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  • Before You Buy a DVR

Thanks to digital video recorders (DVR) you no longer have to be home for your favorite shows, watch commercials or miss a moment of live events even if you have to use the bathroom! DVR’s have been around since 1999 and continue to improve and add new features at an alarming rate. Before you purchase a DVR, make sure it is going to be compatible with your television and fit your recording needs. You may even have the option to lease one from your cable provider.

Can I get a DVR from my cable provider?
All major cable and satellite providers now offer DVR boxes for a monthly lease fee. The fees varies based on your provider buy typically ranges from $5 to $15 per month depending on the model and its capabilities. You will have the option to select a standard-def (SD) or high-def (HD) recorder. A high-def recorder will let you record HD programming in true HD that will mirror the capability of your television. A standard-def recorder will allow you to record both digital and HD programming but it will all be converted to standard definition. The major drawback of leasing a receiver from a cable provider is that you are limited to the cable operator’s choice of hardware.

Use Your Peers
If you still decide you want to purchase a DVR you have a plethora of options from the pioneer (TiVo) to models from Sony, Panasonic, Motorola and Dell. Make sure you are prepared to spend anywhere from $100 to $1000 based on the DVR’s capabilities and then consult Consumer Reports and user reviews on CNet, Amazon, Gizmodo and Wired. Don’t buy a DVR on a whim when you have so much information available to you to help you make a great purchasing decision.

How do I choose?
First things first, decide what type of picture quality you want to be able to record. The easiest way to make this decision is by checking your televisions resolution capability (480p, 720p, 1080i, 480i, 1080p) and then initially narrowing your search down to the DVR’s that can record up to the highest ability of your TV.

Storage on a DVR is also important and will make the difference between whether or not you can record 20 hours of TV or 50. Make sure you narrow your search to DVR’s that have the GB storage capacity that fits in line with your viewing. You can even purchase a DVR that has hard drive expansion capabilities if you are unsure.

User Interface
Now that there are so many HD options with extremely large storage capacities, you may need to make your decision based on the user interface and its ease of use. TiVo is well known for its clean look, easy search capability and even the option to use a smart phone from anywhere to update your recording schedule. Just like you may prefer a Mac over a PC – you may prefer the Toshiba interface over TiVo. Once you have your lists narrowed down this far, head over to your local Best Buy and give them each a test drive.

Take this checklist with you before you make a DVR decision and you will end up with the best possible product for your wants and needs.