Remember the days of setting your VCR for a particular time to record that special program on a VHS tape? Then disaster happens: Either you forget your timer or the tape.
Thankfully, with technology like a Digital Video Recorder (DVR), we don’t have to worry about missing our favorite shows anymore. If you’re thinking about getting your hands on one, you’ll want to know what features to look for.
That’s why we’re going to break down what you need to know when buying a DVR and why it’s so much better than that old VCR you used to rely on.
What is a DVR and its benefits?
A DVR is an electronic device that records video in a digital format to a disk drive, USB flash drive, SD memory card, SSD or some other local or networked mass storage device.
Typically, DVR also includes terms such as set-top boxes with direct to disk recording, portable media players and TV gateways with recording capability, and digital camcorders.
There are a lot of benefits to having a DVR, and if you’re a current cable or satellite TV subscriber on a higher tier plan, you may already have one. If you don’t, a DVR may still be an option, albeit at an additional monthly charge for leasing the equipment.
There are variations, but most companies offer choices, including extra units for TVs in multiple rooms, different amounts of storage space, and other add-on features that enhance your DVR adventure.
Scheduling and recording
You don’t have to worry about timers anymore when looking to record, you can do it in bulk. Most modern DVRs give you the option of going through the TV guide and selecting movies, games and TV shows on an individual basis. You can even create a Season Pass.
Setting up a Season Pass for a show means every episode will be recorded from now on. You can choose to record “Only New” episodes, or every episode that airs, which means you’ll get bombarded with every rerun of that specific program. This forever ends the need to wait around or reset a timer each week to make sure you don’t miss that special program.
Storage capacities are important when selecting a DVR, just as getting VHS tapes with the SLP feature to hold more video used to be. Recording to a VHS tape was limited to available space on the inserted tape. When space ran out, you had to switch tapes or record over programs that were previously recorded.
The beauty of DVRs is they come with hard drives. And many of them are capable of having expanded storage.
Even if you can’t, with proper saving and management you can fit a lot of programming and have room for your favorite shows. That’s why it’s important to select whether you have the need for SD or HD content and how much you can fit on the hard drives.
Some companies, such as Comcast, even offer cloud storage for your favorite shows. But if you’re wondering how many hours of programming you can get on your DVR, it’s going to depend on device and content quality.
Typically, standard definition (SD) recordings use about 1GB for every hour and one hour of HD programming typically takes up about 6GB. So if you prefer to record mostly high-definition (HD) content, you can expect to get fewer programs on your device.
Types of DVRs
The selections of available DVR units include options from Amazon Fire TV Recast, TiVo Bolt OTA, Apple TV and many more. Some of these you can access select content from subscription services, for free, over the air, or through app services.
Other benefits of getting a standalone DVR, if you don’t have cable or satellite, is the ability to stream movies and other content from the internet. When looking to purchase a separate device, you’ll want to be sure to check the estimated hours for the specific DVR you’re considering.
Do I need a DVR?
That’s really up to you. Everyone’s tastes are different in their home theater experience. If you don’t care about saving programs, and prefer to go the streaming route, then that works well, too. With so many programs on-demand, you might decide that you don’t need a DVR.
However, with a plethora of choices out there, as you’re looking to get that DVR, research and make sure it’s going to fulfill all of your needs. No matter the direction you choose to go, you can expect that it will improve your video viewing experience.
What’s great about these devices is they give you the ability to watch TV or other media sources on your schedule and don’t take up all that valuable physical storage space but use plenty of digital storage. Having a DVR is one of the best pieces of consumer electronics you can add to your home theater.
What DVR should I get?
When looking for a DVR, these choices could help you out and be good choices for different price points. When looking for a specific DVR, considering cost and function are two of the biggest concerns.
Leelbox – Cost: $39.99
What’s unique about this box is it’s also a digital converter box for analog TV users. It has 1080P with recording, and pausing for live TV, USB multimedia playback and an HDTV set-top box for over-the-air digital broadcasts. No storage device comes with it but it can be connected to your own USB flash drives or external hard drives, meaning it’s upgradeable storage. Record and pause live TV with the digital TV recorder for instant real-time recording and scheduled recording of selected TV channel programs by saving the recordings into a connected USB drive for playback later.
Tablo 4-Tuner OTA DVR with Wi-Fi Cord Cutters – Cost: $193.60
Another option to get you on the cord-cutter bandwagon is the Tablo DUAL LITE over-the-air DVR with Wi-Fi with 4 tuners. Watch, pause and record live antenna TV, browse upcoming shows, schedule and manage recordings, skip commercials, fast-forward and rewind recordings and use the Tablo apps for various media streaming devices.
Unlike traditional connections, this uses a home network router instead of your TV to let you browse, record and stream live over-the-air (OTA) TV to any device, anytime. For storage, you can connect as much recording capacity as you want up to 8TB with a USB hard drive which you have to supply.
Hauppauge WinTV-dualHD Live TV for Cordcutters – Cost: $69.99
If you’re a PC user and looking to use your computer as the DVR and also watch live TV on another screen, this may be an option for you. This includes two built-in TV tuners where you can record on one channel while watching TV on the other. This TV tuner works for Nvidia Sheild or a Windows PC. Comes with the added bonus of a WinTV v8 application where you can have picture-in-picture or two complete TV windows open simultaneously.
Watch, pause and record two channels of free over-the-air ATSC HD TV and clear QAM digital cable TV right to your computer.