If you’re still using a traditional VCR, now might be the time to step out of the 20th century. PVRs, DVRs and HTPCs are the new VCR, and if you aren’t currently using one, chances are you will very soon.
PVRs (Personal Video Recorders) and DVRs (Digital Video Recorders) are essentially the same thing â€“ a hard-drive based set-top unit designed to record television shows digitally. HTPCs (Home Theater PCs) are computers designed to interface with your television and stereo, allowing access to all of your media files â€“ and the ability to digitally record TV as well â€“ in the comfort of your favorite viewing area.
The company whose name has become synonymous with DVR technology is TiVo, and their first DVR products helped fuel one of the most rapid and enthusiastic adoption rates in the history of consumer electronics. But TiVo has faced stiff competition over the last few years, notably from the company that claims to have invented DVR technology in 1997, ReplayTV. Competition of late has come from two different sides: the cable companies who are offering their own DVR solutions, and home-built or pre-configured HTPCs.
With three different competing technologies, there are several factors you’ll want to consider before you make a decision. In this article we’ll discuss those factors, and try to determine what you should look for in a device to replace your VCR. We’ll categorize these devices into three groups: DVRs (ReplayTV and TiVo boxes); Cable Company DVRs (DVRs offered by your cable company); and HTPCs (any DVR-type device that is built from computer components).