I run a PC-based DVR with some SiliconDust HDHomeRun Prime tuners. Historically, I’ve used Windows Media Center, as it was painless to use, and had a robust 10 FT interface as well as an excellent TV guide. However, when Microsoft announced that it was going to be a paid addon for Windows 8, I saw the writing on the wall, and started researching other alternatives.
I ended up with NVPR, after testing a lot of the other Windows based solutions, such as MediaPortal and ForTheRecord (which I believe is now Argus). NPVR seemed to have the easiest guide setup and the most stable recording out of those three. The only issue that I’ve had with NPVR, and it’s the same as all non-MCE options, is that it doesn’t support DRM recordings. So, depending on your cable provider, this may not be that useful. However, for cablecard copy-freely channels as well as clearqam/antenna channels, it’s a great choice.
NPVR is free, supports some scripting to handle guide and recording handling, and is rock solid stable. Let’s go through what features it offers.
We’ll start with the guide functionality, since that is where a DVR program lives and dies. Fortunately, NPVR supports both MC2XML as well as SchedulesDirect. I decided to pay the $25 a month to get SchedulesDirect. It’s easy to setup and update, and quite accurate. When you open the guide, it shows a (configurable) timespan and all the shows that are airing.
Recording options are quite robust, with the basic “Record Once”, “Record All New” and “Record All”, as well as more advanced options like “Record all at this time slot” or “Record on these days”. Files are saved as TS files with an XML sidecar for metadata. While some may prefer a compressed file to save space, having the raw TS files gives a lot of options, particularly if you want to strip commercials or re-encode to your standard format. There are script hooks in the scripts directory that let you run postprocessing scripts to move files, or reencode, or whatever else you’d like.
Live TV and playback work well, although it’s not on par with MCE, or even the more recent releases of the SiliconDust TV App that support DRM channels. At this point, I either use the SiliconDust TV app on my computer, or the cable provider box for live TV.
Beyond that, it also has a strong web interface that supports much larger channel displays, as well as a robust search and record function. Definitely helpful for those days that I’m out of town and want to quick double check whether or not I’ve got my shows recording.
It also has a good community, and regular updates, as well as some plugin support. One plugin that I highly recommend is GuidePlus [site link]. It will automatically update the guide listings for shows that you have set to record with season/episode details, as well as renaming the files with the same info. It makes it quite easy to see whether or not you’ve seen an episode or not.
All in all, NPVR is the best DVR product on PC that I’ve tested. At some point, I’ll do a comparison with PLEX and SiliconDust’s beta DVR product.