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  1. Member LouieChuckyMerry's Avatar
    Join Date: Jun 2010
    Location: Singapore
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    Happy New Year, and thanks in advance for any replies. I'm assisting my mother as she attempts to update her "home entertainment center" and was hoping for some informed help. Presently she has 3 TVs in her home, each with a VCR connected. Her setup is basic if a bit archaic: the cable signal (Time Warner) enters each VCR via coaxial cable then continues from the VCR to the TV via a second length of coaxial cable; there are no tuner boxes involved. It's her habit to record (frequently overlapping) shows on multiple VCRs then, transferring cassettes, view them at her leisure on the (biggest) TV in her living room. My plan is to replace the almost 20 year old living room TV with a new flat screen model and replace her 3 VCRs with (hopefully) a single DVR attached to the new TV. My research thus far has educated me but also left me rather confused. If I understand correctly I'd need to choose a DVR with multiple tuners in order for her to record one (or more) channels while watching yet another channel, one tuner for each channel being recorded and another tuner for the channel being watched. Her maximum would be recording two channels while watching a third, so I figure a DVR with three tuners is necessary (please correct me if I'm wrong). My main difficulty is finding a stand alone DVR capable of this that doesn't require a subscription. Is this even possible, to purchase a (contemporary) DVR that has multiple tuners and works as a modern VCR but only requires the cost of the initial purchase? If possible, then any reasonable suggestions are very welcome. Thanks again for your time .
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  2. Member
    Join Date: Aug 2006
    Location: United States
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    Time Warner Cable is one of the major providers in the USA. Since I haven't heard that they had operations anywhere else, I have to ask is your mother in the USA or in Singapore?

    If your mother lives in the USA there are currently no stand-alone DVRs with multiple tuners available for purchase with no monthly fees added that can be used for recording cable TV. The two sources for stand-alone DVRs with more than one tuner for recording cable TV are the cable provider or TiVo. The boxes from cable providers usually have two digital tuners. TiVo boxes are now also digital only and have two or four tuners, depending on the model.

    Both options require paying monthly fees, although with a TiVo the cost of the TiVo box itself is a separate purchase on top of the monthly fees for TiVo's guide service. The cable provider's DVR can only be rented (for a monthly fee). TiVos require a CableCARD, plus possibly a tuning adapter, both of which have to be obtained from the cable provider. Sometimes (not always) there is a small monthly fee required to rent the CableCARD and tuning adapter, if one is needed.
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  3. Member LouieChuckyMerry's Avatar
    Join Date: Jun 2010
    Location: Singapore
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    usually_quiet : thanks a bunch for your reply, and sorry for the confusion. My saint-like mother lives in the USA; I've been living in Singapore for the last too-long but am presently visiting her. After reading your reply it seems that I've two options: TiVo or find a VCR repairman . Thanks again for your help.
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  4. Member orsetto's Avatar
    Join Date: Oct 2007
    Location: NYC
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    Your mother has been living in a very fortunate bubble for the past few years, but even if you change absolutely nothing, that bubble was due to burst soon anyway due to changes in the cable industry..

    Time Warner Cable began phasing out the "no box, patch wire from wall to VCR and TV and be happy" connection a couple years ago in most cities. Most of the channels now require some sort of decoder for each TV in the home. Your mother may only be interested in the main broadcast networks: if so these may be available "boxless" for awhile longer, or abruptly discontinued. Special channels such as Asian news and soap operas will almost certainly require a decoder box soon. Time Warner Cable is itself on the verge of more changes: the company is for sale, and USA regulators have tacitly approved ComCast to merge with TWC. ComCast is the single most reviled, consumer-hostile cable service in North America, and was the first company to go 100% decoder box required for all customers. This does not bode well for TWC basic plan customers like your mother.

    What all this means is that the cheap alternatives to VCRs that did exist have already disappeared. If you (or your mother) are extremely budget-restricted, I would *strongly* advise you do NOT upgrade her televisions to new large flat screens. Leave everything as-is until you are forced to change by the cable company. Your mother might get away with her current boxless connection for 1, 2, or 3 more years: during that time she could put aside a few dollars each month toward the future purchase of a new, expensive recorder. If her VCRs are broken, don't bother with repair: people are giving away nice Panasonic VCRs on Craigs List for free, or at most $20 apiece. Just buy her as many as she needs.

    If you get large flat screens for your mother, the VCRs will look absolutely horrible when played on them. Flat screens and VHS are a bad bad marriage: flat screens do not like tapes at all. When playing VHS, there is a huge, huge drop in picture quality between the old tube TVs and the new flat screens. The flat screens are optimized for HDTV, period: this means using the built-in tuner with the cable wire and/or the cable company DVR. Nothing else is really usable, and if your mother is elderly she may not even have the patience for TiVO (my parents are 77, reasonably intelligent, yet refuse to watch anything but "live TV" unless I operate the PVR or TiVO for them: they find the interface far more confusing than their VCR).

    If you want to avoid monthly fees, you can make the large upfront investment in a new TiVO with the lifetime subscription option. The one-time cost is approx $600-$800 depending on which TiVO you choose and what promotion TiVO has available. The TiVOs all have at least three tuners built in, so your mother could record two channels while watching a third channel live. You could keep the TiVO with her main TV, it is also possible to run extender connections to TVs in other rooms. But again, bear in mind VCRs are vastly simpler to operate: at minimum your mother would need to be comfortable using a smartphone or tablet before you could even think of giving her a TiVO or TWC recorder. Everything is menu-driven, unlike a VCR which functions the same as an audio cassette deck from 1968.

    Good luck, hopefully your mother is very tech-savvy.
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  5. Keep in mind that the FCC has recently allowed cable systems to go all digital and mostly encrypted. Your mother's cable company could switch at any time. So you want a device with analog cable tuners now, and cablecard QAM tuners for the future.
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  6. Member
    Join Date: Aug 2006
    Location: United States
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    Originally Posted by jagabo View Post
    Keep in mind that the FCC has recently allowed cable systems to go all digital and mostly encrypted. Your mother's cable company could switch at any time. So you want a device with analog cable tuners now, and cablecard QAM tuners for the future.
    Make that "The FCC has recently allowed cable systems to go all digital and completely encrypted."

    Every channel in my Comcast package became encrypted in October of last year and the changeover has been completed in most if not all of their service areas at this point.
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  7. I hadn't heard about the Comcast/TW merger. Great, just what we need in the cable industry, less competition. Of course, there's really no competition now given they've carved out the country into government sanctioned cable franchise monopolies.
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  8. i wonder just how far does this jump extend. i mean, i am seeing a lot of comcast logos and offers all the time on directv now, just this past month, on channels nbc, pix, hub and other stations. i wonder if they are feeling the heat...possible merger, you know..direct-comcast or something. who knows.

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  9. Member
    Join Date: Aug 2006
    Location: United States
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    Originally Posted by vhelp View Post
    i wonder just how far does this jump extend. i mean, i am seeing a lot of comcast logos and offers all the time on directv now, just this past month, on channels nbc, pix, hub and other stations. i wonder if they are feeling the heat...possible merger, you know..direct-comcast or something. who knows.
    I don't think you have to worry about a DirectTV-Comcast merger just yet. Comcast owns NBC-Universal and various popular cable/satellite channels.
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  10. Member
    Join Date: Jul 2007
    Location: United States
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    Here's few options for your consideration:

    1) If Mom's comfortable with computers, you can buy / build her a HTPC with multiple tuners. Two would suffice since she could record two shows and watch a third as described.

    2) Get two (or three) DVRs. Easiest setup would be in the different rooms like the VCRs and Mom can 'sneakernet' the DVDs to the main room for viewing. Alternately, you could set them all up in the same room, but then you would probably have to get different manufacturers to prevent the remote operating both at once. You could run them through a video switch or though different inputs on the HDTV.

    3) Get a bunch of cheap VCRs for the inevitable future. Check our local Craigslist or thrift stores for free or really cheap <$20.00 vcrs. Stock up and change as needed. If Mom's using my beloved Beta format, she'll have to <*ugh*> switch to VHS.

    As for orsetto's warning about VHS quality on a HDTV, while it's true that any analog signal won't look its best on a new HDTV, it's still watchable especially since Mom's used to VHS quality. Tweak the input the recorder is on get the best quality from the source.

    Keep in mind that the majority of posters on this site are picky about what they're viewing. I got my Mom a bigger HDTV (went from 32" to 42") mainly because shes used to "watching short and fat or tall and skinny people" on her HDTV. I've avoided showing her the Aspect Ratio / Zoom buttons on her remote because it would only cause more problems when she switches channels. So she watches everything in either 4:3 or windowboxed 16:9. But hey...at least it's a bigger picture!
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  11. What sort of content is she recording where she needs 3 tuners all at once, primetime? Isn't everything available on streaming sites? Just thinking outside the box...
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  12. Member
    Join Date: Aug 2006
    Location: United States
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    Originally Posted by lingyi View Post
    2) Get two (or three) DVRs. Easiest setup would be in the different rooms like the VCRs and Mom can 'sneakernet' the DVDs to the main room for viewing. Alternately, you could set them all up in the same room, but then you would probably have to get different manufacturers to prevent the remote operating both at once. You could run them through a video switch or though different inputs on the HDTV.
    You mean three DVD recorders? Like VHS, that solution will only work until TWC gets rid of all analog and unencrypted digital channels. At that point the OP's mother will need to obtain a cable box for each one to provide a signal to record, and will have to handle channel changes herself. A TiVo with a lifetime subscription would probably be easier to operate, plus depending on which DVD recorders were purchased, a TiVo might not cost much more and could cost less.
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  13. Member
    Join Date: Aug 2006
    Location: United States
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    Originally Posted by vaporeon800 View Post
    What sort of content is she recording where she needs 3 tuners all at once, primetime? Isn't everything available on streaming sites? Just thinking outside the box...
    Cable services may provide a lot of TV shows on demand for free via the cable box or streaming. My very elderly and computer illiterate mother handles a lot of time-shifting via the cable box's free on-demand offerings. I will admit it took her a couple of years to get to the point of understanding how to use the cable box menu system on her own.
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  14. You are a dutiful child, as far as I know, there is no independent DVR can purchase multiple tuners
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