't use TiVo without having to purchase something else. Typically, this comes from people who don't have a subscription gene in their body and or are tired of paying monthly for pay-TV and want to stop bleeding. :)

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post #15 of 59 Old 07-24-2012, 01:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Kelson View Post

That's a rather bold assumption considering the number of newbees we get in these forums who ask very basic questions.
Hey I was a newbee like that one time tongue.gif I told myself I'd never get a Tivo because I wasn't going to pay no stinkin' monthly fees. I didn't mind a higher upfront cost, just don't nickle and dime my monthly. Once I found about lifetime I ponied up the money and haven't looked back. That was 4? years ago and I haven't had any "issues" or missed recordings yet cool.gif I agree $500 may be a lot up front but being OTA only I just figure it's one of the things that makes me happy with the limited amount of channels I get. When I watch TV It's what I want, basically commercial free.
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post #16 of 59 Old 08-20-2012, 06:34 AM
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Well I just don't like or fully understand why I buy a lifetime and if my unit breaks or is outdated and have to upgrade why I have to buy another lifetime.
"To me" its a total scam.
Sell me a lifetime service and then sell me a unit. Not over and over again.
An HTPC is a very good option, but everyone thinks of a big mid tower standing by the tv.
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post #17 of 59 Old 08-20-2012, 10:28 AM
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Um, maybe because they can't make any money that way? It's not a scam if you understand the business model and how lifetime essentially pays for itself when you resell the box at upgrade time. If you don't, cobble together something else.
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post #18 of 59 Old 08-20-2012, 11:08 AM
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"To me" its a total scam.
Sell me a lifetime service and then sell me a unit. Not over and over again.
Agreed.
Problem is, TiVo is the Goliath of DVR's, just as M$ is for O/S's. Both have a strangle hold over competitors, especially law suit happy TiVo.
If they would wake up, stop being so greedy with their 'rule the world' mentality and produce a DVR that can be used w/o their Guide data, they might attract more potential customers.

It's like buying a vehicle that can only be operated with fuel from that manufacture. Yes, you can buy the car, but it won't go anywhere without their fuel.

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post #19 of 59 Old 08-21-2012, 05:33 AM
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ReplayTV tried bundling in the sub cost with the price of the box and the DVRs were over $500. Guess what? People didn't buy them, so they switched to unbundling the sub price from the box (until they went under). It's no different for Tivo, they just subsidize the box cost upfront and get their profit from the sub.

If you wanted a true 'lifetime of the person' sub good for multiple boxes you'd probably pay over $1000 for the privilege, so how many takers do you think that would have?

It's not that difficult to understand, and it's not a scam.
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post #20 of 59 Old 08-21-2012, 09:16 AM
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Originally Posted by slowbiscuit View Post

It's not that difficult to understand, and it's not a scam.

I agree completely. It's very similar in concept to, say, a cell phone. With a cell phone, you contract for the cell service and the provider subsidizes the cost of the device to use their service. Same with TiVo. You buy the TiVo DVR service and they subsidize the cost of the device to use it. The only difference is that TiVo gives you the option of paying a one-time fee for unlimited DVR service for the life of the subsidized device. That is the gist of it, plain and simple.

So to all the people who think TiVo Lifetime DVR service is a scam, how would you react if Verizpn introduced a similar pricing plan where they will let you pay a one-time fee for unlimited cell-phone service for the life of your cell phone AND still subsidized the cost of the cell phone. Would you immediately brand that as a scam because it is only for the life of the subsidized cell-phone?

Almost without exception, the people who get bent out of shape over lifetime TiVo DVR service pricing do so by equating the cost as solely for the guide data. It is not. It is the fee for the TiVo DVR service running on their subsidized equipment -- that includes the DVR functionality and all its features and service & software support of which the guide data is just a part.

So, you don't like paying for DVR service? Fair enough. In that case you can go functional without guide data which means you have to buy unsubsidized equipment at full price. You can buy a CM-7400 for $400 that has no guide service but is fully functional for manual recording. Since a DVR is not really useful without a guide (PSIP is not a guide service) you have the option of subscribing to their guide data (you only get one choice on that) for $50/yr -- forever. It is your call which way to go, but lifetime DVR service it is definitely not a scam.

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post #21 of 59 Old 08-21-2012, 01:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slowbiscuit View Post

ReplayTV tried bundling in the sub cost with the price of the box and the DVRs were over $500. Guess what? People didn't buy them, so they switched to unbundling the sub price from the box (until they went under). It's no different for Tivo, they just subsidize the box cost upfront and get their profit from the sub.
If you wanted a true 'lifetime of the person' sub good for multiple boxes you'd probably pay over $1000 for the privilege, so how many takers do you think that would have?
It's not that difficult to understand, and it's not a scam.

It's not OTA, so it's not entirely relevant, but for comparison's sake: Look at the Moxi. Look at the price range they were selling those units for. Now, consider that Arris (a) canned the consumer Moxi line completely, and (b) has already made a move to end the guide service which it depends upon (and I'll be surprised if they don't try again within 1-2 years).

My point being, that even if someone could provide the guide service as part of the unit price *and* make it affordable, which is something no one has been able to achieve so far, the minute the product was no longer made, you'd be using it on borrowed time. Unfortunately, the idea of using some existing guide data source isn't really workable. Unlike in Australia and the UK where thorough, complete guide data is part of their TV system, using ATSC PSIP data is pretty much a non-starter due to the unreliability of it and many OTA stations considering it unimportant. TVGoS is probably heading to the glue factory in the not-so-distant future, since it's getting clearer that Rovi cares very little for it.. Unless you're okay with keeping a spreadsheet and manually updating scheduled programs forever, if you want the "set-and-forget" TiVo-type experience, paying for service, either monthly or up-front, is going to be a must.
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post #22 of 59 Old 08-21-2012, 02:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Kelson View Post

a DVR is not really useful without a guide (PSIP is not a guide service)

That's entirely a matter of opinion. Especially for people who only use OTA (which is the main market that service-free DVRs tackle), timers are more than adequate for managing a recoding schedule for a handful of channels for a single person. If you have cable service with hundreds of channels and a family of four all trying to record different things, then guide data and automatic schedule management become much more useful. It's comparing apples to oranges to assume that OTA viewers all have the same needs as cable customers.

As for PSIP, there's nothing wrong with the technology, and it could easily provide a full guide service for DVR applications; the problem is that neither the FCC nor anyone else enforces its use and requires stations to populate their schedules with a week or more of useful data. As usual, enforcement is the problem with PSIP standards.
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post #23 of 59 Old 08-21-2012, 02:59 PM
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Originally Posted by Aleron Ives View Post

That's entirely a matter of opinion. Especially for people who only use OTA (which is the main market that service-free DVRs tackle), timers are more than adequate for managing a recoding schedule for a handful of channels for a single person.
Now that is an opinion. One which I heartily disagree with. I've been OTA for 25 yr and have tons of experience with manual recording -- you can keep it. I'll take the set-it-and-forget-it utility of a good guide-based DVR any day and I'm willing to pay for it.

Calling cable vs OTA apples vs oranges is nonsense. It's not the hundreds of channels you have but the shows you watch/record. I have 26 season passes set on my TiVo and will have at least 6 more set on my media PC (also guide-based DVR software). The thought of keeping track of that with manual recording makes me laugh.

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post #24 of 59 Old 08-21-2012, 04:35 PM
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The point is that asserting a DVR can't be useful without a guide is incorrect; VCRs did it for decades, after all. Obviously name-based recording is more convenient, and that is not the point. As you said, the ease with which an individual can manage a recording schedule manually depends on the number of programs he wants to record.

One would hope that those who pay for cable do so because the extra channels contain desirable content, so it is reasonable to correlate the number of available channels with the number of programs the viewer will want to record. Exceptions always exist, and people who live in large OTA TV markets can certainly have full recording schedules.
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post #25 of 59 Old 08-21-2012, 06:03 PM
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My life is subject to interruptions at any time, and I have to record and timeshift all television fare that I watch.  A DVR with no name-based recording and no guide but only timer-based recording would still be far better for me than having no DVR functions at all.
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post #26 of 59 Old 08-21-2012, 09:57 PM
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It's not that difficult to understand, and it's not a scam.
Ok, call it a scheme instead if that makes you happy. Mass porduced electronics made in China should place the price under $400. Guide data shouldn't cost more than $25 or $30 a year. Tens years worth keeps the total price under $700.
Quote:
A DVR with no name-based recording and no guide but only timer-based recording would still be far better for me than having no DVR functions at all.
And living in the back seat of a car is better than living in a cardboard box. rolleyes.gif

The very limited DVR choices are pathetic. I blame the MSO's and TiVo. Period.
There was no problem with VCR's. Dozens of models from the very basic to the very elaborate.

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post #27 of 59 Old 08-22-2012, 12:11 AM
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Originally Posted by videobruce View Post
There was no problem with VCR's. 

 

Here you go:

 

http://www.film-buy.com/8-172669-VCRS.rss

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post #28 of 59 Old 08-22-2012, 06:49 AM
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Originally Posted by videobruce View Post

Ok, call it a scheme instead if that makes you happy. Mass porduced electronics made in China should place the price under $400. Guide data shouldn't cost more than $25 or $30 a year. Tens years worth keeps the total price under $700.
The very limited DVR choices are pathetic. I blame the MSO's and TiVo. Period.
There was no problem with VCR's. Dozens of models from the very basic to the very elaborate.
A lifetime Tivo Premiere can be had for $500, so you just agreed with what I've been saying. And when you want to get another box, you can likely fleabay that Premiere for $300 minimum in future so you're only paying for the hardware.

Agreed about the limited DVR choices, but some (a lot) of this is because people don't WANT to pay the true cost for a DVR, whether it's $500 or $300. They want the cableCo to take care of everything for them and are willing to rent craptacular DVRs so they don't have to think about it.

Sure, there was no problem with VCRs except that they royally sucked compared to any DVR made since 1998. Which is all of them, in other words. You can keep them and all the manual recording and tape rewinding that went with it.

The bottom line is that you get what you pay for here, and if you don't like Tivo then roll your own HTPC. I just saw the Silicondust HD Homerun Prime go on sale for $130 (and OTA tuners are even cheaper), so it wouldn't be difficult to build one for $5-600. Add in cheap used Xboxes for $100 or so as extenders and you'd have a decent whole-home solution for less than a grand.

And most importantly for you, no sub fees.
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post #29 of 59 Old 08-22-2012, 07:27 AM
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Originally Posted by Aleron Ives View Post

The point is that asserting a DVR can't be useful without a guide is incorrect; VCRs did it for decades, after all.
I'll concede that point with the follow up that there is big difference between a recorder that is just functional vs. one that facilitates the viewing/recording process and is a pleasure to use to the point of being transparent. IMHO, the former is just a digital VCR, the latter is the true DVR.

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post #30 of 59 Old 08-22-2012, 09:11 AM
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When I wrote,
Quote:
A DVR with no name-based recording and no guide but only timer-based recording would still be far better for me than having no DVR functions at all.
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Originally Posted by videobruce View Post

And living in the back seat of a car is better than living in a cardboard box.
Better, yes, but I'd miss having a bathroom if I lived in a car far more than I'd miss name-based recording if I had a DVR with only timer-based scheduling.
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