The idea of recording your favorite shows without the stress of missing them when they air is tempting, and can become a reality in the form of a cable digital video recorder (DVR). After all, who has the time or brain capacity to dedicate to remembering when something’s airing on television? The answer’s pretty much no one, which is why DVRs became so popular in the first place.
Before there was streaming, there was TiVo, the company credited for bringing these separate recording units to life and to mainstream popularity. TiVo became more than a company that sold the TiVo DVR, but a verb - I’ll just TiVo this show so I won’t miss it. DVRs work as either separate units that are sold alongside set-top boxes or integrated with the set-top boxes installed by cable and satellite providers as a premium add-on.
The Benefits of a DVR
The ability to prerecord your TV shows comes at an extra cost, and with so many other TV-watching, streaming, and recording options out there, it’s difficult to decipher which one is the better choice. If all you had was cable and you didn’t use any streaming services or had access to network apps, then getting a DVR as a separate recording unit or as a premium add-on could have its benefits.
Record Everything and Anything
With cable comes the hundreds of networks, some of them even premium channels, and there’s no way to watch all of the quality shows at the same time. A DVR allows you to record shows that conflict with one another, so you don’t have to pick and choose. You can set up a DVR schedule, select the shows you want to record, or the big game from your TV, tablet, or phone and never have to worry about missing out.
Say Goodbye to Commercials
Do you despise commercials? With a DVR, you can skip right past them. Even with most streaming services, you still get slammed with commercials on most content, but with a DVR, you can use the fast-forwarding feature to breeze on past. Although Netflix doesn’t have any commercials with their content, services like Hulu or Sling still subject the viewer to intervals of commercial breaks on some of their selected programming.
Pause, Fast-Forward and Rewind
Both streaming platforms and DVRs have the option to pause, rewind, and fast-forward. Although for some content on streaming platforms, these options aren’t available like for live shows, but for shows that have been prerecorded on your DVR, you’ll be able to use these features. Next time you have to get up and grab something, you can hit the pause button and never miss a beat. If you missed something, you can rewind, and as mentioned with the commercials, feel free to fast-forward.
What’s the Catch? Downsides of DVRs
Once upon a time, nearly every American household had a DVR, but with networks spotlighting their own apps, streaming services with live-recording features built-in the question becomes: are DVRS outdated tech?
Maybe, but the biggest problem with the DVR is the expense. Set-top DVRs range from about $100 to as much as $1,000. Why do these devices get so pricey? Basically, your money pays for more recording time and in some cases, the size of the hard drive, where the larger the drive, the more hours it can store. The more expensive DVRs may come with features that allow you the ability to record the show onto a blank DVD.
Cable and satellite providers may also charge a separate rental fee instead of a one-time fee for the DVR usage. This cost can range anywhere from $10 per month to $30 per month. Annually, these costs add up, so you’ll want to make sure you’re actually getting your money’s worth out of your DVR.
If you didn’t use a DVR, is there another way to enjoy a show after it has aired? For cord-cutters, you could entertain purchasing an Apple TV or an Amazon Fire TV and ditching the cable altogether. There are the initial costs of these devices - about $170 for an Apple TV or under $50 for an Amazon Fire Stick, then you’d be paying for a streaming platform that would allow you to watch the same channels you had with cable:
Hulu: with ads is $5.99 per month, $11.99 without ads
Netflix basic: $8.99 per month or $15.99 for HD and multiple users/screens
Disney+: $6.99 per month ($5.83 with a $69.99 annual fee)
Amazon Prime Video: $8.99 per month or with a $119 annual Prime membership
HBO Max: $14.99 per month
ESPN $5.99 per month
Often times with these services, there’s no need for a DVR device because the shows are kept in the streaming library to be watched at your convenience. Many of these services will have “live” options like Hulu’s live service which is about $55-$60, that also offer DVR options within its platform without the user needing a separate set-top DVR device.
Should You Get a DVR?
It all boils down to personal preference. Just because everyone else seems to be getting on the streaming train, doesn’t mean you have to cut the cord with cable if you don’t want to. If you’re comfortable with your cable package and would be able to swing the extra costs of a DVR, then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to enjoy this extra add-on.
If you aren’t sure as to whether or not a DVR would add to your TV experience, then ask yourself these questions:
Does your family watch a lot of TV?
Do their favorite programs differ or conflict with one another?
Would a DVR be within your budget?
Is a DVR available from your cable provider?
A DVR makes sense for someone who frequently watches TV and has the need to record the shows they’re missing, a family with members preferring different genres. Also, someone with a busy schedule who can afford the DVR and wants to watch specific shows at a later date might want to consider a DVR.
For the majority of people, the biggest obstacle concerning DVRs are their costs. If you can swing the additional fees per month or the upfront costs you’d be charged for a separate set-top DVR, then it just becomes a matter of whether you’ll utilize the recording feature as often as you should to make it worthwhile. If the costs are going to eat away at your budget, then your DVR should be the first to go.
In most cases, the easiest and most cost-effective way to get a DVR is directly through your cable provider. You can lease the device through them, and the costs are lumped into your monthly cable bill, that way you don’t have to worry about multiple bills or providers. You’ll also have the benefit of the DVR being integrated and compatible with your cable TV package.
The bottom line with DVRs is that they’re only good if you actually use them. If you find that you’re scheduling shows to be recorded and you’ve completely forgotten about them, then it’s time to reconsider the DVR and its extra costs. Don’t get a cable DVR if you’re going to record one or two shows because what you’re being charged for the feature won’t make sense for this minimal use.