Tivo vs. Cable PVR

As many of you know I have both a Tivo and a cable company provided Personal Video Recorder (PVR). The PVR that I had was a first generation unit and I completely hated it. The thing had no concept of a show/program and could only record based on time slots. Given that networks like to shift their schedules a fair bit (especially Fox on Sunday nights!) I often found out that what I was expecting to watch wasn’t what was recorded! The only reason I kept the PVR was because it was the only device available to me that could record High Definition (HD) content.

About two weeks ago the PVR died. RCN dispatched a technician who replaced the PVR box with a new second generation unit. While I agree that its not a Tivo I do find myself using the new PVR alot more than the old unit. After 10 days with it I decided to think about the pros and cons of the new PVR vs. Tivo.

Tivo (Series 2 Pioneer with DVD Recorder)

  • Great User Interface – it just makes sense!
  • Understands shows/programs and not just timeslots (Season Pass feature is great.)
  • Records things I might like to see – and it often gets it right
  • Lets me define keywords and records shows relevant to these
  • Networkable with other Tivos in the house
  • Web interface for scheduling recordings (useful when I travel)
  • Shows can be burned to DVD media for saving or watching on the road
  • Shows can be downloaded to a computer for portable viewing


  • Can’t record high definition content
  • Can’t record one program and watch another live show at the same time
  • Seperate charge for Tivo service billed to credit card (lifetime subscription available too)

Cable Company PVR

  • Dual tuners means I can record one show and watch something else live
  • Records high definition content
  • Understands the concept of a show/program not just time slots
  • Billed to my existing cable bill


  • Doesn’t try to record things I might like to watch
  • Standard definition recordings appear grainy and have lots of artifacts
  • Program guide not as nice as the Tivo one
  • Doesn’t seem to understand the concept of First Runs vs. Repeats properly. I set up the Simpson’s to record first run shows but I seem to be getting old episodes that appear nightly as well. This is probably a program guide issue – but its still annoying.

So for now I’m keeping both – the PVR will be used primarily for HD content, and the Tivo will continue to be my preferred tool for recording standard definition content and for recording shows it thinks I might enjoy (and often do!). If Tivo ever comes out with a unit that does HD well (or my cable company ever provides a PVR box that uses Tivo software) I would probably switch to a single device.

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