Choosing the Best DVR Solution for You

Should you buy your own DVR or take the one offered by your cable provider?

Samsung SDS-P3040N 4 Channel DVR (DVR only) with 500GB HDD

Photo from Amazon

Most cable and satellite providers offer some kind of ​DVR platform or service, but if you want to record and store digital content you are not limited to whatever your cable company offers. You can always buy a third-party DVR like a TiVo. Not only do third-party devices free you from cable provider's fees and stipulations, they also allow you to store more content, more flexibly. But there are also some downsides to third-party DVRs. Here we will cover the pros and cons of each type of DVR.

Price

DVRs issued by your cable or satellite provider typically don't have any upfront costs apart from the installation fees, but you will be required to pay a monthly fee as part of your cable subscription. Calculate the lifetime cost of different devices to determine the value of paying for a subscription versus buying a third-party device.

Storing Content

With a provider-owned DVR, content is forever trapped on the DVR. There's almost no way to transfer it to a separate device or format. Provider-owned DVRs are also pretty limited in terms of storage space. Third-party devices like TiVo, on the other hand, offer more storage space and allow you to move files to other devices or formats. TiVo's flagship device offers 1TB of storage, which is equal to about 150 hours of HD programming, and there are many more such boxes with many more terabytes of storage space. If money is no obstacle, Home Theater PCs allow you to add additional hard drives, effectively allowing unlimited media storage.

Maintenance

With provider-owned DVRs, all maintenance and repair issues are handled by your cable or satellite company. If your DVR breaks down, a technician can be dispatched to repair or replace it. If you purchased your own DVR, short of a robust warranty, you are on the hook for its performance and upkeep.

Connecting Your Device

Setting up a DVR is not a huge challenge, but if you think it will be an issue then you should consider getting a DVR through your cable provider. If you order the service a technician will handle the entire installation for you. However, if you ever need to move your TV or purchase a new one, you may have to uninstall and reinstall the DVR yourself.

If you're comfortable with some basic A/V wiring then a third-party DVR is a good choice. Just be sure you understand how to connect and use a tuning adapter, as it may be required for the package to work as advertised.

Conclusion

Choosing a DVR is a trade-off between work and cost. If you're willing to put in the work, you can typically get a better experience by buying your own device; you'll get more storage space and more control over your content. If you want someone else to handle the heavy lifting, or if you can't stomach the upfront cost, a cable or satellite provider DVR can offer more peace of mind.