Basic DVR without renting from comcast, and not using a pc I subscribe to basic comcast cable services. The only need I have to record anything coming over the cable wire is during football season, once a week. I don't want to rent a special recording box from comcast for that. I know I could set up a pc with a tv tuner card and record that way, but would prefer not to take that route.
What I'd really like is to buy a unit that is functionally identical with my vcr recording units. Tell it what time to start recording, what channel, etc.
There are many exotic things one can do with devices attached to the tv/cable/network, but I just want this simple functionality. It's really difficult to tell from all the blurbs about products which might do what I want, because they're so focused on the exotic stuff.
Can someone ID a simple path forward for this very basic need, which would have been so easy to solve ten years ago?
Final note, if there was a unit like this that came with a keyboard and touchpad that would be helpful when using the tv as a browser. I have a samsung flat panel, it's very nice, but the keyboard that samsung makes for it is expensive and ONLY works with the browser.
try a a clear QAM tv tuner card
As I mentioned, I prefer not to involve a pc. That's so much more complicated than an old school vcr. Aren't there any devices like that available?
reply to uniquehandle
You don't have much choice. If it's something like ESPN or other non-basic channel, then it's almost certainly encrypted digitally and probably not available in analog. Your only choice for those is to get a cheap DTA (typically $1.99 unless you have basic service) and tune it first, and connect it to some DVD recorder or old VCR.
If it's a broadcast recording, you may be able to record it digitally via ClearQAM (but not for much longer.) I think there are DVD recorders with digital tuners. Be sure they support QAM if you want to record directly from cable. If you can pick up the signal with an antenna, then you can try that too, and it's really free.
I don't know how many recorders will support HD recording. Beyond ClearQAM or antenna, recording HD with an external device is useless. You would have to have a full box (no HD DTA's yet), and the digital outputs are often set with non-record flags.
Thanks Andy, that input is helpful, though not really good news.
The only shows that I'm interested in recording are the local football games, which are normally on basic comcast, and also broadcast channels (ie I could get it via antenna).
What I'm doing right now is putting my old vcr in between the cable from comcast and the tv. I have to set the tv to antenna to be able to watch anything, if I leave it on cable, nothing.
I'm not sure what a DTA really does. I do have only basic comcast. I recently got a dta for free from comcast. It has not been connected. It was supposed to help with a change they are making to the signal they send. I had thought that the change was to take place by now, but have not needed to introduce the box to my tv. Maybe my tv doesn't need the box, I don't know.
I do have an antenna which isn't currently in use. If I tie it in to the vcr, maybe that would be the simplest. I think that then the tv can get it's input from either cable or the antenna/vcr, via a switch on the antenna (if I remember correctly).
There are so many things you mentioned which I don't understand. ClearQAM, which seems to be going away or something, a "full box", "recording with an external device is useless", those things I don't really understand. But you can't catch me up on all of the things I am clueless about in a couple of paragraphs. Maybe the antenna thing will provide an adequate fix for the immediate period.
Is your tv an older analog set or a modern digital one? In order to use the vcr to record off air you need a dta converter with your older tv set as off air went all digital in 2009. There are non subsciption dvrs for off air use that run around 300 one time. Comcast is going all digital in most areas and you will need the dta from Comcast to get any signal on an older non digital set. You would need the dta on a digital set if comcast has stoped clear qam non encripted broadcasts.
I have a new 46" samsung smart tv. I have a dtr, but it's not hooked up and at least so far it has not been needed for viewing comcast cable or netflix (the main things I watch).
Can someone point me to a couple of dvrs that will work going forward? The $300 variety, whatever. Why would they cost so much? I don't understand why it's become so incredibly difficult to do something very simple like record a tv show.
reply to uniquehandle
I did only skim the thread, so if you mentioned this already, my apologies. But what about a Tivo? You do have to pay for the Tivo service, but it sounds like what you want, and you can find an older one or refurbished on pretty cheaply.
If a tivo can record what comcast is sending over the wire, it would do the job. I've never used one. I would not need to subscribe to a tivo service?
You WOULD have to pay for Tivo monthly or lifetiime. Monthly is about 12/mo. I'm not sure about whether you would need a DTA or Cable card to record. It depends on whether or not your area is all digital and which Tivo you get. So you might be as well served to just rent a DVR from Comcast . I have a Tivo Premier myself, and I prefer it over Comcast's box. But they each have pluses and minuses.
Thanks again for the reply. Because my needs are so light I think I might just stick to vcr recording from antenna for now. Later it might be possible for me to hook up a little pc with a card that allows me to record to disk.
Or, hmm, maybe I could get an external tv card/box, and record with my notebook?
reply to uniquehandle
There are cheaper versions of this unit, smaller drive though.
Thanks rendrenner. Is that kind of unit going to ok, technology-wise, for the foreseeable future? What I mean is, there are standards like clear-qamm or whatever it is, that seem to be in flux...I don't want to buy a unit like that if it's going to be useless in a year. I just know that I don't really know this subject area very well, and that there are 'hazards' out there.
It does have a digital tuner, Im assuming its only clear QAM since it doesnt have any type of cable card slot. As long as you are not digital yet, then you can use it. Once your area goes all digital you are stuck. If you use a DTA, you are going to have to remember to set the channel ahead of time.
Depending on how all digital rolls out for you, you may be offered a DCT for free ( varies from area to area). All of the non DVR boxes in the motorola markets have a VCR record feature. You can set a record for a show and the box will turn on and tune to the selected channel. You'll just have to set the recording device to come on and off at the start time, and have it record whatever channel your box RF output is.
Complicated option, but it is one
If you want to record only one show, you can connect the VCR to the DTA (DTR) and record on the output channel of the DTA (3 or 4). This may be an option on the DTA. Leave the DTA on the cable channel that you want to record and set the VCR to record at the correct time.
The limitation with this is that you have to set the channel on the DTA before the recording starts so someone has to be there to change the channel if you want to record a second show on a different channel.
SA 8300 HD DVRs with Patched S25 Guide
'S25 Guide Blog' 'Schedule' 'Info' 'Patch Thread'
OK, thanks Russ, that sounds like a workable plan for now. I only record one thing a week max so timing is not an issue.
IowaCowboyWant to go back to IowaPremiumReviews:
reply to uniquehandle
My best advice is get a TiVo with a lifetime sub. May be expensive at first but cheaper than renting a DVR from Comcast as you'll be paying rent along with the DVR fee as Comcast does not include the box rent on basic cable.
I wish I still lived in Iowa; Everything there from rent and groceries to Cable TV is much cheaper in Iowa (especially with an overbuilder in town).
Wow, Tivo must love you. He only records 20 shows a year. Lets see a new tivo around 300.00 and 12 dollars a month. That only comes out to about 44.00 a recording for the first year.
reply to uniquehandle
You can purchase an older model tivo, such as a series2 on ebay for a few hundred dollars. Lifetime subscriptions are transferable with the unit, for no additional cost.
The tivo unit would connect to your cablebox using RCA jacks and would change the channels using a remote blaster.
I will look into the tivo then, if there is a way to determine if it comes with a lifetime sub (the seller would know, I guess).
But what I'm trying right now is recording to my notebook using a little usb device that has it's own antenna.
MSI DIGIVOX ATSC 8VSB/QAM Dongle DIGIVOX ATSC USB 2.0 Interface
I can play it back on the tv using a hdmi cable.
So far this little $40 unit has been good. The tiny remote does not seem to work, and the software it comes with might be worth replacing...but it is recording OTA just fine. More fuss than a dvr/tivo, but maybe good enough.