Will there be a PVR under your Christmas tree this year?

Video recorders, and more recently, DVD recorders have given us so much more choice over what we watch on our televisions. The ability to be able to watch a favourite film or TV programme exactly when it suits us has really caught the imagination, and largely eliminated those old arguments which always used to arise when two programmes which different family members wanted to watch were shown at the same time.

Now though, that freedom of viewing choice has been taken one major step further, with the advent of the personal video recorder, or PVR. These machines are often combined with a DVD player, and sometimes even a video player too, but their recording capacity comes in the form of a hard disk inside them, onto which programmes can be directly recorded. The obvious advantage of this is that it eliminates the need for space in which to store all those video cassettes and discs.

A PVR is a really clever piece of equipment which also takes the functionality and ease of recording any programme to a completely new level. Just as with a video or DVD recorder, the machine can be set to record programmes well in advance. All the information on forthcoming programmes is displayed in the electronic programme guide, which is the key to setting up and using the PVR. The guide shows every programme on every channel for the next week, so the machine can be programmed to record a show up to seven days ahead of its broadcast time.

The simplicity of setting the PVR to record a programme is one of these machines’ real advantages. It’s usually just a case of moving a cursor to highlight an individual show, and then pressing two buttons, one to actually select the programme for recording, and another to confirm the selection – then, no matter how far ahead the programme is, there is no need to worry about missing it.

Playing back a programme is also simplicity itself. The PVR will display a full list of programmes which it has recorded, and again the one to be watched can just be selected from that list.

Of course, because the programme is stored electronically, there are no tapes or discs to worry about storing. So the quality of the recording won’t deteriorate, no matter how long you keep it stored on your hard disk.

So with the arrival of digital recording and viewing on DVD players, those TV memories really can last forever. The features and technology used in every PVR available can be compared online, along with their prices. Combination machines which combine a PVR and DVD recorder and, in some instances, a video recorder too, can also be found.