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Technology.

22 July 2021

Best PVRs and set-top boxes for 2021

We’ve rounded up the very best PVRs from our testing, so you can pick a model that combines great picture quality with handy features.
Martin Pratt
Watching tv

A PVR or set-top box may seem like the type of product that doesn't require too much thought. A PVR is just a box that you can record shows onto and a set-top box gives you access to Freeview or Freesat channels - what could be simpler?

There's more to it though. Your choice of PVR or set-top box will affect a wide variety of factors, including the picture and sound quality of the shows you record and watch. It's important to choose wisely, and that's where Which? can help.

Do you need a set-top box or a PVR?

Set-top boxes and PVRs are similar devices with one key difference: a PVR lets you record TV as well as watch it, while a set-top box just does the latter.

PVRs have built-in hard drives and several tuners that let you record different shows at the same time or watch one channel while recording another.

The best PVRs

Only logged-in Which? members can view our recommendations in the table below. If you’re not yet a member, join Which? to get instant access.

Best PVRs

  • 74%
    £188.00

    A comparatively affordable model, this PVR has a slightly smaller hard drive but shares many of its predecessor's other features. It's one of the best we've tested.

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  • 72%
    £275.00

    An all-in-one PVR that has a 500GB hard drive and can record to DVD, this device isn't cheap, but there's plenty here for your money. It looks slick and scores very highly.

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  • 71%
    £161.54

    With its simple to use interface you'll have no trouble setting and watching recordings on this neat little PVR.

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  • 70%
    £179.00

    Another Freeview Play box from Humax, this model is one of the most advanced boxes we've seen - something you don't often get to say about PVRs. Do these extra features make it worth its substantial asking price? Sign in to find out.

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Table last updated: March 2021

Not found the product for you? Browse all of our PVR reviews.

The best set-top boxes

Best set-top boxes

  • 80%
    £149.00

    It may cost more than most, but this set-top box is top of the heap. It’s packed with features, including 4K support, access to catch-up apps and Freeview Play, which lets you watch the previous week’s shows from the electronic programme guide. It gets the basics right, too: it’s a doddle to use and the picture quality is excellent.

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  • 67%
    £35.00

    If you’re looking to spend as little as possible but don’t want to compromise on quality, this fantastic Freeview box is the way to go. It’s easy to use and looks sharp.

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Table last updated: March 2021

Do you need a set-top box or a PVR?

Set-top boxes and PVRs are similar devices with one key difference: a PVR lets you record TV as well as watch it, while a set-top box just does the latter.

PVRs have built-in hard drives and several tuners that let you record different shows at the same time or watch one channel while recording another.

Why Which? testing is different

We buy every PVR and set-top box we test, and we look at models of all types, TV platforms and price, including Freesat, Freeview, BT TV, Sky TV, TalkTalk and Virgin Media boxes, costing from £50 to £300. We speak to manufacturers and scour the market to make sure we test all the most popular models that you'll find in the shops or online.

Which? doesn't only tell you about the Best Buy PVRs and set-top boxes that we recommend, we also tell you which models to avoid with our Don't Buys. If a PVR or set-top box has an issue we feel is so bad it must be a fault, then we will buy a new version and retest it. We'll also speak to the manufacturer to find out what it plans to do about the problem.