How can I / Why can’t I record one TV channel while watching
You could do this with your old TV and VCR, because that gave you two analogue tuners, one in the TV and one in the VCR. Similarly for digital TV you need two digital tuners to watch and record from different digital channels. There are several ways of achieving this, for example:
Most convenient: you could buy a twin tuner digital TV recorder (PVR) to work with your existing TV. This option is arguably the most convenient and versatile. See Digital TV recorder - pros and cons
Cheapest: you could buy two separate set top boxes for your existing TV and recorder. But if you do opt for this, we advise that you buy two different brands to avoid the problem of the remote control operating them both at the same time.
Most expensive: you could buy a new TV with digital tuner built in (iDTV) plus a new DVD recorder with digital tuner built in.
See also Recording options for information on kit choices and connecting up.
What do I need for digital recording?
For the pros and cons of digital TV recorders, DVD recorders and VCRs, see Recording kit choices.
For information and drawings on how to connect recording kit, see Connection Wizard.
Can I use any digital TV recorder to record from Freeview,
Satellite or Cable?
The simple answer is ‘No’. The digital TV recorders we have tested are dedicated to a particular broadcaster.
Most are suitable for Freeview and can be easily bought in the high street or via the Internet. You can also now buy satellite recorders in shops to receive the non-subscription freesat from BBC and ITV service. Sky offer a choice of two (Sky+ and Sky HD) recorders and Virgin offer one. Both these are available only by subscription and are provided and installed by the broadcaster.
So a Freeview digital recorder will not record cable or satellite subscription services.
If you want to record from Sky or Virgin without the cost of the extra recorder subscription, any stand-alone DVD recorder or VCR will do the job, but without some of the convenience features found on DTRs. For example you won’t be able to watch one channel while recording another – you can only record the channel the box is tuned to.
For our recommended digital TV recorders see Easiest to use digital TV recorders
What is ‘series link‘ and which digital TV recorders
The series recording feature (which lets you automatically record all future episodes of a programme) is available on Freeview + digital recorders and Sky satellite recorders. Use the Search and select ‘Freeview +’ or ‘satellite’ as a search criteria to find those that do.
Can I link my DVD recorder to a digital TV?
Yes, this is not the most versatile method of connection, but is adequate if you only occasionally want to record from TV. Connecting the DVD recorder (or hard drive recorder) to a SCART connection at the back of the TV will allow you to record whatever is on the TV screen, so long as the TV is switched on. The recordings will be in standard ‘video’ quality and not the best RGB quality. See our Connection Wizard for connection diagrams. But remember, to watch and record from different digital channels, you will need two digital tuners in your set-up, see Recording options
Are Freeview DVD recorders available now?
Yes, and some have the latest Freeview playback features. For our test reports on these see Easiest to use DVD digital TV recorders, or select 'Combined DVD recorder' when you use the Seach.
If I buy a digital TV recorder can I make a copy on to DVD
or VCR if I want to keep a recording?
Yes, you have two options. A dedicated digital TV recorder – this records on to a hard drive only, so if you decide you want to keep one of the recordings you have made, they all allow you to copy it on to a separate DVD recorder or VCR. Alternatively, there are DVD plus hard disk drive combination products and you can choose which device you want to record on to or even copy from hard dive to DVD later but these tend to be fairly complex to use and are not part of our current test programme.
The digital TV tuner which picks up the digital programmes is a part of the TV. If the recorder, connected to the TV, does not have its own digital tuner, it is using the TV tuner to receive the digital programmes. When the TV is in standby, this tuner is switched off and so no signal reaches the recorder. If this is inconvenient, you have options:
• buy a separate digital TV set top box tuner for the recorder.
For our recommended set top boxes see Easiest
to use STBs
• use the DVD / VCR on a less used TV and replace it with a twin tuner digital TV recorder. In this way you can record programmes when the iDTV is on standby and also record one digital TV programme while watching another. For our recommended digital TV recorders see Easiest to use digital TV recorders.
Note that this standby problem does not apply to all iDTVs. Some more versatile models will automatically wake up if you have booked a programme to record using the iDTV’s TV guide. For these models the recorder might also be automatically triggered when the TV wakes up or may have to be separately programmed to start recording when this occurs. See under Timer recording in our iDTV Detailed test reports for those iDTVs which can do this.
What products can you use to record from cable? Is Virgin +
the only option?
Yes, Virgin is the only national cable TV provider and supplies its own recorder – see our report on the Virgin Media +. A Freeview digital recorder will not record Virgin subscription services.
What products can you use to record Sky? Can I record Sky on
a Freeview digital TV recorder?
Sky supply two well-designed digital TV recorders–see our reports on the Sky +Thomson and the Sky+ HD Thomson,–but to get either you need to subscribe to Sky services. You cannot buy or rent a Sky recorder if you go for the Freesat from Sky deal. A Freeview digital recorder will not record Sky subscription satellite services.
If I cancel my Sky subscription will I go on receiving Freeview
on my Sky box / Sky+ box?
Yes the Sky box will continue to receive the no-subscription Freesat from Sky service which includes all the BBC and ITV channels and many of the additional Freeview channels. But it will not receive Sky subscription channels and if you have a Sky+ box, it will stop working as a recorder and you will not even be able to watch programmes previously recorded on it.