Introduction - Observations so far - Models - Real world use

Reviews - Hard disk/drive recorders (PVRs) and Freeview decoders
(PVR = Personal Video Recorder, also known as DVR = Digital Video Recorder)

What are we doing?

So why this mini-site and why this focus? As a household making the huge leap from analogue technology (videos) to digital technology, we wanted to do it properly. So no messing around with recordable DVDs, formats, storage and scratches. Since 99% of our TV recording was simply time-shifting, i.e. watching programmes when we wanted to rather than the at the midnight slot dictated by the TV companies, why bother with removable media at all? Why not simply ditch boxes of old much-used videotapes and move to a hard disk-based recorder? Less clutter, higher quality, longer life and less remote controls littering the living room!

In our case, we replaced the old VCR and Freeview box with an all-in-one unit, one of the PVR models available. The experiment has hit a few very minor glitches, but we're pleased we took the jump. It was tempting to go even more 'converged', buying a unit that recorded to (and played) DVD, as well as Freeview and hard disk, but then 'all our eggs' would literally have 'been in one basket', should anything have gone wrong. At least by separating out DVD playback, we can in the event of a problem simply plug the DVD player straight into the TV and still have something good to watch!

Read also our Observations so far and an example of a hard disk-based PVR being used in the real world.

Pros/cons of PVRs versus DVD recorders and combined units

PVR/Freeview tuner (the solution we went for) PVR with built-in recordable DVD Just a recordable DVD unit
  • Relatively cheap
  • Very simple, no DVD blanks to buy, store and manage
  • One remote for everything, as simple as it gets
  • Expensive
  • Flexible, in that you can record to either hard disk or DVD, more complicated to use
  • You'll also usually have a separate Freeview box and a separate remote etc.
  • Relatively cheap
  • Great for archiving recordings that you or others want to watch in a different location, inelegant to have to juggle DVD blanks and remember where they are and exactly what's on them
  • You'll also usually have a separate Freeview box and a separate remote etc.

Steve Litchfield, June 2007

(c)All text copyright 2006, 2007 Steve Litchfield