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Tech Tip: Comparing Digital Video Recorders

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TiVo, left, and most major cable companies, including Time Warner Cable, right, have smartphone apps to manage your recorder.

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The New York Times

Q. What are the pros and cons of getting a TiVo digital video recorder for the television instead of using the hardware pushed by my cable company?

A. TiVo, which has been making digital video recorders since 1999, has created several models through the years that use its electronic programming guide and a powerful remote control to time-shift television programs. Cable companies began to offer their own DVR boxes not long after, but TiVo recorders have often been more versatile and have been the first to include features like commercial-skipping, upgradable hard drives, multiple tuners (for recording more than one show at a time), integrated online streaming-video services — and at one point, the ability to order pizza from the television screen.

TiVo’s current models include the TiVo Bolt, which claims to replace your cable box entirely. The TiVo Bolt can record 4K video and stream shows to mobile devices. It comes with Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go and other streaming services built in. The TiVo Roamio OTA 1 also includes popular streaming services, but it does not require a cable subscription and it can record over-the-air broadcasts. The TiVo Roamio Pro DVR can record from cable or Fios television service, includes web apps for YouTube and other video sources, and can use Netflix and other streaming services.

Most cable companies add DVR hardware and service to your monthly bill. Some providers now offer cloud storage and internet apps on their recorders, and some even offer TiVo models as recorder options. Depending on your provider, your selection of models and services will vary but maintenance and replacement hardware should be covered.

TiVo recorders are typically purchased upfront and then require a monthly subscription fee of about $15 for the TiVo service. Prices vary based on the model and capacity, but a TiVo Bolt with a 500-gigabyte hard drive (for 75 hours of high-definition recording) starts at about $200. Since it is not a product sold by your cable provider, you may have to install the TiVo and track down additional hardware, such as a CableCard.

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