What's My Best Option to Record Analogue and Digital TV?
January 12, 2010 8:12 PM   Subscribe

I want to be able to record TV shows for both analogue and digital TV. I've done some research and have figured out that I basically have three options; a PVR, a PlayTV peripheral for my PS3 and last of all, a TV Capture Card for my laptop. I've done some research on all of these and have worked out some pros and cons but can't make up my mind. Help me decide what the best option is.

So as I said, I have three options to start recording TV.

First and foremost, I could obviously just buy a PVR device, like a hard drive or DVD recorder, and hook it up to my TV and home theatre system. The downsides to this option is that most digital PVRs are quite expensive, and I'd need to mess around with wires and cables to ensure that it plays nice with my home theatre system and TV.

I also own a PS3, which means my second option could be to buy a PlayTV add-on for it. The upside to this is that there's not much messing around with cables because the PS3 is already hooked up. The downside is I only have a 40GB hard drive in the PS3, so I'd need to buy the PlayTV peripheral and a 500GB hard drive to stick in the PS3. Still cheaper than a PVR, but from what I can tell, another downside is that if I simply wanted to just watch TV I'd have to do it through the PS3, which sounds like a hassle and means more up-time for the console. The experiences and opinions of anyone who owns a PS3+PlayTV to further inform me on this option would be most welcome.

The third option is I get this TV capture card, and stick it in my MacBook Pro 17". This is actually the option I'm leaning towards. The firewire card is about the same cost as the price of the PS3 hard drive upgrade alone, and while there's still some fiddling with wires (anytime I'd need to record something, I'd need to plug the TV antennae cable into the firewire card, and anytime I want to watch something I'd need to run an HDMI cable from the laptop to the back of the TV), it generally seems like the simplest and cheapest way to do this. However despite my research, I have little experience with firewire cards and TV capture cards and how well they do what they do, so there's a bit of an element of the unknown here. Plus there's the scenario where I'm out with my laptop and can't schedule it to record TV... which makes the PVR or PlayTV attachment seem more attractive, despite their own downsides.

Three other important things to consider. 1) I don't have Pay TV (Foxtel etc) and don't intend on getting it, so it's not important to me that I be able to record it. 2) I'd like to be able to move recordings to different devices (ie PVR --> PC). And 3) I definitely want to be able to schedule recording. All three options I've identified do this, but I'm open to other options, just so long as I can schedule my programming.

Any advice or insight anyone who is familiar with any of the above options could give me would be most appreciated. Thanks in advance!
posted by Effigy2000 to Technology (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I have a couple of boxes which record TV. One is a Topfield PVR5000t (I presume there are up-to-date HD versions now), which records SD digital TV to hard disk on two tuners. The other is a yum-cha brand DVD recorder with HDD, and analog tuner I bought in a moment of idiocy. I never use this box any more - would only use it to record community TV (channel 31 is not broadcast digital). Not even sure if I've got it plumbed in at the moment.

The reason I bought the Topfield is that it has a USB port for transferring recordings to PC in glorious full res DVB (and thence to DVD for rellos, etc) (the reason I bought the yum-cha had something to do with nicotine withdrawal, let's not go into it). I have a quite technically-competent mate who put together a box with tuner cards etc, and had no end of headaches with it. Put me right off. The PVR route seemed much simpler, and also gives you things like pausing live TV, a decent remote, not tying up the PC etc. Of course, once you have a decent setup, you'll never watch live TV again - far better to wait an hour and be able to FFWD the ads.

Girlfriend acceptance factor also leant heavily toward the PVR route, and she's fine with it. I suspect explaining whatever software arrangement one ends up with a laptop and tuner card may have been difficult/annoying.

(Also, I didn't think a MBP would have an expresscard slot. Mine certainly doesn't... - or is there a firewire version of that, or something?)

I have no idea about the PS 3 option.
posted by pompomtom at 8:33 PM on January 12, 2010

Response by poster: "Also, I didn't think a MBP would have an expresscard slot."
posted by pompomtom at 2:33 PM on January 13

The unibody 17" MBP, which I have, has an Expresscard/34 slot.

The girlfriend factor you mention is something of a compelling factor for me, also (although in my case it's 'The Wife Factor'). I can imagine teaching her to use the TV Capture card could frustrate her, but she's a smart cookie and she'd learn it if she needed to, but would probably find a PVR easier to use. But the cost difference is enormous. A decent PVR can set me back close to $1000 AUS. The TV Capture card, only $89 AUS. Not sure if I can justify that to the wife, even with the ease of use consideration.
posted by Effigy2000 at 9:13 PM on January 12, 2010

True enough. When I did this exercise, the TV capture option wasn't so cheap. Looks like the modern equivalent of the one I have is seven or eight hundred - though HD rather than SD, obviously, and seems to include network now.

Also, beware of "Freeview", which is a TV-channel sponsored scam to remove simple ad-skipping capabilities. Basically, a 'freeview-certified' box is the sort of PVR that channel 9 want you to have.
posted by pompomtom at 9:27 PM on January 12, 2010

The WinFast ExDTV2300 tuner you linked doesn't support OS X.

You will probably need two tuners if you want to do digital and analog signals, the cheapest and best experience is going to be a cheap PC with two tuners. Definitely doable for under $400 USD, even cheaper if you buy a used PC.
posted by wongcorgi at 10:25 PM on January 12, 2010

Response by poster: "The WinFast ExDTV2300 tuner you linked doesn't support OS X."
posted by wongcorgi at 4:25 PM on January 13

Whoops. I forgot to mention I run Windows 7 on my MBP. But thanks wongcorgi.
posted by Effigy2000 at 10:44 PM on January 12, 2010

Hi Effigy2000.
I capture all of my TV via a Pinnacle Dazzle TV USB stick purchaced about two years ago ($80) from Harvey Norman, and Windows Media Centre. Recordings can be scheduled, and the interface is easy to use.
Windows 7 changed Media Centre recordings to .wtv, but you can right click these files, convert to .dvr-ms, and stream to your PS3 using PS3 Media Server. I usually convert to mpeg or xvid to save hdd space.

There are a heap of USB tuners out there now...
check here.
posted by Duke999R at 12:24 AM on January 13, 2010

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