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Using computer for DVR

i need some help.
We do not have cable (my husband refuses to pay for cable) - we have a big antenna in the attic attached to an HD box that allows us to receive HD Broadcast channels. I would like to have the DVR capability you get with cable so that I can also watch my favorite shows, and my husband thinks this is possible with a computer. The computer he is looking to get is the: acer aspire ASL310 EC352M from CompUSA.

He believes that all he needs is a TV tuner to plug into a slot on this tower. Has anyone done this? If so, do you have any tips? Does this computer look like it will be capable?


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ASL310 as a DVR

the ASL310 will work as a DVR but is a bit lightweight for a high def DVR. high def programs consume a lot of diskspace and faster CPUs with nvidia or ati video cards handle high def playback better.

if you're only interested in recording standard def shows, the acer will do the job, but a tivo (free after rebate but with monthly fee) or a dvd recorder ($120-$200) may be easier to setup and use.

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we don't want to pay the monthly fee with a tivo.

will a dvd recorder work like a DVR in the sense that we can set it up to regularly record our favorite shows? there is a program we could load on the computer that would sync it with local broadcast and allow a computer to work in the same fashion as a tivo/dvr from the cable company.

also, what about this box makes it "lightweight" - what should we be looking for in terms of specs for a computer that can record shows in HD?


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sorry for the late reply

a dvd recorder can work just like a dvr. they're not as 'smart' as tivo but they have no monthly fee.

when i say the acer is "lightweight", it means it doesn't have a lot of pc muscle. certainly not enough to handle high def recording and playpack. for hd recording, i suggest a dual-core cpu, at least a 160gb drive dedicated for show storage, and a video card based on an ati x1000 series or nvidia 7000 gpu. the ati and nvidia gpu have hardware features to improve display quality and assist playback.

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What I'd do

Is build something around MythTV ( ). Being a free/open source project, it's not as encumbered regarding features like commercial skipping.

The only real drawback to MythTV, is that it's hardware support can be a bit limited. So you might not be able to just buy any old system from CompUSA and get it to work. However, you do get what most people consider to be a far superior setup to even commercial programs of a similar nature.

Like most things electronic, if you buy cheap, you get cheap. Quality parts cost money, there's no way around it. Spending some time now, doing all the requisite leg work will save a lot of hassle down the road. Might even lead to saving money.

One thing I might suggest, is Shuttle's XPC line of systems. In particular, their new X200 model. It has a very small form factor, so it could sit just about anywhere. It has the TV tuner built in, comes with a remote, support for digital audio and 7.1 analog... And since it's a Shuttle, it's pretty much guaranteed to be of exceptional quality. It'll cost a bit more, but I figure that if you're going to spend any money on this at all, it's worth doing right the first time. Shuttle systems are also one of your best bets for MythTV support "out of the box". The biggest drawback to the X200, is that it's primary video output is DVI, there's no s-video or even composite/component ports. Adapters do exist, Apple sells one for $20 that would probably work. Otherwise, your local Radio Shack should be able to hook you up with something.

Another possibility to look into is Apple's Mac Mini. Not quite as small as the X200, and no integrated TV tuner, but it also has quite a bit going for it as a home theater PC.

The important thing to impress upon your husband however, is this isn't the sort of thing you can just slap together. You can't take any old PC and just put in a TV tuner card and have everything work. It takes some planning to pull off successfully, or in lieu of that, some extra money for someone to come up with a ready made solution for you like the Shuttle X200. If you try the slap and dash method, it's going to be an expensive failure.

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