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1 October 2020

PVR and set-top box Jargon buster

A set-top box or PVR can revolutionise the way you watch TV. We bust the jargon that could affect your buying decision.
Man changing TV settings on remote control
Martin Pratt

Ready to buy? Find top performing products with our best set-top boxes and PVRs.  

Accurate recording

Alters the recording start and stop times if a programme runs late or is rescheduled.

Audio output

Some boxes have a separate audio output, to connect the box to your hi-fi speakers.

Broadcast recommendations

Some models recommend programmes it thinks you'll like. When you select programmes to record from the 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.


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

Conflict resolution

This 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.

Controls on the box

Some set-top boxes and PVRs have controls on the actual box as well as on the remote control. This is useful if you lose the remote or if the batteries go flat.


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 when they've started early or overrun.

Electronic Programme Guide (EPG)

The on-screen electronic programme guide (EPG) lets you see what's on all channels for the week ahead, but some do it better than others.


The 'favourites' feature lets you choose your favourite channels, making them quicker to access, which is handy with the wide range of digital channels on offer.


Available via a Freesat set-top box or PVR, or through a TV with a built-in Freesat tuner, Freesat brings you TV via your satellite dish. You can currently get more than 200 TV, radio and interactive channels on Freesat.


To watch Freeview channels, you'll need a TV with a built-in Freeview tuner, or a Freeview PVR or set-top box. Once you've bought the box, the programmes are free - you can currently get up tp 70 TV and radio channels on Freeview.


Virtually all PVRs - and some set-top boxes - 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 will start from the point you stopped at as if you were watching it live. The PVR continues to record the whole programme so you don't miss a thing.

PVR types

There are different types of PVR depending on which TV service you receive: Freeview, Freesat, Sky Digital or Virgin Media. The Sky and Virgin PVRs are purchased as part of a subscription package.

Series link

Allows you to set the PVR to automatically record all programmes in a series.

Smart TV

Many set-top boxes and PVRs can be hooked up to your home broadband service via ethernet cable or, in some cases, 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 download services such as Netflix or Amazon Prime Instant Video.

Split recording

Lets you record a programme - a film, for example - that is split before and after, say, a news broadcast, without recording the programme in between.

Trailer booking

Lets you program the PVR when you see the 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.


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.

View all PVRs and set-top boxes