DVRs are the way to go! Removing letterboxing from DVD movies

Week of January 9, 2005

Q: I currently use Comcast digital cable and want a DVR hard disc recorder. I’m only interested in the hard disc recording function, so I do not want a DVR-DVD burner combo unit.  What are the differences between TiVo and other DVR models?  If I buy a DVR, is it mandatory to subscribe to a pay service, for example TiVo’s $12.95 per month subscription fee? What do you think I should buy?

-Jerry Brown, (address coming soon)

A: You are in for a real treat! Once you have had a DVR (Digital Video Recorder), you will never go back.

To answer your question directly, I do not think you should buy a DVR at all.  You can rent one from your cable or satellite provider and pay a small monthly fee for both the DVR and the service subscription.  We will revisit this after we introduce readers to the DVR.

A DVR records television programming on a computer hard drive rather than video tapes or DVD discs.  Current DVR models can record and store between 40 and 250 hours of programming.

Programming is done by selecting shows on an on-screen TV schedule.  You can also perform searches by name. On a difficulty scale of 1-10, programming a DVR is a 1 and programming a VCR is a 10.  When recording becomes so easy, you will never miss a favorite show again, ever.

Recorded shows are selected with a cursor, then you press play to view.  If you want to archive a program, you can transfer it from the DVR to a VHS tape or a DVD burner, then erase the program on the hard disc.

There are also benefits while watching live TV.  The DVR continually records as you watch and stores the past hour so you can rewind and rewatch.  You can also pause the show if the phone rings or you want to go get a snack.

I have Dish Network DVRs on each of my TVs at home and it is amazing how DVRs alter your view of the broadcast world.  I can’t tell you home many times I have listened to talk radio in the car and found my fingers looking for the rewind button, only to remember, “Darn- that does not work everywhere!”

Next- why do I recommend you get one from your cable or satellite company rather than buy one?

Two big reasons- convenience and cost.  There is no need to buy hardware.  Just call your satellite or cable company and you are hooked up quickly.  If something goes wrong with the unit, they will replace it, and as new models come out you can upgrade with no hardware costs.

The price is also very low.  You can get a DVR for prices between $5.95 per month (Dish Network Home Advantage) to $9.95 per month (Comcast digital cable).

As for TiVo, it is the Rolls Royce of the industry, with a diehard fan base.  TiVo offers program search features that no other DVR has, but at a cost of $12.95 per month to subscribe, plus the purchase of the DVR.  Great for diehard TV buffs, but most of the public just wants a simple and easy way to enjoy a DVR- and your cable or satellite company has that for you.

Anyone else thinking about a DVR?  Call your service provider and get going already!  You’ll love it.

Q: Is there a way to watch widescreen DVDs in fullscreen?  I do not have a widescreen TV and do not like the black bars.
-Scott Hersh, Upper St. Clair, PA

A: If your DVD player has a zoom button on the remote, pushing it will fill the screen.  You will lose a little of the left and right of the widescreen image. Try it and see what you like better.

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