Three best DVRs

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tech-spanfeller
BestReviews

Some DVRs allow you to attach another DVR or an external hard drive, so you can increase your storage capacity.

A few decades ago, the idea that a machine could record, pause, and rewind live TV digitally seemed novel and futuristic. Now DVRs are commonplace, and there are dozens of models for you to choose from. With so many options and technology advancing all the time, it can be difficult to know which DVRs are worth the investment. Here's a quick guide to walk you through the most important factors to consider when choosing a DVR, including our top picks for the best models on the market.

Considerations when choosing DVRs

If you have a satellite or cable TV subscription, you'll probably have your choice between a provider or third-party DVR. The advantage of going with the DVR available through your cable company is that you know it will be compatible with your system, whereas some third-party DVRs will not be. Some provider DVRs are also integrated with your cable box, so you won't need to find room for a separate DVR. However, you will have to pay a monthly subscription fee to lease the DVR.

With a third-party DVR, you pay a higher upfront cost to buy the unit outright. If you are going to go this route, make sure you choose a model that's compatible with your existing TV service. You may also want to investigate the manufacturer's customer service, as you won't be able to contact your cable company if you have problems with a third-party DVR.

Features

There are a few other things you need to think about when choosing a DVR.

Hard drive size

The larger the hard drive, the more hours of video the DVR can store. However, larger hard drives are also more expensive.

Simultaneous recording

Most DVRs can record two live shows at once, but some can record up to eight shows at once.

User interface

The user interface should be clean and easy to navigate, so you can quickly find the program you're looking for.

Integration with streaming services

Some DVRs let you access streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime directly from the DVR itself. However, few DVRs enable you to actually record streaming content.

Remote access

Some DVRs give you the freedom to set recordings or view live shows from a mobile app or your computer.

FAQ

Q. Do I need a cable or satellite subscription to use a DVR?

A. While there are some third-party DVRs that work with over-the-air programming and internet streaming services, in most cases, you will need to have a TV subscription of some type in order to record programs.

Q. Will my DVR record every episode of a show?

A. That depends on how you have it set up. It can record every episode if you want it to. Or you can choose to just have it record new episodes or repeat episodes. When you set a new recording, the DVR should ask you which episodes you want to record.

DVRs we recommend

Best of the best: TiVo Roamio DVR 

Our take: Consider this model if you're looking to make an investment in a feature-rich DVR with a lot of storage space.

What we like: This DVR comes with 1,000 GB of storage and can record up to 150 hours of HD programming and four shows at once. Customers love that it integrates with Netflix, Hulu, and other online streaming sites and has a SkipMode feature that enables you to skip over commercials with the press of a button.

What we dislike: The setup is challenging for some, and the unit may be a little too expensive if your budget is tight.

Best bang for your buck: Tablo 4-Tuner DVR 

Our take: This is a great choice if you're looking for a single DVR that works for your whole home with no subscription required.

What we like: This whole-house DVR enables you to record four live shows on up to six devices at once. You can manage recordings and control your DVR from your phone or computer, and if you pay extra for a subscription, you can watch live TV shows even when you're not at home.

What we dislike: Users have complained of lagging and syncing when accessing their DVR recordings.

Choice 3: AVerMedia EZRecorder DVR 

Our take: This model is worth considering if you're looking for a subscription-free DVR on a budget, but you will have to spend a little extra to buy a hard drive for it.

What we like: This compact DVR won't take up a lot of room on your TV shelf and is simple to use once you get it set up. It enables you to save your recordings as JPEGs or MP4s, so you can access them later on your computer.

What we dislike: It does not come with a hard drive, so you must purchase one separately. However, this does let you choose how much storage space you'd like.

Kailey Fralick is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

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