Your kids say that the TiVo digital video recorder (DVR) is lifechanging: You tell it what TV shows you like, and it saves them until you have time to watch. If the phone rings once you're settled in, hit pause. Your show will be waiting patiently when you return. Better yet, you can fast-forward through ads. What's not to like?
What you need to know The trouble is that the actual TiVo product, though very user-friendly, costs a lot up front ($70 to $800) and requires you to pay up to $20 a month in addition to your already high cable or satellite TV bill. Worse, all but the priciest TiVos degrade picture quality, especially on bigscreen TVs.
The cool-boomer solution Rent a generic DVR from your cable or satellite provider. A DVR offers most of TiVo's vital services, but you don't have to plunk down big bucks for the product - just pay $10 or less per month. (You may also need to upgrade to digital cable.) And because it records incoming digital feeds, there's no difference in picture quality between live and recorded programs. This is key for anyone who has or wants a high-def TV. The best part: A cable company rep will set it up and may even teach you to use it. That's more than you can say for Junior.