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Recommend me a DVR (or maybe just a second-hand VCR)

SynthesisSynthesis Honda Today!Registered User regular
I'm starting to get tired of two things: missing the end of Mythbusters because of a prior obligation Wednesday evenings, and having to stay up to 4:00 AM to catch certain shows.

I remember a few years back, there seemed to be a few DVR options at various budgets. I assumed prices would go down and the selection would increase, so I waited. Instead, the opposite seems to have occurred: there are fewer models, and they cost more. I have no idea why, for the life of me. I've seen more options for DVD-Rs, but there seem to be a lot of compatibility and recording issues (high failure rates, inability to replay, etc.). At this rate, I might as well just buy a second-hand VCR, VHS cassette and learn to program it.

If anyone has a DVR they can recommend, that is within a reasonable price (I'm open, but I don't want to go bankrupt), please enlighten me. I don't have Tivo (a given), and I get cable without a box.

Synthesis on
Orca wrote: »
Synthesis wrote:
Isn't "Your sarcasm makes me wet," the highest compliment an Abh can pay a human?

Only if said Abh is a member of the nobility.

Posts

  • ZackSchillingZackSchilling Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    I have a TiVo series 2 and I love it. They're about $140 for the dual tuner 80 hour model, but you can get a less featured model for much less. The big expense here is the monthly service charge. I think it might even be $14 a month. I think it's totally worth it because the service you get is superb and the box is the best DVR I've ever used. You'll probably double the TV you watch with a TiVo because of all the excellent options and zero hassle recording, even when shows jump timeslots.

    But again, monthly fee is a real downer if you're only watching one show at a fixed time slot.

    ghost-robot.jpg
  • SynthesisSynthesis Honda Today! Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    I was afraid you'd say that. I've always been one of those people trying to live "within my means"--the only luxury fee I pay once a month is Xbox Live Gold (one day, I'll get around to buying a cheap 13-month pack off Amazon). I dropped WoW, PSO, everything else that would have monthly subscription fees that (I mooch off a relative's Netflix).

    Given the absolutely bare minimum cable package I have (part of my apartment's rent, the cable monopoly in my area sucks), I'd feel kind of stupid getting Tivo--$140 is not a bad deal for such a featured device, but that's because you ARE paying for it monthly, along with the service. Which is not to say I don't love Tivo, I do. My dad has it, and I still think it's fantastic.

    Really, there are only one or two shows I want to record (since my cable package is so mediocre). I don't need 80 hours (really, 10 would probably be enough). I was hoping for a cheap, non-subscription option--like a VCR, but without the crappy quality of VHS.

    Orca wrote: »
    Synthesis wrote:
    Isn't "Your sarcasm makes me wet," the highest compliment an Abh can pay a human?

    Only if said Abh is a member of the nobility.
  • ArcSynArcSyn Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    Depending on the cable company, you can get a DVR from them for cheaper than the monthly subscription cost.

    I have my Comcast DVR for only $10 a month, which makes paying $14 a month for a Tivo silly. I think Dish and DirecTV also have Tivo add-ons that are similarly priced, so you don't get to keep the unit if you ever switch, but at least there's no up front cost and the monthly cost is cheaper.

    You could also just forgo the monthly charge and set it for specific times like a VCR, but then if something changes it won't automatically follow a show.

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  • SynthesisSynthesis Honda Today! Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    Haha! Triple post. I was having forum problems too.

    I have considered giving my cable provider a call--unfortunately, I get cable from Charter, which (at least down here in the Bible Belt) is sort of the satanic bigger brother of Comcast. Finding the initial monthly fee for a DVR box is hard enough, but I can guarantee it'll double after a certain period (that's just how they do it, and when you can't sign up for any other cable provider at your location, you don't really have a choice, hah).

    One thing about monthly fees is that, at a certain point, it really would be cheaper just to buy a second-rate VCR, even assuming I'd loose a VHS to it every few months. Not having an upfront fee is nice, but I'm pretty certain they come back bite you in the ass pretty quickly.

    And I'm very certain Charter would not give be a basic DVR without a monthly charge. Hell, I don't think they'd even provide any form of DVR on my basic package (I haven't seen any evidence to suggest otherwise). As nice as having a few channels I probably wouldn't watch would be, the fees would come back to haunt me quickly.

    It really does look like DVRs only exist for people willing to pay $400 (or more), and/or already have Tivo and are dissatisfied for whatever reason. Anyone recommend a cheap, working DVD-R or VCR?

    Orca wrote: »
    Synthesis wrote:
    Isn't "Your sarcasm makes me wet," the highest compliment an Abh can pay a human?

    Only if said Abh is a member of the nobility.
  • ArcSynArcSyn Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    triple post? I know nothing of it.. ::whistle away::

    Looking at Best Buy's website, looks like Tivo will drop the montly fee to $8.31 if you subscribe for a year.

    Otherwise, looks like DVD-Rs run about $100-120 for a decent unit, and you can use DVDRWs so you don't have to keep buying blanks.

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    GIFT GET GIFS
  • SynthesisSynthesis Honda Today! Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    I was thinking of DVD-Rs, just as I was a year ago. There are a few recommendations for good ones on CNET (unfortunately, these 'good' ones cost $100 more than merely 'okay' ones--I'll keep my $100, thank you). So long as you get the right type DVD-RW, that shouldn't be a problem.

    The main problem is figuring out how to connect it. I'm not a wizard at this, but for some reason, most DVD-R don't seem to have coaxial inputs. :( Not having a cable box (i.e. being a cheap bastard) will do that. I suppose I'd have to get some sort of connection to bridge the gap. From what I understand, due to the switch to digital, tuners are suddenly very expensive so only $300 units have them. Crap.

    Old VCRs, thankfully, still have coaxial inputs--and they're dirt cheap, though the thought of returning to VHS pisses me off.

    Orca wrote: »
    Synthesis wrote:
    Isn't "Your sarcasm makes me wet," the highest compliment an Abh can pay a human?

    Only if said Abh is a member of the nobility.
  • ArcSynArcSyn Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    I'm not entirely sure if this works or not, but you could get something like the Philips PH-61153 or Magnavox M61151 which are a 4 component switcher with antenna in and I think the antenna in will also output through the RCA output. I would have to look into it further though to make sure.

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  • SynthesisSynthesis Honda Today! Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    It's an added expense, but it's still better than $14 a month (plus, when I move, I actually get to keep it).

    Orca wrote: »
    Synthesis wrote:
    Isn't "Your sarcasm makes me wet," the highest compliment an Abh can pay a human?

    Only if said Abh is a member of the nobility.
  • ZackSchillingZackSchilling Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    Just an aside: every cable company DVR I've ever used has been complete shit. I was shocked to hear the service fees they charged for them too. Nowhere close to worth it.

    ghost-robot.jpg
  • NovaRevNovaRev Registered User
    edited April 2009
    What about using a computer? If you have a machine with Windows Media Center you should be able to hook up a USB or PCI TV tuner to it and record shows to the hard drive with no monthly fee or fiddling with discs/tapes.

  • ArcSynArcSyn Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    While I will absolutely agree that the Comcast DVR is a mere shadow (or worse) of a full fledged Tivo box, the cost savings (at least for what I'm paying) are definitely worth it. Now I am planning (as my discount runs out next month) to move to Dish or DirecTV, both of which offer a Tivo box for DVR. Which is awesome.

    The computer is cool, so long as you have the hard drive space, hardware, and software to do it. It's definitely something to look into if you're considering buying a box anyway.

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  • SynthesisSynthesis Honda Today! Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    I've got Windows Media Center on both my laptop and desktop, as well as cable lines in my bedroom and living room. That's especially interesting, if you could program it easily. And at least I wouldn't need some crappy VCR or some overpriced DVD-R.

    However, how much would the adapter set me back? None of my video cards have TV tuners (no surprise there),and I imagine any sort of coaxial to USB adapter would result in some quality loss (an inevitability).

    Orca wrote: »
    Synthesis wrote:
    Isn't "Your sarcasm makes me wet," the highest compliment an Abh can pay a human?

    Only if said Abh is a member of the nobility.
  • NovaRevNovaRev Registered User
    edited April 2009
    The adapters aren't too terribly expensive compared to something like a standalone Tivo box. Here's an example of a USB one:

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16815100035

    There's a pretty big selection of TV tuners on Newegg:

    http://www.newegg.com/Store/SubCategory.aspx?SubCategory=47&name=TV-Tuners-Video-Devices

    I have an older Toshiba laptop with Windows Media Center 2004 on it that came with a TV tuner and it does a pretty good job of recording TV. Media Center will pull in the TV schedule/listings for your area which makes it fairly easy to program. You can set it to record a show every time it comes on, only record new episodes, etc.

  • SynthesisSynthesis Honda Today! Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    That adapter is a little pricey, but it looks like slightly cheaper ones ARE available. You can get some cheaper ones, though.

    The idea of using WMC to schedule things is very interesting. I have a cable splitter underneath my desk, leading up to my cable modem, so I know where I could put it. Finally, Charter actually does something for me...assuming I get a TV signal out of it.

    Orca wrote: »
    Synthesis wrote:
    Isn't "Your sarcasm makes me wet," the highest compliment an Abh can pay a human?

    Only if said Abh is a member of the nobility.
  • CronusCronus Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    Synthesis wrote: »
    That adapter is a little pricey, but it looks like slightly cheaper ones ARE available. You can get some cheaper ones, though.

    The idea of using WMC to schedule things is very interesting. I have a cable splitter underneath my desk, leading up to my cable modem, so I know where I could put it. Finally, Charter actually does something for me...assuming I get a TV signal out of it.

    WMC is what I use for all my TV needs. I've got an HP Slimline in my living room acting as my media center. WMC is the best DVR software and I can watch videos, listen to music, and have pictures up from my main PC. It was all very easy to set up.

    The adapter sounds like a good idea and not too expensive. The computer I bought had the TV tuner card, which also allows me to use my HD antenna to capture HD programming, which is nice.

    It sounds like the adapter or a PCI tuner card is the way to go for you. My only concern is if you use the computer for a lot of other stuff, the constant writing of large amounts of data to the hard drive while it's recording something would slow you down.

    camo_sig.png
    "Read twice, post once. It's almost like 'measure twice, cut once' only with reading." - MetaverseNomad
  • SynthesisSynthesis Honda Today! Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    Well, I'm really only planning to use the thing while I'm NOT able to watch it--basically, programs that are on too late or while I'm out of my apartment. So that shouldn't be a problem (might have to disable antivirus scanning on certain nights).

    One thing I'm worried about is quality for a USB Tuner. I'm naturally a cheap bastard, but I wonder how good the quality would be even on the more expensive adapters--my past experience in video-input-to-USB yielded pretty disappointing results, but that's probably not the same thing.

    Orca wrote: »
    Synthesis wrote:
    Isn't "Your sarcasm makes me wet," the highest compliment an Abh can pay a human?

    Only if said Abh is a member of the nobility.
  • FubearFubear Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    What I use :

    Hauppauge WinTV-HVR 1800 MCE Kit - $110
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16815116015
    Advice: read up on specs. I tried installing this into an older PC I bought off of Craigslist for $200 and it would freeze the PC every time. Gave up and installed it on my main PC. Also, this card won't play nice with the included DVR software in Windows XP.

    My PC with Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005

    [insert 400+ GB SATA hard drive here] - $55
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822152137

    [some cable amplifier from Radio Shack] - $50 [optional]
    Reason: Because I was mooching off of the same connection for the TV in the next room.

    And let me tell you, it records just fine. And I am enjoying watching 4 episodes of Scrubs daily.

    What I would recommend (for the budget-minded):

    Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-1250 MC - $55
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16815116024'

    The guide I followed (it's bit out of date, but still very good info regarding free options for DVR software.) :
    Make Zine
    Free TiVo: Build a Better DVR out of an Old PC (April 25, 2005)
    http://makezine.com/extras/4.html
    Note: you can't buy the video card mentioned (Hauppauge WinTV-250-PVR)



    Disclaimer: I am biased towards internal cards.

    Loklar wrote: »
    I wouldn't trust the government to be able to distinguish between what's a secret and what makes them look bad.
  • SynthesisSynthesis Honda Today! Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    The internal options are very intriguing. They offer the same (or better) quality as USB, and are cheaper. My computer has plenty of space for expansion (gotta love professional component arrangement that I didn't do), and if it doesn't need supplementary power, it should fit in quite easily.

    I'm not going to be recording things daily, and I have a 1 TB root drive that is mostly empty, so I don't need to worry about additional space. The Hauppauge WinTV-HVR 1800 comes with a remote, but it's a little bit more than I would like to spend. Of course, you get what you pay for--seems like the driver support on the cheaper versions is abysmal (like the 1250)....my motherboard uses nForce, so I hope that wouldn't be a problem. Some of the reviews seem to suggest that Hauppauge's driver support..well...sucks. I'll be looking at the other companies too.

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16815293003

    An Asus model that seems comparable (?) to the 1800--with equally good reviews and is slightly cheaper. Personally, if I could shave off some money and only have 1 coaxial input instead of five, that would be great too.

    Last thing I need is having paid NewEgg for something that locks my computer up every time I start it. Still, definitely an option worth pursuing.

    Orca wrote: »
    Synthesis wrote:
    Isn't "Your sarcasm makes me wet," the highest compliment an Abh can pay a human?

    Only if said Abh is a member of the nobility.
  • FubearFubear Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    The drivers on the included CD *were* outdated or broken with my card. Got the 'right' ones from their website. Something as major as 'no compatible drivers whatsoever' would be mentioned on some review.

    Just read up on the 1 and 2 egg reviews on whatever card you decide to buy.

    Loklar wrote: »
    I wouldn't trust the government to be able to distinguish between what's a secret and what makes them look bad.
  • vanspranvanspran Registered User
    edited May 2009
    I'm a heavy dvr user. I've had 3 panasonics dmr E85 h's and a Philips 120 gb hd unit. I am now using only Philips and Magnavox units with 160 gb hd. They both have Digital and Analog tuners. The last one was bought at Walmart.com for $249. It has no guide but can be programed to record just like a VCR. It is a great unit. Output is via HDMI and it can record HD like shows off Cable or an antenna.

  • bobAkirafettbobAkirafett Registered User regular
    edited May 2009
    Anyone know of a cheap IR remote receiver thing to use on a PC so that I can use the 2 Xbox 360 MCE remotes I have to control....MCE? I can't find one separate from a bundle with a remote, which I already have plenty of.

    akirasig.jpg
  • SynthesisSynthesis Honda Today! Registered User regular
    edited May 2009
    Wow. In the meantime, I blew a lot of my money on various other things and basically juts made myself stay up to watch programs I missed (Death Note at 3 AM? No problem, chief!).

    But if they still sell things like what you had, Vanspran, I'll have to take a look. Honestly, I've never seen such a thing at Wa-Mart, but I could have just missed it.

    Orca wrote: »
    Synthesis wrote:
    Isn't "Your sarcasm makes me wet," the highest compliment an Abh can pay a human?

    Only if said Abh is a member of the nobility.
  • Dark ShroudDark Shroud Registered User regular
    edited May 2009
    Just a warning about those set top boxes. They cannot record certain premium channels, HBO being one I know for sure. The Windows Media Center software can read the DRM flags in the broadcast signals so it can handle HBO and the other stations that use DRM to block MythTV & set top box DVRs. DirectTV & U-verse shouldn't charge for DVR service. I don't know if Dish does, while Comcast certainly does.

    My PC came with an AVerMedia card & remote. I was recording tv shows & movies no problem and watching TV on my second monitor. Here is the best part, if you have your home network setup properly your 360/PS3 should be able to connect to your PC and play the recorded video files on your TV. WMC will even let you burn the files to disc to play on DVD players.

    Hell with remote play I can connect my PSP to any wifi signal and connect to my home network over the internet. I can then access & stream recorded shows off my media server. Just wait until I can afford a new PSP with the TV out.

  • SynthesisSynthesis Honda Today! Registered User regular
    edited May 2009
    Well, I only have the most basic cable package that came with my apartment (I know, what a travesty), so I was thinking more along the lines of recording the Discovery Channel, Comedy Central, and other basic cable channels. Would those work?

    Orca wrote: »
    Synthesis wrote:
    Isn't "Your sarcasm makes me wet," the highest compliment an Abh can pay a human?

    Only if said Abh is a member of the nobility.
  • Dark ShroudDark Shroud Registered User regular
    edited May 2009
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