Multiroom DVR Showdown

If you had your choice, which DVR would you choose? Unfortunately, you don’t have a choice most of the time. Most equipment only works with one provider, so you have to take what they give you. But, if you’re ready to change providers, you might want to know about the choices available to you. Here’s a rundown of the state-of-the-art in multiroom DVRs.

The HR34 is a new DVR from DIRECTV that uses RVU technology to send the full DVR experience to TVs with no separate box. Right now only a few TVs are supported but more are expected. An external adapter is expected in 2012 to let any TV have the full DVR experience.DIRECTV is the only provider that lets you record over-the-air broadcasts. It offers a very high recording capacity, dual buffers, picture-in-picture and many other advanced features. However, it lacks remote management that every other provider offers. This is the only DVR that lets you record 6 HD programs at the same time (1 must be on demand)
Dish Hopper
Hopper and Joey are Dish Network’s latest and greatest. The technology is not compatible with any other Dish product so additional wiring is required. This is the highest capacity DVR and it is the only one that lets you add an external hard drive that adds to (not replaces) the existing hard drive. Dish is tightly integrated with Blockbuster at Home and has full remote management. Dish is the only system that can automatically record all primetime network programming and still leave two other tuners free for any recording. Unlike other Dish products, OTA is not supported without an adapter sold separately. That adapter will only record one OTA channel at a time.

Xfinity Anyroom

XFinity Anyroom is a DVR solution from Comcast with low upfront cost. It suffers by being able to record only one program at a time and it is impossible to watch a second channel while recording the first on the same TV. Xfinity’s strength is its large on-demand library. Almost all primetime programming is available on demand without recording, freeing up the DVR to record only those shows that are not available on demand. XFinity is also available in a “triple play” where phone and internet can be bundled. If you live in an area not served by AT&T or Verizon FIOS it’s a good low cost solution.

U-Verse Total Home

This is the multiroom solution for AT&T customers. It offers a very powerful DVR for no upfront cost. You can stream to a maximum of 7 rooms simultaneously. Channel changing is very fast compared to other providers. It lacks dual buffers, a popular feature for sports fans but does have a 4-tuner picture-in-picture. AT&T offers a package that bundles internet, TV, land line and cell phone for an attractive price. Not all systems across the country offer the same hardware.

FiOS Multi-Room

The FiOS solution is the most fully customizable system on the market and the FiOS network is the fastest. On Demand is nearly instant. It also offers very comprehensive remote management and server-based remote streaming capabilities. The FiOS multiroom DVR runs on a variety of hardware so recording capacities can vary from 20 – 200 hours of HD. Because of the use of different hardware, not every system can show HD in every room. Like AT&T and Comcast the FiOS system can be bundled for very attractive pricing with zero upfront cost.

Do you want to know how they stack up? Here’s an easy comparison chart!

Server Price (before discounts)
$399 $349 $399 No upfront cost No upfront cost No upfront cost
Client Price (before discounts) $99 (H25 or C31) $159 No upfront cost No upfront cost No upfront cost
Hours of HD Record Time
200 250 50 65-1395 46-726 (MPEG-2 HD)
Number of user-set simultaneous recordings 5 SAT 2 OTA
(no more than 5 total)
3 1 4 SD 3 HD 2
Max. number of simultaneous remote clients
3 3 3 7 2 per DVR (out of 6)
Record Over-The-Air programming Yes1 Yes7 No No No
Record all network primetime shows using a single tuner
No Yes No No No
Remote clients require a separate box No if Samsung TV is used2 Yes Yes Yes Yes
Pause Live TV on any TV
Yes if Samsung TV is used2 Yes No Yes No
Manage recordings from any TV Yes if Samsung TV or C31 is used2 Yes Yes Yes Yes
Compatible with older equipment
Yes No Yes No Yes
Volume Leveling Technology No Yes No Yes Yes (Dynamic Range)
Picture in Picture
HR34 only (not clients) Yes No Yes No
Dual Buffers Yes Yes No No Yes
Set recordings online
Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Manage recordings online No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Built-in streaming
No No Yes4 Yes4 Yes (X-Box)
HD on all TVs Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
1080p programming
Yes Yes No No Yes
3D programming Yes No Yes No Yes
Video On Demand
Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
HD User Interface Yes3 Yes No Yes Yes
Youtube Videos
Yes No No No Yes (via Media Manager)
Netflix No No No No No
Blockbuster at Home
No Yes No No No

1Requires the use of the AM21N adapter, sold separately
2Samsung 2011 and 2012 6000-series Smart TVs required for receiver-free operation, pause live TV from any TV, and for remote management
3HD User interface for HR34 has been available since spring 2012.
4Streaming is from Server library not from home DVR
5Higher capacity DVR available in some markets.
6Minimum guaranteed number. May be higher with some hardware.
7Record 1 channel over the air with adapter sold separately.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.