DVR Review

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Why Buy a DVR?

Believe it or not, there once was a time when catching your favorite show meant scheduling your activities around your TV program. Thanks to the advent of digital video recorders (DVRs) those days are gone. With a DVR your TV watching can be programmed around your schedule, instead of the other way around.

In many instances a DVR will replace your cable box and you can watch without a cable or satellite subscription. With many DVRs you have the option of acquiring a CableCARD from a cable provider and accessing digital channels by inserting the card into a slot on the DVR. The majority of DVRs have internal hard drives that allow you to record shows directly onto the device. Unlike the experience of recording on the prehistoric devices used by our cave-dwelling ancestors, recording on DVRs is quick and easy.

Most have recording options which let you set the DVR to record your favorite shows whenever there is a new episode and skip all the rest, so you will never forget to set it and your hard drive won’t get bogged down with shows you’ve already seen. While the majority of DVRs have plenty of internal storage space, they often have eSATA ports that let you connect to an external hard drive to expand your recording capacity even more. Many DVRs have streaming apps like Netflix and Amazon Instant Video, while allowing you to access channels over the air or through unscrambled digital signals instead of paying monthly cable fees.

Some DVRs have streaming options and give you access to both digital and analog (over-the-air) channels. It wasn’t that long ago that the thought of having the ability to manipulate live TV by pausing, rewinding, fast forwarding and even slowing it down seemed almost ludicrous. But virtually all DVRs can now do exactly that. You can skip over commercials, cruise by sappy love scenes or watch a winning touchdown in slow motion. To help you choose the right DVR for your home, we’ve written articles on DVRs to help you narrow down your selection.

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DVRs: What to Look For

With a DVR gracing your entertainment center, everyone in your household can watch their favorite shows – even if multiple show times overlap. The best DVRs make this process easy with simultaneous recording and a large hard drive. Our favorites are the TiVo Roamio Pro, the Dish Hopper and the DirecTV Genie. These three products have excelled in our side-by-side comparison of the best DVRs, performing well in the following criteria:

Functionality
A product is only as good as the sum of its parts, and a DVR is no different. The most important functional elements under a DVR’s hood are hard drive space and simultaneous recording options. If you want to build a large HD library of recorded movies and full seasons of TV shows, you should find a DVR with terabytes of storage space. Many of the latest models also have built-in Wi-Fi, which gives you access to a world of entertainment, such as On Demand programming and streaming options like YouTube, Netflix. It also lets you access live TV on your mobile devices.

Compatibility
Non-cable subscribers need to keep a careful eye on the compatibility options of their preferred DVR. You will want it to work with your television, whether standard or high definition and be able to access free, over-the-air channels. If you are a cable or satellite subscriber and don’t want to use the provided DVR, look for a unit that is compatible with all cable providers.

Access
DVRs can access more than just the cable TV you subscribe to. Some give you access to online video services like Hulu, Netflix and Amazon Instant Video and even photo sharing sites like Photobucket and Flickr. If you don’t subscribe to cable, make sure the unit you buy can pull free channels from over-the-air broadcasts and unscrambled digital signals.

Input & Output
Most DVRs have both input and output connectors. While most of the activity of a DVR doesn’t require wires, it is nice to have the ability to, for instance, hook up an external hard drive to an eSATA port if you need it. Sometimes not even hundreds of hours of recording space is enough when extended over months and years, and you may find yourself wanting to expand. A USB port can facilitate expanded storage and connect to a mouse or a computer. An HDMI port allows you to connect to a computer or TV via an HDMI cable to access online content and assure top-quality digital sound and video. Some DVRs also have analog connections to access over-the-air content. The more connections you have the greater your entertainment options.

Help & Support
A good help and support base is an important aspect of the DVR you choose. These recording devices are fairly complex, and if you run into trouble, you’ll want a manufacturer who has responsive tech support in the form of live chat, email or phone support. You sometimes don’t realize how important customer support is until you experience a breakdown in communication when you’re having issues. So you’ll want to look for companies with a strong support system. Our Help & Support section will help you make an informed decision.

So many good TV shows, so little time. We'll help you find the best DVR for your needs so you can streamline your entertainment experience. Having the ability to record multiple channels at once and going back to watch your favorite shows when it's convenient for you keeps you in control of your entertainment.

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Electronics » TV » DVR Review
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Rank #1#2#3#4#5#6#7#8#9#10
10-9  Excellent
8-6    Good
5-4    Average
3-2    Poor
1-0    Bad
TiVo Roamio Pro Dish Hopper DirecTV Genie TiVo Roamio Plus TiVo Roamio Magnavox Dish Network ViP722k Dual DirecTV Plus HD Channel Master DVR+ HD HomeRun Dual
TiVo Roamio Pro Dish Hopper DirecTV Genie TiVo Roamio Plus TiVo Roamio Magnavox Dish Network ViP722k Dual DirecTV Plus HD Channel Master DVR+ HD HomeRun Dual
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Ratings
9.50
9.35
9.20
9.18
9.13
8.13
8.07
8.05
7.93
7.30
10
9
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
10.00
8.75
9.38
10.00
9.63
9.38
8.75
9.38
9.63
9.38
8.75
7.88
9.38
8.75
9.00
10.00
8.75
9.25
9.25
10.00
8.13
10.00
5.63
7.50
8.75
8.75
5.00
9.38
8.13
8.75
6.88
7.88
7.50
7.50
9.38
7.88
6.88
8.75
5.88
7.50
 
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Functionality
Hard Drive Space 3TB 2TB 1TB 1TB 500GB 320GB 500GB 500GB 16GB Not Applicable
Simultaneous Recording/Tuners 6 6 5 6 4 1 2 2 2 1
HD Recording Hours 450 500 200 150 75 75 55 100 2 Not Applicable
SD Recording Hours 3,500 2,000 800 1,200 350 650 350 400 6 Not Applicable
Built-in Wi-Fi
      
Multi-Room Streaming
Schedule Recordings
 
Remote Control
Pause, Rewind, Fast-Forward
Parental Control
 
Record Live TV
 
Slow-motion
 
  
Usage Fee
 
  
Instant Replay
 
  
Replaces Cable Box
  
    
Width (inches) 14.3 16 13.11 16.5 14.4 16.5 16 15.1 13.38 4
Depth (inches) 7.4 11.4 9.69 9.7 7.4 11.5 13 12.2 11.25 4
Height (inches) 1.9 2.05 1.97 2.4 1.8 1.8 3.5 2.8 1.5 1
Weight (pounds) 3.7 8 5 6.9 3.7 7.5 12 9.5 0.33 2
Compatibility
HD TVs
Standard Definition TVs
Satellite  
  
  
Over-the-Air Stations  
 
  
Most Cable Providers
  
    
Access
Digital Channels
  
 
 
Satellite Channels  
  
  
App for Mobile Devices
  
On Demand
 
   
Analog Channels     
  
 
Netflix
  
     
Amazon Instant Video
 
     
Hulu
  
     
YouTube
 
  
Podcaster
 
   
 
Photobucket/Flickr
  
Pandora
  
 
VUDU  
      
 
Picasa
   
 
Help & Support
Warranty 1 Year 1 Year None 1 Year 1 Year 1 Year 1 Year None 1 Year 1 Year
Email
 
FAQs
Phone
  
Live Chat Support
 
 
   
Money Back Guarantee
  
   
 
Output
1080p
HDMI
 
Component Video
 
Composite Video
 
Optical Audio
 
Analog Audio
  
 
Input
USB 2.0 2 3 2 2 2   2 2 2  
Cable Coax
Antenna Coax  
 
 
 
Ethernet
 
eSATA