A DVR records onto a built-in hard drive much like the one in a computer. Though you can't record high-def TV programming onto a DVD, you can do so on many DVRs. DVRs don't have a slot for removable discs or tapes, so they can't play recorded media. You'll still need a Blu-ray or DVD player to watch a disc you purchased or rented. A DVR is a good choice if you often record TV programs or often time-shift to watch a program at a more convenient time. You can also pause, fast forward, and rewind live TV and recordings, allowing you even more viewing flexibility.
Perhaps the easiest option for many consumers is a DVR that's integrated with a cable or satellite set-top box and leased from a TV service provider. On top of the rental fee for the box, there's generally a DVR service fee, often about $10 or so a month. Many DVRs have two or more tuners so you can record a few shows simultaneously or watch one program while recording others. Multiroom DVRs from various providers can record more shows simultaneously (one cable provider says up to 10) and let you watch recorded video on multiple TVs in your house. You may get more storage capacity than with a hard-drive-based DVR.
You can also purchase a DVR from TiVo, whose name has become almost synonymous with this type of product. TiVo recorders have gained a following for their extensive capabilities and easy-to-use interface. A TiVo unit replaces your cable box; you use it with a CableCard that you can rent from your cable company for a few dollars a month. (A TiVo HD DVR is also now available from DirecTV for a small premium over its standard models.) TiVo offers various combinations of price and fees; check their website for the latest prices and promotions. You must make a one-year commitment and pay a monthly service fee ($15 a month in early 2014), or a one-time service fee ($500) that's good for the life of the DVR. You can add an external hard drive to some models to get more capacity. TiVo recorders also provide Internet connectivity, with access to streaming video from providers such as Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus, and more.