Suggestions on inexpensive way to record over the air tv programs

freetvforme

DTVUSA Jr. Member
#1
Hello,

Well it has been 3-4 years since the digital conversion and I am still irritated by it and how technology is making it more difficult than it used to be to watch tv unless you want to spend a bundle of money.

I used to have a basic cable package until about 6 months ago when Comcast made me mad (very much justified) and I cancelled service after having cable for 20+ years. I was actually surprised that they didn't try to save my business nor have they tried to contact me to get me to come back. (But that is another story)

Now, I just use digital converter boxes (4). I also still use my old VCRs and tube TVs. (although I am nearing the point where I may replace one or two of my tvs with flat screens) Only 1 of my converters has a timer and is limited to 5 programs so the vcrs have lost some of their usefulness and are more of a headache to use.

So, one would think that since vcrs had come down in price to the 50-100 range 5-10 years ago, that a new digital option would be available that would function just like the old vcr in a similar price range. That doesn't appear to have happened. I've seen digital recording devices (dvrs) that don't require a subscription but they run 300-500 bucks. I can't justify paying that kind of money so I still fight my vcrs and have to remember to leave one of my converters on a particular channel when I want to record.

In short, I find the conversion from analog to digital to be a step backwards with how I like to view television. My wife, who is less technical minded than myself, is having an even harder time with it.

We don't need anything fancy or expensive. We just want to watch over the air tv and record a few programs when we are not at home.

I even tried to buy more converters with timers and I can't seem to locate any like the one I have that does have a tuner. (DTV Pal-Plus) Most of what I have seen at the big box stores and electronics stores seems to be just a basic converter and no timer which I feel they all should have.

If I do end up replacing a couple of our tvs with digital, that doesn't really solve my problem as I would still have to use a converter box to record to my vcr.

I am not interested in building a computer to capture tv or any nonsense like that. I just need a simple / inexpensive way to watch tv and record a few programs like I used to do with analog. If anyone can help me with suggestions or product recommendations, I would greatly appreciate it.

Thank you
 

Jim5506

DTVUSA Member
#2
Not "cheap" but for about $300 you can get a series 3 HD Tivo with lifetime subscription.

I have 2 which I have replaced the internal drive with a 1TB WD Media drive (designed for heavy use constantly).

The TiVo's were $300 off eBay and one for $200 off CraigsList.org, both with Lifetime subscriptions, so no monthly fees.

The drives were about $100 each, but they are a luxury, the original drives record a good bit of HD OTA.

The TiVo tuners are quite good and each box has two, so you can record two programs at the same time while watching a recorded program.

The initial outlay is a bit steep, but there is NOTHING like them around.

Beware - the latest and greatest TiVo's only have QAM tuners - no ATSC for OTA, so do your research and know EXACTLY what you are getting.

Another perk of TiVo is that those recorede programs are easily copied to your PC, you can edit out the commercials and burn them to DVD's or Blu-Ray, even leave othem on your media server and play them with your PS3 over the home network.
 

n2rj

Moderator
Staff member
#3
I had a Series 3 before I went to Windows media center.

There's one thing to keep in mind with the TiVo units.

Series 3 (the one with the OLED display in front):

If you're using it strictly for OTA you'll be fine and can use two tuners at once.

If you're using it for cable, you'll need TWO CableCARDs to use two tuners. This is because there is no support for multistream cable cards and TiVo basically abandoned the idea of updating it. If you use one CableCARD only, you'll have one tuner only.

Here's the other important thing - if you have only one CableCARD in the unit, you can only use one tuner, period - Cable or OTA. If you have two CableCARDs you can use two tuners for cable and OTA. What I did was have both cable and OTA inputs connected and I could record shows off cable and OTA, but only two at a time.

For the TiVo HD (the black unit with just the LEDs and not the dot matrix OLED) you can use a multistream CableCARD. However, if you're using single stream cards I believe the same tuner restriction applies. But no cable company I know of has single stream cards anymore.

Just something to keep in mind if you ever use the TiVo for cable.


To copy shows I used a program called pyTiVo. You can use the official TiVo desktop software but it's bloatware and loaded with DRM.

If you have a PC laying around you can get a tuner and use it with windows media center. The advantage of this is that you can set up a multiroom DVR using XBOX 360s or the new Ceton Echo extender.
 

dkreichen1968

Moderator
Staff member
#4
One of the most time tested and inexpensive ways to record OTA digital TV is the Magnavox family of Hard Disk Drive DVD recorders. They only record content as SD, but are one of the least expensive and user friendly options. The expense of new OTA recording devices come down to two factors. TiVo patents and a lack of volume.

Magnavox 320GB HDD and DVD Recorder with Digital Tuner: TV & Video : Walmart.com

Magnavox 500GB HDD and DVD Recorder with Digital Tuner: TV & Video : Walmart.com

Magnavox 1TB HDD and DVD Recorder with Digital Tuner: TV & Video : Walmart.com
 

MrPogi

Moderator, , Webmaster of Cache Free TV
Staff member
#5
TiVo patents and a lack of volume.
The TiVo patents are a pretty big obstacle to a simple and inexpensive DVR. But I think the bigger roadblock is the lack of volume - that is, enough customers to justify production of enough units to make a profit.

I blame Pay TV for this. They have fooled the public into believing that you have to pay for TV, or that broadcast TV is an inferior product. A lot of people don't even know that OTA TV exixts - a common remark I hear from people that I tell about OTA TV is, "I thought they didn't do that any more?". In addition, the cable and satellite companies do whatever it takes to prevent customers from providing their own recorders. They make it so that you can't possibly access every channel you have paid for without using their set top boxes - thus making it impossible for subscribers to use anything but the provider's own DVRs. Therefore, there is a very small market for stand-alone DVRs, unlike the huge market that existed when VCRs were new and most people had an antenna or unencrypted cable.

I know that $300-$500 seems like a lot to spend, but consider the money you're not giving to the cable company - that's easily $500 a year for most subscribers. I have taken a small part of my savings for the last 4 years and used it to but a 52" TV and a bunch of "toys" that get me everything I need.

A question for the OP: Do you have reliable broadband internet? If you do, a Roku box and HULU plus or a laptop (connected to your TV) and HULU free will give you most of the functionality of a DVR. The main drawbacks of HULU is that not all programs are available, and you can't "keep a copy" of that show forever, because eventually shows expire on HULU. Even if you pay for HULU, at $8 a month it's way cheaper than cable.
 
G

Guest

Guest
#6
Windows Vista and Windows 7 both have the Windows Media Center. Connected to the antenna via coax cable, they record and play back OTA shows better than any DVR I ever had. They can schedule series for recording, timer-record, and do everything I need. Yes, they can record only one channel at a time, but normally I see no conflict there. Best of all, if you have a late-model computer, there is no additional cost!
 

freetvforme

DTVUSA Jr. Member
#7
First of all, thank you all for your input.

I don't think I like the idea of buying a used Tivo for 200-300 dollars. Anything used in electronics scares me unless I know the owner personally. I think the new ones are 500 if I'm not mistaken which I can't justify even if I am saving 40-60 bucks a month on cable.

Some of the other suggestions mentioned were regarding setting up a computer with a tv tuner or laptop with hulu. I realize I could probably get something like that figured out, but my goal is to just keep it simple like it used to be. My wife can barely program a vcr on her own and I can only imagine what she would say if I hooked up a computer or other equipment just to watch tv. As I said in my original post, technology should make things easier….not more complicated with more hassle.

MrPogi… yes, I do have DSL (3.0 DL). I sometimes watch network programs online when I forgot to tape it but I don't like it as well. I don't have a laptop but even if I did, I wouldn't want to mess with hooking it up to my TV.

I am intrigued with the 320 Magnavox unit that was mentioned. It seems to have pretty good reviews. 228.00 is still more than I want to spend but that is more reasonable than anything else I have seen. I wouldn't have a need to store more than 5-10 hours of recorded programs at any one time so I would think the 320 gig should handle that. We do record from 3 TVs in the house, so I would still need 3 of them which would still be a chunk of money. Maybe I will look into getting one in the near future and if I like it, add more as I can. This seems like the simplest approach even though the cost is more than I'd like.

I'm assuming that I could use the Magnavox as a digital converter on my older tube TVs until I replace them and get rid of those converter boxes.

Oh, and MrPogi, I agree with your assessment of the cable companies. They seem to be cut out of the same cloth as phone companies. I deal with several phone companies at work and they all seem to be a bunch of vultures. AT&T is the worst!

Thanks again everyone for your input. It looks like a new Magnavox will be in my future.
 

SWHouston

Moderator
Staff member
#8
I think buying a Digital Recorder (DVR) which will record DVD-RW* would be less expensive than one with a Hard Drive. The "RW" ability means that you can record over older programs on the same disk.

However, IF you wish to record a program you wish to keep, you can record it on a standard DVD, and keep it. Standard DVD's in bulk (10-50-100) will cost you about $0.10 each. Either RW Disk run about $1.50 each. You can get about six 1hr programs recorded on a disk with "reasonable" resolution.

* = -RW and +RW are recording formats. I think the "-" may be more popular. However, once you buy a couple of the proper disk for your recorder, it doesn't matter.
 
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dkreichen1968

Moderator
Staff member
#9
Quote (Originally by freetvforme)---
I'm assuming that I could use the Magnavox as a digital converter on my older tube TVs until I replace them and get rid of those converter boxes.
Or, if you have enough signal you can split it and watch one program while watching another one. Of course with three TVs in the house you can do that anyway. ;) Also, 320GB is enough to record 35 hours of HD, so when it's been downconverted to SD you will have well over 100 hrs of space per recorder. SWHouston's solution may be lower cost, but I'd think the extra $100 would be well worth not having to swap out DVD-RWs.


Quote (Originally by freetvforme)---
Oh, and MrPogi, I agree with your assessment of the cable companies. They seem to be cut out of the same cloth as phone companies. I deal with several phone companies at work and they all seem to be a bunch of vultures. AT&T is the worst!
I make the vast majority of my salary from cable TV and phone companies. I absolutely hate AT&T's attitude. They remind me too much of the old AT&T from the 1960s and 70s. "Let's pilfer as much money from people as possible." On the other hand, Verizon seems, at least from my perspective, to have a much better attitude, and I've enjoyed my customer relationship with CenturyLink (my ISP) so far.

Then there is Infinitely Expensive by Comtrash... That's a whole different story. ;)
 
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SWHouston

Moderator
Staff member
#10
SWHouston's solution may be lower cost, but I'd think the extra $100 would be well worth not having to swap out DVD-RWs.
I agree,
Putting a fresh RW in the machine wasn't that much trouble, but, reformatting those RW"s was a pain in the tush. I had about 10, and when they were all full, I would sit down for an hour and reformat the whole bunch every so often.
 
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MrPogi

Moderator, , Webmaster of Cache Free TV
Staff member
#11
Some of the other suggestions mentioned were regarding setting up a computer with a tv tuner or laptop with hulu. I realize I could probably get something like that figured out, but my goal is to just keep it simple like it used to be. My wife can barely program a vcr on her own and I can only imagine what she would say if I hooked up a computer or other equipment just to watch tv. As I said in my original post, technology should make things easier….not more complicated with more hassle.
I think a Roku HD for $60 with Hulu Plus at $7.99 a month would work well for you. It's much easier than setting up a VCR, and it. Roku is incredibly easy to set up and use, all you need is a wireless connection, it took me 5 minutes from opening the box to watching video. Your wife could easily navigate Roku and Hulu+. My 6 year old does it, and even my technology-adverse Dad managed to figure it out when they stayed with us.

That said, the Magnavox units are a good choice, especially if you want to preserve something for posterity.
 

freetvforme

DTVUSA Jr. Member
#12
I absolutely hate AT&T's attitude. They remind me too much of the old AT&T from the 1960s and 70s. "Let's pilfer as much money from people as possible."
You said it.... their attitude is ridiculous. My company just had three 18% price increases on a data circuit in the last 12 months and their response? Yea...so.. take it or leave it. Sorry to get off topic, but AT&T ruffles my feathers.

I thought about DVRs as SWHouston suggested but I can't even seem to find those. B-Buy looked at me like I was crazy for asking if they had any. Any ideas where I can find one of those for comparison that works like the Magnavox hard drive model ? (New..not used)

Hulu Plus doesn't have any of the programs that I watched when I had cable so I think I would prefer to go with some type of recorder. I also see that the Roku recommends a 5Meg connection and mine is 3Meg at max and actual is probably 2.0-2.5 so I could have problems.

Any thoughts on this model?
By the way, every time I visit this forum, I my security program (MS Security Essentials) tells me that it found a Trojan (JS/Redirector.JW) Anyone else have this problem?
 
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SWHouston

Moderator
Staff member
#13
I thought about DVRs as SWHouston suggested but I can't even seem to find those. B-Buy looked at me like I was crazy for asking if they had any. Any ideas where I can find one of those for comparison that works like the Magnavox hard drive model ? (New..not used)

By the way, every time I visit this forum, I my security program (MS Security Essentials) tells me that it found a Trojan (JS/Redirector.JW) Anyone else have this problem?
HA, I can believe that !
Here's a link to the DVD(-/+)RW's...
dvd-rw discs - Best Buy
You'd think if BBuy sold the Disk, they'd know what machine used them...duhhh

Now, here's a link to the RW Recorders they sell...
DVD-RW Recorder - Best Buy

Every time I hear of a stupid statement like that from a Salesman, makes me realize HOW valuable a Site like this. You MUST arm yourself with good information, BEFORE you expose yourself to that level of indifference toward his job, and serving a customer to the best of his ability. I would have fired his a$$ !

On the Attacks:
Yes, several of us have noticed a few intrusions and reported them. So far they still continue, but, your Anti-virus should/seems to be catching them. That's the best you can hope for at the present. I'm certain the Administrator is aware and working on this problem.
 
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freetvforme

DTVUSA Jr. Member
#14
Thanks for the links but I don't think those dvrs have tuners. I don't want to have to use a converter and then remember to leave it on a particular channel. I just want it to work like the old VCRs. I guess the Magnavox will do that so I will set my sights on it in the near future.

Thanks for all of your help.
 

dkreichen1968

Moderator
Staff member
#15
By the way, every time I visit this forum, I my security program (MS Security Essentials) tells me that it found a Trojan (JS/Redirector.JW) Anyone else have this problem?
Yes, it alarms with at least AVS, and MS Security Essentials. There is something in the code that those programs see as a Trojan (it isn't a real threat). Jay has tried to fix it, but so far to no avail.
 
G

Guest

Guest
#18
Magnovox DVRs record in SD only?

Is it true that the Magnavox DVRs referenced in a previous post record in SD only, even when receiving an HD signal from the antenna?

I'm almost ready to order the Magnavox MDR537H 1 TB machine, thinking that it will record an HD (1080p) signal and play back at the same resolution, without any signal loss. But, it sounds like you're saying it will down-convert the incoming signal to SD for recording, and then up-convert to 1080p for playback. The description I've read from Magnavox is somewhat ambiguous.

Would appreciate your help before I place an order!

Thanks,
Chuck Minchew
Chapel Hill, NC
 

dkreichen1968

Moderator
Staff member
#19
Is it true that the Magnavox DVRs referenced in a previous post record in SD only, even when receiving an HD signal from the antenna?

I'm almost ready to order the Magnavox MDR537H 1 TB machine, thinking that it will record an HD (1080p) signal and play back at the same resolution, without any signal loss. But, it sounds like you're saying it will down-convert the incoming signal to SD for recording, and then up-convert to 1080p for playback. The description I've read from Magnavox is somewhat ambiguous.

Would appreciate your help before I place an order!
From the manual found here:

All high definition (HD) pictures will be converted
down to Standard Definition, when recording on the
HDD or DVD.
 
#20
Record Over The Air TV without a PC for Under $100

Hey I found a cool way to record either HDTV OR Standard Definition over the
air TV without breaking the bank or setting up a Media PC.

This one company, Mediasonic, sells a box on Amazon.com. I got the Audio
Worx HW-150PVR

On the box it has a USB Port where you can plug in an external hard drive. I
saw one of those for $55 on Amazon too!

All you do is plug your antenna to the box and your HDMI cable to the TV.
You can select 3 ways I saw to record. You can Press the RECORD button on
the units remote, you can set up the timer to go on an off for a specific
time, or you can use the built in electronic program guide to select the
program you want and PRESS OK there and the unit will schedule to record
that particular show. VERY SLICK little box. And VERY INEXPENSIVE!

And the price is so low, you can buy several if you want to record multiple
shows!

This looks like a converter box. But this has that USB port and will output
a signal in either HDTV 1080P, if you're using an HDMI Cable to your HDTV,
or it will output a standard definition signal with RCA cable or component
connections. All those ports are on the unit. And you can select what
RESOLUTION is output during set up. And it's made of metal! Not cheesy
plastic!!!

Check it out!
 
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