Toy review: PVR


There are a few TV shows that Gail and I watch when we can — some CSIs, some Law and Orders, and NCIS (and 24, when it comes back next year). We don’t watch them live, we tape them. Yes, on actual video tapes. A few times, we’ve been watching a show and had the tape end partway through the episode. Other times I’ve forgotten to adjust the VCR for daylight savings time, and other times we’ve realized that we hadn’t seen a particular show in a while, and it turned out that the show had been moved but we didn’t adjust the VCR. A couple of weeks ago we were watching a particularly suspenseful episode of SVU when the tape suddenly stopped. We had run off the end of the tape with 5 minutes left in the show. That was the last straw. I got annoyed enough with myself that I called our cable provider the next day and upgraded our cable box to a PVR.

Now I should be able to simply say “record all new episodes of SVU” and it will do it. If the show changes time slots, it will adjust. If there’s a special episode on a different night or a two-hour episode, we’ll get it anyway. Once we have a bunch of shows taped, we can instantly look through them and see which ones we’ve seen or not seen, and watch them in any order we want. This is, of course, assuming I can figure out how to do this. I’ve set it up to record a bunch of series, but it keeps telling me that there is nothing scheduled to be recorded. I didn’t get a manual with the PVR, though Cogeco is supposedly sending me one. I found a PDF online, so I’ve been looking at that, but I can’t figure out what I’ve done wrong.

And I’m just starting to get used to this pausing live TV thing. We can pause for up to an hour and then fast forward through commercials, or rewind to see or hear something again.

The weird thing about the PVR is that there is no cable output. The old cable box had two coax jacks, one for input (i.e. from the cable jack) and one for output (to the VCR, which itself had a coax going to the TV). The new one doesn’t have coax out, so I needed another way to connect it to the TV, and unfortunately, the VCR lost out. The TV has two inputs, but each input supports two connectors (S-Video and RCA), so I can connect FOUR different video devices. So I have the DVD and PVR on one input (if the DVD is on, its signal overrides that of the PVR) and the Wii and the iPod dock on the other (similarly, the dock overrides the Wii). But there’s no easy way to connect the VCR to anything, so it’s unplugged and just sitting there. Luckily, I have the fancy remote to control everything so I don’t (and more importantly, Gail and the boys don’t) have to remember which things have to be on and off in order to make anything work. We just press the “Watch TV” or “Watch a movie” button and it does all the right things.

This is just the coolest thing. Why I didn’t get one of these PVR things a year or two ago, I don’t know.

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