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.
  • Consider 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.
  • TiVo 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.

DVRs - Digital Video Recorders Runners Up:

Dish Network DuoDVR ViP722K *Est. $6 per month

2 picks including: CNET,…

Factory Refurbished VIP 722K Dual Tuner HD DVR Dish Network
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New: $399.99 $229.99   
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