UHD-X 4K TV Box
According to our latest survey, the prevalent fault with both PVRs and set-top boxes is a tendency for the picture to lock up and freeze on a screen. This issue accounted for almost 30% of all the faults respondents told us about.
Recording a series of your favourite show onto a PVR only to have it break down just as you reach the finale would be crushing, and losing access to all your TV channels by virtue of a faulty set-top box would be no less aggravating. That’s why each year we ask more than 10,000 Which? members to tell us whether they are happy, or have experienced problems, with their PVRs and set-top boxes, in our reliability survey.
Our survey data takes into account the reported fault rates, how severe those faults are and how quickly into the devices’ lifespan they occurred. In our latest analysis we've looked at the performance of the biggest PVR and set-top box manufacturers – including Humax, Manhattan, Panasonic, Samsung, Sky and Virgin Media – and have calculated a reliability rating for each one, so you know which brands to choose and which to avoid.
As you can see, there's a big difference between the most and least reliable PVR and set-top box brands, and the satisfaction scores reported by customers.
The table below summarises this year’s reliability results. Brands are ranked by their customer score, which relates to whether their customers would recommend them. The more stars for reliability, the fewer problems reported.
PVR and set-top box brand
Customer satisfaction score
Table notes: The above data is based on a survey conducted on 2,506 Which? members June-July 2019.
Whether you’re planning on buying a set-top box or a PVR, the most common issue is the same. Both devices have a tendency to freeze up and lock on a certain screen. Sometimes a full reset of the device will fix the issue, but in some cases the machine can be beyond repair. This problem accounted for 30% of all the problems affecting these devices.
The recording and playback of shows was a common issue for PVRs - 12% of the faults affected these most vital functions. Issues connecting to the internet was the next most common, accounting for 7% of problems.
As you can see from the tables above, there’s a chasm between the most and least reliable brands. When one brand stays 90% healthy after just one year, while for another the figure is just 74%, the disparity is obvious. Similarly, at the five-year mark you could be lumped with a brand with a pathetic 62% no-fault rate versus one with 83%.
The graph above shows how the brand that stays fault-free for the longest compares with the worst brand and the overall average. Which? members can see how brands compare for faults over a five-year period in the table below. The first table shows PVR brands and the second shows set-top box brands.
PVR and set-top box brand
% fault-free after one year
% fault-free after three years
% fault-free after five years
Table notes: Results based on feedback from more than 2,506 PVR and set-top box owners, surveyed in June/July 2019.
We ask our survey respondents to describe their devices’ faults as minor, major or catastrophic, based on the following guidelines:
Choose a brand from the list below to find out more detail about its performance in our survey.
Already know which PVR and set-top box brand you want? Use the links to go straight to our reviews and find your ideal model:
Which? has a wealth of information on Britain's favourite brands. Every year we ask Which? members to tell us about the technology products they own - from how likely they would be to recommend a brand, to how reliable the products are once they get them home. This year, nearly 10,000 Which? members told us about more than 40,000 devices. We calculate a brand's reliability and its customer score based on the results of our annual survey.
Our reliability surveys, combined with our extensive lab tests, mean we can recommend the best PVRs and set-top boxes you should buy.
This data is crucial for our testing, too. If a brand falls far below the category average, we take away the manufacturer’s Best Buy awards and won’t recommend any of its products unless a marked improvement in reliability is shown.