Full Featured DVR

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by velocityg4, Apr 4, 2013.

  1. macrumors 68040


    Dec 19, 2004
    I've been thinking about the purchase of a fully functional DVR rather than using the unit hobbled by Comcast.

    My requirements are as follows.
    - Allows me to archive recorded shows over the network.
    - Records two or more HD shows simultaneously.
    - Doesn't require a separate subscription to work. Tivo does this and it is BS. The cable satellite provider already provides a guide so it should use that.
    - Works with CableCard and/or Satellite. Preferably both so I have provider flexibility.
    - Easy and convenient to use with remote (Leaving custom computers out, this is for non tech savvy users in the house)

    Like to have.
    - Works with On Demand.
    - Integrate with client boxes that can set and retrieve recordings.
    - Four or more simultaneous HD recordings like Dish and DirecTV advertise.
    - User upgradeable hard drive.

    Could care less about
    - Connects to online streaming services.

    I've been thinking about this for a while now. I use to be able to just pop a tape in my VCR and record any show I wanted and have a permanent copy. It occurs to me with all this great technology I lost that ability. This makes sense to me as a 21st century version of what I used to do with a lowly VCR.

    Everything mentioned is feasible in boxes that cost no more than the $200 - $250 Tivo units. The question is has any manufacturer implemented this?
  2. macrumors 6502

    Jul 31, 2007
    make sure your cable provider does not make this product unusable.
    I have Verizon Fios and I do not believe it would work as all cable
    products are controlled by Verizon. They will not let you back up your recorded movies on your Verizon DVR so if you want to change providers you lose your library of films.
  3. NorCalLights, Apr 4, 2013
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2013

    macrumors 6502

    Apr 24, 2006
    TiVo does this.

    TiVo does this.

    TiVo is expensive, but it'll roughly break-even if you plan on keeping the box for a few years. Pay for the up-front lifetime subscription with your TiVo box. You'll save by not having to rent a box from your cable company.

    I'm not familiar with any modern 3rd party DVR solutions that work with satellite. There used to be some dumb IR-blaster type boxes that worked for SD content, but I haven't seen any of those recently. TiVo certainly does not work with satellite (unless it's a "powered by TiVo" box from the satellite company, which of course won't work with cable.)

    TiVo has the best remote in the business. The Slide Remote comes with a QWERTY keyboard, and is bluetooth.

    Comcast is rolling out On Demand support for TiVo. It's already working in select markets.

    TiVo has both streaming and thin client options.

    This is available on the TiVo Premiere 4 and above, and you can also watch content from any TiVo box on any TiVo box, so you can essentially have unlimited tuners by adding boxes (won't be cheap tho...)

    You can add external hard drives to TiVo, and the internal drives are user-upgradable. http://www.weaknees.com has been offering TiVo upgrades since the beginning of TiVo-time.

    TiVo is not ideal, and it is definitely expensive, but it is certainly the best video content solution out there.
  4. macrumors 6502

    Feb 20, 2008

    Because nowdays manufacturers are handcuffed if they want providers to let them swim in the pool.

    for an example


    “Qualifying equipment” must meet the following requirements:
    (i) it must have been both tested and approved for its intended use by CableLabs®;
    (ii) it must be technically compatible with Comcast’s cable systems and approved for
    use by Comcast; and
    (iii) it must not be capable of the unauthorized receipt of any services from Comcast.
    (iv) CableCARD compatible devices must have one or more Comcast provided
    CableCARDs activated.
  5. thread starter macrumors 68040


    Dec 19, 2004
    The Tivo requires a $15/month subscription. Just to enable timed recording. When the Cablecard and line should provide all the info needed for a guide from Comcast. This costs more than renting a box from Comcast once you include Cablecard fee's. You can get $500 lifetime but that is not my lifetime rather the lifetime of that Tivo unit.

    Now the Motorola DVR Comcast provides is capable of my criteria for must have. The question is where can I buy one that is fully unlocked? Rather than one tweaked aftermarket by the cable provider.
  6. Giuly, Apr 4, 2013
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2013

    macrumors 68040


  7. macrumors 6502

    Apr 24, 2006
    OP said a custom computer setup was out of the question for the technically-challenged folks in his house.
  8. macrumors 6502

    Apr 24, 2006
    The cable card "should" provide all of the info needed, but it doesn't. Sorry, that's just the way things are. TiVo charges a service fee. If you're not okay with that, keep paying the rental fee for your cable company DVR.

    I'm 3 years into a lifetime subscription I plan on using for at least 5 years, so it certainly is less expensive than renting a far inferior box from Comcast, even including the CableCard rental. But I didn't get a TiVo to save money... I got a TiVo because I wanted a better experience watching TV.

    I've never heard of anyone being able to buy an "unlocked" DVR. As far as I know, you can rent a box from the cable company, or rent a CableCard and bring your own device.
  9. macrumors 68040


    Yes, but 'Easy and convenient to use with remote' and custom PC aren't mutually exclusive.
  10. macrumors 6502

    Apr 24, 2006
    Okay that's fair enough. The PCI tuner you linked looks interesting to me. What software would you use for managing the record schedule and for playback?
  11. macrumors 68020


    Oct 25, 2008
    I have a TiVo and while it has all that a previous post says ... I hate it.

    Why do I hate it - because I got the lifetime service and would be very happy to pay for another TiVo box and transfer the lifetime service but alas, TiVo is a penny wise and a pound short in that they refuse to do that. Most people would give their TiVo away after a purchase and that means another subscription to be had. But no, TiVo wont do this. They offer a slap in the face "discount" at times if you get another box and ANOTHER life time service subscription.

    The only other game in town that really has what it takes is by using the multi-media version of Windows with a M-CableCard in something like a Ceton or similar. This is with the use of cable.

    The biggest catch is - that many programs are coded so that they cannot be copied. You can store them, possibly play them on connected additional systems but not really archive them off line so to speak.

    In the past, Sat DVR and Cable DVR had Firewire output on the back and if you knew what you were doing, you could copy out programs. This is pretty much nullified by the closed coding of programs.

    If anyone knows better - please do jump in and make any corrections to the above as my info is at least a couple of years old.

    In the meanwhile, I'll continue with my TiVo HD until it totally fails then NOT deal with TiVo ever again.

    Btw, there was a box called "Moxi" that was TiVo like and was bought out by another company but since has disappeared. It did everything TiVo did but didn't require a service from them. If you find one, you might be in luck.
  12. hallux, Apr 6, 2013
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2013

    macrumors 68000

    Apr 25, 2012
    I had that tuner for a month. The only reason I returned it was because the computer I planned on repurposing as an HTPC was just way too much computer and I couldn't find an appropriate case for it. I may yet go back to that setup but it will be with a purpose-built computer, maybe once Haswell comes out.

    In my case, I was using Windows 7 so I used the Media Center app that's built-in It's actually relatively easy to use. What it CAN'T do is picture in picture but I don't use it that much. Recording 4 streams at a time and nearly unlimited capacity for recordings make it a VERY attractive setup. You can also get a Ceton Echo and attach it to your InfiniTV through the network (wired only) and have an HD stream on another TV, this uses one of your 4 tuners and I believe will allow you to watch recorded video on any TV with the Echo box which basically acts as a media center extender.

    Unfortunately, there's no way to really play with the tuner/guide part of Windows Media Center unless you have a tuner installed. However, it provides MUCH more information than your standard DVR does.

    The inability to archive the recordings for view on another system is in no way tied to a restriction imposed by the tuner itself, or the device on which you recorded it, at least not by their choice to stick it to you. Part of the CableLabs requirement for CableCARD certification is that the stream be encrypted from cable system to TV, for copyright protection. Once I removed the InfiniTV from the system it was installed in I was unable to view any content that was recorded with it, even though the Ceton card doesn't actually handle the output.
  13. macrumors 68030

    Oct 15, 2008
    I'm still using my TiVo Series 3, which was their first HD unit for OTA/cable. I love it and would have no problems buying another.

    I checked, and I'm now 12+ years into my lifetime service contract. At one time they did allow contract transfers, and they charged me $100 I think.. to move mine from a Series 1 Sony TiVo to my S3.

    My only beef with them at the moment is that they dropped OTA support from their latest boxes.
  14. macrumors newbie

    Apr 21, 2013
    severely dis-appointed


    The OTA support and feature was also dropped from the Series 2 TIVO; I bought a Tivo series 2 from a thrift store, hooked it up, but the menu did NOT give me a choice. 1) OTA, 2) cable or 3) satellite; really, in fact no menu came up: just told me to hook up to a phone line for service.

    TIVO is dying: http://gizmodo.com/5412735/tivo-is-slowly-dying

    I hooked my OLD SCHOOL vcr and it works perfectly.

    Why would you love a device that does nothing but gives you grief and NO OTA support / feature on your DVR? I would NOT be sad if TIVO went "bye-bye" completely. Please e-mail me at jesuschrysler1@live.com
  15. macrumors G4

    Oct 14, 2005
    If you take the one-time cost of a TiVo + Lifetime Service and compare it to the perpetual monthly cost of renting a DVR from your cable company, after a certain number of months, the TiVo has paid for itself, and then starts saving you money every month.

    Where I live, Cox Cable is the provider, and they charge $8.50/month to rent the DVR box, plus an additional $9.99/month charge to enable the DVR service on the box. So $18.49/month for a DVR.

    Here's the setup of my house:
    Living room - 1 DVR
    My bedroom - 1 DVR
    Roommate's bedroom - 1 DVR
    Guest bedroom - 1 DVR

    With Cox, that'd cost $74/month, forever.
    With TiVo, that'd cost $1798/once, plus $3.99/month to rent cable cards.

    In my situation, the TiVo solution pays for itself in 24 months (compared to the cost of renting from the cable company). After month 24, TiVo saves me $70 every month.

    TiVo breakdown:

    $749 - TiVo Premier 4 <four tuners> + Lifetime Service (living room)
    $549 - TiVo Premier <two tuners> + Lifetime Service (roommate's bedroom)
    $250 - TiVo mini + Lifetime Service (my room, can pull from either TiVo Premier)
    $250 - TiVo mini + Lifetime Service (guest room, can pull from either TiVo Premier)
  16. macrumors 6502a


    Apr 6, 2011
    I have your answer

    You want this:


    Its the ONLY availalbe product in the USA, there used to me more options 7 years ago.

    Also, this is more in the Home Theather department other then personal computers, so I sugest you check the AVS.com forums
  17. velocityg4, Apr 22, 2013
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2013

    thread starter macrumors 68040


    Dec 19, 2004
    It would take about four years for me given the price differences I am quoted for a DVR and a cablecard in my area. Which would be getting close to the time of needing a new Tivo unit and lifetime subscription since it is not transferable. Plus $500 is for a channel guide is pretty hard to stomach. Especially knowing the cablecard could and cable company could provide all that data to the Tivo at no extra cost.

    Even after all is said and done. After doing more research. I still would not accomplish my main goal. As you cannot simply transfer the recorded shows. Apparently most broadcasts now use a copy protection flag. So if I got rid of the Tivo I would lose my shows. Without breaking the copy protection a DMCA violation. Even if they reside on my computer they are linked to the Tivo as best as I can tell.
  18. macrumors G4

    Oct 14, 2005
    Hmm, current TiVo's use "M" type cable cards, which means regardless of the number of tuners the TiVo has, it only needs one cable card.

    Even then, I agree that TiVo's not a cost saver in every scenario. But in others, the savings can be significant.

    One of the other things about TiVo is that they money I spend buys me something tangible, vs. flushing it down the drain with renting from the cable company.

    I'm about to sell 2 six-year-old Series 3s w/ Lifetime on eBay. Looking at recent closed auctions, they're selling for around $300. Who knows what mine will sell for, but the potential for getting 1/2 of my money back after seven years isn't half bad.
  19. macrumors G4

    Oct 14, 2005
    How do the logistics of the cable companies providing guide data to TiVo devices work? A: Why would the cable company do that for free? They don't seem to do anything else for free. B: Do all of the cable companies use the same format for their guide data? C: If Cox Cable nerfs up their guide data for a week, but Comcast doesn't, who owns the resolution process? Does the customer call TiVo, and TiVo calls the customers cable company in behalf of the customer? Or does TiVo tell the customer to call their cable company... because you know how that goes.

    In addition to guide data, the TiVo Service gives you quarterly software updates for your device <new features + bug fixes> and tech support.

    Either way, the tough-to-stomach $500 service fee + the cheap cost of the hardware puts the total price tag of the TiVo right into the ballpark of a dedicated computer, which is probably the only other alternative that's going to even come close to doing 1/2 of what you're looking for.

    IMO, if there was a viable business model for selling $200-$250 boxes that do everything, you'd see five companies doing it.

    The fact that it's pretty much only one company doing that should speak to that.

    As far as I can tell, it's a requirement that before any device is licensed to support cable cards, that device has to respect the copy protection flags.

    I'm not sure you're going to find a device that allows you to digitally record a show that has a copy protection byte set, and allow you to transfer it digitally to your computer.
  20. macrumors member


    Mar 31, 2008
    Channel Master TV

    Just bought one of these on ebay last week. It does everything you want. Love mine so far.


    Unfortunately, the company has just halted production. You can't buy one from the manufacturer's website. I emailed them and they said there is something new in the works.
  21. macrumors 601


    Jan 23, 2002
    East Coast
    Actually, this thing seems pretty limited. No Cable Card support. The OP is probably looking for something that can record all of his channels. Also, this doesn't support OnDemand, but then again, not much else does.

    Really, the only thing that would hit on the OPs desires, would be a HTPC with several extenders (aka XBox 360).
  22. macrumors G4

    Oct 14, 2005
    I like how they position the free guide data.

    "With Channel Master TV, basic television guide data is transmitted free-of-charge by the broadcaster and our device receives this info and appropriately inserts it into the on-screen guide. While this info is basic and all depends on what the broadcaster decides to send, it is free."


    Who knows what the guide data will be like, but hey, it's free! :eek:
  23. macrumors 68000

    Jan 27, 2007
    I've had a Series 2 with lifetime service since 2004. It was awesome in the pre-HDTV days and I still have it up and running for automated conversion of a few programs for viewing on my ipad, but I'd never buy another one. The lifetime service locked into one box is a reason (why not reward long time customers who believed in you to pay up front?). The double charging of fees to Comcast AND Tivo is another. The current Comcast DVRs are 'good enough' and the web and iOS apps help overcome the brutal on box searching, so I can't justify the price of Tivo. Sometimes just having the best technology isn't enough to win the war.
  24. macrumors G4

    Oct 14, 2005
    Playing devil's advocate, you paid ~$800 for a TiVo DVR that you've been using for ~10 years.

    Had you rented a Comcast DVR for the same length of time (@ $18/month), you would have paid $2,160.

    FWIW, TiVo does occasionally make special offers only available to long-term customers. IIRC, they had a $349 deal recently for a Premier 4 that came with Lifetime Service included.
  25. macrumors newbie

    May 6, 2013
    I have both a Channel Master 7000 DTV PAL and an old Replay unit. The Replay unit is hooked up to my cable company (San Bruno Cable) and the ChannelMaster is ota. In terms of guide use, the Replay is better since it gives up to 14 days and complete descriptions in most cases. The OTA free guide data is less reliable, lasts only for 12 hours (but usually much less) and you get lots of gaps when the station does not broadcast info (like blank description or simply DTV Program). San Bruno Cable, by the way, provides two free cable boxes (or cable card) for free. Additional are extra.

    I have been thinking about cancelling cable and going ota only. I just get local channels through SB Cable but OTA allows me to see HD (which costs extra for an HD box). I am thinking about getting the TIVO but the upfront cost is steep. Then again my Replay unit, which came with lifetime service (close to 8 years old) has saved me a lot of money in the long run. SB Cable does offer a standard digital dvr (around $7.50 if I recall right). The HD version is $12 (if you have HD service that is). You have to decide in the long run which is best for you: pay for monthly guide data or pay for it upfront. If you choose OTA know the limitation is that the free channel guide is whatever the broadcast station sends, and is not more than 12 hours at most (or less). And with Channel Master, they have a much limited search feature that is neither dynamic and just barebones.

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