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How to Choose a Hard-Drive Digital Video Recorder (DVR) to Record Your Favourite TV Shows

written by: Kumara Velu•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 2/23/2010

If you’re missing the days when you could record your favorite television shows through your VCR, take heart. In this digital age, you can still do it with the help of a Digital Video Recorder (DVR). DVRs record much like a VCR but in higher quality and you don’t need to spend on recording media.

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    With a DVR, you record your television shows into its built-in hard disk. A DVR can only playback what it records. It can’t play back what is recorded from other sources. There are some DVR-DVD combo units which allow you to transfer your recordings to a DVD or other removable media.

    Most DVRs can record about 100 hours of high-quality standard definition video. Longer recording time can be obtained (up to 300 hours) if you reset the recording quality to a lower resolution. DVRs which support high-definition video content can record up to 30 hours of HD content.

    A major advantage of a DVR compared to a VCR is its ability to pause, rewind or fast forward your recording. What this means is you can rewind the show being recorded and watch it without interrupting the rest of the recording. The more sophisticated models with dual tuners would allow you to record two shows simultaneously while you’re watching another recorded show.

    Here are tips on going about choosing a suitable DVR that will satisfy your recording needs.

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    Generic or Subscription-Based?

    If you’re just going to record the odd television show, you could opt for a generic DVR. It works very much like a VCR. You program it by choosing your desired channel and the telecast time.

    Subscription-based DVR, on the other hand, have more sophisticated features including a friendlier onscreen interface. There are two modes of payment for a subscription-based DVR. Either you pay a monthly fee or a one-time fee. The advantage of the one-time fee package is you could sell the DVR if you are not going to use it any longer.

    If you opt for the low monthly fee package, you would still have to calculate whether you would end up paying more in the long run than if you opt for the one-time fee.

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    If you’re choosing a subscription-based DVR, you will want to try out its program guide. What kind of features does it offer? Can you record by title, genre or actor? Is it friendly or compatible with the viewing experience you’re looking forward to?

    Get also a feel of the remote control. Is the layout of the remote easy on your eye? Can your fingers work the buttons easily? Would you feel comfortable with the remote in the long run?

    Can you connect the DVR to the Internet to update the device’s software and programming information? Some DVRs also have a feature which allows you to share your recorded videos over the Internet.

    Also check how much extra you would have to pay if you take a set which allows you to transfer your recorded program to VHS or DVD. This would be particularly useful if you going to be recording a lot of shows and foresee running out of hard disk storage space.

    Check also the recording time and quality. In the name of advertising, the manufacturer may promise hundreds of hours of recording. You must check at what quality the DVR could record for the said hours. Usually it’s at the lowest quality.

    By the way, if you’re buying a used DVR, make sure you buy one which comes with a digital tuner (ATSC) so that you could record digital TV broadcast.

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    Doing Your Homework

    If you’re impressed with a particular DVR model, contain the impulse of an instant purchase. It pays to do a little homework to prevent future heartache. Talk to others who own the DVR model. Ask them about its shortfalls.

    You could also visit sites like where you could read user reviews. Also recommended is visiting a DVR forum where you could learn first hand issues relating to DVRs and also land some good deals.