Personal Video Recorders
The ultimate STB for your HDTV
The Personal Video Recorder is one of the fastest growing areas of consumer electronics technology. The first PVRs were introduced at the Consumer Electronics Trade Show in 1999 by TiVo, and the PVR has grown with many new abilities since that first show. The ability to record your shows to DVD is one such ability that has grown out of Home Theater's integration with the PC. Full-service PVR companies like TiVo and ReplayTV dominated the PVR when it was first introduced to consumers, but soon the digital receiver PVR made its stand.
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The digital receiver is any set-top box that includes an over-the-air tuner - digital cable or satellite TV receivers are also PVR receivers. There are new add-on set-top boxes that include PVR functionality cropping up all the time with competitive features. Sony has been making HD PVRs with built-in HD tuners, a welcomed feature for owners of HD monitors who are suddenly interested in adding over-the-air HD reception and would like a PVR to boot.
The most popular PVRs on the market are easily the ones available with your satellite or cable TV service. Most cable companies like Charter and Comcast offer the family of Motorola PVR receivers for their digital cable services. These will tune in cable and can conduct all the time-shift operations that made the PVR such a welcomed addition to consumer electronics. DirecTV offered the DirecTiVo for a time but the contract between the two companies has since dried up. Comcast has recently negotiated the rights to offer TiVo services with their cable subscribers to help offset the blow to TiVo after the loss of the DirecTV contract.
Dish Network, the alternate satellite TV company in North America, has their own Echo Star line of satellite receivers that include PVR. Echo Star PVRs are fast and reliable but with Dish Network you don't have the option of going with a third party for your hardware. Customers of any subscriber services could add TiVo or ReplayTV services by running a TiVo box into their signal path before the TV. This adds a lot of boxes to your entertainment system. Most subscriber TV service companies find that they appreciate their own subscriber service's PVRs just fine and they're usually quite happy. You pay for your cable or satellite TV anyway, so using the PVR that is compatible with their service is a convenience; why go with a premium PVR service like ReplayTV or TiVO when they already have an equivalent service?
After some experimentation between PVR services, however, most consumers agree that the premium PVRs like TiVo and ReplayTV offer far superior technology to the average Motorola or Echo Star PVR. Complaints of slower and buggy menu systems are common from users who have switched from TiVo to Motorola PVR units. So, you basically pay for what you get, as with most things.