Things to Consider Before Buying a DVR

Does it make sense to buy a DVR when you can rent one from your cable company?

The world of DVRs has changed since the debut of TiVo. If you don't own a TiVo, you'll likely end up using one of the DVRs supplied by your cable company. However, if you're interested in buying a DVR, here are some questions to ask yourself before spending your hard-earned cash.

How Much Am I Willing to Spend?

Illustration of a person sitting atop a DVR unit, holding binoculars to their eyes
Lifewire / Miguel Co

Set-top DVRs range in price from about $40 to upwards of $400, and you're looking for a BlueRay DVR you could pay as much as $2500. The prices climb as the hours of recording increase. Other set-top DVRs vary in price depending on the size of the hard drive (the larger the drive, the more hours you can record) and whether or not the device records to DVD. Some have VCRs built-in as well.

It's essential to have a budget set for your DVR so that you can quickly determine which companies to compare when you set out to choose one.

How Do I Want to Use a DVR?

Do you want to record lots of TV shows, watch them, and then delete them? TiVo, with a large hard drive, would be best.

Or, do you plan to record TV to a hard drive and then keep the shows by putting them on DVD? Then you'll need a set-top DVR with a built-in DVD recorder.

Do I Subscribe to Cable TV or Satellite?

Most cable and satellite providers offer a DVR service for a monthly charge, usually under $20. A few provide DVR service for free.

These DVRs are leased and remain the property of the cable or satellite provider. The advantage in this is that there is no upfront cost for these DVRs; the device is part of your monthly bill. You don't have to shop around for a DVR, as the device comes with the purchase.

Do I Prefer a Specific Manufacturer?

Some people love Sony and will only buy Sony electronic products. Other people prefer Panasonic. This might be a factor in your decision.

Keep an open mind when it comes to electronics. Even if you haven't heard of a manufacturer, research their products. Don't sell yourself short because of brand loyalty.

Things to Remember

Try to get the best connections for your set-top DVR and your TV and home theater set up (if you have one). If your TV hasHDMI, that's your best option. After HDMI, S-Video or component inputs are preferable over composite (RCA) inputs.

If you have a surround sound setup, connect digital optical or coaxial audio instead of composite audio. You will get ​a much better picture and sound with higher quality connections.

Deciding on a set-top DVR isn't easy, but sometimes the decision is made for you. If you subscribe to cable or satellite, it makes sense to use their DVRs. However, if you want more recording time or DVD recording capability, then go with TiVo or a combination DVD and hard drive recorder.

It's best to read about the various set-top DVRs and decide what's best for you.

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