Monday, January 16, 2006

Why it makes sense to build your own PVR

Right now, if you buy a TiVo, they are knocking $150 off the price if you pay for a year of service up front. So why on earth would anyone pay over $350 to build a custom PVR rather than go out and buy a TiVo on sale for $50?

First of all, putting together your own PVR is still cheaper if you plan on keeping your TiVo for at least 2 years. At $150/year of service, a solution that doesn't have any recurring fees looks pretty attractive pretty quickly. Even if you buy the $300 lifetime plan, it still comes to about the same amount

Secondly, the features you can add to your own box are much superior to what you get with a TiVo. Why settle for a TiVo with a tiny 40GB hard drive when you can put a 120GB or 200GB drive plus a DVD burner in your own box. If you want to get a TiVo with a DVD burner, you're up to $400 with a year of service, and you still have a small HD. With a DIY box, you can always upgrade your hardware and your software. Want to add more Hard drive space? No Problem. Want to upgrade to an HDTV tuner or add another tuner card so you can record multiple shows at once? No Problem. Want to use a different interface or even write your own? Go ahead.

Also, Open Source PVR software such as MythTV can do a lot of things that TiVo can't : Run video game emulators, play your music collection, check the weather, and more. Any sort of media that you access with your computer, you can now have on your home theatre. With the coming of IPTV and downloadable video, you are setting yourself up for the future of how we receive and enjoy media.


Finally, with a customized box, what you record is yours to use however you wish. TiVo has already shown that they have the ability to control what you can record and how long you can keep it. This is only bound to get worse, especially if you have hopes of burning shows and movies to DVD. With a TiVo, your ability to continue to do this is at their whim.

TiVo certainly has the advantage of being easier to set up - bring it home and plug it in. However, for those of us that enjoy putting things together, this is one more reason to make our own PVR.

Update - megazone writes:
All standalone TiVos also have TiVoToGo, so you can always build a central file server and move shows to/from the server as added storage, archiving, etc.

TiVo has supported music for a couple of years now. You can play songs from anywhere on the net. You can also view photos over the net.

Weather? Standard on all standalone TiVos is access to Yahoo Photos, Weather, and Traffic. As well as Fandango movie listings and ticket purchasing, and Live365 music. Podcasts are also supported.

Then there is Home Media Engine, which is an open API for anyone to develop applications that can be accessed via the TiVo. There are a number of applications out there, and the leader is Galleon - http://www.galleon.tv/ Galleon has many modules to access more weather info, Shoutcase streams, video blogs, etc. Another example is http://www.apps.tv/ HME applications can be hosted anywhere on the net.

2 Comments:

At 5:28 PM, Blogger MegaZone said...

A few things...

As for the cost, you can always pay $299 lifetime for the TiVo. So the 'more than 2 years' argument doesn't wash. You have the choice of paying once with no recurring fees or paying monthly if you prefer, it is the users choice.

Upgrading a hard drive in a TiVo is trivial, I've done it several times myself. The tools are freely available online along with the instructions - look for Hinsdale How-To. Less techy users can buy ready-to-run tools CDs from PTVUpgrade.com, or buy complete drives from them or Weaknees.com. There are a number of options for users of different skill levels.

All standalone TiVos also have TiVoToGo, so you can always build a central file server and move shows to/from the server as added storage, archiving, etc.

TiVo has supported music for a couple of years now. You can play songs from anywhere on the net. You can also view photos over the net.

Weather? Standard on all standalone TiVos is access to Yahoo Photos, Weather, and Traffic. As well as Fandango movie listings and ticket purchasing, and Live365 music. Podcasts are also supported.

Then there is Home Media Engine, which is an open API for anyone to develop applications that can be accessed via the TiVo. There are a number of applications out there, and the leader is Galleon - http://www.galleon.tv/ Galleon has many modules to access more weather info, Shoutcase streams, video blogs, etc. Another example is http://www.apps.tv/ HME applications can be hosted anywhere on the net.

The bit about recording limitations is a complete red herring that was blown way out of proportion. It will not 'only get worse' since it is *illegal* for stations to restrict the content. The only content that can be limited is VoD, PPV, and the like. Every case of this appearing has been caused by an error, usually at the broadcaster, that was resolved. And the same restrictions have shown up in PC based capture cards too, so it isn't a TiVo issue, and you're not 'safe' by avoiding TiVo.

 
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