So you’re looking for a PVR (Personal Video Recorder) to record live-TV but you’re not sure which PVR box is the best and what features you need.
Do you even need a PVR box? What are some recommended PVR boxes you can check out? Are there any other alternative ways to record TV?
After going through a number of PVR machines, I feel I’m qualified to write this article for you. I’m going to answer the above questions and more, so if you are curious about recording on your TV this article is for you.
Do You Need a PVR Box?
You need a PVR box if you want to record live TV and you don’t want to pay for cable. A PVR is great for recording free live TV such as Freeview that doesn’t require a subscription. Most of the people who buy a PVR box do so because they don’t want to pay for TV services but still want the basic channels and other features.
A PVR box should not be confused with DVR, a DVR is a device that records media with the intention to delete it later on, like temporary storage. A PVR is a device designed to save media until you choose to delete it and it doesn’t require a subscription.
I think a PVR is more useful because you can add a lot of media and keep it for as long as you want. Bear in mind, there are PVR boxes with online media streaming too, and most can be used as a complete media hub.
So now that you have a general idea about what is a PVR, let’s start narrowing down the devices until we find one that fits your situation.
PVR Combo Machines
There are lots of PVR combo machines out there, the most common are probably DVD and Blu Ray players that include a number of recording features. There are TVs with built-in PVR too. You might be wondering if PVR combo machines are worth it.
In my opinion. PVR combo machines are good for some situations, such as mobile homes, but they are rather pricey. If you simply want to record free TV shows, it’s probably not worth investing hundreds of dollars into a combo machine.
Best PVR for Freeview
The Manhattan T3-R is a great PVR box for recording Freeview HD. There are a handful of features that make this box a good choice. With the built-in tuner, you can access 85 Freeview channels plus 15 HD channels. To start, it can record two Freeview channels at the same time, pause and rewind live TV, and you can access the internet. Let’s also not forget about 4K HDR support.
The T3-R has Wifi and ethernet, so you can easily connect it to the internet to use the apps. At the moment, it supports a wide range of apps, such as BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, all 4, and many others. You can also watch YouTube and YouTube kids. I think YouTube is exceptionally useful because you can not only watch videos but also use it to listen to music.
As for storage, you won’t need to worry about running out of space. The Manhattan T3-R has a 1 TB internal HDD which is enough for about 300 hours of recordings. There are also new recording features, such as the ability to record an entire TV series and two channels at the same time.
Any downsides? I think the T3-R is a decent Freeview recorder and media hub, but the most notable downside is that there is no Netflix or Prime Video support at the moment. They may release an update to add those apps in the future but there’s no guarantee.
Overall, the TR-3 is a really nice PVR box and it can replace your cable subscription with ease.
The Humax FVP-5000T is another decent Freeview recorder. The most notable feature of this PVR is the size of the hard drive, it has 2 TB of storage, which is enough for up to 1,000 hours of recordings. You can also pause and rewind live TV with no issues.
Speaking of recording, this box can record four channels at the same time (while watching a separate one) so you never have to worry about missing a show. It also has built-in Wifi and ethernet, which you can use to access the usual free TV catch up services that require an internet connection.
Interestingly, the FVP-5000T also supports your own media via USB or network sharing. The network sharing feature is pretty handy because you can stream your own media from another device over the internet, for example, movies on your PC to the box.
For the movie watchers, you’ll be happy to know that the FVP-5000T supports Netflix and other streaming services, including YouTube. In fact, there’s a dedicated button on the remote for Netflix. However, it doesn’t seem to support Hulu or Prime at the moment. Overall, a really nice PVR recorder.
At first glance, the DMR-HWT250EB PVR box looks like a DVD or Bluray player but it’s actually a smart recorder and hub. It has 1 TB of HDD space, which can hold about 684 hours of Freeview recordings and you can record two channels at the same time.
When it comes to features, this PVR has the basic PVR functions, with the addition of media streaming apps that aren’t usually available on other PVRs. For example, it supports both Netflix and Amazon Prime, as well as catch up apps such as Freeview+ and others. The remote has dedicated buttons for both Netflix and Freeview+.
In short, the DMR-HWT250EB is an all-in-one TV smart hub that you can use for a variety of services. What I liked most about this PVR is it supports Netflix and Prime.
Best Budget PVR
If you want to record Freeview but the price of the PVR boxes mentioned earlier are out of your budget, then this top box might be what you need.
The DVB500 HD Freeview top box can allow you to record and control the playback of live TV but it doesn’t include an internal HDD, Wifi, or any other smart functions. How can you record on a device that doesn’t have storage? You’ll need to insert a USB mass storage device into the PVR, either a thumb drive or portable HDD.
With these boxes, you won’t be getting any extra features such as Netflix or TV catch up apps, but it can record basic Freeview for you, for a fraction of the price of usual PVR hubs.
What to Look for When Buying a PVR with Freeview?
Here are some features to keep an eye out for when shopping for Freeview compatible PVR machines:
Hard Drive Size
If you’re buying a PVR with a built-in HDD, you’ll want to get one that has enough storage for your usage. I suggest a minimum of 500 GB, with 1 TB being recommended.
Receivers and Tuners
Remember, you can only record from one tuner at a time, so the number of tuners on the device will determine how many channels you can record at the same time. Generally, a PVR with two tuners is recommended.
Playback Live TV
Most PVRs with built-in storage (a storage device is required for playback) can support controlling live TV. Double-check the playback features to see if the device has what you need.
HD and 4K
Does the PVR recorder support HD and 4K? Is that a feature you need? Bear in mind, there are only 15 HD channels on Freeview. If you have a 4K-ready TV, it would make sense to go with a box that supports HD and 4K.
For the best network performance, an ethernet connection should be used. Most PVR boxes will have both an ethernet port and Wifi, so connecting to the internet should be easy. I would also look for PVRs that support network file sharing.
Since most people watch Netflix, it’s important to find a PVR that supports the apps you use on a daily basis. I recommend looking for a box that at least supports Netflix and YouTube. I suggest checking if catch up apps are available too, such as BBC iPlayer, All4, and Freeview Play.