Digital Video Recorders

A digital video recorder (DVR) is a device that is used to record video to a digital storage medium such as a hard drive or a Digital Video Disc (DVD). In recent years, DVRs have become widely used for recording television programs. Several companies offer DVRs, often in conjunction with cable or satellite television programming. DVRs offer the option of pausing live television broadcasts as well as storing television programs for later viewing. They also allow access to programming guides.

Digital Video Recorder System Outputs

A DVR unit interfaces with the existing home video playback system, so it is important to select one that is compatible with the outputs available on the system. The vast majority of television sets contain RF output, the oldest and lowest-quality video signal. A component video output offers the highest signal quality, but is usually a feature available only on higher-end television sets. Other output options are composite and S-Video.

Other Factors to Consider When Buying a Digital Video Recorder

Other than output compatibility, a few other features one may wish to consider before purchasing a digital video recorder include:

  • The size of the DVR's hard drive. The hard drive is the data storage portion of the DVR. Storage is measured in units called gigabytes (GB). As a general rule, one GB of storage will enable the storage of one hour of television at VHS quality. Television is higher resolution than VHS, however, so a higher storage capacity will allow for storage of more material at higher resolution.

  • Compatibility of DVR with HDTV programming. HDTV is currently the highest standard for broadcast quality. To use such a system, a HDTV compatible monitor is required.

  • Dual tuners. The dual tuner enables the user to watch live programming while recording programming from another station.

Alternate Storage Solution - DVDs

Some DVR units have an integrated hard drive as well as a DVD recorder. A DVD is a removable storage medium which offers more flexibility and overall storage. DVD recorders can be purchased separately and connected to some DVR devices, but an integrated unit is generally more flexible because it can be controlled with the same remote control, and it avoids the need for another set of wiring. Furthermore, combination units contain "smart" features that will automatically switch to recording on the hard drive once the DVD's capacity is full.

Digital Video Recorder: Programming Guides

Programming guides are subscription services that offer useful features for DVR usage. In addition to displaying all of the programs available at a certain time, most of the programming guides feature a search function as well as the ability to program the DVR to record all of the episodes of a particular season.