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Build your own DVR for less than $100 E-mail
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 We can almost guarantee that once you use a DVR, short for Digital Video Recorder, you will never want to go back to the way you previously viewed television. A DVR, or a PVR (personal video recorder), offers many liberating features such as the ability to pause and rewind live programs to name just one of many features. A simple feature with addictive qualities. Once you've gotten used to using it, you're probably hooked for life.

Building your own DVR is relatively simple and saves you the recurring subscription charged by your local service provider plus the additional rental fee that's typically charged for the unit itself. The cost of building your own is recouped in less than a year.

You need the following three things to build your own DVR:

  • a PC with a large hard disk
  • a TV Tuner card
  • DVR software.

The TV Tuner Card
This is simply a card with a built-in Television tuner. The card is typically installed in a PCI slot of a desktop computer or connected via a USB. There are several card options including the Hauppauge WinTV-PVR150, Diamond XtremeTV PVR55 and the ATI TV Wonder Elite. The Haupage WinTV-PVR150, pictured in this article, sells anywhere from $75-$99. We have actually seen it advertised as low as $69. It contains a single standard-definition TV tuner and MPEG-2 encoder and features a TV coaxial port, S-Video and composite-video ports, an audio input, and an IR port.

Other more expensive options include the addition of FM tuners for radio capabilities as well as dual tuners. The Hauppauge PVR-150/250 MCE or PVR-350 provides radio capabilities and the PVR-500 for dual tuners. The Hauppauge PCI cards does the video encoding on the card leaving the CPU free to handle other processing.

The DVR Software
 There are many software options from free to inexpensive. The software provides the various features, so it pays to review the features and not just look at the price.

Free options include MythTV and Freevo which both run on Linux, GB-PVR is also free and runs on the Windows operating system. MythTV is very powerful and feature rich, but is probably not the best choice for the average home user who will probably be using a windows based PC.

For the typical home user, we think a commercial package is probably the better way to go because of the support options. Some products in this category are SageTV Media Center, which is available for both Linux and Windows and costs about $79, and SnapStream's BeyondTV that runs on the Windows operating system and costs about $69.99.

The SageTV Media Center allows you to watch and pause live TV,
transfer your favorite recorded shows to your laptop or video iPod, record a whole season of shows and more, and best of al,l there are no subscription fees. Some features of SnapStream's BeyondTV (taken from its website) include the ability to skip commercials and other parts of TV shows, search for shows on actor, director, or title and program conflict resolution.

We hope you found this article useful. Our intent here at HomeTrix is to tease your imagination, by suggesting ideas and providing the foundation to build on that idea. What we presented in this article is just a beginning of the possibilities. We hope you'll be able to use this and improve on it and please share your experience here.

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