The Dim-Post

August 27, 2014

PVR advice

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 1:48 pm

Yesterday I called Vodafone’s customer support line to get some help with my broadband internet. Today I cancelled my Vodafone account and signed up with Spark because that seemed like an easier way to get my internet working again. 

Anyway, part of the deal with Vodafone was the ‘T-Box’ which we used for recording/time shifting tv shows and Spark don’t got nothing like that. We could sign up for Sky and get MySky, but that’s $50/month and all we want to do is record and rewatch free tv. So buying a Personal Video Recorder looks like the way to go. 

Any recommendations? The DishTV devices look pretty cheap but the reviews suggest they’re horrible. Maybe the new generation ones are better? Has anyone used one of the Panasonic PVRs? Anything else out there on the market? 


  1. We use a Panasonic one. Easy to use and stores heaps. Can set it up to record weekly so you don’t have to remember to set it. Only downside is very very very occasionally three shows overlap and it only records 2 at a time. Sometimes takes a wee while to load the programme guide but maybe that is to do with our signal? We have a Panasonic tv so the remotes work across each other.

    Comment by MeToo — August 27, 2014 @ 1:55 pm

  2. We had a Panasonic HDD recorder several years ago, and it was so much better than the DishTV satellite recorder that we have now (we moved from CHCH to the regions, and now have to use satellite for all our TV…). So, I would guess that Panasonic > DishTV probably still stands. If momney-was-no-object, I’d snap one of these up in a jiffy:

    Comment by NZJon — August 27, 2014 @ 2:00 pm

  3. Ha, had a similar experience last year when changing from Telstra (which is owned by Vodafone) to actual Vodafone to get a better deal. 1 month later and many hours on the phone, I switched to Telecom which had it sorted in 2 days.

    Comment by max — August 27, 2014 @ 2:04 pm

  4. I tried one of those Dish TV recorders and it died after just one trouble-plagued year. The Panasonic we replaced it with now comes with a terabyte of memory. You can beat the overlap issue by doing manual recordings on the plus one channels. And of course you can back up shows on disc if you want to.

    Comment by Lawrence — August 27, 2014 @ 2:18 pm

  5. I have two of the Panasonic 500 Gb Freeview boxes. They work well and I like the way that more than one episode of a programme go into folders if you want that. Keeps it tidy. Also have two Dish satellite boxes both very good. Dish have good support if you need out.
    Also have a TiVo which is a great box but fi
    Or how much longer will out be around.
    Also be careful with the Panasonic to get Freeview they do a line of DVD recorders which can pick up digital tv but do not have MHEG 5 so they will not have the freeview EPG

    Comment by RonWilson — August 27, 2014 @ 2:25 pm

  6. You may be used to this (having owned a T-Box) but I find the programme guides that Freeview provides to be really slow and ugly. Hop on Trademe and grab a Tivo. It’s the size of a small planet, but assuming you can hide it somewhere, it’s fabulous.

    Comment by Daniel — August 27, 2014 @ 2:32 pm

  7. Being in the industry I’ve looked into htpc and PVR over the years. But for overall ease of use and reliability, I’ve been very happy with the Panasonic DMR-XW380 for several years now. It hasn’t missed a single show or series programmed into it. It can record two channels and I can watch some thing else recorded earlier without any hesitation. The only catch is not being able to use the DVD if it recording. Also make sure you get it multi zoned as soon as you buy it. I waited too long and can’t now ask for that as part of the purchase. (I was too keen to get it home and hooked up). Weirdly, I use the av connection to my Sanyo TV – HDMI doesn’t sewn to work, although the HDMI from PC works OK. Oh, one other weird thing is that recordings for tv1 seem to always record an hour later on TV1+1.

    The channels change much quicker than on the TV tuner itself, which is another good point.

    The internet functionality is pretty poor, but this will no doubt improve in more recent versions. In fact, I think this will be the area that your choice should be based on (assuming your other technical requirements are all met). There is a firmware upgrade function but I think it has only ever offered one upgrade which must have worked seeing it’s still opp operational..

    Comment by Bruce Metelerkamp — August 27, 2014 @ 2:44 pm

  8. Oh, one other irritation is if a programmed record has started, it can’t be canceled

    Comment by Bruce Metelerkamp — August 27, 2014 @ 2:45 pm

  9. I’m really pleased with my Panasonic DVR (model DMR-BWT835). It picks up Freeview, obviously, but also doubles as a blu-ray and DVD player. 1 TB, but can be backed up on disc or an external HDD. Has an app that lets me remotely program it to record things from my phone, and also plays recorded shows over wi-fi.

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — August 27, 2014 @ 2:52 pm

  10. I guess some people don’t even bother with PVRs these days because they prefer to just stream everything they care about, we we still find it convenient. A year ago on returning to NZ we first bought a Samsung one of some sort (from LV Martin). We returned it within a week in part because its ability to interpret our weak UHF reception (the landlord hasn’t bothered with a decent UHF antenna on the roof!), but also because of a hideous UI which made it necessary to press and click heaps of times to do simple things like delete old programmes and free up space.

    We exchanged it for this Panasonic one. By comparison it’s been great — much better handling of the weak reception. Basic use has been good and reliable. UI for the main stuff (watching, recording, playback, deleting old stuff) is simple. A few down sides that I wish we’d known more of beforehand, which might or mightn’t be present in other Panasonic models are:

    * Is has two tuners, but it’s not smart enough to use the same tuner when recording the same channel. This is annoying if we want to record two programmes in a row, because each has a buffer on the start and end. It effectively means that for the 5-10 minutes overlap time, the PVR won’t let anything be watched or recorded on another channel! (The previous PVR we had in Australia was much smarter with its tuner use.) Considering how many programmes fit a 1 hour slot, +1 channels would be more useful for a Panasonic PVR if they were +1.5 channels or +2 channels, because it’d mean you could tape two programmes in a row on the same channel without wasting both tuners.

    * Its timer scheduler isn’t very smart, which just adds to the complications of the tuner/overlap issue. When you put something on record, it’ll normally look for the first available showtime and won’t automatically revert to a +1 channel, or another screening elsewhere, if it’s already set to record too much other stuff. Instead it’ll just complain that it’s recording too much stuff and something has to be cancelled for things to be reliable. This can be resolved by pressing a button on a different screen to tell it to manually find another time (like on a +1 channel), but weirdly it doesn’t just *do* this. If you have stuff on Series record, it doesn’t do it automatically and every week you have to remember to check it has timers in the right place.

    * Every so often, it loses a series and stops picking up new episodes. Maybe this something with how the Freeview schedule isn’t connecting programmes properly?

    * I haven’t yet found out how to de-zone the DVD player, which is annoying just because we wanted it to replace a separate DVD player. I expected to not be able to do it for the Blu-Ray player, but everything I’ve found on the ‘net is that there’s no hack for the DVD player either.

    * Editing recordings is painful. Not exactly critical, but in Australia we found it nifty to be able to select the ad breaks and buffers around a programme and wipe them out, to save lots of space, if we had something recorded that we didn’t want to wipe immediately.

    * Panasonic doesn’t bother with firmware updates except to fix the initial bugs on a model. I’ve heard DishTV has its problems but I’m guessing they might actually respond and possibly fix something if you report a problem to them.

    * It has various Internet streaming features and USB features (like if you want to play something off a memory stick), but you’re not allowed to use them if it’s recording anything off TV. As soon as it wants to start recording, it’ll kick you off. This won’t matter so much if you’re using some other device (laptop, tablet, TV) to stream things, but it means the internet features they make a big deal of are fairly impractical.

    * The internet stuff is pretty sucky anyway. There’s no web browser, you’re restricted to content available through the apps available in its app store, and I’ve never seen any new apps show up from the original ones which are basically for proprietary streaming websites and the like. This might be much improved on alternative models if you actually care about it.

    Comment by izogi — August 27, 2014 @ 3:05 pm

  11. I love my MagicTV (something like

    It’s terrestrial (i.e. antenna) so more / better / higher definition freeview than satellite.

    Although I don’t remember it costing quite that much – maybe shop around.

    2 tuners, so record 2 programs while simultaneously watching something I’ve recorded, or watching live on the TV’s tuner (pfffft, I don’t watch anything live anymore🙂 )

    Comment by rickrowling — August 27, 2014 @ 3:08 pm

  12. We have a free view box. Ok, but not recommended. The remote stopped working at one point. We got a replacement under warranty but not without a few frustrating telephone conversations. But in general it works fine.

    My friends swear by Ali express for this sort of thing, you could check out what they have.

    Comment by Swan — August 27, 2014 @ 3:17 pm

  13. Oh also with the MagicTV – the interface is much nicer than the dishTV ones.

    Comment by rickrowling — August 27, 2014 @ 3:24 pm

  14. “It effectively means that for the 5-10 minutes overlap time, the PVR won’t let anything be watched or recorded on another channel!”

    Do people with other Panasonic models see this too, or is it just ours?

    eg. If you have TV1 recording a programme at 7.30pm-8pm, then something else from 8pm to 8.30pm, it’ll want to devote both tuners to TV1 between about 7.56pm and 8.04pm (depends on the buffer config). So it won’t let anything else be recorded on any other channel if it overlaps with that time. eg. A 1 hour thing on Prime that might start at 7pm or 8pm.

    Comment by izogi — August 27, 2014 @ 3:31 pm

  15. Sorry I meant to say a dish tv one.

    Comment by Swan — August 27, 2014 @ 3:42 pm

  16. We have a MagicTV system. It generally works fine.

    Can record two things at once no problem, but you cannot watch a third live at the same time. I think you can record two live shows while watching a recorded one (or at least it has never prevented me watching pre-recorded material, and I’m sure that I have watched while recording two shows). It also is aware of the +1 channels, so if it has too many things to record at once, it will try to defer one to a +1 channel. Doesn’t seem to have issues with overlap recording.

    Also, has a live pause/rewind function, but I’m bit vague about the parameters of that, as I’ve only used it accidentally.

    There is sometimes an issue, with Maori TV only(?), whereupon when playing back a recorded programme it gets stuck in a loop of about 3-4 s. Only way to fix it seems to be to stop playback and restart from the beginning. Not sure if that is a systemic problem, or just a fault with my machine.

    Comment by RJL — August 27, 2014 @ 3:53 pm

  17. Hmmm

    I gave up on free TV years ago and also ditched SKY as too bloody expensive. All Netflix streaming now.

    As a result when the digital transition orphaned our old Sony DVR/DVD I could not be bothered spending big bucks on a replacement. Had a spare old Mac Mini so bought an EyeTV unit (about the size of a thumb drive with coax at one end and USB at the other) and plugged that in, with the HDMI feeding to the TV. It’s a little clunky to use but accesses the Freeview Guide and has worked fine for almost a year now. Since there’s also a wireless mouse sitting around I use that instead of a remote. Pay more and you can get models that record multiple streams but probably not worth it for our limited Freeview world.

    Otherwise go for the suggestions above re Edgelers Panasonic DVR/Blu Ray/DVD – brilliant machines, or the MagicTV.

    As it happens Sony never bothered introducing a DVR successor for digital TV. The eternal battle between software and hardware has seen them go with just buying an external hard drive of your choice and plugging it into your Sony TV. I assume the others will follow a similar path in the next few years as computers and TV’s become one and the same thing.

    Comment by Tom Hunter — August 27, 2014 @ 4:44 pm

  18. We’ve got a Panasonic PVR from a few years ago. It generally works okay but its UI is ugly and saving to disc is not worth the trouble. Also only records about 30 hours of TV. Good to hear that there are better models like Graeme’s.

    Comment by Tamara — August 27, 2014 @ 4:58 pm

  19. We had a Phillips DVD/R with HDD. It lasted four years and crapped out twice in that time (once under warranty). It still kind of works but occasionally does wierd stuff or switches off for no reason. The UI is horrible, its pretty much impossible to do something you haven’t done before without 15 minutes with the manual. Now we just plug the laptop or tablet into the tv and stream direct or we download series in advance and watch them from usb…

    Comment by richard29 — August 27, 2014 @ 5:19 pm

  20. Netflix plus TVNZ/TV3 OnDemand for the political shows? What else do you DVR?

    Comment by garethw — August 27, 2014 @ 5:19 pm

  21. +1 to TiVo. Trademe is your only option to acquire these days, can be had for ~$150. Make sure it’s 320GB (TCD663320) model.

    Comment by Luke. — August 27, 2014 @ 5:49 pm

  22. Izogi @ 12. “It effectively means that for the 5-10 minutes overlap time, the PVR won’t let anything be watched or recorded on another channel!” Our Panasonic does that overlap recording thing too, so it’s not just yours..

    Comment by Purple Scottie — August 27, 2014 @ 6:57 pm

  23. near new and unused Tivos go for ~$200 on Trademe (Telecom was giving them away in the end so a lot have been in storage awaiting a use). They are the best of the lot IMO. A guy sells refurbished 1TB ones on TMe too but they are pricey.

    Really easy to use if big and ugly. Two week programme guide. Record two channels and watch a third programme already recorded. Overlap is not an issue on Tivo as you can adjust it. Eventually I expect someone will stop maintaining the software and EPG but no sign yet….

    Also have Quickflix on demand movie services but it is only average.

    Comment by insider — August 27, 2014 @ 7:22 pm


    Comment by Rob — August 27, 2014 @ 8:31 pm

  25. If u need to upgrade your tv get one with built in freeview and a usb slot. Plug in a hard drive and you’re off. I recently bought about a 36 inch tv from jb for 299 bucks. Built in freeview and per (once I’d plugged in a hard drive)

    Comment by bpp — August 28, 2014 @ 12:03 am

  26. There are internal and USB solutions for Windows-based platforms, but they’re getting thin on the ground these days. Off the top of my head, the Hauppauge HVR4400 is one of the few still available if you have a desktop.

    Comment by Kumara Republic (@kumararepublic) — August 28, 2014 @ 12:28 am

  27. Or for a USB solution, the WinTV HVR930C.

    Comment by Kumara Republic (@kumararepublic) — August 28, 2014 @ 12:38 am

  28. Funny, we’ve been with ‘Spark’ for a few years now precisely because they gave us a TiVo, and whenever we get cold calls from Vodafone asking if we want to switch to them they seem befuddled when we ask if they would provide us with a recorder.

    Comment by Aaron — August 28, 2014 @ 7:45 am

  29. Thanks for that everyone. I am leaning towards a Panasonic PVR, mostly because of the feedback but also because my TV is a Panasonic and I would be able to control everything with one remote control, which has been a wild but impossible fantasy of mine for about twenty years.

    Comment by danylmc — August 28, 2014 @ 8:37 am

  30. Roku 3 from Amazon is US$89. Unotelly and Netflix is ~US$20/month. you never have to view ads again.

    Comment by R Singers — August 28, 2014 @ 4:07 pm

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