Q&A: Feeling Boxed In

Q. I have a Mitsubishi DLP TV with a built-in over-the-air HDTV tuner, and I'm interested in getting a high-definition DVR to use with it. I've Googled around and, to my surprise, haven't discovered many options. What I have found is either very expensive (TiVo's HD DVR) or no longer in production. How can I get basic over-the-air HDTV reception plus VHS-like recording for the upcoming digital switchover? STEWART FRENCH / ALLEN, TX

A. Good question - and one I'm sure many people will be asking as the February 2009 deadline for the digital-TV switchover approaches. As you discovered during your online search, over-the-air (OTA) recording options for HDTV are very limited, with TiVo's HD DVR and HD XL DVR ($300 and $600, respectively, plus a monthly subscription fee) being the only available standalone DVR solutions. Yet another off-the-shelf HDTV recording option to consider is a Windows Media Center PC. While these remain even more expensive than buying a TiVo, they contain one or more digital OTA tuners to record high-def broadcasts, and also provide a free online program guide. (The PC needs to be connected to the Internet to download guide data.)

Since cost is a concern, you should also visit eBay to check out some older, discontinued HDTV-recording products. Until recently, both Sony and LG sold standalone DVRs that can tune in and record digital OTA signals. And if your Mitsubishi TV features a FireWire port, a D-VHS recorder would be another option. A few years back, Mitsubishi, JVC, and Marantz all produced such VCRs, which can record OTA high-def broadcasts on special D-VHS videocassettes that are still in production and generally available. Good luck with your search!