What is a DVR?

What is a DVR?

What is a DVR?  A DVR, also known as a Digital Video Recorder, is a set-top box that will allow you to record shows and watch them at a later time.  They will also allow you to pause a live show and come back to it without missing anything.  It is a digital version of a VCR if you remember those.  Instead of a tape, it has a built-in hard drive that can store hundreds of shows.

Why do I want a DVR?

The main reason you might want a DVR is convenience.  Maybe you have installed an antenna.  You can schedule your favorite shows in advance and they will record as they are aired.  There is no more planning around your favorite shows.  You can watch the shows you want when it’s convenience to you.

You can usually skip commercials too.  Did you know that most hour-long shows are only about 40 minutes long?  The other 20 minutes are commercials.  If it’s a 30-minute show, about 10 minutes will be commercials.  It’s great to save that time.


The most well-known DVR is TiVo.  They have been around since 1999 and are really the gold standard for this type of device.  As of this writing, they have a model called the TiVo Roamio OTA 1TB.  It can record 150 hours of HD video and up to 4 channels.  That means you can record 4 shows at once.  You could also watch live TV and record 3 other shows.  It includes a lifetime subscription to any updates you would need, including the channel guide and any software updates.  This is a huge improvement!  You used to have to pay a monthly fee or pay a large amount for a lifetime subscription for this.

In addition to recording your OTA (Over The Air) channels.  You can set up what they call a Season Pass.  What that means instead of a one-time recording of a particular show, the TiVo box will record that show when it is on.  It also integrates access into other streaming services.

One unique feature of TiVo is that it will suggest shows to you.  When it’s not busy recording the shows you like, and if you have free space, it will record shows you may like based on what you have watched or recorded.


Tablo is also very popular.  The list price of their 4 tuner model is $100 cheaper than TiVo.  You do need to buy a subscription to get the 14-day channel guide.  It does include the guide for the current day, but you would really want two weeks worth of programming data so you can record in advance and really take advantage of having a DVR.  The bottom line is that if you bought this today from Amazon and added the lifetime subscription, it would be about the same price as the TiVo.  You could always try it out with the single day channel guide and then upgrade.

Tablo installs wherever you get the best reception from your antenna.  In order to use Tablo, you also need a streaming device like Fire TV or Roku.  The recorded video on Tablo is played through the Tablo app.  This allows you to play video on any TV with the app or your phone.

They also offer access to streaming services and integrate that into the Tablo.  They offer a bit more than TiVo on this, but that would only matter to you if you used that service.  Check out their site for more details.

Which one is better?

It is a tough call to make.  A year ago we probably would have said that Tablo was the winner because of value.  The TiVo lifetime subscription was really expensive.  However, TiVo responded with a knockout punch by including a lifetime subscription to the channel guide.  This makes the TiVo the clear winner, especially if you don’t already have a streaming box.  For now.  Tablo, or another DVR manufacturer, could respond with an even better deal.  Stay tuned.

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