PVRs and DVRs – Digital Video Recording For Your Home Theater

PVRs and DVRs – The best way to watch TV

Personal Video Recorders (PVRs) and Digital Video Recorders (DVRs) digitally record media to a hard drive for either later viewing or merely delayed viewing of the recorded programming. I’ve had a PVR for many years now and I cannot recall how I got along without one for all those years before digital recording technology’s introduction. Well – actually I used to have a VHS deck for “time-shifting” my viewing – but now, of course, a digital recorder’s quality and convenience beats VHS by miles. There are currently many different types and brands of digital recorders on the market from a number of manufacturers — of which the Dish Network line of HD DVRs are my favorites, followed by Replay TV (my former favorite), TiVo, various models of standalone hard drive recorders and satellite TV brand specific models. Each is examined in the sections below.

Note – This section on PVRs and DVRs will soon contain much more info with more active links to further info on each type of digital recorder. In the meantime look around and enjoy this “Preview of Coming Attractions”.

Replay TV – The Best of the Rest 
Replay TV was formerly my favorite brand for quite a few reasons. Their user interface is/was the best with extremely user-friendly menus and channel guides. The RTV remotes are ergonomically favorable and feel good in your hand with buttons logically laid-out. And my absolute favorite reason was “Commercial Advance” which is available only on the older models. Commercial Advance is a feature that automatically skips commercials on recorded or delayed programs. The handy feature was discontinued due to a lawsuit by the MPAA wherein Sonic Blue (the former maker of the RTV boxes) had to cease and desist incorporating the feature. Nevertheless the skip equipped units can be found on eBay for under $200 – depending on the size of the hard drive. Some units may also need a monthly subscription.

TiVo – Most Popular but I don’t know why? 
TiVo is the most popular of the PVRs and DVRs but for the life of me I don’t know why. I’ve used TiVo units at friends and relative’s houses and they are just not as convenient as the Replay TV units I own. The user interface and menus are not as well laid out as RTV’s and the remotes are not as ergonomically friendly. Perhaps it is due to their massive advertising and PR campaign that has made TiVo the name most often associated by the masses with PVR technology.

Satellite TV integrated PVRs – Dishnet’s are the best 
Both Dish Network and DirecTV offer High Definition DVRs to their legions of subscribers. Dishnet has its own line of PVRs and DirecTV has been aligned with TiVo for quite some time. Of the two – Dishnet’s proprietary line is the best in my humble opinion. DirecTV’s TiVo line suffers from all the same drawbacks as the standalone line of TiVos.

Cable TV System boxes
Most cable providers are currently offering PVRs as an add-on to their service packages. They offer the traditional convenience of digital recording and time-shifting of programming. Cable TV PVRs usually have an additional monthly fee associated with their use as well as an additional monthly fee for the equipment. In the long run it would be more economical to purchase a Replay TV or other standalone DVR rather than pay the monthly fees associated with Cable TV PVRs.

Other types of Digital Video Recorders 
There are various other types of PVRs and DVRs/digital recorders available – ranging from Zenith’s hard drive DVRs to various DVD recorders with built in hard drives. They all have some slight advantages however I still prefer the Replay TV units. 

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