PVR Buying Guide

Whether you’re hooked on sitcoms, soaps or sports, a PVR lets you watch whatever you like, whenever you like. This PVR buying guide explains what to look for in a PVR.

PVRs 101

A personal video recorder (PVR) gives you total control over your TV viewing schedule by recording programs for playback whenever you desire. You don’t have to miss your favourite show because you’re away from home or when programs overlap. It’s also win-win for you and other family members when everyone’s show is recorded and saved. PVR recorders, also known as DVRs (digital video recorders), record live from air to a digital hard drive with no discs or tapes. Better still; the storage capacity of a PVR far exceeds that of other storage media. Unlike CDs and VCR (VHS) tapes which degrade over time, a digital PVR recording remains as sharp and clear as the original broadcast. A good PVR is easy to use, capable of recording multiple programs at once and offers networking and Internet connectivity at the touch of a button or remote control.

PVR Buying Tips:

• Make sure the PVR you choose is compatible with your cable or satellite TV set top box
• Consider your current and potential TV recording habits to ensure your PVR has enough hard drive capacity
• Choose a DVR with connectivity and networking options if your family watches a lot of media on the go
• Look for an HD DVR with plenty of storage space if you have or plan to get an HD-ready TV and want to record high-definition programs
• Look for a user-friendly EPG (electronic program guide) to create shortcuts for managing your recordings

PVR Features

Storage Capacity +

Depending on your family’s recording habits, your PVR hard drive can fill up in no time. The larger the hard drive, the more shows you can record, particularly in HD (high definition) format. You can expect to record about 25 hours of HD TV for every 100 GB (gigabyte) of storage. A 500 GB hard drive will allow you to record up to 250 hours in standard definition or 100 hours of HD content. Though you can easily delete recordings to free up space when your hard drive is full, you’ll appreciate the surplus storage during times of heavy use.

Tuners +

PVRs come with a single TV tuner, dual or twin tuners that determine how much flexibility you’ll have for channel surfing while recording. Single tuners only record the program you’re watching and won’t let you switch to another show until recording is done. Dual or twin tuners can record your favourite show while the kids catch up on their favourite cartoons. Dual tuners allow you to record two programs at once while you watch one of the channels being recorded. Twin tuners let you record two programs simultaneously while you’re watching a third channel.

Time Adjustment +

There’s nothing worse than sitting down to a recording, only to discover that it’s been cut-off midstream. Some PVRs come with features that guard against missing a crucial climax or winning goal. Such features will extend a recording if the broadcast runs overtime, or change the start and stop times if a live program is rescheduled. Bear in mind, the machine can reset only if the source broadcaster has updated the electronic program guide. Some PVRs are equipped with conflict resolution, so if you’re trying to record a show that overlaps with another, it will search the schedule and suggest an alternate time when the conflicting recording is being rebroadcast.

Series link or series recording +

Want to make sure you don’t miss a moment of your favourite reality show or TV series? Series recording is a feature that lets you automatically record all future episodes of a series over several weeks in one easy step. This feature lets you record up to 20 different series, so you can binge-watch on the next rainy weekend. This feature is typically limited to the current season and cancels the scheduled show when the series ends, but some scan upcoming listings and bookmark your show when it returns for a new season.

Time-Shifting +

Time-shifting lets you pause and rewind live television to catch moments you might have missed. You can grab a snack, tend to a waking infant or take a phone call and resume watching from where you left off. DVRs use a buffer time, between 30 and 90 minutes, that lets you rewind live TV to replay a winning goal or capture missed dialogue. Though time-shifting won’t let you fast-forward during live transmissions, it does allow you to skip all the ads via chase play. Simply set your PVR to record a show and watch it a few minutes after it’s started so you can fast-forward through ads. This is convenient for watching kids’ shows and holiday classics with your little ones, sans commercials.

Broadcast Recommendations +

Looking for a new series to watch when a current one wraps up? Some PVRs recognize the type of shows your household records on a regular basis and suggest similar programs that might suit your taste. The recommendations feature scans scheduled listings for your favourite actors, directors, genres or other keywords and either recommends or records them automatically. When you select programs to record, the PVR searches for programs of a similar genre scheduled for future broadcast and may ask if you wish to record them, too.

Electronic Program Guide +

An electronic program guide (EPG) displays a detailed schedule of all TV and radio programs for the next seven days right on your screen, so you can pick and choose your favourites. The EPG lets you browse shows by time, date, title, classification and synopsis for a glimpse at all the movies, TV shows and radio programs you might want to view or hear in the days ahead. The EPG lets you scroll up and down between channels and time slots to find programs throughout the week. Many have a search function to let you find particular favourites. Look for an EPG interface that’s easy to use, displays several channels on screen at the same time and readily highlights your recording preferences.

High-definition (HD) Recording +

If your TV can display high-definition (HDTV) images you’ll want a PVR that can record HD programs for the best picture quality. HD offers better image quality than standard-definition pictures (SD) by packing more pixels and colours into the picture, as well as refreshing the screen image more often each second than analog TV signals. HD tuners can show SD programs but not vice versa, so you might want to set your sights on an HD PVR if you’re considering buying an HDTV in the future. Also, newer content and up to half of prime-time content is now broadcast in HD, so it’s well worth the investment to upgrade to an HD PVR.

PVR Networking & Connectivity +

Whether you’re commuting, travelling or just moving around your home, you might consider a PVR with networking capabilities. PVR networking lets you and your family share content between devices and stream TV shows to tablets, laptops, smartphones and other mobile devices. This means you can record a show on your family room TV and watch it on your laptop in the backyard or anyplace you happen to be. PVR networking also lets you stream digital content from the Internet to your home TV and record everything from game play to music and video. You can access video-sharing sites like YouTube and video-streaming sites such as Netflix and Crackle from your PVR and record new releases to watch at will. Some PVRs even let you play catch-up and record shows you might have missed from the previous weeks’ worth of programming via special on-line services.

Remote Recording +

If you’re out for the evening and you forgot to record that big game or awards event, remote recording lets you program your PVR anytime, anywhere. Also known as online PVR programming, remote recording lets you log in from any connected device, from a notebook PC to your mobile phone. This handy feature lets you record favourite shows remotely and stay plugged into your program schedule. With the ability to connect from any Internet access point, from an internet café to your family cottage, you need never miss an episode of your favourite series.

DVD player or Blu-ray Disc Player PVRs +

If you can’t bear to delete your favourite shows, your best bet is to buy a PVR with a built-in DVD player or Blu-Ray disc (BD) player. This practical option allows you to transfer video stored on your PVR or from a video camera onto a recordable DVD or BD for future viewing on your TV. You can record your preschooler’s best-loved shows to take along on your family road trip or keep your family’s holiday favourites stored on disc to enjoy year after year. As well as creating a family archive, it frees space on your PVR for new content. Keep in mind, however, that very few Blu-ray players can record to disc.

Parental Controls +

Parental controls on your PVR can help you to filter your children’s programming and provide assurance that they’re always watching appropriate content. You can block certain programs and channels by screening their classification and restricting access with PIN code protection, without hindering access to family-friendly material that you’ve screened and approved.

Low Standby Power Consumption +

A PVR is usually left on standby so it’s always ready to record and receive program updates. But PVRs, especially HD PVRs, can eat up a lot of energy — more than your TV alone and as much as a full-sized refrigerator. Consider a PVR with a low standby power consumption rating to avoid those extra costs. Turn it off while you’re asleep or away for longer periods, and consider unplugging it before you leave for vacation.

See all +

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Maintenance Tips:

• Keep your PVR in a well-ventilated area or on a PVR stand to prevent overheating
• Dust your PVR regularly with a dry, lint-free cloth and spray vents with compressed air
• Connect your PVR to a surge protector or backup battery
• Keep your PVR and discs away from direct sunlight and heat sources
• Check the current date and time regularly to ensure recording accuracy

Content Sources

PVRs can open up a wide range of digital and specialty channels. Some networks, including CBC, Food Network Canada, HGTV Canada, YTV and Treehouse TV, offer free access to their archives. At the push of a button, you can also stream and record video and music from on-line sources. Free (ad-supported) streaming is available for Canadian viewers at sites such as Crackle, Viewster, CinemaNow and Project Free TV. The subscription-based streaming service, Netflix, offers TV and movie content for a monthly fee. Browse online at YouTube, Vimeo or Justin.tv for the latest viral videos. You can livestream music and radio stations at CBC Radio, Grooveshark, NPR or Spotify, or listen to podcasts at Ted Talks. Streaming search engines like Can I Stream It?, and Watch It Stream let you track down your favourite show and enjoy at your leisure.

Recording Tips:

• Add extra time to the beginning and end of a desired program to ensure that it’s fully recorded
• Set your PVR to record a program and watch it a few minutes after it’s started so you can fast-forward through commercials
• Set your recording resolution to a lower standard to record more shows and save hard drive space
• Use the overwrite ability on your PVR to automatically record over older content once your hard drive is full
• Use the parental control feature and record educational programs for your kids to make TV time entertaining and enriching
This article is intended as general information. Always be sure to read and follow the label(s)/instruction(s) that accompany your product(s). Walmart will not be responsible for any injury or damage caused by this activity.



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