I'm completely overwhelmed choosing a DVR.
November 26, 2012 8:49 AM   Subscribe

I'm buying my fiancée a DVR for Christmas. Which one is the best one for our situation?

My fiancée was kind enough to tell me exactly what she wants for Christmas – a DVR so she can record her favorite shows. I want to make sure I get the best one I can for now and for the future when we move in together, within our budget constraints.

Things we don’t want: anything that requires multiple boxes. I already have a PVR that hooks up to my PC that works okay for me, but programming it is a gigantic pain and accessing the recorded shows over the network is also painful. So buying this DVR is an investment in ease of use - 1 box, no complications.

We currently live in separate apartments. She has Time Warner’s basic cable. We’re getting married and moving in together in the May/June timeframe. When we do that, we may end up dropping our cable TV subscriptions and getting a HD antenna instead since she only watches shows that are on the broadcast networks and since I watch almost no TV already. We would keep reasonably-speedy Internet access, at least 20 Mbps down / 2 up. Depending on how that works out, we might stick with antenna-only, or we might go back to cable if we miss the channels that we get with cable. Neither of us has ever had much interest in satellite TV (it seems to be a money-saver if you get tons of channels, which neither of us particularly want), so it seems unlikely that we would ever go that route, but bonus points if there’s a solution that could also migrate to Dish or DirecTV.

With all that in mind: I want to get a DVR that works while she has Time Warner’s most basic package, and that will continue to work if we no longer have cable and are broadcast-only. Are there any options besides TiVo, and are they any good? If TiVo is the best: which one? I originally thought about just getting her a DVR from Time Warner would be ideal since it wouldn't require a big purchase, it would just require paying the monthly fees, but now that’s problematic due to our possibly dumping our cable service, and it’s more expensive than I thought ($20/mo, minimum).

Also, we promised not to spend more than $120 on each other’s gift this year. I can probably fudge that up to $150 if necessary, but it would be ideal to keep the initial outlay down around $120. I’m aware that TiVo is better with a Tivo subscription (or is it required now?), and while $15/mo isn't peanuts I think it’s safe to leave ongoing cost out of the $120 goal.

Bonus points for recording in HD (not required, but nice-to-have), saving money after the initial $120 outlay (e.g., is there a way around the $15/mo TiVo subscription?), for additional content (e.g., does the TiVO subscription allow us to stream anything interesting?), and for cool features (e.g., any way to get recorded shows on iOS and Android?).
posted by Tehhund to Technology (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Tivo is having a big sale, and their premier model is $60 right now, so that's way under your $120 limit. There's no way around the tivo subscription, although you can lower it slightly if you know someone who can help you get the multi-box discount.

I've had Time Warner's DVR. I had our local cable company's box. A couple months ago we switched back to Tivo, and I thank the TV lords every time I use it. We also use it for pandora, and netflix. You can add a Tivo stream, which would let you put your shows on iDevices wirelessly. Or you can buy a $25 piece of software, put them on your PC, and transfer them to your devices, including Android and iOS.

It also records in HD.
posted by dpx.mfx at 9:08 AM on November 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Be careful which TiVo you buy - some of them won't work with the antenna. I think only the TiVo Premiere (not the fancier ones) will do it. I don't see that $60 deal on the website, I'm getting $165 (I have an old TiVo, way outdated and gathering dust, and I'd be more than happy to get back together with them).
posted by mrs. taters at 9:26 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

dpx.mfx - you're awesome. I'm not sure how I overlooked the sale, but it looks like I'm in luck.

So to be clear, the TiVo will work with Time Warner with a Cable Card, and will work out-of-the-box with an HD antenna?

Also, you mentioned TiVo Desktop Plus - I had no idea it could be used to convert shows for viewing on iOS, but it looks like it can. That's potentially huge and might even replace my current PVR setup for getting shows on my PC.
posted by Tehhund at 9:27 AM on November 26, 2012

does the TiVO subscription allow us to stream anything interesting?

Netflix, Pandora, YouTube, Amazon, and Hulu Plus. And it recently started supporting Comcast/Xfinity On Demand pretty decently; dunno how On Demand functions work with other providers.

...continue to work if we no longer have cable and are broadcast-only.

Tivo Premiere 4 (or any of the "four tuner" models) won't work with an HD antenna. The regular Tivo Premiere (which has two tuners) will. I wouldn't worry too much about trying to find a "one size fits all" DVR that can also deal with Dish or DirectTV; just get what works with your current setup and sell it in a year or two if your situation changes.

Or you can buy a $25 piece of software, put them on your PC, and transfer them to your devices, including Android and iOS.

You can also do this for free with an application like iTivo (for OS X) or kmttg (Windows, Linux or OS X, just needs Java...it looks kinda nerdy but in regular use it's really straightforward).

And there's pyTivoX (OS X, but I assume there are versions for other operating systems) for the reverse--transferring any video from your computer so you can watch it on the TiVo. Good for those mysteriously acquired episodes of the third season of Downton Abbey that you have on your computer.

I loooooove my TiVo. I don't think it would be nearly as useful without a subscription or lifetime service. Without it it's mostly just a VCR.
posted by bcwinters at 9:29 AM on November 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

bcwinters: Netflix, Pandora, YouTube, Amazon, and Hulu Plus

I would have to pay separately for the Hulu Plus, Netflix, and Amazon content, right? Or are any of them included in the TiVo subscription?
posted by Tehhund at 9:35 AM on November 26, 2012

mrs. taters: here's the sale that dpx mentioned. And here's the (related) page with the $60 one. The sale ends today.
posted by Tehhund at 9:41 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, sorry, no, they're not included in the subscription, they're just the streaming services that are compatible with the box! Should have explained that better.

The TiVo subscription just ("just") gets you the fancy TiVo service for TV listings, "season pass" subscriptions, "wishlist" searches by actor/director, etc. No bonus streams.
posted by bcwinters at 9:46 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thanks Tehhund!! I already called and bought one, and I am stupid excited.
posted by mrs. taters at 10:33 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

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