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Advice needed for an all-in-one DVR that can burn DVDs

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / February 29, 2008 3:34 AM PST

Many would say I'm just a dinosaur when it comes to entertainment equipment. While it may be that I'm somewhat "technology challenged," the fact is that there's just too much other stuff going on in my life for me to stay on top of entertainment electronics developments. I also don't want to be on the "bleeding edge" like many others do. However, with VCRs gone, I need a DVR. One desirable feature might be having the ability to record some old VHS tapes to DVD. I'd prefer one with dual tuners so we could watch one program and tape another. My wife doesn't want to have to subscribe to TiVo's schedule service. What other DVR's are out there that I should consider? What brands and features should I consider? Are there any to stay away from? Thanks very much for the input.

--Submitted by Jim W.

If you have any advice or recommendations for Jim, please click on the reply link and post away. Please be as detailed as possible when providing an explanation. Thanks!
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DVRs, Tivos, DVD Recorders Oh My!
by TVDonDada / February 29, 2008 11:29 AM PST

I don't want to throw a curve at you but when it comes to DVRs, they pretty much work best when they are paired to a good Satellite or Digital cable system, preferrably HD. I've had Tivo from Direct TV since back in 2001. But its only standard definition. A few years back I got the HD direct TV but not with an HD DVR (I think they've dropped the Tivo name also). But without HD DVD capabilities Im not even watching as much TV now a days as I did back in my Tivo days. I either watch it live, or miss it and don't care to watch it.
My point is lost but Ill try to get it back...
If you have a programming package with HD, get an HD Tivo or DVR.
If you have over the air HD, possibly look for a HDPC box that can record in HD and play back on your HD TV.
If you dont have HD or and programming package, then pick up a plain Tivo and I think they still have the one time pay option, or otherwise just use it like a VCR where you manually set the times. You will loose alot of the cool features though.
Id recommended just about any DVR setup, from Dish, DirecTV or Digital cable. Ive seen them all and they all work great.

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TIVO is best
by scacountor / February 29, 2008 11:56 AM PST

I like you shuddered at the thought of bucking up $12.95 a month for a TIVO membership, but after 5 years of sampling other devices I am actually doing it. About 5 years ago, I bought an WinHD 180 Video Card and Beyond TV. BeyondTV was great for the most part. You have ready access to the file rips as they are stored on your local drive and are not encrypted, so you can create highlight reels and even rip content to discs (I ripped the SuperBowl on a disc for a friend of mine who was a Colts fan after they won the Superbowl). However, the problem with BeyondTV is capturing HD is done OTA and I had huge problems capturing quality OTA feeds consistently and there is nothing worse than realizing halfway through a recording that your antenna was positioned wrongly: nonstop program studdering and the same person who told you not to pay a monthly fee will be frowning on your ability to provide quality recordings! There are tuners which can capture HD content via component, but they are priced near $1k making them a nonoption for me at least. The other thing to consider is BTV is a system hog. Unless you have at least a dual core CPU, BTV will monopolize your system cpu during recordings. Total Cost(this is back 5 years ago so it has probably changed) is around $70 BTV + $25 OTA antenna + $80 HD tuner +25 BTV disc burning software=$200.

About a year ago, I switched from DirectTV to cable (boohoo!....I moved to Manhattan!) and probably the only good thing about my cable company is that they supplied an HD DVR at no cost and I must rank it above BTV. It is free, a whole lot more convenient and alot less can go wrong. However, the drive is small (20 hours I think) and it is a bit on the dumb DVR side (ie it will record the same episode multiple times even if I tell it "First Run Only").

So now after 5 years, I am getting ready to join the TIVO community and recommend the same for probably will jump over to the TIVO side anyway after a couple of years so I will save you time and money. What I am looking forward to from TIVO (I'm in the middle of moving again) is larger hard drive capability, much smarter recording options, and a whole TIVO community filled with plenty of people who can provide nifty tips for maximizing my DVR experience.

All in all, I would say buck up for the monthly fee and buy yourself a regular video card to burn your vhs tapes to dvd. I just used BTV to convert my VHS to disc, but pretty much all tuners come with software to do recording with. If you absolutely refuse to give TIVO a shot, I would recommend a DVR from a cable company. If you have satellite and not cable, then I would say go with Beyond TV: just make sure your cpu is at least dual core and do some research on a good OTA antenna...because a bad one (I had 2 different ones) can be a pain in the butt!

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Tivo is best at one thing
by ferd farnsworth / March 7, 2008 12:51 PM PST
In reply to: TIVO is best

It really is the undisputed that Tivo is the best DVR but it sure lacks on a lot of other fronts (expandable storage, multiple tuners, content sharing, not to mention a DVD drive). BeyondTV is a terrific package and can do all those things if you are savy enough and interested enough to put together one of those systems. This is not a job for Jim W. who describes themselves as technologically challenged. Media Center PCs may be the right choice if you are good at Windows, but these tend to be large, noisy and not ideal for the TV cabinet. Linux solutions are the best for stability and power - it's what all the geeks choose, but most of these (MythTV, FreeVo) are strictly DIY. I bough an Interact-TV Telly which really does everything on this wish list and more. And, I set it up completely from the remote!

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well said
by chrisemcleod / March 7, 2008 11:15 PM PST

great post!

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Re: TIVO Multiple tuners
by Pascal33 / March 8, 2008 7:19 PM PST

Just a correction to the previous post;

TiVo DOES make Dual-Tuner DVR's. I've had one for the past 2 years now and love it. I can record programs on two different channels at the same time while watching a previously saved pregram. I hate watching tv without the Tivo box, the programming is so easy. I've heard that there are some good DVR's from some of the cable companies, but I've yet to try them.

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Wrong about TIVO
by worksong / March 17, 2008 7:42 AM PDT

It's true that Tivo lacks DVD play/burn capability; in all other respects, the new & affordable HD box leads the pack. I recently upgraded from generic DVRs to a pair of TIVOs. A single multi-stream cable card [for each box] gives me dual tuner capability in high def. The card costs $1.50/month, where I was paying $13 for the cable box/DVR. And not only is there much more storage, but I can simply plug in an eSATA drive for unlimited [say, another terabyte] storage, all managed through the TIVO interface. I don't think there's an easier solution. The facts that the TIVOs talk to each other--& to my PC--with a self-configuring $30 network card, & that I can freely move programming between them or watch remotely, is a nice bonus. At a street price of $250, with the indisputed best user interface, it's a steal.

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Tivo with USB for use with external disk drives???
by anna3333 / March 18, 2008 8:52 AM PDT
In reply to: Wrong about TIVO

My biggest complaint with TIVO, besides the $13 monthly fee, is not being able to easily expand the storage. Mine has just a fourth of the storage (for normal TV) that they told me it had when they sold it to me (the only way to get the capacity they claim for the unit is to watch TV at much lower quailty than normal - they didn't mention that). For all practical purposes, they flat-out lied to me about the capacity. I think they should be required to tell you what the capacity is for watching the SAME quality TV you now watch - whatever the quality of your cable/TV is, but that you can get "extra" capacity by watching inferior quality, if you wish.

Are you saying there is a TIVO unit (not attached to a computer in any way - just to the TV) that accepts a USB drive to expand storage capacity? "And that you don't have to pay the $13 per month to Tivo, just $1.50 per month, per set for a "card"?

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Half Right
by worksong / March 18, 2008 9:54 AM PDT

Capacity: absolutely--the Tivo HD has an eSATA port on the back. Plug in your drive & manage the expanded storage seamlessly via usual Tivo interface

Monthly fee: The $13 fee I eliminated is the cable co charge for decoder box with DVR; the cable card to serve the Tivo's 2 tuners is $1.50. I still pay 1 monthly Tivo fee , but it's just $7 because it's my 2nd box & because I pay per year. Net cost is less than i was paying cable co, & both features & performance far superior.

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by anna3333 / March 20, 2008 1:02 AM PDT
In reply to: Half Right

Is this HDTV and what is eSATA? All my drives are IDE ATA. What is the fee for your first box? What is the extra $150 for the tuners? My Tivo came with dual tuners. Thanks.

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Yes--it's HD...
by worksong / March 20, 2008 1:20 AM PDT
In reply to: eSata?

Yes--Tivo HD means HDTV. eSATA is, I believe, the newest & best format for hard drives. No monthly charge for service on the 1st box because it's a "legacy" lifetime account. You slipped 2 decimals on the tuner question--it's 1 dollar & 50 cents per month for a multi-stream cable card, which is how the Tivo's twin tuners get supplied with HD signal from the cable co.

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RE: eSata?
by dcalhoun38581 / March 20, 2008 2:18 AM PDT
In reply to: eSata?

eSATA is the External version of SATA. SATA is an interface for drives that is much faster than conventional IDE (or more accurately, EIDE). An even newer version of Sata that is even faster is SATA II or SATA 300. As for what the whole eSATA acronym stands for, it's External Serial Advanced Technology Attachment.

Two of the major advantages of SATA and eSATA are high speed and low cost. SATA hard drives are much faster than IDE drives and nearly as fast as SCSI drives, but their cost is comparible to IDE drives and much lower than SCSI drives.

Dennis C.

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TiVo Software Maintenance is third-rate
by wrishel / March 8, 2008 12:23 AM PST
In reply to: TIVO is best

I have used TiVo for many years, through several models. I find it works well. I hae always bought the fixed-price subscription for program info and found it to be well worth it. Some of my favorite programs are switched among time slots weekly and it tracks these changes almost flawlessly. I have found the TiVo software that engages your PC over a LAN to burn DVDs to be very unreliable and take a really long time, so I wouldn't recommend it.

I have the impression that the quality of testing that TiVo does on its software has gone steadily down hill. About once every nine months a new release comes via the subscription service and it usually significanly improves the usefullness of the product. However for the last several updates each has come with a flaw that constitutes a major annoyance and I know now from experience that it does no good for the community to complain. TiVo won't fix it until the next software release.

The annoyance in the most recent release is that when the TiVo has to switch Cable box to a new channel the new show goes through about a minute or two of freezes and starts before it settles down to play the show.

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TIVO scheduling
by anna3333 / March 20, 2008 1:13 AM PDT

TIVO recorded The Amazing Race at the wrong time for an entire season. I had to set it to record then add an hour. The Amazing Race was in the second hour.

Also, if there is a scheduling conflict, TIVO decides which of your programs to clip/drop - I does not offer you a choice of clipping the other program, of clipping it - even by 1/2 hour - instead of dropping it. You can't ask a particular program to START LATE or STOP a minute or two EARLY , so you can manipulate the schedule the way you wish. You can ONLY start early or stop late. This is a really big peeve for me. Often the end is just 3 minutes of trailer & commercial, but you can't cut it, you have to clip the beginning of (or drop) a show that may begin immediately on time.

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Toshiba DVR
by jmj947 / February 29, 2008 11:56 AM PST

I had a desire and a need to record my old home video VHS tapes to DVDs before they faded away completely. I did quite a bit of searching to get what information I could on the EASIEST way to do this, since I have a ton of home movies to convert. I found a Toshiba D-R400 on sale for $100 (it's now about $120+) and snatched it up right away. Best investment I've made in a looooong time. Now, 4 weeks later, all of my movies are safely stored on DVD, plus very episode of "In Treatment" from HBO is recorded for sharing with my HBO-less friends. The Toshiba D-R400 doesn;t have a lot of bells and whistles, but for the prioce and the ease of transfer, you just can't beat it.

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by gizzame / March 7, 2008 11:21 AM PST
In reply to: Toshiba DVR

I have a vcr-dvd combo and many times when I burn a dvd the vcr has a built in control that will not let me burn it. How are you able to bypass this problem. I have not been able to to find any software(clone-etc.) to allow me to burn my tons of vcr's to cd's.

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VCR/DVD Combo to record vhs to dvd
by jandcgifts / March 7, 2008 1:28 PM PST
In reply to: VCR-DVD Burner COMBO

I bought the same setup thinking I could just copy my VHS to DVD but the Movie industry has stopped Us from doing that, even though we own the darn tape. there is a device ( actually there are several makes ) that you can hook up to your computer to allow you to copy your VHS to your harddrive, then if you have a DVD Burner you can record your vhs movie to dvd. Thats the only way I have found to do this operation with a VCR/DVD/and PC setup. If you happen to find a better or even a different way to do this please let me know. ( ).

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Dubing tape to Disk
by Joe M. Winters / March 9, 2008 1:52 AM PST

It's true that if the VHS tape belongs to you,and is not something you purchased it will not have copy gaurd on it. With VHS they made the control track so weak that it wouldn't duplicate, but you could purchase a little amplifier to give the control track a boost in power. CD, and DVD are a different problem, simple way to remove the copy gaurd is to get a special Software program that knows where to find the copy gaurd. I would suggest you go to DVD43

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Ownership of VCR tapes
by zysmith / March 9, 2008 4:31 AM PDT

While you may have purchased a movie on video, DVD etc... you do NOT own the content. Just as with computer programs, you are authorized to use the content but do not own the content.

It continues to amaze me that people fail to grasp this concept and continue to feel that their purchase of a cd or dvd or video tape gives them the right to copy, post or otherwise use the content in ways contrary to the users agreement(s)

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It's called fair use
by b8375629 / March 9, 2008 5:59 AM PDT
In reply to: Ownership of VCR tapes

Why should you be amazed. The Supreme Court ruled on in back in 1985 that allowed people to make a limited number of personal copies for your own use. Otherwise the VCR and cassette tape business would have been out of business a long time ago

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However, fair use is in direct conflict with DRM
by Bill F. / March 10, 2008 4:12 AM PDT
In reply to: It's called fair use

The DRM laws passed make it a crime to defeat anti-copy schemes in the media, which means, working around the schemes used to prevent dubbing tapes is a violation of that law, which means you have laws in conflict on this. I go with the supreme court on this, but you need to be cognizant that DRM is a very big deal with some companies.
So if you can figure out how to turn off macrovision in your devices, you are forbidden from doing so by the DRM laws. To read more about turning off macrovision in your specific device, just so you don't accidently do it, I suggest google searches because apparently some very bad people have figured out how to do it on many home sets using hidden commands in the devices.

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Fair Use
by anna3333 / March 10, 2008 6:56 AM PDT

Actually, DRM is in conflict with the law when they prevent you from making a fair use copy of something your purchased and paid for. I don't know how they are getting away with that, except that individuals usually can't afford to tangle legally with corporations.

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I support anything that will uphold fair use
by b8375629 / March 10, 2008 7:05 AM PDT
In reply to: Fair Use

Including bypassing DRM schemes, if necessary...

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DvD - VHS combo is very useful
by Hedwich / March 7, 2008 4:50 PM PST
In reply to: VCR-DVD Burner COMBO

It is true that you cannot transfer your bought VHS tapes to DvD, because of copyright protection issues (not completely fair, I agree) BUT if the tapes have been recorded by you in the first place, whether from TV or camera, you CAN! I know, because I have been doing it for years (I own approx. 3000 recordings, and alas, transfer is in real time mode) on a JVC combo. It is very simple to do and it only takes a lot of time. I would not recommend the JVC combo though, even though it has two tuners, and alows you to record a tape, a dvd, and watch a third program on yr TV, but it uses a lot of energy, especially on standby. But I would say, I combo is your simplest solution.

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by Phil Crase / March 7, 2008 10:34 PM PST

There is another way to transfer VHS to DVD it does require a PC. You can also transfer from a Camcorder. It is a device called a Dazzle, put out by Pinnacle and is really quite simple to use, inputs via USB.

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by tommy544 / March 7, 2008 11:01 PM PST
In reply to: VHS to DVD

where would one find this thing????????

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Finding Dazzle
by HawgnDos / March 8, 2008 1:20 AM PST
In reply to: dazzle

The Dazzle video capture device was made by Pinnacle Systems. It is an RCA-to-USB type capture device that really works well. You can try the local Best Buy or even Best but better results might be had looking on eBay.

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Finding Dazzel
by Joe M. Winters / September 26, 2008 2:09 PM PDT
In reply to: dazzle

Use Google to find Dazzel. If Pinnicle doesn't sell direct it will give a list of places that carry their equipment. Pinnicle has a whole line of items that vary in cost

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Video Stabilizer
by sdtrott / March 8, 2008 10:31 AM PST
In reply to: VCR-DVD Burner COMBO

Actually, there is a device that is not normally available on stores, but can be found on the internet. It is called a video stabilizer and it connects between the video output of your source VHS and the video input of your DVD recorder. To prevent copying, the manufacturers induce an intentional wobble in the output of pre-recorded VHS tapes. That wobble is what the DVD recorder detects and then prevents the recording. The problem that I had with this is that most of my recorded VHS tapes are around 25 years old and, due to deterioration, many of them had unintentional wobble which also set off the "recording prohibited" function on my DVD recorder. I was extremely annoyed whenever I would get a "recording prohibited" error when trying to copy my own camcorder recordings. So I bought a video stabilizer and now, not only was I able to finally copy all of my camcorder tapes, I was also able to back up every pre-recorded tape I owned, and many of them were also badly deteriorated.

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video stabilizer
by resch / March 15, 2008 4:19 AM PDT
In reply to: Video Stabilizer

I bought a video stabilizer and used it for couple years, best thing and cheapest on the market (paid appr $39) WORKS GREAT on copy-writed video and DVD's. I've been recording VHS's to DVD's for years, just using my Magnovox DVD recorder and a Magnovox player and also Dvd/Vhs combo, both work great.

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Is it legal to purchase a video stabilizer?
by Katman14 / November 11, 2008 6:44 AM PST
In reply to: video stabilizer

All the ads I've seen for video stabilizers are aimed at defeating macrovision copyright protection. If that's all they're for, doesn't DMCA prohibit purchasing one in the USA? Does stabilizing my old VHS tapes recorded from TV count as a legal use?

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