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Personal Video Recorders Explored

We look at the next generation of video recorders. Record hours and hours of TV with no tape. More on the PVR revolution.

 

What is a PVR?

PVR stands for “Personal Video Recorder”, sometimes known as the DVR (Digital Video Recorder).

Rather than recording onto VHS video cassettes, a PVR records TV programmes onto a hard disk that’s built into a set-top box.

There are several advantages to using a PVR to record your favourite TV shows: no tapes to rewind, the ability to pause live TV, integrated programme guides, and series recording, plus a lot more storage space than a standard VHS cassette. You can copy programmes down onto video tape or a DVD recorder for archiving, if you wish.

This page contains information on the range of digital video recorders available in the UK for Freeview and Digital Satellite, helping you work out which is the best PVR for you.

Choosing a PVR

If you’re looking to replace your video cassette recorder with a digital hard-disk recorder, here’s what to look for when selecting a PVR:

  • Twin tuner – Allows you to record one digital channel whilst watching another digital channel.
  • EPG – Electronic Programme Guide (an on-screen TV listings service for easy selection of shows to record) – Look for something with at least a 7 day EPG
  • Disk size – PVRs have different sized hard-disks. If you’re likely to record and store a lot of shows, consider a box with a larger drive
  • Series Link – Set-and-forget option to mark a favourite show to record future episodes in sequence on the same channel

Sky+ Planner
The Sky+ EPG (Electronic Programme Guide)

 

PVR Digital Recorder List

There are a lot of digital recorders out there on the market. The following table lists the major UK models currently available:

Box Why should you buy?
Sky+ The mother of all PVRs – a must for Sky Digital satellite customers, and recently voted Best PVR by a leading consumer magazine. Five Stars
Virgin V+ The PVR for customers of Virgin Media cable – has three tuners
BT Vision Also supports on-demand TV shows. FREE to BT Broadband users. BT Vision details
Humax PVR9300T Freeview box as recommended by users of this site Five Stars

 

Below is a list of PVRs available in the UK:


BT Vision V+ Box
Mod
BT Vision V-Box

The BT Vision service offers over 40 live digital TV as well as video on demand.

The BT Vision+ Box has a twin-tuner, supports Series Link and holds 80 hours of TV. The box supports download of a stack of films and TV shows over Broadband. Full review on our BT Vision Review page

The box is available to BT Total Broadband customers.

More details: btvision.bt.com


Bush TU160DTR 160GB
Top Up TV Anytime
Bush TU160DTR / TU250DTR / TU320DTR / TU500DTR – Top Up TV PVR

  • Freeview, plus extra content via Top Up TV Anytime
  • 160GB hard drive – Up to 80 hours
  • Twin Tuner
  • 14 Day EPG
  • 2 x SCART sockets

160GB version: £109.99 from Argos (Cat no: 532/1911)
250GB version: £119.99 from Argos (Cat no: 532/1928)


Fetch TV Smartbox
Fetch TV LogoFetch TV Smartbox 8000

Fetch TV launched towards the end of 2008, offering Freeview, hard disc recorder, and video content over broadband.

Specs: 80Gig hard disk, 8 day EPG, Freeview, pause/rewind live TV, plus VoD. Manufactured by NetGem

No supplier found. Consider the Smartbox 8320 as an alternative. More on our Fetch TV page.


Humax DTR-T1000 YouView
Freeview HD LogoHumax DTR-T1000

The first YouView box on the market. Offers catch-up TV, Freeview HD and on-demand content over the Internet.

More details on our Humax DTR T1000 YouView Review page.

 


Humax HDR-Fox T2 Freeview HD Recorder
Freeview HD LogoHumax HDR Fox T2 – Freeview HD Recorder

Storage: 500Gb (Up to 300 hours)

Features: 8 day EPG, twin tuner, Freeview HD, and access to the BBC iPlayer (Internet connection needed).

Connectors: HDMI, Ethernet and USB ports

More details on our Humax HDR-Fox T2 page.


Humax FoxSat HDR
Freesat logoHumax Foxsat HDR Freesat PVR

At last, a Freesat receiver with a built-in hard drive. Out in November 2008, features of the first Freesat+ recorder include:

  • 320GB built-in hard-disk (up to 200 hours recording)
  • High Definition satellite TV recorder
  • Twin Tuner
  • Series link, radio recording, split recordings and 8 day EPG

Available for £249.99 from Argos
Available for £249.99 from Play.com

More on our Humax Foxsat HDR page

Humax 9150T
Humax PVR-9150T

Freeview receiver with a built-in hard drive. Features:

  • 160GB built-in hard-disk (up to 100 hours recording)
  • Twin Tuner
  • 7 day Electronic Programme Guide

Available for £149.99 from Argos (Cat 532/1681)


Humax 9300TBHumax PVR9300 Logos 

Humax PVR-9300TB 5 stars

This Freeview PVR constantly gets good feedback from our visitors and forum regulars. Supports Freeview+ and these other features:

  • 320GB built-in hard-disk (up to 160 hours recording)
  • Twin Tuner (watch one channel while recording another)
  • HDMI out for upscaling Freeview on an HD-Ready TV
  • 8 day Electronic Programme Guide
  • Card slot suitable for subscription services. (requires CAM)

Available from £155 – Latest prices

More details and screenshots: Our Humax PVR9300 Review

 

Panasonic DMR-XW380 EBK Freeview HD Recorder
Freeview HD Logo
Panasonic DMR-XW380 EBK – Freeview HD & DVD Recorder

Storage: Freeview HD, 250GB Hard Drive

Features: DVD Recorder with Twin Freeview HD tuner, Freeview +, High Speed Archive to DVD, SD transfer, DivX, MP3 and JPEG playback

Panasonic DMR-EX78EB-K
Panasonic DMR-EX78 DVD Recorder/PVR/Freeview

250Gb HDD Recorder (for up to 441 hours), Freeview Tuner and DVD recorder.

  • DVD Recorder: DVD-RAM, DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+RW, DVD+R, DVD+R DL, DVD-R DL.
  • Has an HDMI socket for use with High-definition TVs – 1080p upscaling.
  • Supports DivX, MP3 and JPEG compatible.
  • USB Flash Drive playback

Output: 2 x SCART , RF loopthrough

Available for £259.99 from Argos (Cat no: 085/1077)


Philips HDT8520 Freeview HD
Freeview HD Logo
Philips HDT8520 – Freeview HD Recorder

Storage: 500Gb (125 hours of HD)

Features: Ultra-quiet, 8 day EPG, HD resolutions up to 1080p, upscaling for SD programs.

Connectors: HDMI, SCART. Ethernet and USB ports

More details on our Philips HDT8520 Freeview HD page.

Pioneer DVR-540HX-S
Pioneer DVR-540HX-S, DVD Recorder/PVR/Freeview

160Gb HDD Recorder (for up to 455 hours), Freeview Tuner and DVD recorder.

  • Formats: DVD-R/DVD-RW/DVD-R dual-layer , DVD+R/DVD+RW/DVD+R dual-layer , DVD-RAM
  • Input: 1 x SCART , RCA , S-Video
  • Output: 1 x SCART , RCA , Component Video output , S-Video , Coaxial Digital Audio

Analogue and Freeview digital tuners. Live pause, high-speed copy. MP3 and JPEG compatible.

Available for £315.99 from Amazon.

Sharp TU-TV502H Top Up Box
Top Up TV Anytime
Sharp TU-TV322H and Sharp TU-TV502H – Top Up TV PVR

  • Freeview, plus extra content via Top Up TV Anytime
  • 320GB hard drive with up to 160 hours, or
  • 500GB hard drive with up to 250 hours
  • Twin Tuner
  • 14 Day EPG
  • 2 x SCART sockets

320GB version: £169 from Argos (Cat no: 532/2192)
500GB version: £199 from Argos (Cat no: 532/2202)

Sky Digital Logo
Sky HD Box
Mod
Sky+HD Satellite PVR TOP CHOICE

This is Sky’s top of the range box, incorporating the Sky+ recorder, and Sky’s HD service.

Sky+ is exceptionally versatile, and highly recommended, the hype says that this will change the way you watch TV, and for once, it’s not wrong!

Sky Plus offers a better experience for Sky Digital customers – you can set programmes to record up to a week in advance, watch one satellite channel while recording another satellite channel, record programmes without videotape, record two different channels at the same time, and pause / rewind live TV (when the phone rings). It also has a feature called ‘Series link’, which automatically records episodes of your favourite series, keeping track of schedule changes.

Sky HD? Looking for the widest collection of HD channels to complement your HD TV set? Then you’ll be needing a Sky+HD box. This offers the same functionality as the Sky+ box above, plus High Definition.

Currently available free to new customers when ordered from www.sky.com.

For more, see our dedicated Sky+HD page

Tiscali+ Box
TalkTalk+ PVR

Known as the Tiscali TV+ recorder until TalkTalk’s acquisition in 2010. Record two digital TV channels while watching a third. Record 50 hours of TV, as well as access TalkTalk TV’s on-demand content.

Available from talktalk.co.uk/tv. More on our Talktalk TV page


Technika Smartbox 8320 Box
Freeview HD Logo
Fetch TV LogoTechnika Smartbox 8320 – Freeview HD

A powerful box that offers: Freeview HD, twin Freeview recorders, plus Internet TV using the Fetch TV service.

launched towards the end of 2008, offering Freeview, hard disc recorder, and video content over broadband.

Specs: 320GB drive, Freeview HD receivers, wi-fi, USB and BBC iPlayer.

Price: £150 exclusively from Tesco Direct. More on our Technika Smartbox page.


Topfield TF5800PVR
Mod
Topfield TF5800 PVR

Twin tuners, 160Gig hard disk (up to 88 hours recording time), supports time-shifting & dual recording, Electronic Program Guide (EPG), MP3 via USB 2.0 for storage of personal files. CI slot compatible with subscription services. Became available April 2005.
Outputs: 2 x SCART, modulated RF out

250Gig version available for £188 at Amazon

Thomson DTI 6021
Top Up TV Anytime
Thomson DTI 6021 – Top Up TV PVR

  • Freeview, plus extra content via Top Up TV Anytime
  • Two versions: 250GB drive (Up to 180 hours), or 500GB drive (up to 310 hours)
  • Twin Tuner
  • 14 Day EPG
  • 2 x SCART sockets

250 Gig version: £99.99 from Amazon
500 Gig version: £149.99 from Amazon

TopUp TV Anytime Box
Top Up TV Anytime
Thomson DTI 6300 – Top Up TV Anytime PVR

  • Freeview, plus extra content via Top Up TV Anytime
  • Two versions: 160GB drive (Up to 120 hours), or 250GB drive (up to 180 hours)
  • Twin Tuner
  • Output: 2 x SCART, digital audio and RF modulated output

Reviewed on our TopUp TV Anytime page

160 Gig version: £39.99 (reconditioned), or £89.99 (new) direct from topuptv.com
250 Gig version: £49.99 (reconditioned), or £99.99 (new) direct from topuptv.com


Virgin Media V+ BoxMod

Virgin Media V+

Records up to 80 hours of cable TV. Supports HD Hi-def. Has three tuners, allowing recording of two channels, while watching a third. Replaces the Telewest TVDrive. See our Virgin Media V+ box page for more.Output: 2x SCART, 1x modulated RF, 1 x HDMI

Available only to Virgin Media customers in cable TV areas. Installation fee: £99. Monthly fee £5 (unless on the XL package).
More details at www.virginmedia.com.

Key: ModulatorWith modulator
Prices, specifications and offers are subject to alteration. Refer to the websites
that we link to for latest prices, information and conditions

 

Old / Discontinued PVR models

Here’s a list of discontinued models of hard disc recorders, left here for historic reasons and as a reference.


Bush IDPVR801
Bush IDPVR801

Features: Freeview receiver with a built-in 80Gig hard drive for up to 80 hours of programming.

Last seen for £129.99 from Littlewoods Direct. Know an online supplier?


Bush IDPVR802
Bush IDPVR802

Features: Freeview receiver with a built-in hard drive. Can record up to 40 hours of programming.
Outputs: 2 x SCART, RF loopthrough

Last seen for £149.99 from Very.co.uk. Know an online supplier?

Daewoo DSD-9520
Daewoo DSD9520

PVR to allow recording of Freeview onto hard disk. Card slot suitable for subscription services. Has EPG.

  • Hard Disk: 80Gig (40 hours)
  • Outputs: 2 x SCART, stereo audio, digital audio

Last seen for £115 at ASDA online and Tesco.com


Evesham iPlayer
Evesham iPlayer HDTV PVR

  • 80 Gig Hard-drive (70 hours recording)
  • Video On Demand content over Broadband (IPTV)
  • Freeview
  • Onboard High-Definition upscaler (HDTV)
  • HDMI (High Def) socket
  • 2 x SCART , 1 x USB sockets
    1 x Ethernet
  • Supports MPEG and WMV video formats

As of July 2007, no longer available. Last seen for £240 from Misco.co.uk.

DigiFusion FVRT95
DigiFusion FVRT95

Features: Freeview receiver with a built-in 80gig PVR hard drive. Record TV and radio onto hard disk, pause and rewind live TV. Twin tuner. 8-day EPG. Appears similar to the FVRT95, formerly available at Argos.

Outputs: 2 x SCART, RF loopthrough

Last seen for £99.99 from Maplin


DigiFusion FVRT145
Fusion FVRT145

Features: Freeview receiver with a built-in 80gig PVR hard drive. Twin Tuner. Pause and rewind live TV. 7-day programme guide.
Outputs: 2 x SCART, RF loopthrough

Last seen for £124.99 from Argos. Refurbished version for around £45 from Micro Direct

Fusion FVRT200
DigiFusion FVRT200

Features: Freeview PVR. Uses SCT compression to squeeze up to 80 hours of TV onto its 80Gig hard-disk. Twin tuner. Has a 14 day EPG , and supports editing & live TV pause/rewind
Outputs: 2 x SCART, RF loopthrough

Last seen for £150 from Maplin Electronics and ASDA online

Goodmans GHD8015F
Goodmans GHD8015F

PVR to allow recording of Freeview onto hard disk.

  • Hard Disk: 80Gig (35 hours)
  • Tuner: Twin
  • Other: 7-day EPG. Pause live TV
  • Outputs: 2 x SCART, RF loopthrough

Last seen for £139.99 from Argos


Goodmans GHDD1782 DVBT
Goodmans GHDD1785 DVBT

PVR to allow recording of Freeview onto hard disk. Hard Disk: 80Gig (35 hours) Twin tuner, 7-day EPG. Pause live TV.
Outputs: 2 x SCART, RF loopthrough

Last seen for £130 from Argos

Humax 9200TS
Humax 9200TB
Mod
Humax PVR-9200TS (Silver) PVR-9200TB (Black)

A Freeview receiver with a built-in hard drive. Features include:

  • 160GB built-in hard-disk (up to 100 hours recording) – Supporting Freeview Playback
  • Twin Tuner
  • Supports subscription services (requires CAM)
  • Electronic Programme Guide
  • Outputs: 2 x SCART, modulated RF out

A host of other extras including Picture-in-picture, USB support for PC connectivity, mp3 playback, live pause & Dolby digital out.

No longer available. Replaced by the Humax PVR-9300 in July 2008


Inverto IDL7000
Mod
Inverto IDL-7000T Freeview 80Gb

Features: Freeview receiver with a built-in 80Gb Hard Disk (60 hours of recording), Twin Tuner, PiP Channel Search, 14 Day Programme Guide, Series Record (Weekly/Daily), Instant Replay and rewind live TV. Trick Playback Modes
Output: 2 SCART and RF loopthrough with modulator

Last seen for around £175 from AdvancedMP3players

Logik LPV2250
Logik LPV2250 / TVonics DVR-250

Voted top Freeview PVR in May 2007 by a leading consumer magazine

  • 250GB built-in hard-disk (up to 125 hours recording)
  • Twin Tuner
  • 8-day Electronic Programme Guide
  • Outputs: 2 x SCART

Last seen for £179.99 from Currys. Know a supplier?


Pace Twin Digital TV Recorder
Mod
Pace Twin Digital TV Recorder

Pace Twin Features: Freeview PVR, twin-tuner, pause Live TV, 10 hours hard disk recording time, watch 2 separate channels on 2 separate TVs.
Output: 2 SCARTs and modulated RF

For more details, see our Pace page

Availability: Sadly discontinued, but try Amazon or Ebay.co.uk


Panasonic DMREX75
Panasonic DMR-EX88 DVD Recorder/PVR/Freeview

400Gb HDD Recorder (for up to 700 hours), Freeview Tuner and DVD recorder.

  • DVD Recorder: DVD-RAM, DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+RW, DVD+R, DVD+R DL, DVD-R DL.
  • Has an HDMI socket for use with High-definition TVs – 1080p upscaling.
  • Supports DivX, MP3 and JPEG compatible.
  • USB Flash Drive playback

Output: 2 x SCART , RF loopthrough

No known suppliers at this time


Panasonic TUCTH100
Mod
Panasonic TUCTH100

Pause live Freeview TV, 80Gb HDD, 40 hours recording, twin-tuner, time-slip function (record & playback), 24 event recording.
Output: Digital optical out, and RF loopthrough

Last seen for £262.23 from Dixons.


Sagem PVR6280T
Sagem PVR62160 and Sagem PVR6280T

PVR to allow recording of Freeview onto hard disk. Released Aug 2005

  • Hard Disk: 80Gig (40 hours)
  • Tuner: Twin
  • Other: 7-day EPG.
  • Outputs: 2 x SCART, RF loopthrough

Last seen for £119.99 from Argos and £152.56 from Amazon.co.uk

Sagem PVR6240T Sagem PVR6240T

PVR to allow recording of Freeview onto hard disk.
Hard Disk: 40Gig (20 hours). Twin tuner. 7-day EPG. Time-shift & instant replay.

Outputs: 2 x SCART, RF loopthrough

Last seen for £129.99 from Argos


Sagem PVR7280T
Sagem PVR7280T

PVR to allow recording of Freeview onto hard disk. Released Aug 2005. Hard Disk: 80Gig (40 hours). Twin tuner. 7-day EPG. Card slot for subscription services
Outputs: 2 x SCART, RF loopthrough

Last seen for £180 from Argos

Home Sagem DTR64160T ECO
PVR
Sagem DTR64160T

PVR to allow recording of Freeview onto hard disk. Eight-day programme guide

  • Hard Disk: 160Gig (up to 80 hours)
  • Tuner: Twin
  • Outputs: 2 x SCART, HDMI

Last seen for £96.87 from Argos (Cat no: 532/1629)


Sagem PVR72160
PVR
Sagem PVR72160

PVR to allow recording of Freeview onto hard disk. Released Aug 2005. Hard Disk: 160Gig (up to 80 hours). Twin tuner, card slot for subscription services

Outputs: 2 x SCART, RF loopthrough, optical audio

Last seen for £179.99 at Comet

Sony RDR-HX510s
Sony RDR-HX510sPVR & DVD Recorder

Features: Analogue tuner with 80 Gig hard disk and a DVD Recorder. Plays pre-recorded DVD’s & CD’s. Records on DVD-RW, DVD-R, DVD+R DVD+RW Blank Media. With SMARTLINK
Outputs: 2 x SCART.

Last seen for £250 – £310 from Currys.

Sony RDR HXD-560
Sony RDR-HXD560 – PVR, DVD Recorder & Freeview

Features: Freeview receiver with 80 Gig hard disk and a DVD Recorder.
Supports access to Freeview , recording onto DVD (multiple formats supported: DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R, DVD+RW ). PVR records up to 106 hours onto built-in hard-disk

Output: 2 x SCART, S-video, digital audio.

Last seen for £280 at Argos and Play.com

Sony RDR HXD-710
Sony RDR-HXD710 - PVR, DVD Recorder & Freeview

Features: Freeview receiver with 160 Gig hard disk and a DVD Recorder.
Supports access to Freeview (with 8 day EPG), recording onto DVD (multiple formats supported: +R ,-RW,+RW,-R). PVR records up to 269 hours onto built-in hard-disk

Output: 2 x SCART, S-video, digital audio.

Last seen for £375 at Amazon and Play.com

Sony SVR-S500 Sony SVR-S500

Features: Freeview receiver with 80 Gig hard disk.
Twin tuner, 14 day EPG, Pause and rewind live TV. Pause and rewind live TV. Also features folders for storing recordings, and Selective Recording Edit (crops recordings).

Output: 2 x SCART.

Last seen for £180 from ASDA and Amazon


Thomson DHD-4000
Mod
Thomson DHD-4000 Twin Freeview Recorder

Features: Freeview receiver with 40 Gig hard disk (up to 20 hours of TV) and a twin tuner. Became available in April 2004.

Output: 2 x SCART

Last seen for £99.99. No known suppliers at this time

Thomson TiVo PVR10UK Thomson TiVo PVR10UK

Built-in hard disk (40Gigabytes for up to 40 hours of TV). Pause live TV. Electronic TV guide. Learns your viewing preferences

Availability: No longer in production, and very hard to find. See our TiVo page for stock

Using your PC as a PVR:

Sample of Hauppauge
If you’ve already got a PC, why not use it to record TV programmes onto your hard-disk?It’s a lot cheaper than buying a set-top box hard-disk recorder, and gives you more flexibility to edit recordings, burn them onto a DVD, or copy TV shows off to a portable video player.
Hauppauge Win TV PVR USBWatch TV in a resizeable window on your PC screen, record to hard-disk, pause live TV, schedule your TV watching and recording and create Microsoft AVI or MPG movies.
The most common solutions come from Hauppauge, and are available either as a PCI card (that fits into a PCI slot inside your PC), or a USB device to plug into your PC.

PC-based PVR receivers are available from Dabs.com , PC World, Maplin, and Amazon.

For more on getting TV and video on your PC, see our Watch TV on a PC page.

Blind / Partially-sighted: Thanks also to Larry M for the following: “Re. the Nebula Electronics DigiTV PCI & USB pc Freeview receivers. I am Vision Impaired and the Nebula offering gets my 5 star approval! The software enables PVR recording, using the PC’s Hard Drive, AND is totally programmable by the Vision Impaired using a Screen Reader. Audio Description can easily be turned on or off, as can Subtitles. It gives the full range of Freeview channels and Radio stations.

PVR FAQ

Some general questions asked by our visitors:

Q. Are there any hard-disc recorders / DVD disc recorders or DVD/Hard disc type recorders available that will record programmes from Sky?

Getting Sky+ is the obvious choice for recording Sky channels onto hard-disk. The cost of the Sky+ box depends on your Sky package – check online to see how much it’ll cost. If you don’t want to go for Sky+, most (if not all) DVD recorders can cope with recording via a Line In feed from a Sky box.

As for other PVRs that support recording from Sky, the standard Freeview PVRs can only record from their built-in Freeview tuners. Combined DVD/HDD recorders are your best bet – we’d love to be able to add a list here, and if you can help, please add to this thread in our forum.

The only issue with a two-box solution for recording Sky, is that you have to remember to set the recorder to record “Line in”, then ensure the Sky box is set to the right channel. This two-step process is eliminated with Sky+.

 

Need some help or advice? Ask in our PVR forum

TV Links

  • Satellite TV – Information on UK digital satellite TV services such as Sky and Freesat.
  • Sky+ – Information on the Sky+ service
  • PVR forum – Discuss PVR boxes and ask questions.

One Response to "Personal Video Recorders Explored"

  1. Susan Moon Says:

    Hello, we recently had a new rooftop aerial fitted. We have a Toshiba Freeview tv, and a Goodmans GD11FVRSD50. (Needed for recording). The reception was awful when viewing through the box, and recordings were unveiwable. We thought it may have something yo do with the loose aerial connector at the back of the box. It was still under guarantee, and took it back and got a replacement. We’d been happy with our original box so picked the same model. However the new box was just as bad, when we watch the tv with aerial direct into the tv the picture is brilliant. I contacted Goodmans and after trying a few options they decided to swap my box over. They did that today so within 3 weeks of the new box, we have another one. That is the same. Picture breaking up, screeching, watching the tv like this is impossible. We’ve had the aerial man out whose checked the signal which is 100% we just can not understand this. Is there anything I can try before it gets thrown out of the door. ( or I phone Tesco up to complain again )
    I’d appreciate any help you can give me.
    Thank you Susan Moon

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