DVR Tivo Alternatives
By Ed Oswald
Updated September 28, 2017
To entertainment enthusiasts, TiVo is the most recognizable name when it comes to digital video recorders, more commonly referred to as DVRs. For whatever reason, where it be price or the cost of the monthly service required to use a TiVo,consumers may be seeking an alternative. There are several alternatives available.
In recent years, cable providers have begun to offer digital video recording service through capable cable boxes. Unlike TiVo, programming is stored on the cable provider's end rather than on the cable box itself. Even so, basic features like time-shifting--pausing and rewinding/fast-forwarding through live TV--and scheduling of recordings is available. Cost will vary from provider to provider, but typically is an additional $5 to $10 per month added to the cable bill.
The Moxi HD DVR is probably the closest to the TiVo in terms of functionality. However, unlike its competitor, the Moxi box does not have a monthly service charge. This is instead made up by a much higher hardware cost: as of the writing of this article the box costs $799.99. The device includes 500GB of storage for recorded programming, CableCARD compatibility, Internet connectivity and services (Netflix, Hulu, YouTube for example), and connectivity with the home computer for playing multimedia content.
Those who want a cheaper DVR alternative may find a computer-based alternative attractive. One of the leading companies in this area is Hauppauge. Computer-based solutions come in several different forms, an external model typically connected to the computer via USB, and an internal model that must be installed into an open card slot in the computer. Functionality on these devices vary, but generally the basic DVR functionality is available. It should be noted that none of these devices will be able to receive nor record digital HD cable channels. Pricing generally ranges from $75 to $150 depending on model.
In the same vein as the cable box DVRs, satellite providers such as DISH Network and DirecTV provide DVR functionality on specially-equipped boxes. Unlike the cable boxes, the recorded content is stored on the hardware side. Time-shifting and scheduling of recordings is available, as well as remote scheduling which allows for the consumer to schedule a recording through the Internet. Like the cable television box, the DVR service incurs a monthly charge on top of the monthly satellite bill. DirecTV offers the service as a free upgrade on most plans, although some incur a $99 or $199 one time charge, while DISH charges $5.98 per month per DVR receiver for service.
Due to the patents on much of the technology TiVo uses in its DVR, no competitor will be able to match the services offered by the company. Functionality such as Suggestions, the ability to rate programs and related functionality are exclusive to TiVo. However, with this added functionality comes a higher service fee, which to some may be the biggest selling point for a non-TiVo device. Currently service costs $12.95 with a one-year commitment.