4 Factors to Consider When Buying a DVR

Choose the Right DVR for Your TV Watching

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Are you weighing your DVR options? There are many things to consider before you commit to a DVR box or service. If you take your time and weigh all of your options, you will save time and money and find a DVR that is perfect for the way you watch and record TV.

How Are You Getting TV?

The first factor to consider with DVRs is how you are receiving your TV signal

If you are a cable or satellite subscriber, a DVR should be an option with your plan. Many companies offer several options, including multiple TVs, more or less storage space, and various add-ons to enhance your DVR experience.

Going through your cable provider may or may not save you money for DVR. The device will likely come with a monthly fee for leasing the equipment as well as the service itself. Many cable subscribers weigh this cost against the upfront cost of purchasing a TiVo DVR along with its monthly service fee.

Are you relying on an HD antenna for broadcast stations like ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, and PBS? You have DVR options as well. Of course, you will need to buy the DVR box and necessary accessories to get it to work, so the upfront costs are a bit higher.

Many stand-alone DVRs come with a minimal channel guide that allows you to schedule future recordings. For a small monthly fee, companies like Tablo offer an upgrade from a 24-hour channel guide to one that looks two weeks ahead.

One last thing to consider is whether the DVR can connect to your current home entertainment system. Most connection cables are standard and many now rely on HDMI. Yet, if you are connecting an older TV and/or DVR to a newer device, it's important to make sure that you have the right cables available.

How Much Do You Want to Record?

Just like purchasing a computer, smartphone, or tablet, you need to be concerned about the storage capacity of your DVR. As many customers have discovered, it is very easy to fill up your cable company's DVR and at some time you may need to decide which shows to keep or delete.

Storage is becoming less of an issue as many DVRs are now made with at least a 500GB internal hard drive. Some companies like Comcast are now offering cloud storage. Though this may only be 500GB to begin with, it may allow them to offer customers additional storage in the future.

How many hours of programming can you get on a DVR? This is going to depend on the individual device as well as the quality of the recorded content.

On average, standard definition (SD) recordings take up about 1GB for every hour:

  • 500 hours on a 500GB DVR
  • 1000 hours on a 1TB DVR

If you record a lot of high-definition (HD) content, you can expect to get fewer shows and movies on your DVR. One hour of HD programming takes up about 6GB of space:

  • 83 hours on a 500GB DVR
  • 150 hours on a 1TB DVR

Be sure to check the hours estimated for the specific DVR that you're considering as these numbers can vary.

Do You Want a Whole-Home Solution?

If you want to share content saved on your DVR on multiple TVs in your home, you will need to ensure that this option is available.

  • Some DVRs are not easily shareable across TVs while others make it very easy with the purchase of smaller, satellite boxes.
  • Some cable and satellite companies offer it as an add-on for an extra fee.
  • Some DVR services include the option to access your DVR from streaming apps and mobile devices.

There are a number of whole-home solutions for DVRs and if this is important to you, it will greatly influence your buying decisions.

Is Connecting to Streaming Apps and Mobile Devices Important?

How good is your home internet connection? This will be a key factor in the flexibility to share and stream your DVR content or take full advantage of some DVR features.

DVR technology is leaning more and more toward relying on the internet for various tasks. At times, this may be as simple as system updates from your provider. Most importantly, a fast, reliable internet connection will improve your ability to stream recorded programs on any device.

  • Many DVR services offer the ability to stream DVR programming on tablets, smartphones, and computers even when you are not home.
  • Integrating streaming TV apps like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon is becoming a standard feature for DVRs, even with new stand-alone models not provided by a cable or satellite provider.
  • Some DVRs can work in tandem with streaming devices like Roku, Amazon Fire, Apple TV, etc.

Which DVR is Right for You?

Only you can answer this question and you should consider all of the factors above before making a decision. You can spend as little or as much money up front as you like or deem necessary, though you should also consider monthly subscription fees in the true value of a DVR.

It's also important to remember that the technology and options available for TV are rapidly expanding and changing. Try to find a solution that will work for you for at least a few years. By the time you begin looking for another upgrade, it's likely to be an entirely different story and your household may even have different viewing habits. It's important to stay flexible as we watch where TV goes in the future.