Best DVRs

Review & Comparison, Last Update September 18, 2019
Do you love watching television, but hate the fact that you are often a slave to the schedules of your favorite shows? The best solution to this problem is to use a DVR to automatically record your favorite shows without being tied to the television. Take a look at five great DVRs that can greatly enhance your television watching experience. ...Read more ...Read less
BEST 2019
PROS
CONS
OUR VERDICT
Hard drive size
Max Encoding Format
Included Apps
Interfaces
Connectivity
Warranty
 
PROS

Thanks to the SkipMode function, you can quickly clip annoying commercials by pressing a single key on the remote control or saying 'Skip it' (with Voice search turned on). Also, do not miss the opportunity to use QuickMode, with which you will find your favorite shows faster.

CONS

TiVo service subscription is required.

OUR VERDICT

The TiVo Bolt OTA is a real find for anyone looking for an alternative to cable television. The device will allow you to enjoy content in the highest resolution, 4K Ultra HD, as well as allow you to download your favorite TV programs from the most popular streaming media services to the memory of your phone / tablet.

detailed parameters
Hard drive size

1 TB (500 GB also available)

Max Encoding Format

4K Ultra HD

Included Apps

Netflix, Prime Video, Hulu, YouTube and more

Interfaces

Coax (Antenna, ATSC)

Optical audio out

Audio L/R

HDMI 2.0 / (4K, 1080p 24/60)

Ethernet port (10/100/1000 Mbps)

USB 2.0 ports (x2)

External storage port (eSATA)

Power

Connectivity

Wi-Fi or Ethernet

Warranty

1 year

PROS

Two tuners allow you to record two shows simultaneously without the need to choose one over the other, which adds to the convenience of the device. In addition, you can store up to 75 hours of HD content. A model with 4 tuners is also available.

CONS

Rewind and Fast Forward functions are rather slow.

OUR VERDICT

The Fire TV Recast video capture card allows you to watch and record live television broadcasts, whether live sports or local news, using the Fire TV application or with the Echo Show app installed on your smartphone. Sit back on the couch and just ask Alexa to find a show or record.

detailed parameters
Hard drive size

500 GB (1 TB also available)

Max Encoding Format

HD

Included Apps

TV channels ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, PBS, and The CW

Interfaces

USB 3.0 (Type A)

TV Antenna Input

Gigabit Ethernet

Power

Connectivity

Wi-Fi or Ethernet

Warranty

1 year limited (optional 2 years and 3 years extended warranty)

PROS

The HDHomeRun DVR app will help you schedule recordings of live TV from any channel, helping you save your favorite TV shows and sports events for later viewing.

CONS

The manual is pretty sparse.

OUR VERDICT

While it's nothing groundbreaking, this SiliconDust DVR is a reliable and ultra-compatible model that's both affordable and reasonably advanced. It converts the streams to H.264 for faster speeds with no quality loss, so you'll always see the images in crisp detail. All in all, a solid choice for the streaming age!

detailed parameters
Hard drive size

No internal hard drive

Max Encoding Format

HD

Included Apps

HDHomeRun DVR app

Interfaces

Ethernet port

Coax connector

Connectivity

Wi-Fi or Ethernet

Warranty

1 year

PROS

The equipment operates in the high-quality digital recording standard H.264, which uses a high degree of video compression, but does not detract from the high quality of the image.

CONS

Blu-ray burner software not included.

OUR VERDICT

Thanks to this device, you can record your favorite TV shows now, and watch whenever you want. Its HDMI video output has the highest resolution of HD quality, which allows you to connect to it a high-resolution monitor. In this case, the presence of a USB interface allows you to easily manage the device with a mouse or keyboard.

detailed parameters
Hard drive size

No internal hard drive

Max Encoding Format

Full HD

Included Apps

Youtube, Netflix, Hulu, WWE, and more

Interfaces

Power

HDMI output

HDMI input

Component Video input

USB 2.0

Optical audio input

IR blaster

Connectivity

PC connection (Microsoft® Windows® 10, 8, 7 or Vista (32 or 64-bit))

Warranty

2 years

PROS

The Sling TV app allows you to watch local channels, which usually require a monthly fee, for free. But also, you can always buy a subscription to the Sling TV package for $25 and enjoy endless entertainment.

CONS

May take more than 5 minutes to reboot if the device freezes.

OUR VERDICT

Together with AirTV Channel Streamer, you can watch, record shows at home on TV or on the road on your smartphone at your convenience. The device can easily and quickly be configured to record HD video, and comes with or without an HD antenna.

detailed parameters
Hard drive size

512 MB

Max Encoding Format

HD

Included Apps

TV channels ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and more

Interfaces

USB 2.0 

Coaxial OTA Input

Ethernet 

Power

Connectivity

Wi-Fi or Ethernet

Warranty

Amazon's 30-day return policy

TiVo Bolt OTA

The Biggest Name in DVRs

TiVo is essentially the creator of the DVR market, having released their first product more than 20 years ago. Although they didn't quite take over the world in that time, they did push the evolution of the DVR market, and have built up a large core following that continues to swear by their devices. Their DVRs have made a name for themselves thanks to the combination of their extremely intuitive interface along with many innovative features that have been introduced first in their products over the years, and this tradition continues on to the present day. When getting a TiVo DVR, you can be assured of getting many of the latest features.

One of their many innovative features included in this model is the SkipMode function, thanks to which you can quickly skip over annoying commercials by pressing a single key on the remote control or saying 'Skip it' (with Voice search turned on). This lets you instantly skip over a commercial to let you quickly get back to watching your favorite show. Also, do not miss the opportunity to use QuickMode, with which you will find your favorite shows faster. Basically, anything you do on this device is going to be quicker and easier than it will be on most other DVRs.

Review of TiVo Bolt OTA for Antenna All-in-One Live TV and DVR

Highly Functional Streaming

Although TiVo DVRs always excel at recording and storing your favorite shows, that is far from all they offer. The TiVo Bolt OTA is a real find for anyone looking for an alternative to cable television. The device will allow you to enjoy content in the highest resolution, 4K Ultra HD, as well as allow you to download your favorite TV programs from the most popular streaming media services to the memory of your phone / tablet. The device supports services such as Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, and many others, so no matter which streaming service you subscribe to, you can make the most of it from your TiVo device.

One thing to note with using a TiVo DVR is that there is a subscription fee that goes with it. However, don't let this dissuade you from buying one. The subscription fee is as low as $6.99/mo., and with it you get constant access to TiVo's excellent channel guide and program listings which allow you to find and record your favorite shows automatically, letting you catch each episode so that you never have to worry about missing one. In addition, TiVo DVRs will work with other TiVo devices within the same house, letting you share content recorded from one device with another in a seamless fashion, as well as allowing you to view such content on your mobile devices. If you are looking for the best DVR from the biggest name in such devices, this model should be your first choice.

TiVo Bolt OTA for Antenna All-in-One Live TV and DVR in the use

Additional Info

    Manufacturer


 

Amazon Fire TV Recast

Dual-Tuner DVR

DVRs have proven themselves to be quite convenient devices over the years, making the process of watching your favorite shows and movies easier and more convenient than before. However, there has been one main criticism of them over this time, which is that they typically aren't very good for watching more than one thing at a time. Of course, most people typically don't do this, but there does often come a time when two of your favorite shows happen to be airing at the same time, which means that with a DVR, you can only record one or the other, but not both. On top of that, you can't use the DVR to record one station while watching another on the same TV, which further complicates the matter.

The Amazon Fire TV Recast Over-The-Air DVR gives you the perfect solution to this problem by letting you record two different shows simultaneously. This is done by the two built-in TV tuners that lets the DVR work with two different channels at the same time, so you don't need to choose one over the other, which adds to the convenience of the device. In addition, you can store up to 75 hours of HD content, which is more than sufficient for most people's needs. If you need the ability to record more than two channels at the same time, a model with 4 tuners is also available.

Review of Amazon Fire TV Recast Over-The-Air DVR

View on Your Smartphone

The Fire TV Recast video capture card allows you to watch and record live television broadcasts, whether live sports or local news, using the Fire TV application or with the Echo Show app installed on your smartphone. Sit back on the couch and just ask Alexa to find a show or record, and you can not only watch it on your TV, but also on your mobile device while on the go. This means you won't have to miss your favorite TV shows while you are traveling, and in fact can record and watch them from anywhere.

The device itself is easy to setup and configure, which is a running theme with most of Amazon's devices, and it is even easy to integrate it with your Amazon Alexa voice assistant so you can control it by voice. The interface on the device is also quite easy to use, rivaling that of most other easy-to-use DVRs. However, the fast forward and rewind functions do work rather slowly, so this may be a source of irritation if you're trying to find a particular spot in the show. Also, keep in mind that this DVR only works with over the air broadcasts, and won't be able to work with other video sources, such as cable or satellite TV. Regardless, for those who enjoy watching shows from the standard broadcast networks, this DVR from Amazon ensures that you won't have to miss your favorite shows ever again.

Amazon Fire TV Recast Over-The-Air DVR in the use

 

SiliconDust HDTC-2US-M

Twice the Capture

Tired of paying for cable and want to cut the cord as well as the cost but don’t want to lose that multitude of channels that’s available to cable users? Oh, there’s no need to worry about that as long as you have the SiliconDust HDTC-2US-M on your side!

Its video capture card with 2 tuners lets you record video streams from two channels at once so you don’t have to choose between several shows. Heck, if you wanted to, you could get a few copies of this model and record pretty much every channel your TV gets. Well, it wouldn’t be your TV getting it anymore though, right? The SiliconDust HDTC-2US-M uses Wi-Fi and Ethernet to stream video, opening up more channels to you than any cable provider ever could. That way you can record live TV with ease, including an important sports game, a TV show, or even commercials, if you’re one of those weirdos who likes them. And since the two-stream recording is possible, you will likely want to immediately take advantage of it. Sadly, this may have to wait a bit as you’ll wrestle with the admittedly complicated instructions. They’re short on information, at least the useful kind, and offer very little to help a new user understand the device. Luckily, there are some good guides online and the double-stream is one of the few functions that actually requires any real explanation.

Review of SiliconDust HDTC-2US-M &smid=A13BNE3P7C8THK

Stream to Any Device

Of course, one of the main draws of DVRs has always been the ability to record as many shows as you want so you can binge-watch whole seasons at once, whenever you feel like it. And, looking at the SiliconDust HDTC-2US-M’s lack of internal hard drive, you might be worried. But there’s no need to fret, the device converts all footage to H.264 AVC, which means equally good quality but faster streaming speed. For storage, you can connect the DVR to your PC, mobile phone, or external HDD, which is quite easy thanks to Wi-Fi capabilities.

You can control the recording and scheduling via the pre-installed HDHomeRun DVR, which is quite handy. We didn’t see anything too special about it but a functioning piece of software isn’t anything to scoff at either. Besides, it’s fully compatible with your Android and iOS devices. As long as you have a TV antenna, you’re good to go.

Although we’ve seen a few flaws here and there, we’d ultimately call the SiliconDust HDTC-2US-M a solid mid-range DVR that’s going to be useful for any cord cutter out there, especially those who like streaming video to their phones.

SiliconDust HDTC-2US-M &smid=A13BNE3P7C8THK in the use

Additional Info

    Manufacturer


 

Hauppauge 1512

Record From Any Source

One of the great things about the advancement of technology is the fact that many devices that were once very heavy and bulking are now rapidly shrinking in size. This is especially true for DVRs, many of which have always been at least as large, if not larger than a standard DVD player. When added together with other home theater equipment, it can make for a very crowded TV stand, with no space left over. However, devices such as this one are starting to become much more space friendly.

The Hauppauge 1512 HD-PVR 2 High Definition Personal Video Recorder is one DVR that has definitely taken advantage of modern technology. This small device packs a lot of powerful features in it, especially considering its size. However, this device isn't necessarily the same as many DVRs on the market that focus on recording broadcast television. Instead, this DVR recorder works as a standalone unit that is meant to record from virtually any source through HDMI or Component Video input. This means that not only can you record TV shows straight from your TV or cable box, but you are also able to record from other devices, such as streaming boxes or video game consoles. This adds a lot of flexibility to this device that is missing from most other DVRs on the market.

Review of Hauppauge 1512 Personal Video Recorder

Perfect For Gamers

Using this DVR is quite simple. The setup process is very easy to manage, thanks to its intuitive interface. Connecting to an input source is just a matter of connecting the device to this DVR through an HDMI or Component Video cable, which then allows the device to record the content while playing it on your television. The input also has virtually no delay in the displayed video, which makes it perfect for gamers who wish to record themselves playing a game on their XBox or Playstation consoles. An included IR blaster even allows you to easily control your cable box or other set top box with the DVR, which means you don't have to manage a bunch of remotes just for watching or playing something.

For gamers who love streaming their games, this device includes the StreamEez capabilities, which allows for live streaming your games online. All video that is recorded with the DVR is recorded with the H.264 video encoding standard, which means that the video is heavily compressed to make it smaller while still retaining stunning details in the image. All video is recorded at up to 1080p60, meaning that there is no loss of resolution or framerate for standard HD quality video. Anyone who loves streaming their games, or who wants the flexibility of recording from any input source will love this DVR.

Hauppauge 1512 Personal Video Recorder in the use

Additional Info

User Manual     Manufacturer


 

Sling Media AirTV

Not Your Standard DVR

The Sling AirTV DVR isn't your standard DVR. Sure, it has the ability to record your favorite TV shows, but this device adds another spin on the standard DVR functionality. In addition to recording shows, the Sling AirTV lets you enjoy your standard broadcast channels from anywhere, without needing to actually tune into the station on your television. That's because the Sling box gives this functionality to your whole house, as the device connects to an HD antenna, and then streams the broadcast TV throughout your wireless network. This means you can watch your favorite broadcast TV stations from anywhere in your house, even from your computer or smartphone, letting you enjoy your favorite shows even if you aren't in front of your television.

Although this is the primary use for the device, there is a lot more to it than just watching your favorite TV shows for free. In addition to this functionality you can always buy a subscription to the Sling TV package for $25 and enjoy endless entertainment. This package offers many of the same channels that are usually available through cable TV platforms, yet without having to pay the exorbitant monthly fees that many cable TV providers charge, letting you save money while still being able to watch anything you want.

Review of Sling Media AirTV DVR Capable Dual-tuner

Watch From Anywhere

Together with AirTV Channel Streamer, you can watch, record shows at home on TV or on the road on your smartphone at your convenience. The device can easily and quickly be configured to record HD video, and comes with or without an HD antenna. Do note, though, that you need to connect an external hard drive to the device in order to record shows, as this device does not come with any internal storage. However, this has the added benefit of allowing you to expand the storage space as necessary, meaning you aren't limited to just the internal storage of the device, letting you record and save as many TV shows as you want.

Better yet, if you are traveling, you can even configure this device to let you watch either live or recorded content from your computer or smartphone. You won't have to miss the big game due to being on a business trip, or miss an episode of your favorite TV series because you're on vacation. You have access to everything that you could watch at home while traveling, something that most other DVRs simply can't give you. Best of all, though, is the fact that this device is one of the most affordable DVR solutions out there, giving you endless entertainment for the fraction of the price of almost any other option.

Sling Media AirTV DVR Capable Dual-tuner in the use

Additional Info

User Manual     Manufacturer


 

What Is a DVR?

A DVR (short for Digital Video Recorder) is a device that allows you to record video from certain sources into a digital video format. They are most often used for recording television shows from broadcast or cable television to be watched later. These devices first appeared around the turn of the 21st century as standard video recorders meant to replace the recording capabilities of VCRs. However, in recent years many models have included a large number of extra capabilities, allowing them to be used in many different ways, such as like a set-top box, streaming media viewer, or program scheduler.

At their core, most DVRs are essentially small but powerful computers that contain much of the same technology that is often found in a PC or even a smartphone. Many include internal storage in the form of a hard drive or flash memory, and some allow you to connect different forms of additional storage for storing the recorded video. Often, some sort of program scheduler is included that allows you to easily set it to record certain television shows automatically on a recurring basis. Many even include the ability to record more than one show simultaneously, although such capabilities may require the use of extra hardware. Even now, with the advent of streaming, many people use them and still know a few brands such as TiVo and a Plex DVR.

What Features to Compare

The very first DVRs that appeared on the market almost 20 years ago were pretty limited in their capabilities, offering little else than the ability to record shows either manually or through a program scheduler. Some other included features, such as the ability to share video or automatically skipped commercials, were removed thanks to legal action by several media companies. However, more recent models have included many of these features again, as well as adding many more.

Finding the right DVR for your needs will come down to knowing which exact features you want in a device. Here are a few things to keep in mind while looking for the perfect DVR.

Recording Capabilities

All DVRs at their core function as video recorders. However, not all of them offer the exact same features when it comes to recording video. Some are simply made as "live recording" devices without any automated input, whereas others include numerous features that allow you to enhance the recording experience and even edit video that has been recorded. Others may even include the capability to record video from more than one source at a time. When buying a DVR, it is best to check the exact recording capabilities of the device to make sure that they match exactly what you want.

Internal Storage

Many DVRs come with some type of internal storage included. However, many recent low-cost models have appeared that do not, instead allowing you to connect your own external storage devices, such as external hard drives, SD card, and USB flash memory sticks. Even some models with internal storage may only supply a small amount, but also allow for external storage to be added. Basically, the more storage that is either included or that can be added, the better, but you should make sure that any DVR that you purchase includes some kind of internal storage if you don't already have or won't purchase your own to add.

Extra Apps

Ever since the explosion of smartphones onto the market about 10 years ago, many devices now allow the installation of apps, or include their own. Many DVR models include apps now that allow you to use online services such as Youtube, Netfilx, Hulu, and others. If this is a capability that you desire, it is best to make sure before purchasing a device that the model you wish to purchase supports these functions.

Other Features

With each passing year, DVRs have been released that have added more and more features to their standard feature set. Some more recent features include the ability to record from multiple sources simultaneously, included microphones that allow you to record your own commentary or other audio along with the recorded video, and many different sharing capabilities such as streaming recorded video. If you wish to use your DVR for purposes other than just recording the occasional television show, it's best to check the extra features that are included on the latest model to make sure they meet your expectations.

Did you know?

History of DVRs

DVRs have been around for a long time. Much longer than most people realize, in fact. The very first DVRs to hit the market were Microsoft's ReplayTV and the original TiVo model, both of which premiered in 1999. Back then, VCRs were still the most popular (and really the only) way to record anything broadcast on television. The DVR helped make the process of recording a television show quite simple, especially in comparison to a VCR. VCRs required a fair amount of manual programming to set up to record a show at a specific time, and this was often quite complicated and difficult to do as it all had to be done using the few buttons on the front of the device, with no on-screen menu to help with the process. DVRs, meanwhile, provided a simple on-screen menu which allowed you to not only record a show at a specific time, but browse through the listings, set an option to record each new episode of a particular television show, and overall a much easier to use and better experience. The only thing that kept them from being a staple in every person's living room at the time was the high price tag.

During the early days of the DVR, both ReplayTV and TiVo competed for the crown. While ReplayTV met with some moderate success. TiVo gained the most attention, becoming popular enough with DVR enthusiasts to help make the brand a well-known name. For many years after their introduction, to "TiVo" something meant to record a show on a DVR. However, the high price tag of the early models still kept them out of many people's living rooms.

Cable TV Providers Enter the Scene

While TiVo did meet with some success, they still were only in a small percentage of homes in the US. Their successes didn't go unnoticed by many of the big cable TV providers, who started working on DVR models of their own. TiVo also managed to attract the attention of many content providers, who didn't feel that it was legal for them to provide such features as commercial skipping, thus cutting into the revenue of many television networks. TiVo, along with several other DVR providers, soon removed such features in order to help appease the content providers, who were always vigilant about possible piracy.

Meanwhile, many of the cable TV providers started releasing their own custom DVRs, often including them with cable subscription packages. While many of these DVRs had similar features to TiVo, many of them also lacked the intuitive interface that made TiVo DVRs so easy and pleasant to use. Despite this, the market soon became watered down with custom DVR models, each with its own set of features.

Recent Years

TiVo, despite the setbacks they have suffered, are still around, and still provide excellent DVRs. However, there are many other DVRs on the market, many of which provide features that most TiVo or cable company provided boxes do not, such as recording from different video inputs, clip editing, separate audio track recording, and many others. There is even software for the standard PC that allows you to turn your computer into a DVR. With all of the healthy competition available on the market now, today is definitely the right time to purchase your own DVR.

FAQ:

Q: How do DVRs work?

A: DVRs are basically very similar in terms of hardware to a standard computer. They use many of the same technologies as computers, but instead of running an operating system like Windows or MacOS, they have their own custom software that focuses on providing the services and features common to the devices. A DVR records video by taking the video output from another source, such as a cable box or TV antenna, and then recording that video and storing it on some form of mass storage, most commonly a hard drive. The very basic function of this is similar to how VCRs used to work.

Q: Are DVRs difficult to use?

A: This mostly depends on the DVR in question. However, most recent DVRs are extremely simple to setup and use, with many of them featuring intuitive on-screen menus and guides that help you find and use the features offered by the device.

Q: Is it legal to record shows from television on a DVR?

A: This question has been hotly debated ever since the introduction of the first DVRs, with many broadcast television networks concerned about DVRs providing a way for people to watch shows while being able to easily skip commercials. Since advertising revenue has traditionally been the main source of revenue for any TV station or network, this was a legitimate cause for concern. However, in the present day, DVRs are perfectly legal to use to record broadcast television.

Q: Is it legal to use DVRs to record video from non-broadcast television, such as from DVD or Blu-Ray players, or online streaming boxes?

A: The terms for using a DVR to record video from other media sources has been a sticky issue. Many modern devices such as home media players include copy protection built-in, and the terms of service of their use often dictate that it is not legal to record video from their service. If you are using a DVR to record video from such services, it is best to keep this in mind.

Q: Are there any legal prohibitions regarding video content that I record with a DVR?

A: Legal prohibitions regarding recorded content can vary, depending on the content provider. In general, it is legal to record broadcast television, and there is also a legal gray area in regards to recording video content from other sources. However, in all cases, it is illegal to distribute copyrighted content that has been recorded for any purpose, including such actions as selling or giving away copies of such content. If you are unsure of the legality of your actions with a DVR, it is best to check with the provider of the content that you wish to record.

Q: How can I edit the video content that I have recorded with my DVR?

A: Some DVR models include features that allow for simple editing of recorded content, such as editing out commercials. However, for more full-featured editing, it is probably best to copy the content to a computer in order to edit with video editing software.

Q: What are some best practices for scheduling television shows to be recorded?

A: Many DVRs make it very simple to schedule recordings for television shows, with many making it a matter of simply selecting the show from a guide and pressing a button. However, some DVRs can have trouble with discerning a brand new episode of a television show from a rerun. If your DVR supports automatically checking for new episodes as opposed to reruns, you can simply select that option to make sure that you are recording the correct episode instead of one you have seen before.

Another good practice is to schedule your recordings to start a short time before and to finish a short time after the scheduled start of a program. Not doing so many results in the very beginning or ending of a show to be cut off.

Sources:

1. Digital Video Recorder, Wikipedia.

2. Adam Thursby Basic Digital Video Recorder (DVR) Features, Lifewire. March 2, 2017.

3. Benefits of DVR Players, Streetdirectory.com.

4. Carol Francois What is a PVR? wiseGEEK. April 4, 2018.

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Publish Date: 2018-05-02 09:27:16