Not all digital video recorders are created equal. But there’s no question these DVRs, or TiVo’s, or new fangled VCRs or whatever you want to call them have changed the way many of us watch TV. If you have such a device, do you even remember what it was like when you couldn’t pause and rewind live TV?
But being consumers, we want more. More storage space, more content, more options. Thing is, more is out there but many of us have no access to these DVRs. But what is more?
I posed the question to Broadcom Corp., the Irvine designer of DVR silicon chips. What should a DVR be able to do these days? Plenty, the company tells me. Here’s a list of what Broadcom DVR chips can do. Keep in mind, this doesn’t mean that DVRs with Broadcom chips have all these features enabled. But this is just a list of what is available today.
Use home Wi-Fi, Ethernet, Bluetooth or MoCA to connect to other devices in the house. You probably know what wireless Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and wired Ethernet are. The newcomer is MoCA, which uses existing coaxial cable running through the house to send high-definition video signals between devices. It’s one way to avoid ripping up walls and installing fiber-optic cables.
Enable a Multi-room DVR so households can skip a second DVR at home. All shows are stored on one box, which can be accessed from any room with TV and receiver (i.e., a standard set-top box for most users). Multiple people can watch the same show at the same time on different TVs and pause or rewind without affecting anyone else’s playback. Verizon FiOS and AT&T U-verse offer one and Cox Communications plans to offer one before the end of the year.
Stream content from your cell phone. Record a video on your phone that you want to watch on the big-screen TV? It’s been possible for a few years. Thanks to Digital Living Network Alliance technology, such DLNA-enabled cell phones or computers can stream digital content from one device to another.
4. Convert HD shows and movies to a format fit for a mobile phone. Broadcom’s chip will transcode the HD content for you and use one of the aforementioned networking technologies to send the video to the phone. While possible, Broadcom says that there are no public roll outs of the technology. I’m just mentioning this because it’s something DVRs could do.
5. Be controlled by a cell phone. Forget to set your DVR to record the premiere of a new TV show? Just go online on a PC or a cell phone to control the home DVR.
6. Rent or buy movies – or anything else. Consumers don’t have to rely on their TV provider’s on-demand library. Now Netflix and others are offering downloadable movie rentals streamed to a TV. Referred to as OTT, short for “Over The Top,” the interactive service isn’t limited to videos. TiVo, for example, lets users order pizza from Domino’s.
7. Surf the Internet, usually through a built-in Web browser.
8. Stream music from the Web through online services like Pandora.
9. Cut down on energy bills. Well, possibly. While all these features are specific to the Broadcom chip inside, another feature of the chip is a power management system to lower power consumption.
10. Expand capacity for more videos. USB ports have been on set-top boxes for years but many TV providers disable the feature because they don’t want to mess with copyright issues. Still, Broadcom DVRs support this feature in order for consumers to easily add an external hard drive to add more capacity to the box.
11. Video conferencing. A DVR is essentially a computer. Add a camera, perhaps using the one in your cell phone, and you can make video calls.
That about covers it from Broadcom’s perspective. Have readers noticed other DVR features not mentioned above? Broadcom isn’t the only DVR chipmaker out there. Also, if you’ve got other suggestions about features you want your DVR to have, please share with me and other readers by commenting below. Thanks!
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