Do You Need a DVR?

Kyle Lemmon
Managing Editor
Read More
August 16, 2018
3 min read

The tradition of gathering around the TV set for a prime-time must-see program is fading into obscurity: instead, Americans now expect on-demand entertainment. Technology has evolved around this expectation, hence the advent of the digital video recorder (DVR). DVRs work in conjunction with set-top boxes to build a hard drive full of viewable content.

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What is a DVR and how does it work?

Digital video recorders (DVRs) are essentially computers that store content recorded directly from the television provider. Companies like TiVo first invented separate units designed to work with set-top boxes.

Today, most cable and satellite providers offer set-top boxes that include DVRs as a premium add-on for customers, although a handful of companies still offer stand-alone units. You can record multiple shows at once and watch another show at the same time, or set recordings ahead of time. Even better, Wi-Fi isn’t necessary to use the technology, so you don’t have to worry about your Internet cutting out in the middle of recording a show.

What are the benefits of having a DVR?

The main selling point of DVR service is the flexibility and convenience. With so many networks airing so many quality shows or movies at the same time, it’s often tough to know what to watch. DVRs let you record shows that conflict with other programming so you don’t have to choose.

Arguably the most popular feature of a DVR is the ability to pause live TV and rewind or fast-forward. That means you’ll never miss a moment of the big game (or anything else), even if the doorbell rings or the baby cries. You can also skip commercials or other parts of the show you don’t want to see.

DVR service allows you to preset recordings so you’ll never miss an episode of your favorite drama or comedy.

DVR service allows you to preset recordings so you’ll never miss an episode of your favorite drama or comedy. Most cable and satellite service providers allow you to set recordings from your computers, smartphones, and tablets, making scheduling even more convenient. Sports fans love this feature as they can record any games they miss but still watch the highlights from the comfort of their living rooms.

What are the disadvantages of DVR service?

One of the main disadvantages of DVR service is the additional cost. Cable and satellite providers typically charge a monthly fee for DVR service, as well as a higher rental fee for the set-top box component. You can expect to pay anywhere from $10 to $30 more per month for DVR service, depending on the type of service and your location. However, with demand for DVRs going up, many providers offer a discounted rate for the equipment and service when customers sign up.

Another disadvantage of DVR service is that hard drive space is limited. This means that shows may not record or previous recordings could be lost if the DVR is full. Many stand-alone DVR set-top boxes offer more storage space, but at a higher overall cost. And while many DVRs allow simultaneous recording, the number of shows you can record at once is limited. This becomes more problematic when more than one person is recording content, and a war over DVR space erupts.

Stand-alone vs. built-in DVRs

Recommended DVR
DVR Tivo-Premier
TiVo Roamio OTA (over the air) with no monthly fees.

While most people opt to get their DVRs with their cable or satellite provider’s equipment, there is an option to buy a stand-alone unit.

These stand-alone boxes are a great option if your TV provider doesn’t offer DVR service, and may cost less over time depending on equipment leasing/service fees. A stand-alone set-top DVR unit can cost anywhere from $100 to $1,000, with subscriptions averaging about $13 a month. Most units hold around 40 hours of programming; if you want more storage, the price will go up.

While the upfront cost of a stand-alone DVR is higher than a leased unit from a TV provider, the investment may pay off over time. However, a stand-alone box is yet another device that will be front and present in your living room. This may cause an issue where space is tight.

 Final verdict

Still not sure if you need a DVR? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I/my family watch a lot of TV?
  • Do I/my family like a lot of different programing?
  • Is it in my budget to have additional service fees?
  • Is DVR service available through my television provider?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may want to consider buying or leasing a DVR. The convenience and practicality of the service is impeccable as it gives control back to customers. The ability to record future programming or even pause live TV is convenient, saving time and ensuring you don’t miss a second of your favorite show. Keep in mind that there is an investment that goes into both buying and leasing DVR units that needs to be justified, so you’ll want to be sure you’ll actually use it. Overall, most people who have DVR service love it and couldn’t imagine watching TV any other way.

Do you love or loathe your DVR? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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Kyle Lemmon
Written by
Kyle Lemmon
Kyle has an unquenchable curiosity for how technology works. For the better part of a decade, he’s tested, torn apart, and talked about the lastest home security, internet, and TV-related tech. When he’s not digging in with the Reviews team, Kyle serves as Craig's underling a panelist on The Legendarium Podcast where he reviews science fiction and fantasy literature.

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