Comparing DVR features
DVRs record TV programs to a hard-disk drive, letting you save shows for
later viewing. You can pause and rewind live TV, and if you let the show
run on for a while, you can also speed through commercials. DVRs also let
you schedule programming, including recording a whole season of a particular
show. The most famous DVR brand is TiVo, but another option is to rent a
DVR from your cable or satellite provider.
Reviews say the following about shopping for a DVR:
- Advertised capacity is
a best-case scenario. DVRs record signals digitally and don't have
quality settings. However, the provider can compress digital programming
at different rates, so a DVR's capacity can still vary -- sometimes by
quite a bit.
pairing a rented DVR from your cable company with a basic DVD recorder
to archive shows. Most cable companies rent DVRs to subscribers for $8
to $20 per month, which includes the programming guide and equipment fees.
A stand-alone DVD recorder will let you transfer shows from your DVR and
archive them to DVDs. Good choices can be found in our report on DVD recorders.
is excellent, but pricey. Experts are unanimous in concluding that
TiVo DVRs have the best interface, and its current version -- despite some
early growing pains -- is better still. However, cable providers are catching
up fast. In addition, TiVo's HD DVRs require a multistream (M-series) CableCard,
an added monthly expense. TiVo's DVRs won't work with satellite TV, but
DirecTV is getting ready to launch a TiVo-powered DVR.
- Cable company DVRs have their
own advantages. While they are a little harder to use and lack some
of TiVo's features, cable company DVRs are less expensive, as there's no
upfront cost. In addition, cable company DVRs can take advantage of interactive
features -- such as video on demand -- that TiVo DVRs can't because of
their reliance on one-way CableCards. Some cable companies -- and more
are on the way -- offer DVRs that use TiVo's software.
- Satellite TV subscribers have fewer
choices. While cable TV watchers can choose from DVRs from TiVo, Arris
(Moxi) and their own provider, satellite TV watchers can only opt for
a company-provided DVR. However, reports say that software updates and
technology upgrades have made that less of a negative, and that some satellite
DVRs have features that TiVo lacks.