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Exploring Today's DVR Options (Page 1 of 3)

So you want a DVR. If you’re one of the many consumers asking, “Now what?” don’t feel like you’re alone. Navigating the options can be a daunting business, but knowing what you need makes the decision a much simpler task.

In this four-part series, we’ll first look at what your basic choices are and the pros and cons of each; later on in the series, we’ll take a focused look at what’s available within each option.

Like all electronics, DVRs come in many different shapes, sizes, options, and price tags, all to fit the various consumer needs and wants; but if you follow the trail to the top, you’ll find that when it comes to DVRs, there are three main types: integrated, standalone, and the homebrew (or "Do It Yourself," commonly "DIY").

Option #1: An Integrated DVR

Let’s look at integrated DVRs first. In many ways, this is the simplest option for consumers; it’s also the least expensive in terms of up-front costs. The term integrated comes from the fact that the DVR and TV tuner are combined into one box; it’s convenient, and takes up less space. These are the units you’ll get from your local cable or satellite provider.

Typically, there’s a monthly rental fee, but check with your provider to see what specials they may be running; at times you can get the DVR unit for free by subscribing to a specific entertainment package. Integrated DVRs usually have the ability to record two programs simultaneously while allowing you to watch a third, previously recorded program.

Be aware that if you’re using a satellite provider, an installation of a second video line might be required. The storage space is limited but it’s adequate if all you’re interested in is recording a program to watch at a later time, and then deleting it. However, long-term storage for viewing will eat-up valuable space

on what is, essentially, just a hard drive. If you have a lot of programs saved on the disk, you’ll quickly find that new recordings will only be kept for a day or so. The DVR will automatically delete unsaved programs to make room for others in your to-do list.

Pros and Cons

Is an integrated DVR the right choice for you? Before making that decision, take a brief look at the benefits and drawbacks to this option.

Cons: While this is a great option for many people, there are some disadvantages to using an integrated unit.

  • You’re responsible - most integrated DVRs are owned by your provider, not by you; if the unit is damaged while in your care, you can be held liable
  • Limited capability - integrated DVRs tend to have fewer options for users
  • Monthly fees - monthly fees, if any, can really add up over time
  • Installation - some providers charge installation fees; you can opt to install the unit yourself, but it can be a hassle

Pros: There are also some very attractive benefits to choosing an integrated DVR.

  • Installation - you’ll have the option of professional installation, minimizing both hassle and errors
  • Equipment - there’s often an equipment protection plan available; if the unit breaks, you won’t need to buy another one
  • Cost - since there’s no equipment to purchase, the initial start-up costs are considerably less than the other two options

For the casual or new-to-DVR person, this is an excellent option to start with. If you’re not sure this is the right fit for your needs, keep reading; option #2 or #3 might be what you’re looking for.

Does an integrated DVR sound like what you're looking for? Take a Deeper Dive for more info on choosing an Integrated DVR.

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