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PVR reviews

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05.What to look for

Maximum approximate recording provides an indication of the time available for a high-definition recording. These figures are approximate only, as HD video can take up anything from 5GB to 15GB per hour, depending on the type of video shown. For example, an hour of action movie footage with lots of changes in scenery and colour will take up much more space than an hour-long interview in a studio setting with little changes in scene.

Series Recording A series recording feature adds another level of sophistication by locating a where a show is on the EPG and recording based on the name, not just a repeated time. This allows the DVR to record the show even if the time changes. The feature allows you to record your show over an indefinite period.

Resolution for digital free-to-air TV can be confusing. Standard definition broadcasts are called 576i (the i is for interlaced transmission mode). High definition comes in a number of forms. 1080i is the most detailed over-the-air broadcast. However, in Australia, any broadcast at 576p (progressive transmission mode) and above is called HD. Many devices, including PVRs, can take lower resolution input (for example, a broadcast at 576i) and upscale it to 1080p or 1080i, which is closer to most new TVs’ native resolution.

Remote controls should have buttons that are sized, shaped and spaced so you can easily find and press them individually. They should be grouped so you can quickly go to specific functions, and the most commonly used buttons should be prominent. All should have clear English labels or obvious symbols.

Record from AV input While all PVRs record free-to-air TV, you need an analog input connection if you want to record another video signal, for example from a VCR or Foxtel box.

Direct recording to an external drive is a particularly handy feature if you wish to store any of the shows you have recorded for future viewing. Effectively, it’s the same as putting an additional hard drive into your PVR. some can record to an external USB device, while other devices only allow you to move content from the hard drive of the PVR to the external drive.

Timer recordings allow you to set your device to record shows past the standard seven days allocated by the EPG, this is handy if you want to record a special event (sport or major occasion) and won’t be around the week before.

Auto padding is the ability to automatically append extra time before and after a recording, useful in case programs do not run on time.

HDMI (high-definition multimedia interface) is an all-digital connection for both video and audio in one cable. All models in this test have an HDMI connection.

TOSLINK and digital coaxial cables deliver digital audio and provide support for audio features such as DTS, Dolby Surround sound and Dolby True HD sound.

An Ethernet or LAN connection is becoming increasingly common on a PVR, allowing you to share video on your home network or stream video from the Internet.

Antenna pass-through allows you to connect another device to the antenna without going through the PVR processor. This is handy if you want to attach an analog device such as a VCR at the same time, but will be less useful when the analog signal is turned off.

Timeshift All models on test incorporate a timeshift feature. This allows you to press the pause button and stop watching the show, and the PVR will continue to record the show while you’re away. Also, you can rewind what you were watching as long as you stay on the same channel.

AVCHD is a video format used by an increasing number of new digital video camcorders. Its very compressed format means you can fit lots of HD video onto a card, but requires quite a bit of processing to decode. All products on test except the Sony can handle AVCHD.

DivX is a file format commonly used for movies and TV shows that you can download from the internet. All recorders on test support DivX.


The future for PVRs

In recent times we’ve seen a growing number of TVs coming onto the market with USB or storage card connections that can be used to record programs. This is a good feature, particularly if you only record the occasional program and don’t want to store it permanently. It could be seen as the beginning of the end for PVRs.

At present PVR’s have a few real advantages; they have quite large storage capacity (up to 1000GB), can program a number of recording sessions at the same time, can record while playing back a previously recorded program and timeshift so you can rewind or pause live TV. However, as TVs continue to develop it’s possible that all of these functions will become standard and the separate PVR will no longer take up space in our lounge rooms.

 

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