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What: ReplayTV

A new type of idiot box for your TV called TiVo was reviewed in this space recently, and now we take a look at a competitor, ReplayTV. Both are digital video recorders manufactured by companies in Northern California.

These recorders are the hot new craze in television and may someday replace the VCR. They are particularly useful for sports viewing. With a digital recorder, a hard drive is used to record programming instead of videotape. No more searching for an available tape. You can also pause live programming and you replay recorded programming for a second look.

We were impressed by TiVo after seeing a demonstration, but weren’t as impressed at home. Hooking it up wasn’t easy, programming it wasn’t easy, and it did some crazy things, such as recording a program or going to a channel on its own. Changing channels at times was a nightmare.

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It may have just been a bad unit, or maybe it was hooked up incorrectly, but we shipped it back after two frustrating weeks.

Because of that experience, we didn’t want to try ReplayTV at our home, but we did talk to a few satisfied Southern California customers.

Bob Levy, a director for Fox Sports, said he has had ReplayTV units on three televisions at his home since November, and he believes ReplayTV offers better quality and is more user friendly than TiVo. “I have heard TiVo can have a mind of its own,” Levy said. “Replay hasn’t failed me at all.”

Levy said he came home during the second quarter of an NBA playoff game, started watching from the start and, by fast-forwarding through commercials, had just about caught up to live action by the time the game ended without missing a thing.

Robert Bro, 53, who has retired after having much success in the stock market, said he got a ReplayTV unit mainly to watch his beloved Atlanta Braves. “When I want to go to the bathroom, I just put it on stop and don’t miss a thing.”

The basic ReplayTV unit, with a 12-hour recording capacity, costs $699. A similar TiVo unit costs $499, but then there is a subscription fee of $9.95 per month or $199 lifetime.

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We’re not really qualified to say whether one brand is better than the other, but if you’re thinking about getting a digital recorder, keep in mind there is a choice.

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