Choices for DVR's? Why rent for a MSO?

It's unfortunate that the vast percentage of Americans either are too lazy since it involves some research and setup time, or just aren't aware of the fact there are other alternatives to paying a cable company month after month to 'rent' their DVR. All you are doing is stuffing their pockets with the too easy to succumb to PPV option which is the main reason why they won't tell you there are options.

1. The best, well know alternative is the TiVo;
TiVo Premiere product information - TiVo

It is has the most options and flexibility. BUT, there is that constant 'fee' just to use the recorder, namely the Guide. The other issue which most aren't aware of is, you never actually 'own' the machine! You are just leasing it (for the most part). The real deal breaker (at least for me) is this never ending subscription cost ($13/mo) just to use the thing. Without the guide, you can't use the recorder;
TiVo Payment Plans - TiVo

Recordings can be off loaded to a PC which does put this in a league by itself if you can get by the subscription cost. This is for intermediate to advanced users

The less known solutions are;

2. The older Sony DHG-HDD250/500 DVR's. OTA & CATV, CC slot, dual RF inputs, TVGOS data. Other than the age, there are some issues in certain areas receiving the guide data. Most don't have a problem, but some do. This is a single tuner model which means you can only record one program at a time. This is for intermediate to advanced users.

There is a dedicated web site for these;

3. The CM-7000PAL sold under the Channel Master name (formerly the DTVPal imported by Dish Network and designed in the UK). This is OTA only even though it has QAM (CATV) capability. It does have dual tuners. It does also use TVGOS data, but with their own software which has limitations compared to the actual TVGOS software the Sony uses. Some stations won't show TVGOS data even tough it is available in that area, but instead will show only the limited PSIP data from the local station itself that usually only goes out 12 hours instead of 8 days.

The HDD can be upgraded unlike the Sony to a 1TB version and the drives can be swapped with recording to play back at another time.
There is a dedicated thread on this model elsewhere;

4. The SD only Magnaxox/Funai H2160 DVR/DVD Recorder. While this is not HD, it offers fantastic editing capabilities from the HDD to the DVD recorder, namely commercial elimination. With external S-video and composite inputs, it will record to either the DVD recorder or the HDD recorder. It also allows substituting a much larger 1TB HDD in place of the original; 250GB drive. This does not have a 'guide' and relies on manual entry for a 'timer' recording (VCR style). It does allow daily and weekly repeats of programs.

5. To soon to be released PVR from epVision PHD-eZ1 (bottom of the page);

Details are sketchy, but I'm told it will have OTA & QAM capability, an external HDD (uses installed). This manufacture has a series of HD tuner STB's and now plans to import this addition. It has been delayed somewhat, but hopefully with some more input from others, it will come to market soon. Note, you can add your name to their list and I would ask you to do so to reflect the potential interest in this. I believe it does have potential.

See the following post for additional information.
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The following was what I received from the importer;
Hi Bruce,

Thanks for the email. For your answer, PHD-eZ1 does have OTA and CATV recording features. Not like some PVRs can be only limited to OTA. We may end up to build full feature PVR instead of eZ1, reason is the cost is very close. We can add additional component and cvbs inputs and encoding but it will cost much more. Output so far is limited to HDMI and CVBS outputs just like PHD-8VX but we may change it the last min. based on the demand and cost.

For PHD-8VX, it is on the way to here. We will send out the re-release coupon this week or early next week. Please kindly find the attached PHD-8VX user manual for your reference. There are so many fine features added in this model and we are very excited about it. For some of the nice features mentioned in the following:

(1) Excellent 1080p scaling and enhancement. Video looks much richer than PHD-205.
(2) "Custom Aspect Ratio" adjustment so user can control video over-scan issue and cover 100% HD picture content on the screen. Not like many TVs chop out certain video content around the edges. This custom aspect ratio adjustment can also apply to PHD-8VX internal graphics as well as PC input video.
(3) Dual scan channel database. Keep both OTA and cable (QAM/NTSC) channel information and easy to toggle to each other.
(4) Additive channel adding: To periodically scan any additional channels without erasing the original channels and only adding them on top of it.
(5) individual picture adjustment on each inputs. We add brightness, contrast, sharpness and others picture adjustments for video. Each input adjustment is individual.
(6) Adding virtual surround sounds and other audio adjustments.
(7) USB port to play pictures as well as music (MP3) separately or both in the same time.
(8) Can accept PC inputs from both VGA/audio port as well as any one of 3x HDMI ports.
(9) PHD-8VX HDMI input can handle 24p mode to display even more vivid movie pictures if the source content is filmed by 24Hz from Blu-ray.
(10) New generation RF tuner reception. In some areas, PHD-8VX can pick up more OTA as well as QAM/NTSC channels!

So many more from PHD-8VX box...

And my reply;

Thanks for the reply. I was just interested in the DVR. As I stated, the most important features that are lacking are;
1. A second RF input (one for CATV, one for OTA),
2. A CC (Cable Card) slot to make it functional with all encrypted channels. Many cable systems are encrypting ALL channels, even 'basic' ones, so without a CC slot, the QAM tuner is pretty much worthless,
3. You say this will have a composite output, but no component? Component is necessary as some older monitors might not have HDMI and you should consider the fact all HDMI inputs on a TV might already be in use.

I understand these will cost more, but I'm sure most will gladly pay for what I consider 'basic' features. There is a demand for this, it's only because of the lack of consumer education the demand isn't greater. I would suggest going the deluxe route first. Don't come out with a limited function model, I don't think it will sell anywhere as much. :)

Thank you,
This was his response from my follow up e-mail;
Hi Bruce,
Thanks again for the email. To quickly answer your questions:
(1) Yes, it is both OTA and CATV.
(2) Are considering now. Two separate tuners will add up cost, which is the main concern. Technical-wise, it is no problem.
(3) EPG, as you said, will add cost a lot. When we build this unit, we will add Ethernet port for future expansion. We may consider downloading EPG info from Internet instead EPG packets grabbed from channel data to lower the license cost. How do you think about that method?
(4) Cable card slot is considering. But no any promise now.
(5) No internal HDD for current design. Use external USB port to connect external USB storage devices. So, you can hook up 2TB HDD for recording if you want.
(6) Yes, metal case.
(7) Yes, will improve remote control greatly.

Thanks again!
I has a recent phone conversation with "Allen" from epVision centerned around these points;

1. The initial unit will not have a CC slot. He didn't think the 2nd would have one either. I stressed this was a mistake. The licenses fees were the reason.

2. I stressed the availability of decent Guide data, not just PSIP. The initial release will only have PSIP with future version via a firmware upgrade able to use the Ethernet port for full data with a yearly subscription cost around $25 as I already stated. I believe it is only the firmware that would be holding this upgrade back, not hardware. (And of course the 3rd party source)

3. The external HDD will be via a USB2 port only. I thought a eSATA port would be a nice addition. The files will be unplayable in Windows, but I believe they will be able to be transfered to another drive. (This is unclear, since I'm not familiar with Linux.)

4. Formatting the HDD will be the users responsibility. The plan was to provide instructions to the user using resources via the Internet. I strongly suggested the procedure be accomplished via internal firmware, not via using a separate PC whereas you simply connected the HDD and via a user menu format the drive attached to the DVR. I also feel, this would hamper sales if they do it the way they planned. Joe Sixpack isn't going to obtain some software, burn it to a bootable CD and format the drive outside of Windows for the Linux format. (I'm assuming this would be the procedure)

5. This has a target price of $250. I again brought up the lack of a CC slot (since this will have QAM capabilities). He is aware of Comcast switching to digital only. I also brought up with some systems, almost everything is encrypted.

6. It will also have a analog tuner, but no encoder so it won't be able to record analog CATV channels. He mentioned a future model that may, but I brought up the fact analog CATV systems are slowly disappearing and the longer they would wait, the less it would be a benefit. It seems to be a waste to even have this.

7. I suggested for the 2nd version that should have a CC slot (and some additional features) a price between $300 & $350.

8. I don't like this "plastic box" similar to what that DTVPal uses. At these price points, there is no reason it couldn't/shouldn't be in a metal enclosure just as their 'tuners' have been.

9. Dual RF inputs were stressed, but this was in a follow up e-mail. I didn't bring up this point and I don't know if it is planned.
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