The thing we missed the most when I cut the cable was our DVR. We did not record a lot of shows, but we did pause, rewind, fast forward, and slow down programming a lot. I immediately set out to remedy this. After toying with a Home Theater Personal Computer (HTPC), we decided to go with a dedicated DVR. Once we decided on a DVR, there were only really two choices — Tivo or DTVPal. While the Tivo has some compelling features, the monthly fee was not consistent with my cord cutting goals, so we took a chance on the DTVPal.
The DTVPal DVR is digital-to-analog converter box that has the ability to pause live TV and time-shift broadcast TV digitally. Designed by Echostar Corporation, sister company to Dish Network Corporation, the boxes were marketed starting in 2008. In 2010 Channel Master produced these DVRs under their own brand as the CM7000PAL. In 2012, the CM7000PAL was replaced by the Channel Master TV (CM7400) which added internet apps like Vudu and Netflix, included playback of files off an attached USB disk, and updates the user interface.
I have five of these in my home and highly recommend the DTVPal DVR/CM7400. Though no longer available in stores, these can be found on ebay (that’s where I got mine). This article applies specifically to these models as I have no first hand with the CM7400. The DTVPal DVR is a superior product because 1) purchase price, 2) no fees, 3) ease of use, 4) durability, and 5) features.
As I’m typing this, DTVPal DVRs go for ~$270 on ebay. This includes shipping. The CM7400 ships for $360 (open box) or $390 (new) plus tax. The entry level Tivo with lifetime subscription goes for $600. You can get two DTVPal DVRs for the cost of a TIVO!
My family loves the DTVPal DVRs. The TV Guide is excellent, recording is easy, navigating your recordings is intuitive, and the remote is organized and clearly marked. The guide is a grid of programming. As you scroll over a program, a description fills the top of the screen. Hitting the info button reveals more information about the program. Pressing the enter button on the remote will take you to the selected program if it has begun or offer to record it if it has not yet started. You can advance the guide by the half hour or by the day. I generally have about a week of information in the guide. When you choose to record a program by clicking it on the guide, you can record the single occurance or choose to record weekly, daily, or Monday through Friday. Once this ‘timer’ is configured, you can change this setting, the start time, and/or the duration. If you are watching a program and decide you wish you had recorded it, just press the record button and choose the option to record the entire event.
We’ve had five DTVPal DVRs for two years without any problems at all. Besides being a great tuner and DVR, the DTVPal DVR shows the signal strenght for each channel upon selection and from within the setup utility. This can be very handy when setting up an antenna.
The DTVPal DVR is the hub of our OTA entertainment. If you are interested in purchasing one of these, I recommend you visit the DTVPal DVR owners page on AVS forums. This topic includes a FAQ, pictures, troubleshooting techniques, upgrade assistance, and hundreds of pages of user commentary.