What are the alternatives to Tivo?
March 7, 2008 3:01 PM   Subscribe

What are the best DVR options for 2008?

I've tried looking through previous AskMeFi answers for a decent DVR setup recommendation, but it seems like the past answers may be kinda out-of-date. Basically, I'm looking to replace my Comcrap-supplied DVR with something that is as easy to setup and use -- but that doesn't have all the annoying interface problems. Is Tivo's HD DVR basically what I'm looking for? (And should I even consider getting one off of eBay?) Or has another DVR manufacturer stepped up to the plate recently? Thanks!
posted by mhh5 to Shopping (20 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Isn't Tivo being rolled out to Comcast DVRs? (Not that would negate any ill feelings about Comcast.)
posted by jca at 3:13 PM on March 7, 2008

TivoHD seems to be the answer.
posted by Nelson at 3:38 PM on March 7, 2008

jca -

yes, but on Comcast's schedule, which means that those of us on the west coast (New Englanders got it first) should get it sometime between now and, oh, 2045.
posted by pdb at 3:38 PM on March 7, 2008

pdb has it.. I'm on the west coast and haven't yet seen a Tivo rollout in my neck of the woods. I'm kinda shocked that there hasn't been any real advancement in DVRs over the last.. 5 years? AppleTV doesn't really do what Tivo does. The homebrew DVR solutions still seem kludgey. What happened to progress...? I assume there's gotta be some DVR patents that are holding up DVR technology?

I'm actually kinda shocked that you can still buy VCRs -- but VCRs are still as hard as ever to program... Shouldn't there be a VCR maker who's desperately trying to save the VHS format by offering a Tivo-like device that stores stuff on tapes instead of hard drives?
posted by mhh5 at 4:02 PM on March 7, 2008

mhh: no, because for the horesepower it takes to run a nice UI you might as well toss in the HDD. I doubt that a sufficiently TIVOy TIVO with a VHS 'drive' would cost much less to make than a normal one.
posted by onshi at 4:19 PM on March 7, 2008

I just bought a TivoHD yesterday off woot and I'm looking forward to jumping back in after switching from a DirecTivo to the Comcast DVR for a few years. That was awful. Looking forward to all the new advances I've missed: Tivo to Go, remote programming, seeing movies on my XP box under Now Playing, downloading content from Now Playing onto any computer anywhere...and of course, HD. Still, after almost 10 years, there's nothing that beats Tivo.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 4:42 PM on March 7, 2008

Comcast box is awful.

I have a series 2 and that. I also bought a TivoHD (you can get refurbs around hte same price on Tivos price.)

Like the ipod's software, it's designed brilliantly. No, there's nothing really 'better' in that space. It's just that damn good. It's not just the UI. It's the UI+features+the damn brilliant remote.

Comcast intends to reprogram a number of the motorola boxes with tivo's software....but who knows when? I was at last years CES where they announced their agreement (and took photos for PVRblog...). I live in Comcast HQ's back yard. Who knows?

Meanwhile, next week, TivoHD goodness. :D
posted by filmgeek at 5:05 PM on March 7, 2008

The Comcast boxes that have TiVo software won't have complete TiVo functionality. I forget the exact features that were missing, but I remember thinking it was semi-significant when I read the story. Sorry I don't have more details, but my suggestion would be get a real TiVo. Nothing is better.
posted by Silvertree at 7:15 PM on March 7, 2008

Before you get TiVo HD make sure that the TiVo hardware / TiVo network / cable system / CableCard menage-a-quatre is very well worked out where you live. As much as you might dislike the Comcast DVR interface, many early adopters of TiVo HD experienced the more serious problem of shows simply not recording or being able to be played back because some aspect of the TiVo HD installation wasn't working. You should be able to figure this out on AVS or YahooGroups dedicated to your cable system.

MHH5 -- three reason there haven't been many DVR advances: (1) Consumers typically pay $10 per DVR per month already -- will they really pay much more for more features? (2) Cable companies would much prefer to take you onto their network than keep you swimming in your local hard drive (Dish and DirecTV feel otherwise, obviously), particularly one which you can use to bring in content from other sources. (3) Everyone is afraid that the advertiser-dependent networks are going to start to demand, and use, content flags which will cripple core DVR functions (like fast-forwarding commercials, or even retaining programs beyond the window of time for which advertisers will pay for playback eyeballs).
posted by MattD at 8:33 PM on March 7, 2008

If you can, you should consider Dish Network Satellite. The software is quite different than TiVo, thus there is a real difference to consider.

If I may be so bold. After one buys the hardware why does one have to pay $6.00/ or more per month for the privilege of recording on one's own hard drive?

DERAIL... So in February 2009, when Digital TV becomes the norm, we're all going to get discounts on the expensive, optional, digital cable services, right?
posted by Gungho at 5:59 AM on March 8, 2008

I highley suggest a media pc with vista. Media Center on vista rocks as a dvr. I use it at home and it does everything a tivo does and more. I can tape shows, stream them over my network ,and burn them to dvds easily.

IF your pcs is already vista with home premium all you need to do is buy a tv capture card which can be found for cheap.
posted by majortom1981 at 5:59 AM on March 8, 2008

DISH Network's HD DVR has gotten some very good reviews.
posted by aerotive at 8:34 AM on March 8, 2008

majortom, so... I'm not really familiar with Windows Media Center. How does it know when to record shows? To me, the monthly fee for Tivo and other DVRs is justified (in some way at least, otherwise I would agree with Gungho's objections to paying to use a hard drive) by the convenience of having Tivo look up what shows/movies are on and recording them for me automagically.

So does Media Center have access to the channels and programming? I know there are "free" services that the homebrew DVR projects use to gather the show schedule info... but I assume Media Center doesn't do anything for free. So how does it work? If Media Center doesn't require a monthly service fee to gather show schedule info, then it sounds awesome...

BTW, I had Dish DVR at my old place, and it's okay. Better than Comcast's Motorola DVR by far (none of the annoying "hey, I pressed a button but it didn't do anything... (wait) ok, there it registered my command"). But the apartment I'm living in right now requires a deposit to setup a dish on my balcony, so cable just seems simpler.
posted by mhh5 at 10:47 AM on March 8, 2008

Oh. Hmm.. It looks like the Media Center's Programming Guide is free. Wow. Ok. That sounds really nice. There's gotta be a catch...?
posted by mhh5 at 10:56 AM on March 8, 2008

No catch. I am using VMC right now as my DVR. It works awesome. I have used Comcast's poor example and CableOne's poor example. I have never tried TIVO because the monthly fees irritated me. The VMC is very clean and user friendly. I definitely recommend it.
posted by mjger at 6:35 PM on March 8, 2008

I guess the catch to me for VMC.. is finding the optimal hardware combination. That's not such a bad catch since I assume I'll be able to upgrade my storage space (unlike Tivo).

Anyone else have experience with VMC? Do you use a remote control accessory? How does it handle dual tuners? (Can it?) Anyway.. I'll have to look into VMC now and see if anyone has posted a description of a nice setup... unless anyone here wants to describe theirs...

posted by mhh5 at 10:21 PM on March 8, 2008

I guess most of my questions are answered by this wikipedia page on PVR software comparisons.
posted by mhh5 at 10:34 PM on March 8, 2008

Elgato's stuff works very well on my mac.
posted by singingfish at 12:47 AM on March 10, 2008

Hmm. sounds like Elgato's stuff also fits the bill for a Tivo alternative for me... but according to the Wikipedia comparison table, it doesn't support CableCard? I'm not 100% sure what that means, but I assume Elgato can do cableTV.. or that chart just hasn't been updated...?
posted by mhh5 at 12:41 PM on March 11, 2008

Yeah, I'm a little late to the game on this thread, but just get the TiVo. I've had TiVos on and off since the first Philips box fell below $400 back in 2000. The HD TiVo is great and pain free.

As someone who lived in a Comcast area who loathed the DVR interface, but wanted HD content, let me say it's not that bad. Bad is the piece of shit Scientific Atlanta box that Cablevision uses. They copied their display font from a Commodore 64. It's definitely the bottom of the pile. When it ran out of drive space, it'd stop recording new shows rather than deleting old crap.
posted by jeversol at 1:28 PM on March 12, 2008

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