Best DVR Accessories

With Digital Video Recorders (DVRs) becoming a required piece of consumer electronics in many households, we figured it was time to recommend a few accessories to help you get the most enjoyment out of your DVR. The first two DVR accessories listed are really more of a requirement for anything above just basic usage and include a satellite or cable feed and the proper audio and video components. The final accessories really take you a step beyond your basic setup and enhance your DVR experience. As always, feel free to post your thoughts in the discussion area.

Satellite/Cable Feed

If you own a DVR, you need more than an antenna. Perhaps the first pick for the best DVR accessories may seem to be a given for most, but a cable or satellite feed is a must. Also, if your DVR has dual-tuner capabilities and you are using a satellite feed, make sure you have two separate feeds to your DVR to record two channels at once. Until satellite providers provide all local channels via HDTV, you might want to pick up an HDTV antenna as well. To see what kind of HDTV antenna you need in your area, visit Antenna Web.

Audio/Video Components
HDTV

Next, the proper audio and video components should be on your list of DVR accessories. You just might not be getting the most out of your DVR if you only have audio and video being delivered through a 13” black and white TV with built in speakers.

The first A/V component that you should accessorize your TiVo-esque gadget with is a proper television. While it might not be necessary to purchase your HDTV yet, if you have the funds the difference in quality is similar to going from the VCR format to DVD. ECoustics has an excellent guide summarizing the various HDTV displays. Of course you should make sure you have a TiVo Series3 or other HD-ready DVR before purchasing an HD-ready television.

Now that the video side has been taken care of, it’s time to attend to the audio side. The newer DVRs such as the Tivo Series3 can handle THX-certification and 5.1 surround sound so you need to grab an audio receiver and the speakers. Sound can really enhance video.

One last point about A/V components, don't forget about the cabling!  Here is an article talking about how to pick the right cables to further enhance your viewing pleasure.

Remote Control
Harmony 880

Now that you have several components to enhance your DVR experience, you might have noticed that your remote controls and the technological knowledge to operate those remote controls have been multiplied. I have seen some installations with as many as five remotes which require a flow chart to perform any operations such as watch TV.

While you can purchase a high end remote such as a Pronto, Creston or AMX that usually require a professional installer, I recommend checking out the Harmony Remote 880 by Logitech. Not only do Harmony remotes provide the functionality of universal remotes, but setup is a snap. Most importantly, the remote control is simple to use and is guest or mother-in-law friendly.

The technology behind the remote allows you to have complex setups requiring multiple devices turning on and switching of audio inputs without having to program macros on the remote. Also, Powered by the patented Smart State Technology (SST), Harmony remote controls are designed to work the way people think, requiring just one click of a button to initiate a home-entertainment activity. For example, to watch TV on a satellite system with a digital video recorder (DVR), the TV, receiver, satellite, and DVR box may all have to be powered up and set to the right inputs. A Harmony remote can send all of the appropriate infrared (IR) or radio commands with one touch. Without the Harmony remote, the activity might require pressing ten or more buttons on several remote controls.

Placeshifting devices
Slingbox Lineup

TiVo and other DVRs allow consumers to “timeshift” their shows by recording them digitally to a hard drive so you could watch your recorded content whenever you wanted and even pause and control live television. So what is placeshifting? Another DVR Playground article covers this subject in depth, but here is an except of the explaination of "placeshifting":


Today there's a new revolution in electronics that's redefining not only when you watch TV, but where. Even though timeshifting allowed you to watch television on your schedule, you still had to be in front of your TV when it came time to watch a show. Today, new pioneers like California-based Sling Media are introducing the next big concept called placeshifting, and the results of this new focus is bringing new products and technologies that allow you to watch and listen to your favorite television shows anywhere in the world.

We recommend the Slingbox Pro as your placeshifting device. While Slingbox and Sony LocationFree are the most well known, competitors such as Hava are springing up in this infant market. Even homebrew DVR software packages such as SageTV and Beyond TV have delivered their own placeshifting solutions.

Portable Media Players
Video iPod

As great as it is to placeshift your DVR from China using the Slingbox, what about the twenty hour flight there? With a portable media player (PMP) such as a video iPod or PSP you can catch up on an entire season of your favorite television show during the twenty hour trip. Also, with a PMP you can take shows with you for those times you do not have access to a high speed Internet connection.

There are many PMPs on the market today, but we would recommend the PSP because of the gorgeous widescreen or the video iPod because the chances are you already have one.

One issue that owners of PMPs encounter is the ability to easily transfer video to their devices. There are several software solutions available but I prefer to use a product from one of my favorite company's that support the open source movement… Neuros Technologies. The Neuros RC2 Plus MPEG4 Recorder works like a digital VCR eradicating the hassle involved in converting video files. You can also record live TV, your favorite movies and TV shows and watch them anytime at anywhere on most PMPs.

DVD Recorder
DVD Recorders

The next DVR accessory we would like to cover is the standalone DVD Recorder that fits in as another component on your equipment shelf. A standalone standalone DVD Recorder creates DVDs from an audio and video feed and closely resembles the functions of a VCR. Why would you need a DVD Recorder if you can store your programs on the DVR's hard drive?

First, a DVD Recorder allows you to backup your recorded programs resulting in a backup copy as well as allowing you to free up space on your DVR which has limited space. Also, using DVD media you can easily share programs with others.

Power Protection
Power Protection

Now that you have built your DVR solution consisting of several consumer electronics devices, you should protect those devices from excessive voltage peaks known as surges and spikes. Afterall, would you not protect your computer with at least a surge protector? Well, DVRs are a form of computers that even contain hard drives which are notoriously sensative to power spikes and surges and need a good surge protector as well. You will want to skip the cheap surge protectors as one good surge will destroy the surge protection but the device will continue to operate as a standard power strip leaving your equipment completely vulnerable to the next power surge. If using telephone or coax connections in your setup, you might want to find a surge protector for those cables as well.

We like the Smart Strip LCG3 Power Strip and Surge Protector because this surge protector is environmentally friendly. It's a power strip and surge protector that very simply detects whether or not the devices you have plugged in to it are actually on or not and stops drawing power from the wall resulting in power and money savings.

If you want to go the extra mile, spending a little more money you could purchase a Uninterruptable Power Supply (UPS) which typically has surge protection built in and provides a couple minutes of power through a battery after your power is lost. Also, A/V setups can be negatively affected by dirty power resulting in line noise which can affect the performance of your setup. Dirty power can be regulated using devices called Power Conditioners.

For more information about power protection, you will want to read an excellent article over on Techlore.

 

So to recap, you should consider the following for a more complete television-viewing/DVR experience: Satellite/Cable Feed, proper A/V components, a good universal remote, a placeshifter, a PMP, a DVD
recorder and of course, good power protection. That does sound like
quite a laundry list, and you certainly don't need to go out and get
everything all at once, but definitely keep them in mind.  Once you've
assembled this grand collection of technological wonders, you'll be the
envy of all of your TV-watching friends.