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TV Your Way: Digital Video Recorders

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Choose Your Channel: Off the Shelf TiVo ($$)

You want to control what your kids can watch and experiment with advanced recording options.

Available at retail outlets, TiVo comes with family-friendly elements, such as KidZone, a password-protected "area" where parents can find and store programs appropriate for different age groups. A four-digit password puts TiVo into KidZone mode, and the password has to be re-entered before anyone can "leave" the zone. (Parents can still record their favorite shows, but kids can't access the programs without the code.)

"TiVoToGo" lets you take your favorite shows with you, either through an Ethernet cable, or wirelessly, using a USB adapter ($30). Download TiVoToGo software to your networked PC, then transfer recorded shows to your laptop or to a portable media player like an iPod or Sony PlayStation Portable.

A broadband Internet connection also gives TiVo subscribers access to programs (movies can take four to six hours to download) from Amazon.com. Rent movies for $3.99 each or buy for $10 to $15; TV shows are $1.99 to own.

Cost: Boxes run from $100 for an 80-hour standard-definition recorder to $300 for a full-blown HDTV recorder, which stores 180 hours of standard TV or 20 hours of HDTV. Subscriptions are $12.95 to $16.95 a month, depending on whether you commit to one, two, or three years. Yearly prepaid plans range from $179 to $299.

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