What Are the Pros and Cons of a DVD Recorder vs. VCR vs. DVR?

Technology advances affected this market

Inserting DVD into DVD Player

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All video recording devices make it possible to delay watching television at a later date, but they have differences. The method you choose affects video quality, storage capacity and how long you can save the shows you record. If you are in the market for a recording device, you should know the differences among the options.


Whether or not you have a videocassette recorder (VCR) now, you probably had one at some point in the past. The VCR format launched more than 40 years ago, and for years, it was the only way to record television shows. However, the VCR recorded analog television. The introduction and subsequent conversion to digital broadcasting spelled the end of this venerable format. The last VCR was manufactured in 2016. 

If you have years of videotape collections, you may still have a VCR in your home. If your old VCR dies, you might be able to locate a replacement online. The option of copying all those analog videocassettes to DVRs would be time consuming and expensive. Even after you did, the picture-quality would be analog quality. 

Although VCRs were easy to use and cassettes were reusable, this format is at its life's end. 

DVD Recorder

As digital programming took over the airwaves, many people turned to DVD recorders to replace their VCRs. DVDs are virtually indestructible and relatively inexpensive. Some of them are rewritable, and DVD quality is top-notch. DVDs are still used for music and movie sales. VCR owners found it was relatively easy to connect their VCRs to a DVR for permanent storage of their older analog recordings.

If there is a downside to using DVDs, it is the capacity of the discs. Single-sided DVDs have a storage capacity of 4.7GB and double-sided DVDs store 8.5GB.


A set-top box that contains a digital video recorder (DVR) does more than record TV for you. When the phone rings, you can pause live television and catch up with it just moments later. You can also schedule recordings of television shows well in advance, and the shows record whether or not you are home. You don't need to buy any media for the recording process. 

All this recording goes on inside the self-contained unit — no external media required — but the storage isn't designed to be permanent. You can record one channel while watching another if you have a cable or satellite service provider and you can record in HD, but you can only keep the number of shows your set-top box's hard drive can accommodate. Depending on your cable or satellite TV provider, you may be charged a monthly rental for the DVR service.

The Best Choice

If you accept the fact that VCRs are obsolete in our digital age, then you need only decide whether you want the long-term storage capability of a DVD recorder or the bells and whistles that come with set-top DVRs.