PVR and Hard Disk Video Recorder Buying Guide
- — 30 September, 2007 09:00
- But what was wrong with the VCR?
- Surely there are some negatives too?
- Types of Hard Disk Video Recorder
- A Closer Look: Personal Video Recorders (PVRs)
- A Closer Look: DVD/HDD recorders
Other features to be aware of include:
Advanced operations. In addition to the features mentioned above, some PVRs will also have additional operations. Common features to look out for are picture-in-picture (where one channel can be viewed in a small corner of another channel), an LCD screen on the front of the PVR displaying channel information, and basic video editing capabilities, which allows for the user to cut unwanted pieces out of recordings.
File Transfer. As PVRs lack DVD burners, there's usually no easy way to get recordings off them. This can be a nuisance should you fill up the hard drive as it means you'll have to delete earlier recordings to make way for new ones. Some units get round this problem by offering transfer to a PC. The most common method is via USB. If you're likely to use this feature, make sure you research what file format the video will be stored in once it's copied to a computer. Many PVRs use proprietary formats that are unplayable with standard media players, so check to see if the PVR ships with some appropriate software. The addition of a USB connection will usually also allow the transfer of photos and music on to the system, which is useful should you wish to get some multimedia content off your PC and onto the TV.
Connections. There are a host of video and audio connections floating round the market, so you need to make sure your television is compatible with those on the PVR. These connections will vary depending on whether you're using Standard Definition (regular television) or High Definition content.
- Standard Definition (SD): Every SD PVR should come with Component (red, green and blue plugs) and Composite (red, white and yellow plugs). Some may also include S-Video. Component offers the best quality of the three, but generally any television bought in the last ten years should be compatible with Composite at the very least. If you're wanting to connect the PVR to a home theatre system you'll also be looking for the inclusion of digital audio in the form of either optical or coaxial connections.
- High Definition (HD): High Definition connections come in three flavours: HDMI, DVI and Component. HDMI is the best option, as it combines both high quality video and audio in a single plug. This is the favoured connection for the future and should be found on any modern LCD or Plasma screen. DVI is essentially the same as HDMI, but without the audio, and also uses a different style of plug. DVI and HDMI are completely compatible, so if your television and PVR utilise one connection of each type, it's still possible to link them using an adapter. Component (red, green and blue plugs) generally offers comparable quality, however as an analogue connection it lacks some of the features supported by HDMI. Once again, should you wish to use home theatre, a digital audio connection is vital.
Other connections that may come in handy include SD card slots, which are useful for displaying images from digital cameras, and Ethernet connections for units that support networked media streaming.
Variable recording quality. Many PVRs will enable the user to vary the picture quality of recorded video to squeeze more recording time out of the hard drive. This is good when space is limited, but less so should you care greatly about the quality of the image. Typically, only the standard and high quality settings on PVRs will offer a picture equivalent to watching live television. Beware of wild claims from manufacturers about lengthy recording times as these will often be for lower quality settings.