TVs & Home Theaters forum


I want a DVR, but not from the cable company.

by Paul C / June 20, 2013 8:46 AM PDT

I also do NOT want to have to pay a monthly subscription fee, e.g., TiVo. But I DO want time shifting, recording one program while watching another, etc.

Is there such a beast out there?

TIA, Paul

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Clarification Request
Of course.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / June 20, 2013 8:49 AM PDT

But there will be limitations. Over the air is very easy. Even I own one. Google SILICON DUST DVR and I put a low power laptop to the task. Works great.

Tell more what you want.

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What I want, Bob,...
by Paul C / June 20, 2013 9:50 AM PDT
In reply to: Of course.

,,,is a DVR to connect to my HDTV - not the computer.

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Tipping my hand.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / June 20, 2013 9:53 AM PDT
In reply to: What I want, Bob,...

Part of my work is in the design of surveiliance CCTV DVRs and sadly I think you may not find what you want with so little detail. While there are DVRs out there you may want to record something other than OTA. And inside the DVR is a computer. I can't guess your requirements but I gave it a try by sharing what I use.

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Unfortunately, nope
by Pepe7 / June 20, 2013 2:29 PM PDT
In reply to: What I want, Bob,...

Your choices are, cable company issued DVR, or TiVO. Nothing else works well. For those folks only watching OTA content not dependent upon any cable or satellite providers, there are solutions which work though.

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by ValleyDriver / June 21, 2013 12:25 PM PDT
In reply to: Unfortunately, nope


i'd like to use a DVR with my TV hooked up 'just' to an external antenna.

i remember looking into it a couple of years ago and there was one DVR made for this, but it was quite pricey.

do you have another alternative idea?


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Channelmaster CM7000
by Pepe7 / June 21, 2013 12:54 PM PDT
In reply to: OTA DVR

AFAIK, the Channelmaster Cm7000 is the top of the heap. That's likely what you saw, or one of its predecessors. I had a chance a couple years ago to play with one of those, and it seemed fine, although the GUI wasn't exactly something you would choose on purpose. Not sure how the timeshifting function will work on this vs a standard DVR. Here's a link so you can find out from the manufacturer-

Let us know which one you end up with and what you like about it. Using a PC like what Bob suggested might be a bit cheaper though. Long run though, ponying the cash up front for this standalone DVR might make sense since you won't be charged any fees.

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more OTA to DVR
by ValleyDriver / June 22, 2013 12:34 AM PDT
In reply to: Channelmaster CM7000

yes, it was the Channelmaster that i found earlier.

maybe i'll check out the Magnavox mentioned below - though hopefully it's available somewhere else besides Wal-Mart - sorry for the political comment, but i can't stop myself.

i'm already hooking up a laptop to my TV to watch internet TV from Hulu and TV network sites on my TV; an old MacBook with a HDMI connection and an audio output.

an additional question - on OTA a number of my local stations have one or more substations, e.g. 28.1, 28.2, 28.3, 28.4.

will either the laptop plus video-to-USB or OTA DVR allow me to 'time' recording from these subchannels? my TV remote only goes to 28.1, then i have to use the 'up-down' channel button on my remote to get to the subchannel.

thanks for the great info so far.


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There's a place you can ask that question
by Pepe7 / June 22, 2013 3:51 AM PDT
In reply to: more OTA to DVR

I've had good luck with DVR related questions @ Not sure which of the subforums though. I didn't do much besides basic operation with the normal channels when I used one of the 5000 series a few years ago. I still send money to Comcast on a monthly basic (LOL).

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Yes, you do want a computer ... maybe.
by daddywalter / June 21, 2013 2:00 PM PDT
In reply to: What I want, Bob,...

Specifically, you want a NEW computer. (You already know you do, regardless.) Then you want to turn your old computer into a DVR. I did this with my desktop machine recently. I already had an extra hard drive, HDMI cable and a video card with HDMI output; the only new part I needed was a dual-tuner Hauppauge PCI-E card. There are also USB devices that will work with laptops.

My computer can now record two channels simultaneously, and I can set it to record a particular channel at a certain time *or* just record every instance of a program by title, on any channel; the latter is useful for catching reruns of episodes I missed before I "discovered" a favorite show. The particular tuner card I chose cost about $110 including remote control; you may need to factor in the cost of other parts I mentioned. The best part: even though my computer is still capable of doing other thing while recording or playing video, I can justify using it as a dedicated DVR and then have a nice excuse to build a new machine!

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Re-read what the OP wrote above
by Pepe7 / June 21, 2013 11:02 PM PDT

He said: ...'not the computer'.

Makes it fairly easy to figure out that he wants a dedicated device and doesn't want to muck around in PC hardware land like the rest of us Wink


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Not limited to computer monitor
by daddywalter / June 22, 2013 3:40 AM PDT

Pepe7, I understood that the OP was looking for a DVR solution that didn't involve a computer, but I was trying to show why he might want to reconsider. Unless he has recently bought a new computer, he probably wants something newer and more powerful -- don't we all? This would give him the excuse he needs to go shopping, while keeping his existing machine gainfully employed (and out of the landfill). Installing an add-on card is about as simple as hardware upgrades get, but even that isn't necessary if you choose a USB "dongle" tuner instead.

Once an old computer is dedicated to service as a DVR, for all practical purposes it ceases to be what most of us would think of as "a computer"; it's just another device plugged into the TV, like a cable box, DVD player, sound bar or Roku. But unlike those other devices, it's something that can be tailored to your specific needs. When I complete the new computer I'm planning, my current one will lose pieces it no longer needs (keyboard, mouse, monitor, several applications) and gain another hard drive or two; then it will be a combination DVR and home server, but it can also be a backup computer (as if I needed another one) if anything happens to one of my other machines.

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You are preaching to the choir ;)
by Pepe7 / June 22, 2013 3:53 AM PDT

<nodding in agreement> It's the OP you need to sell this to, not me. Been there, done that (with some clients too, who wanted such capabilities added to their home network/whole home AV system).

cheers Wink

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Nodding here.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / June 22, 2013 7:58 AM PDT

I went with the SiliconDust solution. I wish the OP would come back with more questions and answers to what others asked.

The thing is, as it stands today, there are issues with recording HD content from your cable provider. In some cases the cable provider (one I know of in Canada) has been downright onerous. To the point of making unannounced visits to homes to "check your cable."

In the USA they would not be able to pull such a stunt.

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Look what I found.
by Oldartq / June 21, 2013 4:42 PM PDT
In reply to: What I want, Bob,...
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Clarification Request
Second clarification or rather statement.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / June 20, 2013 10:02 AM PDT

There are HD DVRs but none here will record HD content from say a cable box. If you ask why, sure. But it's all mandated by the entire industry and maybe in some country it is different but until you clearly spell out what you want, no one can offer a good suggestion.

I led with what I use for OTA HD. It's quite nice.

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by keithrider / June 21, 2013 5:55 PM PDT

My HD TV has a USB port so that I can plug in a USB stick and record HD. But you do need a fast USB memory stick, and HD TV does take up more storage space than normal TV. Having recorded it onto a stick, you can transfer it to a hard drive.

A lot of DVRs can record for you, and timeshift, so you don't have to have a tivo, etc. I have Freesat for my HD tv and Freeview for the other channels not on the sat.



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DVR recorder for HD
by keithrider / June 21, 2013 6:15 PM PDT

All Answers

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DVR from wall mart.
by albert1 / June 21, 2013 5:48 PM PDT

Turned off my Direct tv because of the $85 a month . All programing is catered to women or paid programing . STUPID. Looked into a DVR and bought a Magnavox from Wall Mart. Paid $300 but got the 1TB. Love it .Can record and watch at the same time . Have only over the air or antenna but have enough to record to watch later . Had it 2 mounts and almost paid for it . Good bye Direct TV. Hello no paid or women shows. Skip the damn commercials. Will have goggle high speed in about 3 mounts so kiss my *** good bye.

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This is a Retro Idea
by ztirf / June 22, 2013 10:19 AM PDT
In reply to: DVR from wall mart.

What this person wants is what we originally had when people first bought VCR's. Originally we didn't have cable and we watched the game on Sunday on OTA TV. Some guys had to work or be elsewhere on Sunday so couldn't watch "the game". The first VCR's had a mechanical timer like an alarm clock, and cost about $1000. But my buddy recorded the game on Sunday and we went to his house after work to watch all the action.

Years later we want to record the game from our TV from the free broadcast but want to do it on a device like a VCR but we want one that is solid state. To do that you normally have to pay the cable company big bucks and have cable. What we used to do for free after a large initial investment is now an expensive perpetual monthly fee. THIS IS A GIANT STEP BACKWARD.

albert1 has solved this problem and is the only person to have answered this question correctly. The one guy is totally clueless. Keeps asking for clarification. I could see him driving everyone around him crazy. I would like to do the same thing so I know exactly where the original poster is coming from. Thankyou albert1.

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I have a HDD DVR
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / June 22, 2013 10:30 AM PDT
In reply to: This is a Retro Idea

But the clarification is still needed since what happens if the OP wants to record cable content?

Paul who asked this may have other needs.

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Here's the thing
by Pepe7 / June 22, 2013 2:22 PM PDT
In reply to: This is a Retro Idea

Yeah, your ideas are original- nobody has thought of what you wrote before now, we know Wink [j/k] 8-0

Truth be told though, the OP doesn't exactly give much information in his original post. That's why Bob was asking what he asked. It certainly helps to clarify such matters before diving in to ask for/provide solutions.

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Silicondust, Ceton, and Tivo w/lifetime
by porsche10x / June 23, 2013 11:20 AM PDT

You have a number of choices. I have a Silicondust HDhomerun DVR box. It connects to your cable and also to your PC, indirectly, through your computer network (the box sits on your network anywhere in the house, not necessarily next to the PC). it takes a cable card so you get all of your cable channels in HD or SD, even the premium, scrambled ones. It has three tuners so you can do three shows at once. I've found that it works extremely well with Windows Media Center. Frankly, it isn't a compromise. It works better than the cable company DVR and pretty much as well as a Tivo (some say better). And it's free (not free to buy, but no subscription fee). It even supports DLNA and can stream to other media playing devices besides your computer, but you'd need the computer to schedule shows and record to its hard drive. The only real downside is you won't get your cable company's on-screen guide, and you can't watch on-demand programming. I think I paid a little more or a little less than $100 for it on sale at Newegg. I'm surprised Bob didn't mention this, since he seems to be familiar with Silicondust. Ceton also has a similar product.

Another choice is, er, TIvo again. You can pay a one-time fee and then never pay any subscription charges. They are a little expensive, but once I saw one on special for, oh I forget, between $400 and $500 which included the one-time fee. I have two Tivos, an HD and an older SD. They're great too. I don't use the HDhomerun as much, but it works really well, too. Hope this helps.

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cable card
by porsche10x / June 23, 2013 11:23 AM PDT

Let me clarify. No subscription fee, but you need a cable card. This will probably cost between two and four dollars a month, but it's cheaper than the plain cable box you'd connect to the TV. Some cable companies will give you one cable card for free.

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Great info, but did you read the entire thread?
by Pepe7 / June 23, 2013 1:51 PM PDT
In reply to: cable card

He's using OTA, not CATV.


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I'll add to Pepe7's info
by daddywalter / June 23, 2013 2:19 PM PDT

Also, not all cable systems use Cablecard. Adding this for other readers who may be using cable.

I once saw a device that allows users to use up to *four* Cablecards with a computer. Seems like overkill to me (plus the cost of renting four Cablecards from the local cable provider), but I suppose there is a market for such a thing.

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That may be used for...
by Pepe7 / June 24, 2013 12:45 AM PDT

...accessing multiple cable providers. FWIW, some areas (such as parts of the NW suburbs of Chicago) actually can receive multiple companies' CATV service. And some devices may require multiple cable cards in order to be able to access certain functions from the provider. YMMV. I would have to dig into my notes, that's for sure Wink

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More info
by porsche10x / June 24, 2013 3:13 AM PDT

Most (All?) cable cards are multi-stream cards. Only one card is required for all tuners. There were single-stream cards in the past, but I believe these are now obsolete. The four-tuner device you saw was probably the Ceton I mentioned. Older devices may have taken a card for each tuner, but no longer.

Also, for some time now, federal law has required that virtually all cable companies provide cable cards upon request. Of course, frequently, cable company reps feign ignorance (or suffer from actual ignorance) about them; the last thing they want is to lose another revenue stream.

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Read the OP again
by porsche10x / June 24, 2013 2:37 AM PDT

Regarding: "He's using OTA, not CATV", Pepe, how did you come to that conclusion? He said he didn't want to use the cable company's DVR. He didn't say anything about not having cable. Quite the contrary, he would likely have cable if he were just rejecting their DVR.

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Paul. Start a new post.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / June 24, 2013 3:16 AM PDT

This one seems to have gone south and well, folk are guessing what you want to record.

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