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Stand Alone Personal/Digital Video Recorders?  

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

I'm looking for a non-subscription, stand alone PVR/DVR that I can use as a basic VCR replacement. I don't really need "guide data" and, hence, don't want to pay for a subscription-based service.

I know Toshiba/Pioneer have released combo DVD/Tivo and DVD-R/Tivo units, respectively, that have a "free" basic Tivo service, but they are really expensive and I don't need the combo functionality.

I also know of the RCA unit (DRS7000N and DRC7005N) that combines a DVD player and PVR/DVR with the free Gemstar-based TV guide, but I haven't read many good things about it (except that the recorded video quality is excellent).

Basically, the functionality I'm looking for is a hard-drive based recorder (no more need for VHS tapes) that I can program like a VCR and in which I can "pause live TV," skip commercials, possibly record two shows at once (I think this requires the unit to have two tuners), etc.

My very limited research into this matter tells me that there are certain brands/models of early Tivos and ReplayTVs that one can use for my purposes without having to sign up for guide data, etc. I'm just not sure which brands/models (series 1?, showstopper?, etc.) I need to be looking into, how much I should be spending for these older units and where they are available.

I guess another option is to buy one of the older units that already carries a lifetime subscription to either Tivo service or ReplayTV service. Which ones should I be looking for?

Thanks in advance.
post #2 of 7
You wrote:

> My very limited research into this matter tells me that there are certain
> brands/models of early Tivos and ReplayTVs that one can use for my
> purposes without having to sign up for guide data, etc. I'm just not sure
> which brands/models (series 1?, showstopper?, etc.) I need to be looking
> into, how much I should be spending for these older units and where
> they are available.

I'd recommend looking for one of the early standalone Phillips TIVOs, such as HDR-112, HDR-212, HDR-312, etc (all the way up to 612 I think). There are also a couple similar models of other brands, but I'm most familiar with the Philips. These are Series 1 TIVOS which are standalone models with no DTV built in. TIVO has apparently supported the ability of these older models to function without a subscription, so you can even let it dial in to get set up for your local channels, and whatever channels you get on sat, however you won't get guide data without a subscription.
You can get a refurbished SA TIVO quite reasonable at:
Last time I looked, they had the 20hr 212s for around $100, but I see they must be out of those, and now the cheapest one I see was a 30hr hdr-312 for about $129. This is cheaper than they were going on EBAY the last time I looked.
The only annoying thing about using these old TIVOs without a subscription is that it tends to pop up a message asking you to subscribe when you change channels, etc, but it goes away quickly. There are ways to get it to stop this, but I haven't bothered.
Without the subscription, you don't have access to a lot of the "features" that require programming schedules, but you can do manual recordings very easily, and the feature I like best, is that say I start watching a program at 8:00, and by 8:10 I decide that this would be a good program to have recorded. Well with just a few quick keystrokes, I can tell it to record from 8:00 to whatever the end time is, and it will retroactively record what has already played. You can do this as far back as the buffer goes. The buffer goes up to a half hour from the last time you changed channels.
These TIVOs have only 1 tuner, and will only record one channel at a time, although you can watch a previously recorded program while recording, which is nice, or you can watch OTA TV while recording, etc.
I also have a DRS-7000, and it is no where close to the TIVO in usefullness, although it does have nice features of being able to play disks with jpgs or mp3s, etc.

Hope the above helps.
post #3 of 7
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the great info and the link. I'll definitely check out what they have to offer.

What you describe sounds just like what I'm looking for, though I'm starting to think that maybe having the subscription wouldn't be such a bad idea after all. Maybe I'm just getting too confused by all the options, etc.

How do you like your RCA in terms of the DVR/PVR component? I was actually seriously looking into that unit until I read some lukewarm reviews regarding dependability of it actually recording what you want it to, bulky interface, slow channel changing, loss of guide data, etc.

Anyway, thanks again!
post #4 of 7
I can't really say too much about the 7000, because I haven't had it very long, I was very dissappointed that it only does the guide data stuff with the over the air channels, so it only has partial functionality with sat signals coming in through the aud/vid input.
Re quality, I can't say much either because I have it's output going through one of my TIVOs, but I may change that setup. But it doesn't degrade the TIVO quality, so it is equal to or better than the TIVO. I've only recorded a couple OTA signals, and that was pretty convenient since if it has the guide data, it knows when the start/end is. However I still haven't tried recording a sat program off the other input, so I'm not sure how that will work.
I may be wrong, but I "think" that you have to manually delete recordings on the 7000, which I don't like. On the TIVO, unless you mark them to be saved, old recordings will be over-written to make room for new recordings. You can set how long specific recordings are saved before they will be over-written too. Occasionally, I've had things deleted that I wanted, but it is much better than trying to schedule a recording and not having enough memory, then having to look for things to delete before you can start the new recording.
Basically, though, I just haven't used the 7000 enough to learn what it can and can't do, partly because the TIVO is so much more user friendly.
Sorry I couldn't be of more help on that one. After I've used it more, I might post again.
post #5 of 7
Hey Guys

This information is great ! I am a big fan of the DRS7000 but the price for a 60 hour TIVO with no subscription is too good a deal.

With the DRS7000 you do have to manually delete the programs. The unit will tell you how much time you have left. Yet I like that control.

Question with the TIVO can you recover deleted shows? Can you tell it never to delete a show. Can you download programs to another medium
like a vcr or a CD.
post #6 of 7
With the TIVO, if you schedule repeating recordings, like a certain show every week or every day, it gives you the choice of keeping it for a certain number of days, before it goes into a category where it can be over-written. It keeps track of these things ahead of time, and if you try to schedule a recording, it will ask you if you want to delete something ahead of time, etc.
After a program has been recorder, you can go in and tell it to save until I choose to delete it, or you can choose to increase the number of days it is saved. I have 2 old sitcoms recorded every night, and just let them delete themselves if I don't watch them, but when I record a movie or new program, I often tell it to save that till I delete it, so it won't be over-written.
One problem with an un-hacked TIVO, is that without the programming data you get with the subscription, there are no program names. All I get is something like "Manual recording Tue Dec 2 1:30 AM Ch 299" or something like that, but for the repeating recordings I know what the program is, but for a saved movie, it's harder to remember.
I have upgraded my TIVOs, both in hard disk size, but also I have bought a TIVONET / TURBONET card for them, to allow me to telnet to the OS. Putting in the network card is relatively easy, but not trivial, and requires some familiarity with Linux programming, or at least an ability to follow directions to the letter. Installing the network card allows you to run several utilities that people have written for the TIVO.This includes a nice program called TIVOWEB. TIVOWEB allows me to go in and change the names of saved programs, so I can insert the names of the movies, etc. TivoWeb will let you recover a deleted recording, provided that it has not been over-written with a newer recording. It also lets me control the TIVO from my laptop computer, via an on screen remote. Does several other things too, including several features that only work with a subscribed TIVO.
With an un-hacked TIVO, you can't extract video to another source, however once you have the network capability, you can run several programs that do allow video extraction, such as TyStudio and TyTools. The video is extracted in what is called a Ty format. There are programs that will allow you to edit the video to remove commercials, then convert it to MPG files, however these files are not easy to put onto a DVD unless you have the right software. I have done it, but have more failures than successes. However, what seems to be the most promising program, is one called mfs_ftp, which allows you to extract the .ty files to your computer, then at a later date, you can upload them again to the TIVO. Since they are kept in the raw TIVO format, this process is somewhat simpler, and you can save the files on whatever format you want, but they have to be played on the TIVO. Mfs_ftp is basically a special ftp server on the TIVO side, and it is used with generic FTP programs on the computer side. There are other ftp servers for the TIVO, but they give access to the OS files instead of the recordings.
All these network programs can be a bit overwhelming for those who are not computer savy, so if you are not a hacker at heart, perhaps you shouldn't expect much of the networking possibilities, although occasionally you can find a TIVO for sale on EBAY which has had the network card installed with TIVOWEB running.
There are also groups of people who have taken TIVO hacking to even a higher level, such as a group of Canadians and Austrailians who have worked on putting their own guide data into the TIVOs, because the service isn't available to them, but the main TIVO forums don't condone this sort of thing, nor do they condone extraction to DVD format, but the TIVOWEB and general networking is even condoned, if not suported, by TIVO.

Probably more info than you wanted, but hope it helps explain what can be done with an unhacked TIVO, and what requires hacking.
post #7 of 7

Thanks for the info. Given all that you said, I am going to stick with the
RCA Drs7000 / DRC7005n . These units after the rebates are below $250
and a novice can download to a vcr. Maybe the same techniques can be used to download to a dvr.

The big drawback of these units is that no one has been able to upgrade the harddrive easily or effectively. But beyond that they are cheap VCR
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