DVR Buy or Build

Step two in getting rid of MediaCom is replacing there terrible DVR.

The two options that saw where buying a Tivo or a home DVR system.



  • It just works
  • Cheap up front costs. $100 to buy, $240 for first years rental, and then the $120 a year or $400 for life time subscription. Thus total cost of ownership $740


  • The device would not work when we return to New Zealand
  • Not so keen on the phoned-home information
  • No commercial skipping

For a long time I’d wanted to setup a MythTV system, and that was my plan, but I was reading about capture card support and other issues, and SageTV’s commercial product looked like it had all the bells and whistles, but the real game changer was the HD300 client device. At $150 (+$30 for Wifi USB dongle) that was one of the cheapest “PC’s” I’d  ever seen. The server software costs $80 (but if you buy the HD300 and Server together it totals $200 (plus wifi)), then your paying $230 for the client side and that still cheaper than any PC I’ve ever seen. Given that SageTV run of Linux and Windows, I could use newer capture cards that had only Windows drivers.

For the server I was looking at Dell, HP/Compact, and the above PC’s on Amazon, but the Dell 570 was the cheapest PC $270, 500GB and 2GB RAM. For +$40 you could upgrade to AMD Athlon II X2 245. It also had two PCIe slots, and free RAM and SATA ports.

For capture I was looking at the Huapage 2250 or AverMedia A188C, the AverMedia was cheaper (even more in white box version), but Amazon had lots of people complaining that it didn’t work for them. I did think that most those people were using it in QAM (cable) mode, thus decided to go that path.

So in the end I had a bill of materials of:

  • HD300 ($150)
  • HD300 Wifi USB dongle ($30)
  • SageTV Server software ($50 - bundle price + shipping $16.20)
  • DELL 570 with AMD Athlon II X2 245 ($340 + free shipping)
  • AverMedia MTVHDDUWB HD Duet - White Box ($70 + free shipping)

Build Costs: $656.20


  • Works here in the US
  • Works in NZ (with a new capture card ~$100)
  • Expandable hard disk space, to allow storage growth
  • Has commercial skipping features
  • Noisy PC/HDD’s in different room
  • Lots of Geek pride


  • Rolling your own solution, thus owning all the “why’s it not working”
  • Higher upfront cost
  • Need for networking between the client and server, in a rented house, thus needing Wifi to work

So given that both solutions total cost was less than a year of Cable TV (from any of the providers, excluding the teaser first year price), building was looking like a great choice.

So I pulled out my credit card, and place my third orders and waited.

Well actually I went to bed very late but very excited, also a little apprehensive about if I made the right choice, and hoping it all worked out.

[2021-07-17: This post from 2011 never seemed to have been published, not sure why, so recovered 10 years latter for hindsight reading pleasure]