Recording Over The Air HDTV

by on August 14, 2007

An Into Tomorrow listener submitted the following question!

Q: What are my options for recording over the air HDTV?

A: There are many different setups so lets start with one that will interest people who have regular SDTV’s (standard definition), since in a few years the signal that they current receive OTA (over the air) will stop working as the government has required broadcasters to move their OTA signal to DTV (digital TV). The first step would be to get an HDTV tuner that can send the signal in either HDTV or SDTV and you can do that with the ATSC DTV/HDTV RECVR TUNER. We suggest this tuner because it gets nothing bug good reviews and there really are no other ones to suggest. Over the next 6 months we should see an increase in the number of HDTV tuners but for now it is a very limited number.

Now that you can get the OTA HD signal you can either record to a standard VCR or you can record to a DVR (digital video recorder). You will find that SD DVR’s will come down in price or can be bought used for a very good price as people start moving over to HDTV DVR’s. This option requires buying two pieces of technology and is certainly for someone that wants barebones or already has a VCR that they know and does a good job of recording.

The next step is a little closer to what is ideal and that is getting an HDTV DVR, like the RCA DVR10 High-Definition Digital Video Recorder, with a built in tuner. These DVR’s do not require a monthly subscription fee to get programming data, but instead pull the programming data off the signals that go over the air. These DVR’s are really just glorified VCR’s and you will realize that if you read the reviews. Some of these DVR’s even come with the ability to record to DVD and/or VHS and since we are going though such a big change in TV technology you will notice that the devices you have to pick from will change monthly.

It should be said that technology changes extremely fast so before spending your hard earned money on any product you should make sure to do your research on either ConsumerReports.org, reviews.cnet.com, and even reading reviews on sites like Amazon.com.

Now the holy grail of recording TV is the TiVo TCD648250B Series3 HD Digital Media Recorder but it will cost you around $600.00 plus a monthly service fee. TiVo finally came out with a less expensive version of the Series3 called the TiVo HD, which will run you about $300.00 plus a monthly service fee. The main difference between the two is the size of the hard drive and the TiVo HD does not have THX certification. It is our understanding that both of these come with the ability to record one show while watching another by having two tuners in them but we have not seen the TiVo HD in person yet so we have not been able to confirm this.

For those of you who do not know much about the TiVo it is a great product. I have a series 2 and I love it but I have moved from cable to OTA HDTV and I don’t want to go back to SD so my Series2 TiVo is useless to me now. The only thing stopping me from upgrading to the TiVo HD is the monthly service fee. I bought the TiVo when you could pay $300.00 for a lifetime subscription but I have a problem with paying $12+ a month for information related to the 20 channels I get OTA. TiVo does have a lot of nice features though like “Season Pass”, which allows you to tell the TiVo to record every episode of a show and it will do it even if the time it is on changes from week to week.

Hopefully we have given you enough information to get started on finding the solution that bets fits your needs for recording OTA HDTV. It should be noted that if you have an SDTV’s you will not be effected by the switch over from SDTV to DTV/HDTV if you subscribe to cable or satellite because those providers will still send you the TV signal in SDTV. You can get more information about what HDTV is and the switch over at CNet.com.