Move over VCRs and DVD recorders, digital video recorders (DVRs) are here to stay. DVRs let you time shift your favorite shows to watch later without all the hassle of tapes and DVDs. TiVo was the first company to take the DVR market by storm, but now, Comcast is offering its own DVR service for cable subscribers. What’s the better deal? Read this review to find out.
Both Comcast and TiVo will charge you a monthly fee to use their DVRs. That’s because they need to keep you connected with the schedules and program lineups for each channel. Accurate, up to date show times are essential to accurate and intuitive DVRs. In general, Comcast’s monthly fees are a bit lower than TiVo’s. But those rates are always changing due to promotions and other developments.
Rent vs. Own.
Here’s the key difference between a TiVo and a Comcast DVR. When you get a DVR from Comcast, you are renting equipment from Comcast. That means that even though the box is hooked up to your TV and sitting on your shelf in your house, it still belongs to Comcast. They can monitor what you watch, limit your access and alter your service as they see fit. In fact, you may even already have a Comcast DVR box—but Comcast has the DVR functionality disabled remotely.
With TiVo, you own the hardware. You can control whether or not it “phones home” and you can tinker with it, alter it or unplug it and take it with you when you move as you see fit. This may seem like a subtle difference for now, but as new software, services and technology emerges—such as programs that let you save recorded shows to your computer—TiVo will be much more permissible in terms of what you do with your recorded content than Comcast.
The flip side of ownership is that TiVo has a much higher upfront cost. Comcast will only charge you a monthly rental fee to use their DVR equipment, while TiVo requires you to shell out $149 to $450 in order to buy the box. This may be difficult for you to afford at first, but in the long run, the costs tend to even out.
Netflix and Other Internet Content
TiVo boxes are smarter. Most TiVo boxes come with support for Netflix, Blockbuster Online and other online streaming video services. While you will need a WiFi connection and a paid account to access these services, you’ll have much better luck than with a Comcast box. At the end of the day, Netflix and Hulu are Comcast’s competitors—and they want to make it as difficult as possible to access these services. TiVo, on the other hand, has partnered with these companies and will make it easier for you to enjoy online movies and TV shows.
Buying a TiVo is more like shopping for any other electronic off the shelf—you get to choose between the size of the hard drives, online capabilities and other features. This lets you balance your budget concerns with the features you need. Comcast, on the other hand, tends to give you whichever box they have available at the time. This could be a 30 GB hard disk drive or a 20 GB solid state drive. It’s sort of luck of the draw.
This may change by the time you read this review, but as of now, Comcast’s DVR interface is confusing, clunky and frustrating. Comcast records based on time and Comcast’s own scheduling. But as we all know, programs often run over due to sporting events, special news breaks or other quirks in scheduling. For example, you can often miss the last few minutes of The Office because it runs until 10:02PM instead of 10:00PM on the dot. TiVo, in general, is better at handling issues like this.
At the end of the day, TiVo costs more. Its monthly service is usually higher and its upfront cost is much, much higher. But in terms of usability, flexibility and feature set, TiVo is head and shoulders above Comcast.