Sunday, September 12, 2004

Tivo or Freevo?

I miss my Digital Video Recorder (DVR) functionality I had when I lived in Austin. Time Warner Cable (my former TX cable company) has a lot of cool technology that other companies like Adelphia (my CA cable company) just don't have yet. The digital cable box Time Warner provided had the capability to pause, rewind, fast forward, shedule recordings, etc. It was basically like a TIVO with different features and capabilites.

Adelphia just recently started offering a DVR, but like a TIVO it is a separate box unlike the digital cable box Time Warner Cable provided by Scientific Atlanta (8000 series). The Time Warner Cable box was able to act as the Digital Cable Receiver and the DVR which elminates the extra DVR box that Adelphia and TIVO require. It also was able to record 2 shows and watch a recorded show, which TIVO and the Adelphia boxes don't do.

Anyway, while researching my options I came accross is basically a community of people who share information on creating a Personal Video Recorder (PVR) using computers. Building a PVR can get expensive because it's basically a computer. But, the best thing about it is that you don't have to pay for a monthly fee, for programming guides, like you do when you get a DVR from TIVO or from the cable companies.

My dilemma was: Should I build a finicky, computer-based, PVR? Should I get the DVR from the cable company? Or should I just buy a TIVO?

My dilemma was: Should I build a finicky, computer-based, PVR? Should I get the DVR from the cable company? Or should I just buy a TIVO? Well, I decided to go with TIVO. Following, is why.

TIVO Costs:

Best Buy was offering a rebate, as was TIVO which means I could get an 80 hour TIVO for as little as $99. I thought it was cheap considering my other options.

Monthly Fees: The monthly programming service ( which includes some music and other features) is only $12.99/month, which isn't too bad, but I would have liked to do without this.


As mentioned before, if I built my own PVR, I could end up paying as much as I would for a new computer before all is said and done. But, lets just take the WINTV TV Tuner by Hauppauge that is commonly used for building these PVRs. The WINTV PVR350 retails for $200. Weighing the price I could get a TIVO at ($99) with the price of just the WINTV ($200), it was obvious the TIVO was a better choice.

Monthly Fees: None. You can set it up to get programming information from free services on the internet.

Adelphia DVR Costs:

I was never completely sure what their costs are. In fact, I don't even know if they have their DVRs available in my area yet. So, lets just say it was going to be about $5 for the DVR, and then $15 for the service. Per month, it would cost $20 which is more than TIVO charges, but the advantage of this is that no equipment has to be purchased.

At $20/month I could afford a TIVO DVR for $99 including the TIVO $12.99 monthly fee in about 14 months. After that point, I would end up paying more to Adelphia for the service alone. In other words, the $20/month I would be paying to Adelphia would be enough to pay for a TIVO in 14 months. I decided to go for the TIVO.

Monthly Fees: Approximately $20/month.

Now, the features on each of these systems also weighed heavily in my decision. Following are the features and some pros/cons that ran through my mind.

TIVO Features - Pros/Cons:

  • leader in the DVR industry

  • teaming up with NETFLIX for possible On-Demand features in the future

  • stable software

  • TIVO suggestions (shows TIVO records based on your viewing preferences)

  • streams MP3s and Photos off a network

  • monthly fee

  • cost of buying the equipment

  • cannot extract video (can't transfer video to the network)

BYOPVR Features - Pros/Cons:

  • No Monthly Fee!!

  • can burn DVDs or extract video to a network

  • can run anything a computer can (mp3s, videos, etc.)

  • easily upgrade Hard Drives or add them for more hours of recording

  • unstable software

  • unstable hardware

  • depending on the computer, might not work

  • too many unknowns about whether it will run properly

Adelphia DVR - Pros/Cons:

  • no equipment costs

  • pay for cable service and DVR service from ONE company

  • might not be available in the area

  • costs might not be efficient

  • no network options (mp3 streaming, photos, etc.)

  • cable company DVRs don't offer as many features as TIVO (ie. Tivo Suggestions)

After taking into consideration the prices and features, I thought I'd just go with the TIVO. For $99, stability, and its features, the TIVO is worth the additional $12.99/month.

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