/ Technology

PVRs free you from TV schedule slavery

Man lying next to TV

Do you find yourself planning your festive telly-watching around the TV schedules? Then it’s time to throw off the straight-jacket of the TV listings, buy a PVR and watch the programmes you like when it suits you best.

I’m a huge fan of these marvellous machines and believe they have the power to change the way you watch TV forever.

Many owners of Personal Video Recorders (or PVRs as they’re affectionately known) find they rarely watch ‘live TV’ ever again.

What’s so great about PVRs?

Choose the programmes you want to watch from an on-screen electronic programme guide (EPG), the PVR records them to a large internal hard disk as they’re broadcast and they’re there waiting for you to view when you choose. You can even skip through annoying ad breaks at the press of a remote control button.

So how do they compare to the humble video recorder of Christmas’s past? Well the best PVRs can perform clever tricks like recording two programs at once or letting you pause a live program while you make a cup of tea or answer the phone. They’ll even record radio programmes too.

And the latest models offer extra, whizzy features designed to make your recording even easier. Trailer programming lets you schedule a recording when you see a trailer for it broadcast at the touch of a button – rather than having to hunt for it in the on-screen listings.

Plus, those with the Broadcast Recommendations feature will even suggest programmes that they think you’ll like, based on the type of programme you choose to record. How cool is that?

Web-connected PVRs go one step further

Humax models have now got all web-connected and offer access to catch-up TV services, such as iPlayer, YouTube and other on-demand content. So not only can you watch future programming when you like, you can see the stuff you’ve missed. Our TV viewing cups runneth over…

Clearly I’m a huge advocate for this wonderful piece of technology, but am I misguided? Does anyone really make use of all the versatile tricks I’ve outlined here or are there even more things they’re capable of that I’ve not heard about?


I don’t watch much TV beyond sport and film, but I was very unimpressed by the TV schedule this Christmas – and I put it down to on-demand TV viewing habits.
Years ago box office smashes were billed as prime Christmas afternoon entertainment, but in today’s on-demand world the box office smashes have already been watched.
Before, a couple of good films in the afternoon could make compelling viewing, but these days broadcasters are having to create Christmas special versions of their regular content, which is too often all too familiar and humdrum.
And where a film could fill a couple of hours, you’ll need a couple of Christmas specials to fill the same slot – and what’s more the broadcasters have to shoot the Christmas specials as they can no longer rely on Hollywood.

Sophie Gilbert says:
29 December 2010

TV schedules don’t clash often enough for me to make it worth my while buying a PVR, and I can’t say I’m impressed with this Christmas’ TV either. I’ve got an HDD recorder and it does me fine most of the time.

I’m puzzled – is a HDD recorder not a PVR?

We share the enthusiasm for PVRs, though prefer the term DVR.

Since getting a PVR we hardly ever watch anything directly as broadcast, except news & the occasional sports item – and watching ads is a rarity. We’ve even got a wireless video sender from the PVR to a second TV, so we can iron whilst watching recorded films or programmes that suit the task as, sadly, so many do 🙂

Though the PVR dominates TV viewing in our house, series recording and a bit of file trimming &/or renaming, are as sophisticated as we get. Trailer programming sounds interesting – will it be available with a PVR software upgrade I wonder.

I’m not yet convinced about internet TV. Viewing the likes of iPlayer over a 10Mb/s connection with a PC connected via HDMI to the TV gives very poor image resolution. I certainly wouldn’t pay for films at this image quality. However, with the free internet TV players, one can at least catch a missed episode – or the climactic end of a programme the PVR has chopped off!!