In a previous post, I said goodbye to VHS.
Following on from that, I thought I would take a look at the available options if you want to replace, or supplant your old VHS machine.
You’ll be pleased to know there are plenty of choices as you look for an alternative to VHS (a.k.a. VCR – Video Cassette Recorder).
Some people have decided to “jump ship” altogether and have moved over to Sky , or a cable service such as Virgin Media.
But what if you don’t want to have a monthly subscription and don’t want to install a satellite dish?
Then you will want a recorder that will still work with the Freeview service that you already get through your Aerial.
This is exactly the position I am in. Call me a cheapskate, but I feel I already pay my TV license fee, so don’t see why I should pay any more to see BBC HD channels.
A lot of the options depend on whether you are looking for separate machines or something “all in one”.
You may want separate machines because you already own a DVD or Blu-ray player and just want to have something else to record on.
On the other hand you may decide that an all in one solution would save you some space under the TV.
Separate Them Out
The first option that many people turn to are PVR (Personal Video Recorder) units.
These have become extremely popular over the past couple of years and are generally seen as the direct successor to VCR/VHS.
Not much to be said other than the fact that a DVD or Blu-ray player will of course allow you to play discs of various kinds, but will not allow recording.
Blu-ray players are backwards compatible, so will allow ordinary DVDs and music CDs to play as well.
Streaming from the internet is now firmly established and many people are moving over to this way of getting their favourite shows.
The more technically minded buy a big hard disk drive, plug it into their desktop PC/Mac and download/stream programs and movies to it using services such as Amazon Instant Video.
(Amazon Instant Video was previously named Love Film, but since Amazon took over, that label is used exclusively for disk-based rentals by post).
From there, you can view it on the PC or “broadcast” it across your home network to your TV via a router.
These all-in-one* units combine a Hard disk recorder with either a DVD/Blu-ray player or recorder.
*Not to be confused with “All In One home cinema” systems, which are Surround Sound units with speakers and usually include a separate DVD/Blu-Ray player.
Since these units have a Blu-Ray player then you can only record onto the hard drive (not onto recordable Blu-Ray disks). However, you can still save some physical space under your TV, if that’s important to you.
Advantages and disadvantages are essentially the same as for the separates.
Most recent models, such as the Panasonic DMP-PWT500 pictured left, also have standard internet features such as BBC iPlayer built in.
These devices can do pretty much anything you like: record two programs onto hard disk simultaneously, archive programs to Blu-ray/DVD disk (within DRM limits), or even copy your old VHS tapes onto the hard disk or DVD.
This makes them an excellent alternative to VHS, with the caveat of being slightly more complex to operate
The Panasonic DMR-BWT700 (pictured left) is one example.
*Note that you cannot record internet content onto Blu-Ray/DVD disk, due to DRM restrictions.
I have a Panasonic Blu-ray recorder and have been very happy with it.
It sometimes takes a few seconds to switch between the hard disk and Blu-ray drives, which annoys my family no end.
However, it’s been a real workhorse for the last four years, providing all the entertainment we could want, without any subscriptions.
If you want to record and watch programs from Freeview, archive them to Blu-ray/DVD, and enjoy the odd episode via catch up, then you can’t go wrong with one of these. It’s a true alternative to VHS.
If on the other hand, you want all the latest, greatest exclusive programs streamed over the internet, then a subscription service such as Amazon Prime Video, or Netflix may be for you.
I'm Tim Bader, founder of ErgonomicToolbox.com and the Ergonomic Toolbox training course. I am a writer, author, blogger and church leader, and I help people to overcome RSI and live comfortably with technology. When I'm not writing, helping or training people, I live at home with my wife, two teenage kids and Playstation.
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