dslreports logo
    All Forums Hot Topics Gallery


how-to block ads

Search Topic:
share rss forum feed


Dayton, OH

Subscription-Free DVRs

I just read this thread:
»standalone DVR without subscription

I just didn't want to steal someone else's post but I have much the same question. I'd also like to draw the attention of lugnut who posted this:

I'm fairly ignorant on this topic, so I don't trust reading specs. I was originally looking for a DVD/VCR recorder with digital tuner and all the ones I saw were $600+. (I don't really need the VCR but figure mine's going to bust some day.) So then I started looking at DVRs and they mostly are out of the realm of what I really want, but that Magnavox looks like it could work for me.

I do not record all that often. I don't need tons of recording time, don't need to record 2 things at once, or any of that. I would rarely even save anything beyond watching it once.

What I DO need is something for over-the-air antenna - I do not have a subscription TV service. (Hence, no box.) I would like HD since some local stations are HD but that isn't the priority. I need the digital tuner, which is actually my main priority. It will be hooked to the HDTV. I cannot involve a computer in any way - the TV is where I go to get away from the computer, and my internet would never handle anything like this.

The DVD player part of my DVD/VCR combo is getting a bit flakey, so I'm going to need a player as well... at least some day, without having to buy two different expensive things. But the DVRs I've seen do not play DVDs. Is it my imagination that I see a DVD slot on that Magnavox? I don't trust that this is actually what I need for only a bit over $200.

I will add though, in case anyone has any other bright ideas:
I'd still love to have the VCR combo. (Yes, I have a collection.) If I don't find something that includes that, some day I'll end up just trying to hunt one down. Magnavox is not what comes to mind when I think of brands I trust.

I am willing to buy two different things as long as the total isn't too high. Anything that will get the job done.

Cyber Librarian
Forest Grove, OR

The specs »www.magnavox.com/product/spec.php?id=117 say that it will play DVDs.
♬ Dragon of good fortune struggles with the trickster Fox ♬


reply to spectre1000

I dunno what more I can add. I've owned three of these and similar units over the past decade or so.

It does what I need it to do. I use it with composite video inputs from my Bell 6131 satellite receiver. It also has NTSC and ATSC tuners built in as well as being basic cable ready and it has composite and an upconverting HDMI output as well.

Mine has a much smaller HDD and records something like up to 160 hours of standard def broadcast video and as long as it's not digitally protected it will burn any content from the HDD directly to the built in DVD-R. Personally I buy bulk Tayo Yudens for the best results.

I've never filled the HDD but instead use mine to record from movie networks like HBO Canada or the occasional network special, edit out the commercials and filler and then burn them to DVD.

The only reason I've owned so many of them is because of the sheer volume of movies which I burn which in turn tends to crap out the burner in 3 to 4 years.

As for playback, it plays all the standard DVD stuff like JPGs, MP3's and DivX AVIs.

It also has a USB port to allow connection of a USB HDD or Thumb Drive though I never use mine.

AFAIK though, it won't rip to MP4 or DivX format though, which is a pity but not a dealbreaker for me.

Standard DVD-R record modes include SP, and SPP and EP modes for anywhere between 1 hour to 6 hours recording on a DVD-R with a noticeable loss of video quality on anything over two hours per disk.

In a nutshell that pretty much sums up my experiences with the unit, though I'll try and answer any other questions you may have if I see them.


Dayton, OH

Thanks for your response. I do appreciate it.

I guess if it doesn't die for 3-4 years with that much use, it should be OK for my far, far less use.

Is an RF the coaxial? Sorry, I've always known it as a coax, and the tech sheet I looked at only said RF. It would be attached to an antenna, but I've somewhat gotten the impression everything comes with coaxial. Basically just getting the free OTA stuff.

What is the format for DVDs - i.e. the movies you buy at the store? The only thing I see that's not the junk I know from computers (CD's, DVD+R, etc.) is DVD-Video. Is that it? I also notice on dubbing it has DV>DVD. What's DV?

Sorry if anything sounds retarded, but it's been many years since I've bought any of this stuff, and things are much more complicated than they used to be - every time I think I have the right things and make an assumption, I discover I should not have made such an assumption.

The only thing this leaves me wanting is a VCR if mine busts. I've never thought much about transferring them to disk but I suppose that would be a good idea. The combo players I've seen that do this, that aren't getting terrible reviews, are adding too much more cost.

Does anyone know of something that ONLY transfers tape to disk and basically does nothing else? Perhaps that would be cheaper? Maybe even something that can transfer the video into a file that can be put onto something else, and burned elsewhere - I don't have a clue what I'm talking about.

I do appreciate your time.


Dayton, OH
reply to lugnut


Oh yes! I was on to something and didn't even know it. And I might not know all this media junk, but I can handle my computer - even a new HDD with hardly a thing on it yet. And just a stupid little USB device?

I'm so thrilled I could cry!



I'll try and answer the rest of your points.

Regular movie DVDs are MPEG-2 encoded. The Magnavox handles these no problem.

The RF in connection is a Coaxial RG-59 connector, ie., cable ready or regular antenna coax.

When it comes to dubbing VHS to DVD or copying a DVD, nothing mentioned above will actually work.

This is because 99.999% of all commercial movies, be they VHS or DVD, are copy protected by macrovision. All of these dubbing units are useless for copying protected material for just that reason. They can only dub unprotected stuff internally, like camcorder tapes but otherwise they will simply crap out and give an error message if you try and copy a protected tape or DVD.

The solution to this conundrum is to use two separate machines, a player and the recorder and put a video stabilizer unit in between them.

One of these works nicely.


With a separate player and recorder and a macrovision removing stabilizer in between you can pretty much copy anything you want.

However I will warn you that the video quality of old VHS tapes is so lousy on a modern Hi Def set that you probably won't want to bother with copying it. I ended up giving away all my old VHS tapes years ago and simply replaced my favorite titles with DVD originals.

Hopefully this answers all of your questions.


Dayton, OH

I appreciate your time and answers. Thanks.

I'd already read that just going from one machine to another wouldn't work on copy protected stuff, but had not read that about the USB device. A bit remiss not to have mentioned that.

The one good news is that some of what I have is not copy protected stuff, like personal things. Some of the rest I've slowly been replacing with DVDs anyway, and I suspect my VCR will hold out long enough until I do - fortunately I don't have a ton and I got most cheap at garage sales and such.

Thanks again for your help!

... of ideas
Ottawa, ON
reply to spectre1000

said by spectre1000:

What I DO need is something for over-the-air antenna - I do not have a subscription TV service. (Hence, no box.) I would like HD since some local stations are HD but that isn't the priority. I need the digital tuner, which is actually my main priority. It will be hooked to the HDTV. I cannot involve a computer in any way


Full HD 1080p Dual Tuner Digital HDTV Recorder, Receiver and Media Center Box $209 and often on sale.

You can connect two separate antennas or one antenna and one cable. It will scan all available channels for each input. External DVR storage via USB port.