There’s been many attempts at making devices that let you record and time-shift TV, from the trusty VCR to short-lived oddities like DVD recorders. But the arrival of digital in Australia brought with it a new breed of recording device. Digital TV takes all the hassle out of keeping up with your favourite shows: the digital video recorder, or DVR for short.
Updated December 30, 2019
What is a Digital Video Recorder?
Sometimes referred to as a PVR (Personal Video Recorder) this clever invention has revolutionised the way we consume television – both free-to-air and pay TV. A DVD-player-sized box with two or more TV tuners inside a DVR captures broadcasts and stores them on a hard disk drive. The same type of drive you’d find in your PC. Depending on the size of that drive and whether or not you’re recording from a high definition channel, a DVR can potentially hold hundreds of hours of recorded television. All neatly sorted into individual recordings you can access in an instant from a menu. And because they’re literally grabbing the digital broadcast and storing it on disc, the quality when you play it back is identical to the original.
But wait, there’s more! A DVR can let you zip through ad breaks at lightning speed. Or even skip to any part of the recording instantly. It can also let you press the pause button on a live TV show, or skip back during one to catch something you missed.
You can set up recordings directly from an on-screen program guide. In some cases, you can also program the DVR to automatically record all new episodes of a series. And depending on the model of DVR, you can record multiple shows at the same time and watch a recording while doing so.
How can I record multiple shows at once?
The ability to record multiple shows from multiple channels is done via the inclusion of extra TV tuners inside the box – like having multiple TVs in a tiny package. All DVRs on the Australian market have at least two tuners, letting you record one thing and watch another.
Some go further, such as the Fetch TV Mighty or Beyonwiz’s T4, which include four tuners to let you record even more stuff at once. And at the extreme end, Foxtel’s iQ3 satellite DVR contains an astonishing ten tuners. 8 for satellite and two for free-to-air.
Foxtel iQ4 – watch in live 4k!
Foxtel once again paves the way for the future of TV, as they announce the launch of a new, dedicated 4K Live channel — the first and only in Australian television. This comes with the announcement of the new iQ4 set-top box, which is heralded as Foxtel’s most advanced streaming set-top with smarter features, making your Foxtel viewing so much easier and convenient. Live 4K arrives in October, just in time for the kick off of Foxtel’s coverage of the international cricket games come November — making history for Australian sport and entertainment viewing.
Foxtel’s iQ3 has long been one of the most user-friendly DVRs (digital video recorders) around, completely separate from its obvious task as a receiver for your Foxtel channels. But the sluggish performance of that device was always an annoyance to one degree or another. With the iQ4K, all annoyance is completely gone — here we have a fast, feature-rich and hugely capable box which makes the experience of simply using Foxtel magnitudes better. The fact that it comes with access to 4K broadcasts via satellite, well, that’s just the icing on the cake. Highly recommended.
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Beyonwiz – serious DVRs with serious storage
If you’re not a Foxtel customer, though, you’ll have to look elsewhere for a DVR. And while there’s some great devices out there, only a very small selection of brands actually make them – with Panasonic the one “big name” brand to offer a range of DVRs (theirs are integrated with Blu-ray players). The DVR field has long been the domain of smaller brands here in Australia.
The now-defunct Topfield was a big DVR player early on, as was Beyonwiz – a company that has come up with some of the most acclaimed DVRs on the market. Packed with features and winning awards (as this company’s products tend to do), their four-tuner T4 is arguably the king of free-to-air DVRs. And it’s got a price to match, ranging from $600 without a hard disk (you’ll need to supply your own) to $1100 with a mammoth 6TB drive inside. Capable of recording ten channels at once, it’s ideal for the free-to-air mega-fan. Beyonwiz also offers the cheaper T2, with 3 tuners capable of recording up to 8 shows at once.
Panasonic – user-friendly DVRs with unique features
Panasonic has offered DVRs for years, often combining them with a disc player. Their latest models are extremely capable and versatile, with a choice of Blu-ray players with DVRs built in, or dedicated DVR-only boxes. Their BWT955 model looks stylish, is packed with features, can handle Netflix and can play your own video files from your home network. It’s around $850.
Blu-Ray Players and Recorders
Blu-Ray players are still very much active in the market serving as cheaper alternatives to TV boxes. They’ve also evolved in recent years to address the growing popularity of streaming platforms. That’s why some Blu-Ray players, like the ones from Sony, Samsung and LG, have built-in streaming apps. So fret not, you can still enjoy Netflix if you have the player built for it. That’s not all they’ve been up to. While DVRs are usually the go-to for recording, some of the best Blu-Ray players have new features for convenient entertainment. The twin HD tuners, for instance, lets you record two shows at once or watch a program while recording another, with a built-in hard disk for storing hours of recorded shows both in HD and SD. However, unlike the plain Blu-Ray players, the ones with recording capacities and more advanced features, like the ones from Samsung or Panasonic, have heftier price tags on them.
Fetch TV Mighty – small Box, big features
Fetch TV’s Mighty box, meanwhile, is an absolute bargain at $449. It packs a four-tuner DVR that records from Fetch’s own streaming channels and fullsupport for Netflix, Stan and more. As an easy-to-use “do everything” box, it’s hard to beat. Especially if you take up Fetch’s TV service for a range of general pay channels similar to Foxtel’s, but delivered via broadband.
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Is a Digital Video Recorder right for you?
Whether you choose a DVR paired with streaming, pay TV or even Blu-ray, you’re going to love the freedom it brings you. You no longer have to be at home in front of the TV to catch your favourite shows. Now, you can watch them anytime you like, on your schedule, without ever having to worry about missing an episode. If watching TV is a big part of your life and you haven’t tried a DVR yet, you’ll be amazed at just how useful these clever boxes really are.