Where can I get a generic no-subscrption DVR?

Discussion in 'TiVo Coffee House - TiVo Discussion' started by Ben321, Jan 2, 2012.

  1. Jan 2, 2012 #1 of 43

    Ben321 New Member

    Aug 7, 2011


    I keep hearing about TIVO being so great. In fact TIVO has so much become synonymous with DVR I'm not even sure if there are other brands that still exist (lost customers to TIVO maybe?). So I picked up this used TIVO Series-2 down at Goodwill for only $13, BUT I find it's got a problem. The problem is while TIVO does have features that aren't part of what I would think of a normal DVR as being capable of (TV guide, recommended shows, etc) it doesn't even provide BASIC DVR service when operating under free mode! I would think paying unlocked the "extra" features, though while operating in "free" mode it would still have the normal DVR features (basically behaving as an ordinary VCR, except it's digital recording to a HDD instead of analog recording to a tape). However this is NOT the case! ALL DVR FEATURES ARE DISABLED when operating in free mode. This is worst business practice EVER. Best way to turn off customers. I certainly will NOT be paying money to such a greedy company.

    Even worse, I don't even know if there ARE any "generic DVR" brands that simply behave as digital VCRs for recording what you want whenever you want with no restrictions or subscriptions. I used to hear about DVRs, but then TIVO came along and I just hear about TIVO and not about DVRs. So I'm guessing everyone went with the TIVO "fad", and the other DVR companies went bankrupt.

    So I'm stuck trying to figure out how to find a "generic DVR", or how to hack a my used TIVO Series-2 box to give me generic DVR functionality!

  2. Jan 2, 2012 #2 of 43

    wizbang_fl Smile and Wave Boys, Smile and Wave

    Jan 2, 2012
    Sorry, but the Tivo Service is how you get the program information. Tivo updates load program information and operating software. Always has been this way. I had a generic DVR for my Computer a few years ago and after 1 year it also had a subscription requirement to get additional updates.

    I think some people have adjusted their Tivo's to allow for customization, but don't know how useful it made the box without the service. Personally, when I obtained my Tivo 4 years ago I got a lifetime subscription with it.
  3. Jan 2, 2012 #3 of 43

    ggieseke Well-Known Member

    May 30, 2008
    You're not going to get any help here. What you want to do by hacking it to run as a dumb VCR is theft of service, which is a forbidden topic.

    TiVo has always sold the boxes at a loss. What you pay for by subscribing(in addition to guide data) is the right to use their software at all. That's their business model and no amount of complaining will change it.
  4. Jan 2, 2012 #4 of 43

    mr.unnatural Well-Known Member

    Feb 2, 2006
    If you're running Windows 7 on your PC then all you need is a tuner card to have a "generic" DVR with no fees attached. Windows Media Center comes with every version of Windows 7 except Home Basic. It includes DVR software that allows you to record shows just like a Tivo. Install a tuner card and drivers and then run through Media Center setup. It will download the program guide based on your zip code and the type of service you're using (i.e., OTA or digital cable).

    With a cablecard tuner you can even record encrypted cable channels from digital cable or FIOS. The channel's you can record depend on what you're subscribed to, of course. If you just want to record OTA channels then all you need is an antenna. I've got a WMC PC that I use with twelve tuners (eight cablecard and four ATSC). My S3 Tivo with lifetime has been retired for use strictly as a digital tuner for a 42" LCD monitor.

    Did I mention that a WMC PC has virtually all the same capabilities as a Tivo and then some? I use it for 1080p Blu-Ray playback with full HD audio and it works great.
  5. Jan 2, 2012 #5 of 43

    jpcamaro70 Member

    Nov 23, 2011


    "The worst business pratice ever"

    Not by a long shot. As a cable customer, before i bought the tivo, I was paying 10.95 per month for the box and 6.95 for dvr service.

    As a Directv customer i am paying 6.00 per box per month plus a 7.00 per month dvr service.

    As a tivo customer, I own the box and pay 20.00 per month. not cheap, but not outrageous. They aren't doing anything wrong, when you have a good product you are allowed to charge more for it.
  6. Jan 2, 2012 #6 of 43

    lafos Well-Known Member

    Nov 7, 2004
    Sioux Falls, SD
    There were a few TiVo models that came with "free" TiVo basic service. These could have three days of guide data but no season passes or other features. You can usually find them on ebay or craigslist. They were made by Pioneer or Toshiba. See the forum labeled DVD TiVo for more.

    You may also find some VCR's out there somewhere. I have one, but the newspaper doesn't publish VCR+ data any more. I have it to play some old movies that have not yet made it to DVD, or to convert old home movies for the family to digital.

    A brand new TiVo Premiere with lifetime service is $500 if you don't own any TiVos with service. That gets away from the monthly charges, unless you need a cablecard, and competes with the low end of HTPCs on cost.
  7. Jan 2, 2012 #7 of 43

    shwru980r Well-Known Member

    Jun 22, 2008
    Expecting to pay $13 for a fully functional DVR is unrealistic. The power supply and hard drive are worth more than $13 if sold individually.

    You can find a used series 2 with lifetime service on line for around $100 and keep the goodwill tivo for spare parts.
  8. Jan 2, 2012 #8 of 43

    dianebrat wait.. I did what? TCF Club

    Jul 6, 2002
    The Sony DHG-HDD250 and HDD500 are the product you're looking for, but they weren't very good, but they meet 100% of your needs and take a CableCARD.

    A Tivo is not what you want since as others have said, it is the SERVICE that makes it work, not the hardware. It's like buying a cellphone and then being surprised that you need to buy service to make calls.
  9. Jan 2, 2012 #9 of 43

    Adam1115 Well-Known Member TCF Club

    Dec 15, 2003
    Denver ish
    The problem is, DVRs are sort of like cell phones. If they had to charge enough money to make a profit on the hardware (without a subscription), nobody would buy them. So TiVo takes a loss on the hardware with the intention of making it up on monthly subscriptions.
  10. sieglinde

    sieglinde Active Member

    Aug 11, 2002
    Sebastopol, CA
    Never even thought about it since I have two Tivos and if Tivo goes away, I can get one for a monthly fee from my cable company but I have never seen a DVR for sale at Wal-Mart like they sell DVD players etc.
  11. ncted

    ncted A leaf on the wind

    May 13, 2007
    Durham, NC
    If you just want VCR-like functionality, there are a couple of options from Channel Master, assuming you just want OTA recording.


  12. slydog75

    slydog75 Not all that sly

    Jul 8, 2004
    Warminster, PA
    IMO, using it as a VCR with timed recordings (no program data) shouldn't be considered theft of service. But really, who wants to manually program all their shows in based on the air time?
  13. Adam1115

    Adam1115 Well-Known Member TCF Club

    Dec 15, 2003
    Denver ish
  14. Beryl

    Beryl Well-Known Member TCF Club

    Feb 22, 2009
    Another option:

    It is not as accurate, reliable, and full-featured as a Tivo but it may work for you. It records shows and also by-passes some copyright restrictions. It also provides placeshifting (like a Slingplayer).

    A 32GB SD card holds a surprisingly large number of recordings (SD only) in my Platinum (discontinued model) Vulkano.
  15. replaytv

    replaytv gun talk ignore list

    Feb 20, 2011
    Denver ish...
    well said!
    Course, that is easy for us to say that have lifetime Tivos that we don't have to pay any fees.
    Hmmm... that gives me an idea. What about a lifetime cell phone?
  16. steve771

    steve771 Member

    Dec 29, 2011
    Las Vegas
    Do yourself a favor and stay away from the Channel Master 7400. I had a 7000 and it worked well for what it was. It was basically a timer based DVR that got program guide info for 7 days from TVGOS. Since I was happy with the 7000 (they don't make it anymore), I thought the 7400 would be a nice step up... WRONG! It is the most buggy piece of junk I've seen. Just look up the reviews on Amazon. I sent mine back to Amazon and got a Tivo, which I'm enjoying very much so far.

    You could go the HTPC route. I did for about 6 months and realized I didn't want to maintain another computer. It does a lot of stuff well, but it's something you have to monitor more so than a Tivo. I realized I just wanted to watch/record HD TV and I was willing to pay a bit more for that.
  17. CoxInPHX

    CoxInPHX COX Communications

    Jan 14, 2011
    Phoenix, AZ
    The Retail Moxi is a dead platform and are no longer available new. I would stay away from the Moxi, it is only a matter of time before support and guide data are discontinued - IMO.

    The OP never said if he wanted or needed an HD-DVR w/ CableCARD, so if by chance an SD-DVR (DVD-R w/HDD) would work this is a very popular model.

    Magnavox MDR513H/F7 HDD and DVD Recorder with Digital Tuner

    Magnavox MDR515H 500GB HDD and DVD-R with Digital Tuner


    I happen to also own a Panasonic DMR-EH50S SD-DVR (DVD-R w/HDD) and it is a fantastic recorder if your cable co transmits the TVGOS service in Analog through a digital set top box. You can check to see if your cable provider does here: http://digitaltransition.macrovision.com/digtrans.aspx?link_id=rightPromo
  18. dstoffa

    dstoffa Member

    Dec 14, 2005
    New York, NY
    Never happen. There is too much money in data transmission that the telco's would never go for it.

    Now, one could buy a 4000 or 5000 series ReplayTV replaytv, since the 'cat' is out of the bag. No fees required (except MAYBE a subscription to schedulesdirect).

  19. mattack

    mattack Well-Known Member

    Apr 9, 2001
    You haven't actually explained what you want/need:
    ANALOG cable (useful IMHO, though becoming increasingly obsolete)
    DIGITAL cable
    DIGITAL cable WITH cablecard (anything beyond "basic cable")
    OTA (== ATSC)

    BTW, even though I use Tivos, I too think a 'generic DVR' would be useful.. especially if it had more tuners than a Tivo.

    Also, while it wasn't intended to be used that way, a series *1* Tivo can be used subscriptionless... But IMHO, it's FAR worse of an experience than an actual DVR intended to be used that way.

    (I use a Toshiba XS32 daily along with my Tivos. Since I get far fewer analog channels, I only natively record a few things on it, and they're usually "backup" recordings in case of digital glitches... but I record MANY things from my Tivos ONTO it, especially to watch faster than realtime.)
  20. Series3Sub

    Series3Sub Well-Known Member

    Mar 14, 2010
    Moxi still manufactures MSO set-top-boxes, so support for the retail Moxi is likely to be there for a long time.

    Meanwhile, Sezmi bit the dust with absolutely NO support. So those Sezmi's are now brick/boat anchors. Sad to lose competition.

    To the OP: TiVo has no choice but to charge a monthly fee (all the MVPD's charge a monthly fee, as well) as it has NO other form of revenue FROM THE SUBSCRIBER (the revenue from ads and aggregated data from all the TiVo's just won't cut it). The MVPD's can give away their DVR's with no upfront money because they get their money back with your subscription to TV packages; TiVo has no such form of revenue. Keep in mind that now the new fee is $19.99 per month for Premieres, so TiVo needs to get its money back some way, then start making money on the sale of the SUBSIDIZED box past the break even point, but that is still a challenge without TV packages and services to add to your bill like the MVPD's.

    The TiVo model is well known and reasonable considering they have only 3 modest forms of revenue. TiVo is not the Cable Pig.

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