One DVR to two TVs?
December 30, 2008 8:47 AM   Subscribe

Is it possible to have just one DVR (Comcast Motorola, FWIW) and run it to two different TVs, with all functionality intact and accessible from either set? If not, what's a good set-up for what I'd like to accomplish?

I have a projector TV with Comcast DVR downstairs. I now want a TV upstairs and the ability to watch cable and have the same shows programmed for recording, etc. For instance, I want to be able to set up a series recording from one location (downstairs) and then navigate to and watch the recording upstairs later, without having to set up duplicate schedules on two DVRs.

Can I run a splitter of some sort off of the DVR/cable box downstairs and retain the recording and ability to browse channels through the second TV? Hardwiring isn't a problem since there is already a conduit. Would a Slingbox solve any of this? There are quite a few laptops out of commission around the house that could be dedicated to the project. Or TiVo? I'm willing to entertain solutions either costly or makeshift innovative or both. If having & programming two DVRs is really the easiest option, I'm willing to hear that, too, though it just seems silly.
posted by cocoagirl to Technology (11 answers total)
You can theoretically run a splitter (and IR wire for remote) to a single box.
Some Options.
1. Wait for Comcast to put out a networked or multi-room DVR - should be out some point in the next 2 years.

2. If you have a hacker mentality you can look at a MythTV system. It has the concept of a single "server" machine which records your shows and smaller frontend boxes that can view from this networked DVR. All boxes are simple PCs.

3. I think TiVO has a network multi-room DVR
posted by bitdamaged at 8:54 AM on December 30, 2008

This might be overkill, but maybe you can try Slingbox. You might have to run it through a computer before outputting that to a second TV.
posted by aswego at 9:09 AM on December 30, 2008

To preface this - I work for a very large Cable company. I used to be in Tech Support, but now reside in IT.

If Comcast uses Motorola DVRs then you can expect them to get multi-room DVRs in the not-too-distant future, as bitdamaged said, the next couple of years.

As far as an immediate solution goes, if you split the signal, you will be splitting the signal after it comes out of the DVR, which means what you see downstairs, you will see upstairs. It will be an exact copy. Person A sitting downstairs will have to watch what person B is watching upstairs, or vis-ver.

TiVO's, which require a purchase and a monthly fee - have the ability to network together and share shows.

The best option IMO, would be to consider setting up a computer with a cable card in it and some type of DVR software to record everything you want at a central location. You could then set up some kind of media extenders at each TV, whether it be a Xbox 360, or a laptop running Windows Media Center... whatever... to play the shows recorded on the server at each location you want. This would be nice because you could share the content amongst all TVs in the home if you felt so ambitious.
posted by Brettus at 9:15 AM on December 30, 2008

Sorry to double post. To elaborate on the last paragraph. The downside to a central server/extender set up would be that you would most likely lose the pause live TV and instant reply features that your DVR provides to you.

Using a slingbox set up with an RF remote that can reach downstairs would maintain that functionality, but restrict you to one video feed for both TVs.
posted by Brettus at 9:20 AM on December 30, 2008

If I remember correctly, if you can get FIOS TV (from verizon) they do have a multiroom dvr solution.
posted by newtux at 9:23 AM on December 30, 2008

Thanks for the answers so far. Some clarifications...
- Nah, not willing to wait. I'm looking for an immediate solution.
- TiVo seemed like a good answer until I talked to a few friends over Christmas who said that TiVo is not set up to handle the switch to all-digital programming. Will need to look into this to see exactly what this means.
- It's unlikely, though more-and-more likely I suppose, that two people would want to watch different shows, so having to watch the same thing on both sets if two people want to watch isn't a deal breaker (for now).
- I really use the pause/instant replay functionality of the DVR so I'm not willing to give that up.
- Last time I checked (about 3 months ago) no FIOS in my area.
posted by cocoagirl at 11:20 AM on December 30, 2008

Slingbox on the DVR, Slingcatcher on the secondary TV. (depending on how your home network is set up, you'll probably be looking at getting two wireless bridges/gaming adapters to stick on them.)

This is the workaround I use for one of my mother's TVs, which does not (and due to the wiring of the house, cannot) have a cable hookup. The Slingcatcher lets her tap into the DVR upstairs so she can watch her recorded shows, or just TV in general, on her "naked" TV downstairs.

You'll have to do the initial configuration of the Slingbox through the Slingplayer software before you can link said Slingbox to the Slingcatcher.

This is not a cheap setup, I'll warn you... right now I can't find the Slingcatcher for any less than $300, and that's the most expensive part of the setup. If you have to put both pieces on wireless adapters, that's another $150-200, depending on the quality. The Slingbox itself is potentially the cheapest piece... I think the Solo is the "smallest" model that can pull HD. (Note that the outputted HD video via Slingbox is not "true" HD, but it still looks pretty freaking nice when sent to an HDMI-connected Slingcatcher on a big TV)
posted by Yoshi Ayarane at 11:44 AM on December 30, 2008

Going with the central location theme:

1. Build a HTPC - doesn't have to be high spec. $300 will probably do just fine, or convert a older computer you have into one.
2. Purchase SageTV (server) ($80) and install it on your HTPC
3. In any room you want, purchase a HD Theater extender ($199)

Your golden after that
posted by bleucube at 12:53 PM on December 30, 2008

For the record, TiVo is able to handle the digital transition. The newer Tivo models use CableCards, which are an interface for the digital cable signal provided by your local cable company.

From the website...

Did you know... With TiVo HD, you're ready for Digital Transition regardless of your TV set. Its built-in digital tuners will automatically receive the new-and-improved over-the-air digital channels on February 17th, 2009 without having to purchase or install a digital converter.
posted by Brettus at 1:27 PM on December 30, 2008

Dishnetwork has a multi tuner DVR. It does everything you are asking for. I'd link to it, but I'm on my mobile and its a pain in the butt
posted by smithmac_99 at 3:10 PM on December 30, 2008

You're going to be limited by the number of outputs that the DVR has. If it can only output one signal at a time, splitting it after it comes out of the box won't do you any good. It'll be just like Brettus says.

I have a two tv output DVR from Dish and love it. AT&T Uverse has a 4 tv model, I think. Dunno about Verizon Fi-OS or anyone else, but if they don't, they soon will to keep competitive. Rolling your own DVR like bleucube suggests is an awesome idea, but it's more involved and you'll be your only tech support, and you'll do your own installation. It wouldn't bother me, but I'm geekier than most.
posted by JuiceBoxHero at 4:13 PM on December 30, 2008

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