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Personal Video Recorders (PVRs) review


#1

Although there is an increasing tendency for Australians to watch streaming content, many are still interested in recording free-to-air TV programs, so CHOICE still does regular updates on testing of PVRs.

Series Recording is a common feature that allows the user to specify that they want all episodes of a TV series to be recorded automatically. For example, I find an episode of Big Bang Theory in the EPG, and I can tell the PVR I want all episodes it can find, regardless of when they air. Would you expect this feature to record episodes of the program regardless of which network or channel they screened on ? If it was screening on both 7flix and 7mate, would you expect all episodes from both channels ? What if it was screening on 7flix and also on SBS ?

Is there any other feature that is a must-have if you were buying a PVR ?

In anticipation, thank you for your input !

Here are our PVR reviews.


#3

The problem with what you are asking about recording from any station is that sometimes the different stations broadcast different episodes or even different series. An example of this would be ABC where they replay episodes on ABC2, sometimes several times. This would result in the same episode being recorded multiple times.

Also if you record from other channels you could be recording what are very old episodes/series you don’t want.


I will only buy one that plays optical discs (CD/DVD/BluRay with all the usual codecs) as well. I wonder why so few have eject buttons on the remotes these days?

Subtitles should be an easy to select button, not buried in a menu. Often we watch recorded stuff at a faster speed (one or two clicks of the F-Fwd), but annoyingly the subtitles cut out on the second click of the F-Fwd.

On the remote, can you make sure the streaming controls are away from the movement (play, pause, F-Fwd, etc) controls… Too often late at night I have hit Netflix by accident being right above one of these buttons. I then have to stop it connecting and getting info, which takes time, and then go through a series of steps (HDD, select series, select program, continue where stopped) to return to watching the recorded program.


#4

Thank you Tamas. This is exactly the type of discussion I’d like to continue here in the community, to help us hone our test methodology.
To play devil’s advocate, most PVRs now have a capacity of at least 1TB, and group recordings well, so any double-up in recordings of the same episode shouldn’t be of great concern. With regard to old episodes, it’s true that you may not want episodes that aired previously, but in the case of a series that does not have a continuous story line, eg Seinfeld, you may have come to the series late, and so want any episode at all in case you’ve not seen it.
Personally, I prefer having a separate Blu-ray player, so that if something goes wrong with it, I’m not also without my PVR whilst it’s being repaired/replaced, and vice versa. What do others think of this idea ?
Re the streaming service buttons such as Netflix, we’ll keep an eye out. Thus far, we’ve seen quite a few remotes that seem to have added the button(s) as an afterthought.


#5

Meltam: “Subtitles should be an easy to select button, not buried in a menu” Oh how I agree! I nearly gave up on my Panasonic. I had to email the tech guys, and go through a phone conversation to work out how to get subtitles. I could find nothing in the manual that told me how to set them up.
Even now, every progamme I record, I have to edit to get subtitles. I’d prefer that once you programme for subs, they come up each time.

My biggest complaint? The manual is not only not user friendly, you practically need an IT degree to understand it! Also, you spend a few hundred dollars on one of these, so surely they could afford to print a manual that doesn’t need a magnifying glass to read? (I find this with other devices too).


#6

I recently had to replace our PVR. Noticing some of the things I miss from the old setup may be useful.

The old setup was a combination of Beyonwiz PVR and the IceTV service. Series recording on IceTV were great. I had three distinct settings to choose from when setting a series recording.

  • This channel / any channel
  • Prefer HD
  • First runs only

This meant for shows where I was in at the beginning I would say prefer HD, any channel, first runs only and I wouldn’t get the replay on the secondary channel or a rerun from years ago. If the same show was playing at the same time on both HD and SD it would only record the HD option.

In the case I was playing catch up I’d turn off the first runs only and do a manual filter and delete of what I didn’t want.

On the Humax we replaced the Beyonwiz with, Ice TV is not supported sadly. Series recordings work OK. I have to be careful I select the HD channel when setting the series recording. Frustratingly the search in the program guide seems to return the SD channel by default. A prefer HD option would be grand.

The biggest thing I miss is that I am now restricted to setting up series recordings based on the guide. With IceTV as soon as you heard a show was coming I could set it to record by the show name (keyword recording) and know that when it did come on the recordings would start. I now have to make a mental note and in the week leading up remember to set the recording once it appears in the guide.

Despite having both Netflix and Stan subscriptions we still find ourselves using the PVR most weeks.


#7

We are currently have a FetchTV Mighty and find the series recording work OK most of the time and won’t repeat episodes, it stores the episodes but series and episode number. However not all of the episodes will be coded properly and end up in an unknown series folder; these are mostly repeats.

We mainly record things like MKR or MAFS so we can skip the ads. We also record some of the subscription channel shows to watch when it suits us.

The biggest issue we have with the FetchTV is that it stops working if the internet connection goes down, you can not watch recorded items and even changing Free to air channels isn’t possible or extremely slow. It’s very annoying given our internet is up and down like a yoyo.


#8

I have the Panasonic PVR which can record three channels simultaneously whilst playing something previously recorded… it is brilliant - I rarely watch ‘live’ tv these days and can f/f through the ad’s, too.


#9

The biggest problem with PVRs is that some channels NEVER run to time. Ten is the worst. The PVR switches on at the designated time to faithfully record the myriad of ads that TEN puts in just before it finishes a program. To be fair it then immediately starts the next program (the one you want to record), but the recorder switches off with a few minutes to run so you never find out whodunit.

My personal best was a program that started 16 minutes late, and so lost the last 16 minutes into cyberspace.

ABC and SBS are accurate almost to the second. I’ve always believed that the commercials did it to STOP you recording things. It works - I never bother recording anything on TEN and v rarely on 7 or 9


#10

I have a Topfield PVR which has twin tuners but you can record up to 4 programs at once, eg: All channels from a TV station are included in the signal received by a single tuner so if I wanted to record something on 9 and 9GO and 10 and 11 the PVR can split the channels and record up to 4 channels at once with only twin tuners. It allows you in the options menu to start and end all recordings by a time you determine, eg: start all recordings 5 - 7 minutes earlier than the EPG’s time and end all recordings 10 - 15 later than the EPG’s time, that way you very rarely get a recorded program with the start or end cut off.
It also has IR Intelligent Record in the EPG for Series, but have noticed it will record any repeats unless the Title is different, Big Bang, Big Bang - Encore.


#11

Our Humax and Topfied PVRs both have a padding function to alllow for our stations refusal to run on time. You can set it to start X minutes early and record Y minutes late. Once 3 hours of post time was insufficient because of about 2 hours of embedded commercials in a 3 hour movie :expressionless:


#12

The obvious solution to this very annoying practice by the commercial stations is to also record the following program, which I do every time- I always find out “whodunit”!


#13

Obvious, as you say, but still very inconvenient. I punish the worst offenders by never watching them.


#14

WE have a Humax because we need a satellite dish to get a watchable signal, but it has no such feature.

I think we’re in the market for a new telly with at least four receivers.


#15

If yours is a Humax HDR1003S integrated sat receiver read page AU16 about padding time.


#16

I too use a Beonwize PVR paired with IceTV.

Adding a generous amount of “padding” added to each recording (done automatically) I rarely miss the end of a show even if it is running late.

IceTV is a paid service, but well worth the monthly fee for me.

Other features of note are:

  • Being able to skip forward or backwards (not fast forward/rewind)
  • Ability to stream a recording from the PVR to another device
  • Multiple simultaneous recordings (4 seems to be the standard now)
  • Being able to access the recorded shows as files (eg. using FTP). This also allows content to be uploaded to the PVR.

#17

Hi doug1,

I wish you luck, but the greatest number of digital tuners we have seen in a TV is only two. I doubt there is any on the market now or in the near future with four.


#18

OK, Scott, so what’s a good way to record more than 4 programs simultaneously? My Humax does two.


#19

Dear BBG - you’re a hero, and Channel TEN should be paying you!

Page 16 does in fact tell me how to “pad” and I’ve set it up for 5 mins to see if that’s enough. I’m a bit disappointed in myself because I’m an inveterate manual reader, much to my children’s irritation, and I missed that bit.

Thanks again!


#20

Hi doug1,

for terrestrial broadcast, one solution would be the Humax 4Tune - it has four tuners, but if I understand your earlier post correctly, you’re after a PVR with integrated satellite receivers ? In that case, the best solution might be to buy a second (and third if you want to record more than 4 programs at a time) PVR the same as your existing Humax.


#21

The Humax people said that the 4Tune doesn’t work as a satellite decoder. Mind you, their tech department isn’t great!