You just don’t have the time to stick to the schedule television networks might want you to and in 2020, there is absolutely no reason to. While there might be occasional problems with streaming and you want to keep with your cable plan when it comes to your daily watching, you also want to have control of when you can rest and enjoy your favorite programs. This is where a DVR comes in.
While they don’t get as much press as they used to, being that they’re not the hot new thing, they continue to improve in spades every year and deserve your attention.
There are many on the market, and unless you’re an expert or have been looking for a long time, it’s hard to tell them apart, how to best get one, or what one is best for your on-demand programming needs.
Here in this article, we’ll be looking into the top DVR options you have and discuss what you should look for when getting one.
What to Consider When Getting a DVR:
Everyone will have different needs when deciding on a DVR. You should know if any specific factors are important and you will weigh them differently from everyone else. That’s ok, and we encourage you to make a list of priorities based on what you read below to help you make your final decision later.
Cost: This may seem obvious, but the cost of a DVR is certainly important to most people. Yet, in addition to the cost, you should know that sometimes a DVR also has a monthly service fee in lieu of or even in addition to the cost of the device itself. This can easily add up to the cost of the device itself after a year, so your budget should have an even greater sway over your DVR selection.
Whole-Home Solutions: Do you expect to use the DVR only with one TV, or would you like the entire house (assuming multiple TVs throughout) to have access to DVR services? There are whole-home options and they are not difficult to install or operate, but you should determine what you want in this case before you buy your system.
4K Recording Capability: Not every DVR on the market can record in 4K, even if the
broadcast is in 4k. Naturally, if you don’t have a 4K TV, then this point is effectively moot, and you should consider other factors first.
Memory: The needs of memory are straightforward, and the more, the better. And as more programming is broadcast at HD (almost the standard at this point) and 4k resolution, you’re going to need a lot of it in order to have a collection of programming to enjoy if you’re busy for a few weeks. You might find the memory listed in either GB or TB, but perhaps more often you’ll see it as the number of hours of HD content it can hold.
Simultaneous Recording Capability: What happens when you want to watch a few programs but they’re all on at the same time? You can’t multitask, but a DVR can. The top products can record over a dozen programs simultaneously, but you likely won’t need so many. Consider the size of your family and if all of your favorites compete in the same few timeslots. Realistically, as long as there are a few slots, you shouldn’t worry about this too much.
User Interface: This can be a tricky thing to review before purchase, but if you can get a hint as to how the UI would operate and whether it matches your preferences, you’d be doing yourself a favor. Watching a few videos or getting a test run, if possible, can work wonders.
Device Connectivity: Do you want to be able to watch programs recorded on your DVR on your smartphone or tablet? That’s certainly possible, all you need to do is make sure that’s an available option with your selection. It’s a great way to get many of the advantages of streaming with all the advantages of your cable plan.
Additional Features and Conveniences: Sometimes voice controls are nice, and other options such as a remote finder button or auto-skipping commercials can be wonderful if you want to make life easier for yourself when watching TV. These little things are hard to quantify, and someone’s idea of convenience can be a hassle for someone else, but ultimately, if you’re already interested in a DVR, see what features, bells, and whistles it has to offer. Those might be the tipping point one way or the other.
There may be other considerations, and new technologies may change the landscape, so always take a quick look to see how devices are changing and improving.
The 4 Best DVRs
Instead of just picking out the best five overall DVRs or the most technologically advanced, we decided to take a “best in class” approach, considering the different types of interested parties might be looking for one. Consider the categories and recommendations below, and then look into the details of the device that we think would serve you and your family best.
Best All-Around DVR: TiVo Bolt+
If you want one of the most modern DVRs available, with all of the tools and features, and are ok with paying something of a premium for it all, then the TiVo Bolt+ should be the first item on your list. You’ll need to get the box separately, and it can get expensive. You will need to get a service contract with TiVo for either a lifetime plan ($550), a monthly plan of about $15 a month, or a yearly plan of $150.
There are other options from TiVo that we could and do recommend, but the Bolt+ simply reaches the next level in terms of hardware and allows for a bit more versatility in its recording with its extra tuners and storage space. Modern DVRs aren’t just about their original purpose anymore; they have become all-in-one entertainment centers in their own right. Just make sure you can afford it.
Main points and features:
Best Simple DVR: Contour Record 6 HD-DVR
Do you just want a DVR for the occasional show? Do you want a simple option, knowing you won’t use or won’t understand the more advanced features that in all honesty, most people don’t use? If any of these things are the case, then you might want to consider looking at the Contour Record 6 first, because it is an excellent yet simple DVR. One generally gets the DVR with services from Cox as part of several of your TV packages, so Cox users will want to check this out first before moving onto TiVo or another brand.
Notably, this category does exclude the simple OTA DVRs (of which there are many) which would be cheaper and simpler but aren’t able to work with your cable subscription, severely limiting their use to you.
If you’re looking for a cheaper option from Cox, then you might want to investigate the Contour Record 2 HD-DVR. It is mostly the same as the Contour Record 6, except with less storage space and it can only record two programs at once.
Main points and features:
Best DVR Included with Your Cable Subscription: Genie DVR HR54
Many of the DVRs people have are provided to them by their cable company as part of a subscription, or with the functionality included as part of the cable box. This could be an important factor for anyone hoping to decide which cable company to sign up with.
We would like to highlight the Genie DVR HR54 for being the best-included option we could find among the major providers. Alternatively, the Genie DVR HR44 is nearly as good, except with no Ultra HD compatibility and the HR54 is more energy efficient. There is also the Genie 2 that’s currently available, but we currently can’t say it’s reliable enough to recommend.
Main points and features:
Best DVR for Sports and Events: Xfinity X1 DVR
If you want a DVR to only records special events and sports, as opposed to the usual shows you might not have time for, then it might be best for you to find a DVR that can provide you with the best possible viewing experience to match what you’ve set up your living room for.
And while we think the Genie DVR HR54 can provide users with an excellent sports viewing experience to the degree that we think any DIRECTV customer will be satisfied on that level, not everyone is a subscriber to the service or interested in it. Another top choice is needed. For them, we recommend the Xfinity X1 provided by Comcast.
Overall, it is a cheaper service per month ($9.99) than the other added cost services, although it still is a bit more than the DVR options that are included in service plans. You also might get one of several different boxes depending on your area and available stock, but you can rest easy that functionality is effectively the same between all three.
An important distinction is that there are X1 boxes that do have DVR and that do not have DVR. Make sure you get one of the correct options.
Main points and features:
Over just the last couple of decades, DVR technology has progressed to the point where it is nearly unrecognizable from when it first came to market. We think that one of the selections listed above can be perfect for you, whether you’re looking for an upgrade or are getting a DVR for the first time. Take your time, explore your options, and enjoy an investment that will serve you and your household for years to come.