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What options do I have for DVR without paying a monthly service?

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
Right now I have an RCA 8030N DVD recorder w/HDD. I just got a new HDTV and got HD cable but I've been told that I can't run the coax cable through the recorder without losing access to the digital channels, since it does not have a digital tuner. I checked on the DVD recorder channel here and they suggested a Philips upscaling DVD recorder but that costs $300 and I hear it doesn't have the best upscaling.

I have Cox cable and could get a DVR but the service is $12 monthly and my roommates are sticky about extra costs sometimes. So I'm thinking I should check to see if there are any other options but I really don't know anything about HD.

I'm just looking for something that can act as a DVR but without the service. It does not have to have a DVD player. I don't even need the DVR features like pausing, etc. I basically want it to act like a VCR in that I set the day and time and how frequently I want it to record. So really, no fancy features. But it must have a digital tuner so I can pass coax through it and still get my HD channels. And hopefully, it will be significantly cheaper than the $300 Philips.

Any advice will be greatly appreciated. If there are no such things, just let me know. The little research I did came up with very expensive options, some close to $1000. Oh, and running anything through my computer is just not an option. Hopefully I can get some good advice. Thanks a lot.
post #2 of 9
If you've got the cableco cable box (STB), you can use your RCA if you connect as shown in sketch #2 here (since the RCA doesn't have a digital tuner) This will let you record whatever the box puts out.

If you want more info on the Philips DVDR3575H/37 with digital tuners so you can record one channel while watching another, click the #1 link in my signature, $248 at Sams Club online or store.
post #3 of 9
The new Magnavox HDD/DVD recorder from Walmart.com is about $10.00 cheaper than the Sam's 3576H, but you're not going to find anything like what you want cheaper than those.
post #4 of 9
Thread Starter 
Alright, thanks guys. I guess I'm going to have to decide if I want to drop the cash for either one of those.
post #5 of 9
The recorders mentioned in this thread will work, but you'll only get SD quality video. If you're planning on recording full HD quality with any of those, you won't be able to. However, if that's not overly important to you, they'll be fine.
post #6 of 9
Thread Starter 
It isn't that important. Honestly, I rarely record shows. I just like the option to record the various anime shows (Saturday night Adult Swim and SciFi Ani-Monday) and rarely anything else. That's really why I don't want to spend too much. I just don't want to lose access to the HD channels to have it set up.
post #7 of 9
Just in case you don't fully understand the situation:

You won't be able to pass coax through it and pick up any digital channels through it's built-in tuner except for the locals (and even those will be downscaled HD, which will defeat the purpose of even having HD if you only watch them through the recorder's tuner, and not the TV's). But if you're also getting Cartoon Network and Sci-Fi in analog, you'll pick them up with the NTSC tuner. If not, which I know is rarer in the case of Sci-Fi, the recorder's tuner won't pick it up at all.

The only way to record the non-local digital channels is through a line input using their digital cable box. You need their box to decrypt them (unless you're also getting them in analog, like I said).

With your HDTV's tuner you will also only pick up the locals in digital (though in full HD), and whatever analogs may be available to you. That's why these QAM tuners are really only called "Clear"-QAM - they only pick up the "in-the-clear", un-encrypted digital channels, and that's generally only the locals, and maybe a handful more. So you will need their box to get all of the channels you subscribe to that are available in digital.

Might only be a handful of channels that you won't get, but still.... you might as well just go back to only paying for extended basic analog without using their box - because you'll only pick up that much through either the recorder's or the TV's tuner anyway.

If you are still planning on using a cable box to be able to at least watch all the available channels live directly to the TV, fine - but you still will only be able to record from all of those channels through a line input in the recorder using their box.
post #8 of 9
Thread Starter 
I appreciate the post but I think yours confuses me a bit more. Since I don't really understand everything about HDTV, sometimes I get more confused when people try to explain things is more detail.

But, what I want to do is record non-HDTV channels but watch HD channels. It sounds like, if I connect the HD cable box through my current recorder (or vice-versa) to my tv, I will be able to record my same non-HD shows and might get some or all of the HD channels but they won't be in HD, which defeats the purpose. Is that correct? So basically, that isn't something I want to do.

Right now I'm going to look into upscaling DVD players in the DVD player section here. If they come back with some good input I'll probably just go for that and then get the DVR from my cable company and either eat the extra $12 or try to sneak it by my roommates.
post #9 of 9
You got two options

First option is simple: You connect the coaxial to the cable box. Then send the HDMI or COMPONENT cables from cable box to the TV. THen send the audio and S Video or Composite from cable box to the DVD recorder/VCR.
You can send the audio back to the tv from here in case you didn't use HDMI from the cable box to the TV. This option will let you record what you watch, but everything will be in SD even if you watch HD. But I am guessing the lack of HD res is not a problem. However be warned that if you put stuff on a timer, then you need to make sure the cable box is switched to the correct channel beforehand as your recorder has no way of knowing how to change your cable box channels.

Second option: Get a splitter. Send one cable to the cablebox and pass the signal along to the TV. This will let you watch programs in HD or whatever digital channels you care for. But now you want to record other programs while watching a given program. Well, you can do this as long as that OTHER program does not lie on the digital tier. Use your splitter positioned between the wall outlet and the cable box to send another signal to the DVD recorder. Then use one of the output connections of the DVD recorder and connect them to one of the unused input sets of connections on the TV so you can view the menu and other options on the DVD recorder. All you can record is stuff on channels that have been autotuned to by the DVD recorder. At least you do not have to set the channel manually to record. You can program all the available non digital channels in advance.
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