Thursday, January 20, 2005

State Of The Market (PVRs)

For anybody that doesn't know a PVR (Personal Video Recorder) is simply a box with a hard drive in, that connects to your TV and allows you to do loads or really cool stuff like pause live TV, set recording options (so you never miss an episode of anything ever again) and rather than having to search through video tapes to find what you recorded the previous day it presents all recordings in a nice list on-screen. All that plus the interactive TV guide makes them the future of TV recording.

I want one simply because I have other things to do when the shows I want to watch are on and I am missing more and more shows because of this. Plus I am too lazy to fiddle with the VCR. So for the past month I have really been looking into PVRs, and here is my roundup of the solutions available.

  • Tivo
    The first PVR unit that was available to the masses and it is still probably the best, but it doesn't have Freeview, you can't use it with SKY and I don't know about NTL, but when it came out it was too expensive so it didn't take off.
    Since then Tivo has stopped manufacturing units in the UK. So if you have a look at the Tivo2 over at the US site and think you would like one, sorry, but in the UK you can only get the first version. And even then you have to hunt for a unit.

    To get a Tivo unit you can try either Tivo Land (£308) or Dixons (£130) who is currently selling refurbished units.

    Channel data costs £10 a month or a one time payment of £199.

  • SKY+
    Probably the best option for a PVR as far as service goes. The unit costs £99 which is cheep, but you also have to pay a monthly fee of £10 to receive channel data, plus £19 for their most basic SKY channel package. So although the units are cheap, the monthly expense makes this a stupid option.

  • MSN TV
    I don't know if you can even get these in the UK yet, but these little units (loaded with Windows Media Center) will become very desirable when Microsoft launches IPTV at the end of this year.
    IPTV is television over the internet. Not sure if you will stream or prechshe shows, but it will sell very well if the price is right.

  • Mac mini
    Lots of people where really looking forward to this because it would make the perfect PVR (because of its size).
    And all the basic design needs is a TV card, some software and you have the perfect PVR, but unfortunately Apple has ignored the market completely. So the costs go like this:
    £339 for the Mac mini and £219 for an EyeHome that will connect the Mac to a TV. So its certainly not the cheapest option.

  • Freeview
    This is probably the best option because the channel data is free and the extra channels are free too. The only cost is the price of the unit and they are all priced under £300.

    Here is a roundup of the units available:

    Panasonic TUCTH100 (£229.99)
    Doesn't have an interactive TV Guide so I wouldn't bother with it.

    Fusion FVRT100 (£169.99)
    This has a problem with the software freezing up and has many other reported bugs.

    Fusion FVRT200 (£199.96)
    Currently set for a February release date. Has a 80GB hard drive and that makes this the best value unit available. There is a good chance that it will use the same software as the FVRT100, so this might be a bad one to wait for.

    Thomson DHD4000 (£159.99)
    Bugs with chase play (watching the show you are recording) and a few other miner bugs, but far better than the FVRT100.

At the moment I am looking to get a DHD4000, but there is still the 75% coverage issue with Freeview. Meaning i might not be able to receive a good enough signal to even have a PVR.