For just $50 ($90 including the PCI TV-capture card you'll need if your system lacks a graphics card with a TV input; $120 with a remote control added), PVS 3 enables you to watch and record shows on your computer. (Microsoft's Windows XP Media Center Edition builds in DVR capability, but that OS can't be purchased separately; it comes only with new systems.)
The positives: The software is less expensive than even the lowest-priced ReplayTV or TiVo boxes. For access via the Internet to TV listings--which you'll find essential if you intend to streamline the process of choosing particular shows to record--SnapStream costs only $5 a month versus ReplayTV's $10 and TiVo's $13. In addition, PVS 3 is more flexible than its stand-alone competitors. It allows you to watch the programs you have recorded on another PC over your home network, the Internet, or a Pocket PC-based PDA. Or you can put the programs on DVD if you have a DVD burner.
But the PVS 3 system has its disadvantages, too: Watching TV on a computer screen can be unpleasant, and connecting a TV to the video-out port of your graphics card requires that the PC be near your TV. And if you want the TV-capture card and the remote control along with the software, you're getting fairly close to the price of an entry-level DVR box.
The image quality you get with PVS 3 depends on your PC's speed, but on my test system (a 1.2-GHz Athlon PC with a GeForce4-based graphics card and 512MB of RAM), it was certainly acceptable. Nevertheless, even at the higher quality settings, the same program looked worse on the preproduction PVS 3 software than it did on my TiVo. From the March 2003 issue of PC World magazine