PVRs: How to choose a digital TV recorder How to buy the best DVD recorder
The best DVD recorders provide a simple solution to recording digital TV programmes that you want to keep or share with family and friends.
See our 'Should I buy a DVD recorder?' guide to see whether a DVD recorder is the right option for you.
The best DVD recorders deliver excellent picture and sound quality from both pre-recorded discs that you buy or rent and from programmes that you've recorded yourself. They are also easy to use with an electronic programme guide (EPG) and remote control that are intuitive to navigate.
DVD recorders only come with built-in Freeview tuners so don't consider one if you are intending to record from Sky, Virgin or Freesat.
DVD recorder essential features
When selecting a DVD recorder there are some features that you simply must have:
- Built-in hard disk drive - a DVD disc can only hold about two hours of high-definition programming so if you are intending to use it as your main TV recording device. then buying one with a built-in hard disk is essential. A 500GB hard drive would store around 250 hours of recorded programmes. You can then transfer programmes that you want to keep onto blank discs.
- Series link - this is the ability to easily record a whole series of programmes over many weeks. A very useful feature that you'll find invaluable
- Accurate recording - this feature means that the PVR will reschedule a recording if the schedules slip and is essential, for example, when a sporting fixture overruns.
- Comprehensive electronic programme guide (EPG) - the best EPGs show programme listings of around eight channels on screen at once, which helps when plotting your future viewing. You can also access a synopsis of each programme by clicking on it. Poorer EPGs can show just a single channel at a time and a limited amount of programme information.
- Easy to use - we've come across many DVD recorders that are a pain to use. Choosing a model that's simple to operate will save you lots of trouble.
- Fast disc loading - Compared with PVRs, many DVD recorders are slow to load a disc and get recording, taking on average more than a minute to start recording on a new unformatted disc.
DVD recorder features that are nice to have
Some features are not essential and depend on your requirements:
- Blu-ray recording - conventional DVD recorders cannot record high-definition (HD) content to disc. If you want to record HD content, then only a Blu-ray recorder can do this. However, they are expensive and not many models are on the market.
- Smart TV access - if you're not interested in accessing catch-up TV services, such as BBC iPlayer, or other internet TV content, then don't buy a DVD recorder that can connect to the internet. Otherwise you'll be paying extra for a feature that you don't intend to use.
- Trailer programming - this feature means that you can schedule a programme to record when you see a trailer for it by pressing a single button on the remote control. A useful feature to have on occasion but hardly essential.
- Recommendations - when you set a programme to record using the EPG the PVR recognises the type of programme it is and recommends other shows of a similar genre that it thinks you'll like. It's a nice addition to to have but doesn't add much to a PVR's versatility. For more on these Freeview+ features see Features explained.
- DVD-Ram disc recording - this disc format allows random access to the disc, which means that programmes aren’t saved in the order you record them but any available blank space is used. This means that a recording may start off in one part of the disc and, when that’s full, it’ll skip to the next available blank space rather than needing a single space on the disc big enough to store the whole of the recording. It's a handy feature, but Ram discs are more expensive and not compatible with all machines.