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Why would I want a PVR or DVR when I have a VCR - don't they essentially do the same thing?
People who don't have a DVR often don't understand what the fuss is all about. Most people think DVRs only record and play back shows. If that's all they did, they certainly wouldn't be worth the extra cost. Sure they record and play back programs, but that is only the beginning.

The reality is, DVRs are not so much video recorders as they are TV show management systems. The fact that DVRs are essentially small computers is what makes them so powerful.

Here are some things a DVR can do that your VCR can't:

  • Begin playing a recording from the beginning while it is still in progress: With a VCR, it's wait until the show is finished, or catch it in the middle and watch the beginning later.
  • Pause live TV: When the phone rings, the baby cries or someone comes to the door, you won't miss a thing. Just hit the pause button and it will be waiting for you when you get back.
  • Record an entire show from the beginning, even if you're part way into it: As long as you were on the channel when the show started, many DVRs will record not only the part of the show where you begin recording, but the beginning, as well. If you are watching a show and realize your spouse might wish to see it, now he or she can view the whole thing.
  • Keep your shows organized: A VCR can record your shows, but it's up to you to keep track of them. A DVR can keep episodes of the same show together, can organize by date recorded or alphabetically and allows you to watch them in any order you choose without a hassle.
  • Record two shows at once: most cable or satellite DVRs have two tuners in them so you won't miss one show while recording another.
  • Watch a recorded show while another one, or even two shows, record: If decide to watch something you recorded earlier instead of the show that's airing now, you can still see both. A DVR can play back recordings, even when both tuners are in use.
  • Automatic show tracking: If your favorite show moves to a new night, has a special longer episode or even switches channels, a DVR will find it. While a VCR can only watch a clock, a DVR watches TV.
  • Easy conflict resolution: When you try to record too many shows at one time, a DVR not only warns you about it, but gives you options to resolve the problem.
  • Easily recovers from power outages: If the power goes out on a VCR during a recording (even for a few seconds), it stops recording the rest of the show. With a DVR, within a minute of the power being restored, the DVR will usually begin recording again.
  • Have movies and shows on hand for you or the kids: Because a DVR can hold 30 or more hours of programming, you can record shows and movies ahead of time for those slow TV days. Are the kids having a sleepover? Record some movies for them to choose from. Is your young nephew coming to visit? Record his favorite show so he won't miss them while he's there. Because you can lock programs out with ratings and other restrictions, the kids can take control without stumbling upon mature-rated programs.
  • Program in those new fall shows before you even know when they'll be on: If you see a promo for a new show that starts in a few months, enter the title into the DVR and set it to record automatically. Once the show appears in the guide, the DVR will be set to record it. In addition, DVRs like TiVo sometimes let you hit a "Thumbs Up" button during promos for shows that interest you. In addition, if you let it, TiVo will even suggest other shows you might like based on those you already watch. Those shows will be automatically scheduled. You won't risk missing the season premiere of a show that might become a weekly favorite.
  • No messing around to record a show: You don't need to remember to insert a tape, you don't need to turn a DVR off (or hit a special timer button) and programming a show to record from the guide can often be done with just a few button presses (UltimateTV, for example, can set up a recording just by hitting the record button on any listing in the guide - press it again to record all that show's episodes and a third time cancels the recording).

As you can see, a DVR is a lot more than a digital VCR. That's why it usually costs a bit extra. However, it's probably not unreasonable to assume that soon a DVR will become standard equipment with any cable or satellite service. As the technology gets cheaper and customer demand goes up, a free DVR will become a great selling point on any service.

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