Recording Digital TV

dgs

DTVUSA Jr. Member
#1
Does anybody know of a DVR with a digital tuner? I'd like to be able to record DTV on a DVR/hard drive like we used to be able to record analog TV to either a DVD or VHS. There are several products for cable and satellite TV (which I believe are actually recording digital converted to analog), but I can't find a unit that will work with over-the-air DTV broadcasts.

Right now I'm using a Hauppage digital tuner for my computer, but the files are huge and the software interface is cumbersome and ugly. I'd really like to use a computer dedicated to my media, but I can't find a good way to do that without leaving the computer on all the time.

I'd appreciate any ideas or suggestions you might have. Thanks.
 

bicker

DTVUSA Member
#2
If all you're concerned about is over-the-air DTV broadcasts, there are two stand-alone commercial DVRs currently in production in the United States that satisfy:
1) DTVPal DVR
2) TiVo HD DVR

The DTVPal DVR is the economy option at about $299, flat. (That's after a recent price increase; you might find some places still listing the price as $239, but research indicates that none of them have any stock left, they aren't expecting any new inventory and they are not accepting new orders. The device is now a Sears exclusive.)

The DTVPal DVR is a good basic machine. There is a whole thread devoted to it, outlining its capabilities and features:

http://www.dtvusaforum.com/converter-boxes-atsc-tuners/2479-dtvpal-dvr.html

Note that most of the DTVPal DVR's early failures have been remedied, at this point.

The TiVo HD DVR is the premium device in this space. It should be noted that it is not really intended solely for over-the-air reception. The TiVo HD works with both over-the-air reception and with digital cable, including CableCARD support, so you can even record encrypted cable channels. (The DTVPal DVR only works with over-the-air reception.) So in some ways, if all you ever hope to do with a DVR is record over-the-air channels, the TiVo HD is little like hitting a thumbtack with a hammer. However, if you're ever going to want to record cable television, as well as your current need to record over-the-air channels, the TiVo HD DVR is the only stand-alone choice currently available for sale to the public.

The TiVo HD also offers many extra features unavailable with the DTVPal DVR. For example, with two TiVos, you can move recordings between the two using your LAN. TiVo also offers TiVo Desktop, which you can run on your personal computer, allowing you to pull recordings from your TiVos, and it also contains a server component which allows your TiVo to pull recordings from your personal computer. With extra storage attached to your personal computer, you can see how they could offer you practically unlimited storage of recordings. Along with TiVo Desktop is TiVo-to-Go, which helps you take your programming with you on your mobile devices.

A broadband-connected TiVo also allows you to access Netflix Watch Instantly, Blockbuster Online, Amazon Unbox, and other video on demand sources. (Note that it won't give you access to a cable provider's own on demand options.)

TiVo's UI is considered by many to be the best in the business. It has won not only awards, but also court judgments. (It's so good, others regularly try to steal their ideas.) Their trick-play is fantastic compared to other DVRs, and there are proprietary aspects of the Season Pass and Wishlist features that cannot be beat.

However, there is a big difference in the price between these two boxes. The DTVPal DVR costs $299, flat. The TiVo is sold two ways. The all-in price is about $700. There is also an option to purchase the TiVo (often for about $250) with a service commitment for monthly service (about $13 per month). The TiVo will not work without a valid service contract.
 

dgs

DTVUSA Jr. Member
#3
bicker -- Thanks for all the great info. I'll do some research on both these units to see which will best meet my needs. I was aware of some of the benefits of TiVo, but was taken back by the idea of a monthly fee to record over-the-air content. I understand that the fee is theoretically for the TV programming information, but $13/month seems pricey. In less than 3 years, I'll have passed the $700 mark of the all-in-one. I like the idea of streaming Netflix, but that's another monthly fee. It's not that I'm cheap, but I'm home so rarely that it is difficult to justify all these monthly fees for a couple of shows a week and a movie or two a month!

Is anybody else shocked that the functionality that made the basic VCR so popular is now almost impossible to find for over-the-air content after the DTV conversion? Even I have to wonder if it is all designed to move us to cable and satellite TV, with even more monthly fees!

Have there been any threads or is there another place to find discussions on using computers to record TV? Thanks for your replies.
 

bicker

DTVUSA Member
#4
Digital technology is only a decade or two old, so yes, it will take a bit longer for it to become as inexpensive as analog technology had become over fifty-plus years. Keep in mind, even at that $700 price point, TiVo is still losing money.
 

dgs

DTVUSA Jr. Member
#5
Fair enough. Maybe I'm the only one, but I just thought this need would be more anticipated by electronics manufacturers. I'm surprised that the choices are so limited.

I have to wonder if price is affecting demand. Would TiVo make more money if it was less expensive?
 

bicker

DTVUSA Member
#6
Electronics manufacturers clearly have anticipated the need, and the lack of willingness to pay a profitable price, and that's why choices are so limited.

TiVo has tried a dozen different pricing schemes and there simply is not enough money to be made to justify the research, development and high-tech components necessary.
 

FOX TV

Contributor
#7
Electronics manufacturers clearly have anticipated the need, and the lack of willingness to pay a profitable price, and that's why choices are so limited.

TiVo has tried a dozen different pricing schemes and there simply is not enough money to be made to justify the research, development and high-tech components necessary.
Another reason not mentioned here is the fact that most programmers feel that the content they provide is only "Rented", and they feel like you do not have a right to keep a copy. HDMI and "Cable Cards" were supposed to address this, and keep control in the hands of the content providers. One cheap and easy way to do what you are trying to do if you only want to time shift and watch at your convenience is use a converter or set top box and feed the A/V outputs to your high tech (LOL) VCR. Cheap and easy way to time shift DTV, and that way you can save enough money to have:coca_cola_can: and :popcorn: while you watch !!
 

bicker

DTVUSA Member
#8
Yes, if you're willing to degrade the quality of the signal back to standard definition and analog, it does become a lot more portable.
 

dgs

DTVUSA Jr. Member
#9
Unless you only record shows from one channel, the VCR solution only works if you have a DTV converter that you can program with time slots to match the VCR. (Mine can't.) Double programming seems somewhat cumbersome. Additionally, those DTV converters are getting more and more difficult to find and recent reviews seem to indicate that the quality is dropping way off.

I finally solved my problem with a driver upgrade to Windows to allow XP Media Center to control and record off a Hauppauge 850 digital tuner. It all works great as long as the computer is on to act as the "DVR."

The beauty of using a computer (and why I've been so hot on doing so) is that you can manage the files more easily. e.g. After recording a bunch of your favorite shows, you can transfer each series to their own DVD. The other great thing is that a 1TB drive goes for about $110 so you can store a lot more digital TV on a computer than anything else.
 

bicker

DTVUSA Member
#10
One of the biggest problem up until now with using a computer as a DVR was with cable television, with regard to how up until now few computers were certified for CableCARD. As of this past week, Microsoft has released drivers for ATI tuner cards that support CableCARD, and Centon will release their competing tuner cards early next year. So it does appear that computers could soon become a viable alternative to TiVo.
 

CptlA

DTVUSA Member
#11
One of the biggest problem up until now with using a computer as a DVR was with cable television, with regard to how up until now few computers were certified for CableCARD. As of this past week, Microsoft has released drivers for ATI tuner cards that support CableCARD, and Centon will release their competing tuner cards early next year. So it does appear that computers could soon become a viable alternative to TiVo.
Seems like there will be a huge opening for App writers and these cards. Imagine the possibilities for recording although I guess it's limited by how many tuners a card has too.
 

dgs

DTVUSA Jr. Member
#12
It has been a while since I've been working these issues. I just bought an antenna as a Christmas present for my brother-in-law who has had problems getting all the OTA channels with his rabbit ears. Researching antennas brought me back to this site. I also got a new computer to use for my media center and I need to set it up. It looks like Channel Master has finally filled this niche market with the Channel Master TV CM-7400. Like many DVRs, it seems to have some idiosyncrasies. I'm wondering if it would be a better choice than using the computer. Anybody have any experience with the CM DVR?
 

dgs

DTVUSA Jr. Member
#15
I've been using a computer with Windows Media Center for the past several years. I swapped to a smaller computer that fits the available space better. It is far from ideal, but at least I can get some OTA shows recorded. I've also been using it as my portal to Netflix, but now that is being turned off by Netflix.

A friend recommended Tivo Premier, but his information is obviously dated. More recent reviews tout TiVo Roamio as the best solution, but at a price. I just don't like paying and am not yet willing to pay subscription fees. Anybody have any thoughts on that solution?
 
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#18
The TiVo Roamio is available with lifetime service for $300.
https://www.tivo.com/shop/promo/supersavings
There are a lot of low cost add your own hard drive boxes available sold under several different brand names with quite a few well know problems.
http://www.dtvusaforum.com/converte...ta-converter-dvr-media-player-under-40-a.html
A new one that just caught my attention is the RCA DTA880. I've already read the remote that comes with it is very poor. I like all of the online instructional videos they have for it.
https://rcasupport.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/204753709-DTA880-Features
RCA Digital Converter Box with DVR Recording - Walmart.com
I'm guessing it's the same basic box as the others with the RCA brand on it.
Steve
 

dgs

DTVUSA Jr. Member
#20
A few months ago I got the Tivo Roamio OTA for $300 with the lifetime service from Amazon. I love it. It's about the same price as old VCRs or DVRs and well worth buying the lifetime service compared with the monthly fee. (Do the math!) Losing Netflix in Media Center pushed me over the edge to try a new solution. Now my Media Center computer just sits there taking up shelf space. Tivo keeps updating the software and the features keep coming. The 30 sec skip was useful, but I love the new full commercial SKIP option for shows that have it.
 
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