PVRs: How to buy the best PVR What is a PVR?
Personal video recorders, or PVRs, record television programmes. They're also sometimes called DVRs, or digital video recorders.
Unlike video recorders or DVD recorders, which use removable tapes or discs to store programmes, a PVR records TV to an internal hard disk.
This means that a PVR's storage capacity is huge – more than 100 hours of programming is typical, and the largest can store 250 hours worth of TV before the hard drive is full.
There’s also no degradation in picture and sound quality when you record a programme – when you play it back it’s just as good as watching live TV.
Use our PVR reviews to find the best PVR for you.
Sky satellite, Virgin cable, Freeview or Freesat?
PVRs are digital recorders and, as such, are suitable only if you watch digital TV. If you haven’t switched yet, don’t buy a PVR.
If you are a digital viewer, you’ll need to buy a PVR that suits the platform you use. Some PVRs are designed for pay-TV services from Sky satellite (Sky+ or Sky HD), or Virgin cable (V+), and a whole host work with free-to-air services from Freeview or Freesat TV.
Read our guide to free and pay TV services for full details of the TV services available in the UK.
To check whether you live in an area that can receive Freeview, do a Freeview postcode check. If Freeview is available in your area you can buy a Freeview PVR and save yourself the monthly expense of a cable or satellite-based service.
If not, or if high-definition TV appeals, consider the new Freesat satellite TV service and associated PVR – the Humax Foxsat-HDR.
Read our in-depth guide to Freesat for further details.
Best PVR brands
Two brands of TV recorder, Humax and TVonics, consistently score highly and regularly bag our Best Buy awards. If you buy a model from one of these manufacturers, you won’t be going too far wrong.
Topfield is another brand that has done well in the past. We regularly test PVRs and update our test results with the latest models throughout the year, though, and you can find the results in our PVR reviews.
Humax produces Freeview PVRs and a Freesat model, the Foxsat-HDR which lets you access high-definition (HDTV) content. To date, TVonics and Topfield have only produced Freeview models.
If you receive your digital TV via satellite or cable, you’ve little choice. Sky makes only two models, the Sky+ and the Sky+HD, which provides access to high-definition (HD) content. Virgin makes only one receiver, the V+, which also offers HD content. However, the good news is that all three are good PVRs.
For help choosing an HD PVR watch the Which? buyers' guide video