PVR reviews: Features explained

A PVR can revolutionise the way you watch TV but they are available to suit different TV services, such as digital or satellite TV, and come with a variety of different features. Here we explain some of the key features to look out for, such as series link, conflict resolution and split recording, and how they will affect your buying decision.

Once you know exactly what you need, you can find that perfect combination of great picture quality in an easy to use package.

Find best the PVR for you and avoid the worst with our Best Buy PVRs.

Electronic Programme Guide

The electronic programme guide helps you plan your TV week

How a PVR works

A PVR is a digital TV recorder. Instead of tapes or discs they record programmes on to an internal hard disk. 

They're really easy to use, as there are no fiddly timers to program. Just select the shows you want to record from the electronic programme guide (EPG) that appears on-screen. 

They've got massive recording capacity too - 250 hours or more of standard definition content (non-HD channels) is typical. Many PVRs can receive and record high-definition (HD) content too. 

Different types of PVRs

There are different types of PVR depending on which TV service you receive - Freeview, Freesat, Sky digital satellite, Virgin Media cable, and the combination of Freeview and YouView offered by BT and TalkTalk. The Sky, Virgin, BT and TalkTalk PVRs are purchased as part of a subscription package.

Know the TV service you want to receive? You can read reviews of Freeview PVRs, Freesat PVRs, Sky+HD box, Virgin Media's TiVo, BT's boxes and YouView boxes from BT, Humax and TalkTalk.

Freeview+/Freesat+ features

There are a range of features used with the Freeview and Freesat services designed to make programming and recording easier as follows:

  • Accurate recording alters the recording start and stop times if a programme runs late or is rescheduled.
  • Series link allows you to set the PVR to automatically record all programmes in a series.
  • Conflict resolution is useful if you're trying to record a programme that clashes with other recordings. The PVR will try to find a time when the conflicting recording is being broadcast again, and suggest that as an alternative booking time.
  • Split recording lets you record a programme - a film, for example - which is split before and after, say, a news broadcast, without recording the programme in between.
  • Broadcast recommendations is a feature that means the PVR will recommend programmes it thinks you'll like. When you select programmes to record from the EPG (Electronic Programme Guide), the PVR searches for programmes of a similar genre scheduled to be broadcast in the future, and asks whether you'd like to record them too.
  • Trailer booking lets you program the PVR when you see a trailer for a TV show you like, simply by pressing a button while the trailer is showing, rather than having to go via the EPG.

We assess every aspect of the PVRs we test, including these features and picture and sound quality - find out more about how we test PVRs.

Capacity

The size of the hard disk inside a PVR varies: The larger the hard disk, the more recordings you can store - a 500GB hard-disk is typical and will give you around 250 hours of standard definition recording time or 125 hours of high-definition (HD).

Number of tuners

Most PVRs have two digital tuners to give you the flexibility to record one show while you watch another or record two programmes while watching something previously recorded.

Pause

Virtually all PVRs offer the option of pausing live TV. If you're interrupted in the middle of a programme, hit pause and the PVR starts recording what you're watching.

Hit pause again when you're ready to continue watching and the programme starts from the point you stopped at, as though you were watching live. The PVR continues to record the whole programme so you don't miss a thing.

Editing

Only a few models let you edit recordings after you've made them. This could be useful if you want to chop out the ad breaks or top-and-tail recordings where they've started early or overrun.

Catch-up and Smart-TV access

Many PVRs can be hooked up to your home broadband service via ethernet cable or, in some cases, by built-in wi-fi. You can then access a range of smart-TV content such as catch-up TV services like BBC iPlayer or additional film streaming services such as Netflix, Now TV and Amazon Prime Instant Video. Many of these are available on Freeview and Freesat boxes, and those available from pay-TV providers.

Find out which TV service is best for you and which offer smart-TV features with our guide on how to buy the best PVR.

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