Save Yourself Some Drama

Buying a PVR? Wait. Decide on your guide before you get locked into a box.

Save Yourself Some Drama

TiVo may be the best-known brand of hard-drive TV recorder around, but it's certainly not the only one. Two other biggies warrant consideration: ReplayTV and, now, the latest incarnation of TV Guide On Screen, coming out this month. First you need to figure out how plain or fancy a personal video recorder (PVR) box you want--from a rudimentary, freestanding hard drive, all the way north to a souped-up version with an integrated DVD burner. But the biggest decision is what sort of program guide you want to live with. Once you get the PVR, you have to foot the bill for the program guide itself, unless you go for a model equipped with TV Guide On Screen, which is free. (TiVo also has a free service, but it's rudimentary.) It doesn't quite have the chops of TiVo and ReplayTV, though it can search and sort HD channels and tag HD show titles. Below are our favorite new PVRs, one for each type of service, and a chart that'll help you choose the right electronic program guide.

HR10250 DirecTV TiVo
Recording time: 200 hours standard definition, 30 hours high-def. Can record two shows at once. $1,000; tivo.com

ReplayTV 5532
Standard-definition recording only (up to 320 hours). $800; replaytv.com

LG LST3410A high-definition PVR
Comes with TV Guide On Screen. 120 hours standard, 13 hours high-definition. $1,000; us.lge.com