Are you looking to buy a Personal Video Recorder (PVR- also known as a Digital Video recorder)? Then here are some pointers to help you choose.
Because a PVR uses the hard disc within the set-top box to record, it means no discs or tapes are used. This internal hard disc recording is miles better than the old VHS video tape cassettes that you may have used to record off the TV, because there’s no rewinding or forwarding- you can instantly jump to any point in your recorded programme. If you do think that you’ll want to take programmes away from the PVR and watch them somewhere else, you’ll have to buy one that will permit this. More on this later.
Who provides you TV services? If it’s a satellite or cable television service you have, then check with them what services they have available. For example TiVo and Replay TV are well known services, but your provider may have something similar, but for a discounted price as you are already a valued customer. It can sometimes even be free- at least for a trial period.
By combining the PVR with the cable or satellite set-top box, the operation should be seamless and fully integrated. However, for advanced features like the ability to burn program recordings to disc or to share recordings between different PVRs in your house, you will want to opt for a more advanced digital video recorder than most cable and satellite providers will offer.
Next up unless you are going to stay retro, you will need to make sure the PVR can record in HD (High definition). If you have a digital or HD-ready TV or plan to get one in the near future, pay the extra money and opt for an HD PVR. An HD PVR offers the same convenience and easy-to-use features as a standard PVR, but it lets you capture your favourite programs in the improved resolution of HD.
Next you will need to decide how many hours of programmes you will want to record in a week. The reason for this is price. The bigger the hard disc, the more expensive the PVR is. If you are just going to use your PVR to record a few programmes each week, then a basic model with enough hard-drive capacity to store 40 to 80 hours of programming should suffice. You shouldn’t underestimate how much space you need. Unless you religiously catch up on all your recorded programmes each week, and then delete them, your PVR can soon begin to fill towards capacity if you opted for a small hard drive model.
You may not always want to view your recorded programmes from the PVR and sitting in your lounge. If you plan to transfer or copy your PVR recordings to use them on another device, such as a lap-top, you’ll need to choose a PVR with the appropriate connections. It can be awkward or expensive to have to try to buy extra equipment so as to be able to access and view your PVR programmes material on another device.
Many PVRs on the market feature two tuners, which gives you the ability to watch one channel while recording another. This may be useful, for example, if you have a family who may want to watch different programmes- it can avoid familial disputes!
Modern TV screens, Blu-Ray players, Set-top boxes and PVRs are able to be upgraded as new features are added and bugs fixed. Machines that have an Ethernet cable port are the best option here. Ones with only a USB slot mean that you’ll have to download onto a stick from your computer’s internet connection, which is time-consuming and a fag.
Check out the EPG – Electronic Programme Guide (an on-screen TV listings service for easy selection of shows to record). Look for something with at least a 7 day EPG.
Finally, you probably remember the difficulty in programming old VHS recorders to record programmes on the television. The programming features of your PVR should be ones you are happy with. Don’t for a system that is too sophisticated that you don’t understand it. On the other hand, some PVRs are very simple to use and have handy features that enable you to record a series of future programmes at a stroke.
There are a bewildering number of PVRs on the market, so I suggest that you first make a list, following on from this article, of those features you must have, those that are desirable, and those that you either don’t want, or don’t want to pay a premium price for.