Digital TV PVR Comparison: Beyonwiz vs Tivo Freeview vs Sony PlayTV for PS3

99% of people are not Geeks obsessed with technology. So they don’t know what a Digital TV PVR (personal video recorder) is and why it can revolutionise their TV watching experience.

This article compares 3 kinds of Digital TV PVR’s for free to air TV: Beyonwiz (non Freeview) vs Tivo (Freeview) vs Sony PlayTV (PlayStation 3 addon). It does not cover cable TV PVR’s like Foxtel IQ.

The history of Digital TV in Australia, it’s benefits, currently available channels, Freeview etc are all explained in a separate article on this site.

A PVR is a box (like a VCR) that records digital TV to an internal hard drive (like a computer) and can store dozens or even hundreds of hours of recorded TV shows without the need for any DVD’s or VCR tapes.

digital tv shows recorded with pvr to watch later

For starters PVR = DVR = Digital TV Set Top Box With Hard Drive. Don’t be confused by the different names – they refer to the same kind of technology. If a salesperson tries to sell you a DVD recorder for digital TV ignore them as DVD is a dead technology for home recordings.

Most of the best PVR’s are sold by companies which you may not have heard of before in Australia like Beyonwiz, Topfield, TiVo etc, unlike the TV market which is dominated by big brands like Sony, Samsung and Panasonic.

NOTE: I’ve owned several PVR’s in the past with lots of features but they all required me to spend lots of time manually entering program schedules and timers for shows I wanted to watch. In the end I gave up on them in late 2009 and bought a TiVo because it learns the kinds of shows I want to watch and records them automatically.

Benefits of Owing A PVR

Watch Shows Later – Once you own a PVR you can stock up on shows you like and watch when you want to, not when the program is scheduled. This offers a huge choice not controlled by the whim of the TV guide schedule. The bigger your PVR hard drive, the more shows you can record to watch later.

Skip Ads – Another great benefit of PVR’s is the ability to skip ads when playing back shows recorded earlier. Skip functionality varies depending on the brand of PVR. Some allow you to skip ads in 30 second intervals as well as the option to fast forward and others only allow fast forward eg: at 30x speed.

Timeshift Buffer – Another cool feature of PVR’s is their ability to timeshift via a buffer. For example if you’re about to watch the Simpsons on Channel 10 and get a phone call, you can pause the live TV broadcast, answer the phonecall for 10 minutes, return to the TV, press play on the PVR and it will continue playing where you left off.

Record 2 Channels While Watching Previous Recording – All except very cheap PVR’s allow you to record 2 channels at the same time eg: a sports match on Channel 10 (for Dad) and a drama series on the ABC (For Mum) at the same time that you’re watching a previous recording from the PVR hard drive eg: a movie from Channel 7 (for the whole family).

digital tv Electronic Program Guide (EPG)

Electronic Program Guide (EPG)

An interactive schedule of current and upcoming programs that a viewer can display on-screen simply by pressing a button on their remote control.

Even the simplest such guides will list program start time, duration, censorship classification and program genre, and at the touch of another button, a short description of the program being viewed or the one coming up next. Viewers can browse available channel schedules without actually changing channels, and also set program reminders to manage the automated recording of programs or series onto a hard disk.
- ABC Digital TV EPG page

Standard PVR’s display an EPG which is transmitted over the air and down your TV antenna. More expensive PVR’s like the Beyonwiz (can use ICE Guide independent EPG) and TiVo (can use Freeview extended EPG) have an option to download a more detailed EPG over the Internet.

Freeview PVR’s like TiVo and Sony PlayTV for PS3

Tivo HD 320 PVR Media centre

In Australia TiVo chose to join the Freeview group of PVR’s. At the beginning of 2010 all PVR’s in Australia can access the same TV channels and EPG however future initiatives like a more interactive Freeview EPG will not be viewable in non-Freeview PVR’s.

All Freeview PVR’s make it harder to skip ads and transfer recorded TV shows onto another device.

freeview digital tv

I could write a few more paragraphs about why I like Tivo features like Suggestions, Season Pass and Wish List but this music video explains it all much better: Whats a TiVo (video)?.

sony ps3 playtv

PlayTV is a addon box for the Sony Playstation 3 (PS3) gaming machine. Play TV for PS3 has already been reviewed separately on this site.

However if you don’t have time to read that review then I’ll summarise it by saying: PlayTV is Freeview-certified, easy to use, cheap (around $150 if you already have a PS3) or you can buy it in a bundle with a new PS3. However PlayTV is not as powerful as other PVR’s because it can only record 1 channel at a time.

Beyonwiz

If you want more advanced features and less restrictions than Freeview PVR’s like TiVo I suggest checking out non-Freeview PVR’s from manufacturers like Beyonwiz and Topfield.

Beyonwiz DP-P2 PVR Media centre

These PVR’s like the Beyonwiz DP-P2 lack the inbuilt automation of TiVo but make up for it by including a smorgasboard of extra features such as :

  • Play a wide range of media files eg: (Music: MP3, WMA, AAC, Ogg, AC3, Video: DIVX, mkv, wmv, avi, mpg etc and JPG Photos) from a USB flash drive, USB hard drive or camera card.
  • If you connect a portable USB hard drive to the PVR you can archive your recordings to it with no copyright restrictions.
  • An Ethernet (network port) so you can play media files eg: (Music, Video and Photos) from shared folders on your computer or other Beyonwiz devices also on the network.
  • Recording external video sources like a camcorder to the PVR hard drive
  • A wide range of choices to help you skips ads eg: Fast Forward (x2, x4, x8, x16, x32), Rewind (x2, x4, x8, x16, x32) and a button to skip forward a specific number of seconds

Which Is The Best PVR?

There’s no clear answer for this question.

PVR’s like TiVo are really automated which is great and PlayTV for PS3 is cheap and user friendly. However these Freeview PVR’s have fewer advanced features and more restrictions compared to PVR’s like Beyonwiz which can do extra things like play DIVX files from a USB drive and skip ads when playing recorded tv shows with ease.

If you want a PVR with set and forget convenience, which learns what you like to watch (my favourite feature) buy a TiVo but if you want lots of features, bigger hard drives and unrestricted connectivity to transfer recordings without copyright restrictions choose a non-Freeview PVR like the ones sold by Beyonwiz.


28 comments on “Digital TV PVR Comparison: Beyonwiz vs Tivo Freeview vs Sony PlayTV for PS3

  1. We love our TIVO!

  2. Gavin Heaton on said:

    I like the Tivo (thanks for the recommendation) – but would like a little more flexibility with connection to my PC. I chose to purchase the wireless connector which is great if a little slow, but probably should have saved the cash spent on Tivo Desktop. Gallileo seems to do the same job better.

  3. Tony Hollingsworth on said:

    Interesting post Neerav, I haven’t heard of the Beyonwiz so good to know about it. Will check it out.

    I’d like to note for your readers that consoles like PS3, Wii and XBox can do some other interesting things once connected to your home network such as play a wide range of media files from any shared folders on computers on the network. I have a PS3 and regularly use this to access content all over my home network (streaming wirelessly from my home computer t the TV). The front USB inputs on the PS3 also allow media to be played directly from external hard drives, USB sticks etc.

    This is worth a separate blog post as consumers in general seem to me to be uninformed on the digital media capabilities of their internet-connected homes, particularly given more households are buying gaming consoles, and have wireless internet access in their homes.

    I’d recommend following my friend Ben Xu on Twitter at @gadgetfarmer who is helping educate people in Sydney about these capabilities.

    Cheers,
    Tony Hollingsworth

  4. Kimota on said:

    Have to agree with Tony. My PS3 is set up wirelessly connected to my PC media server, with about a TB of audio and video streaming beautifully. Can’t honestly see the need to burn a divx to disc or USB again. I’ll be picking up the PlayTV this week as, although it may not have all the other additional features of some other PVRs, coupled with what I’ve already got the PS3 doing, it does everything else I need.

  5. I installed my new PlayTV last w/end and very happy so far. It was a family Xmas gift and followed the purchase of a 46″ Sony Bravia 200MHz and the free PS3 120Gb that came with it. Forget the games (I’m 60yo), showing my pix & vids via the PS3 are bloody amazing. I didn’t realise I was such a great photographer (LOL).

    The original Xmas gift was a different brand of PVR and not happy Jan was the outcome. The digital tuner picture was terrible and the user menu a bit hard to follow. I delicately changed it for a PlayTV figuring that having all SONY equipment would be the way to go.

    I fitted a aerial splitter only because the Sony Bravia tuner is SO good and we’re not recording all the time to have the PS3 powered up. (It does get very hot). Mind you, the PlayTV tuners picture is very close (say 95%) and hard to pick the difference on some channels.

    The 120Gb might be a stumbling block if I want to record Bathurst again live, but day to day, should be OK. There’s only about 100Gb free after all the software (???) and it looks like a 2hr TV show uses about 6Gb. Happy so far.

  6. Gavin Heaton on said:

    Oh I should have typed “Galleon” rather than Gallileo. You can find it here:
    http://galleon.sourceforge.net/

  7. Ive had the beyonwiz for a few months and it easily beats the competion. Ive got it connected to all the pcs in our house via lan. Theirs easy streaming from any pc with avi/mkv/mpg/wmv/vob/mp4 playback. You have the ability to upload tv recordings to your pc which you could then edit or convert them. Full 1080 hd recording and playback on the dual tuners. Upgradable firmware. The internal hdd is 320 or 500gb standard but can be replaced with a larger model. Pause,rewind live tv. Easy epg that shows up to a week in advance. Press 1 button on the epg to record shows make them record daily or weekly. I also have a 360 and ps3 but for a all in 1 media unit the beyonwiz wins.

  8. and the winner is… my MythTV ( mythbuntu.org ) it has all the best features the others have including complete advert skipping, duplicate matching, record at any time/in this timeslot/one showing a day, search for actors or titles etc… With a nVidia vdpau card i can watch my ripped blurays/ movies of any format easily. Its also future proof.. the tivo’s 160GB hardrive is a joke.. need more tuners..then add them.. need more storage.. shop around then add that too. Can you add more storage to these other devices at a sane price?

  9. THX1138 on said:

    I still use my old SD toppy. With dual tuners UKAS keyword search recording and with JustEPG and EIT2MEI it is still better than all of these. 100% hand free. When it dies I will get a beyonwiz, but because of the micro management it will be like a downgrade even with the HD.

    EDITOR: yeah i use to own a Topfield 5000 and it worked perfectly for ages until the remote and hard drive died :-(

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  12. Lizzy on said:

    We bought a beyonwiz pvr & have found we have to update the firmware all the time & when you fix one problem it creates another it has been a nightmare to use as we have lost a lot of our recordings etc.We have been in constant touch with the warranty dept but they kept us updating firmware (oh this will fix the problem) till now it is just out of warranty (even though they have known the problems we had)& then its oh bad luck out of warranty!If it had not cost so much i would chuck it in the bin. So be warned yes it has lots of features but is VERY unreliable!

  13. Daryll Hope on said:

    I,ve been advised to buy a Beyonwiz DPP2 by a HI FI dealer, who stocks this as the only pvr worth stocking. But I see you have a good and bad review on this model. Do I buy one? I had decided on a Panasonic blu ray rec hdd untill I spoke to this particular dealer. How do you update firmware? Do you need it connected to a computer?
    Thanks
    Daryll

  14. when are the broadcasters changing to MPEG4 encoding and will TIVO, beyonwiz etc support this?

    EDITOR: Some PVR’s like TIVO and the newer Beyonwiz models already support MPEG4. The TV networks are unlikely to switch to a broadcast in MPEG4 only by 2020 IMHO.

  15. red_ants_id on said:

    I own a Beyonwiz DPP2 which had sync problems between audio and video from the day I bought it, but which did get fixed by the very next upgrade recommended to me on the forum. I copied the upgrade file to a USB stick and had no problem getting the Beyonwiz to read from it.

    Since then I’ve added a TPLINK N class wireless router to the ethernet port (set to Access point mode only) and this has allowed me to stream video from any computer in my house to this machine( I did setup Windows sharing).

    My only issues now are that I don’t want to pay a subscription fee for an EPG and I am annoyed that my recorded programs are splintered into dozens of 32MB mpg files. I can’t understand why they don’t record directly in MPEG-4. Dozens of mpg’s take ages to download and then you need something like Video Redo to put them back together again. Maybe someone on this forum knows better.

  16. So we have decided to get rid of our Optus Tv so save some $$. We have been thinking of getting a TiVo or a standard PVR/SetTopBox (not connected to internet). Buying a TiVo/PVR would really only cost us about 6 months rental of foxtel. But there is one thing that I have not been able to get a clear grasp of…

    TiVo – I know downloading from CASPA will cost both download and a few $$, but what about watching the free to air channels – will that cost me download?

    Can anyone help answer this for me please?
    Thank

    EDITOR: The signal for Free to air channels on your TIVO is via your rooftop antenna plugged into it. So they’re free. Also downloading via CASPA is free for some Internet Providers eg Internode

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  18. Kathleen Keys on said:

    Does using Macs have any bearing on which PVR to purchase?

    EDITOR: that shouldnt make any difference

  19. I have PlayTV – two things about it which i didn’t like. Firstly, no SBS or Ch31!!! Secondly, apart from the gaming controller, you have to purchase a separate BluRay remote (which the wonderful lads at Sony did not tell me). Not happy Jan!! Does anyone know if there is a way to get the UHF channels through PlayTV. I am ready to take PlayTV back (Christmas present).

    Thanks in advance to anyone who has the time to give me some advice.

    apose

  20. TiVo is great, until it breaks!!!
    Would I recommend TiVo, no, because they do break & the back up to get it fixed is a nightmare.
    When we first got it, it was broken, after two weeks, with still no solution & they had phone support then, I took it back to the shop I bought it at. Now it’s broken again & it’s taken two weeks of spar odic emails to still get no where!
    TiVo is fabulous when it works! Would I buy another, no

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  22. beamisbestgal on said:

    Thank you for taking the time out to review these products for me. As a layman in the technology field I really appreciate having someone who knows what they are talking about, give me an unbiased opinion. I would love to have the functions of the tivo [knowing what shows I like] but believe that Beyonwiz would suit me as I do not have much money and I would like to buy one large hard drive than continually update.
    Anyway,
    Thanks again
    Beamisbestgal

  23. Josef on said:

    Have you considered a HTPC (home theatre PC)
    it’s basically a pc that does everything a pvr and blu-ray and media streamer does and more.

    YOu can build one yourself or buy one from about $900
    Infinetely extendable with lots of freeware software to make it do whatever you want.

    For more reading go to www.whirlpool.net.au and search for HTPC

    Josef

  24. lance on said:

    i am apensioner luddite in darwin off line. i just like to watch free tv & over the years i have got pvrs; bush, dgtech ,strong, digitalview, samsung ,toppro , & just bought a topfield quad but i still want a freeview+epg continuous pvr to see the end of movies. does it also automatically start early when the programs are early too.? the salespeople in darwin tell all sorts of rubbish & i am continually returning pvrs as they dont have Enhanced EPG (MHEG-5)-phase 2. same on websites , troll thru pvr ads with no clear idea what products will start & end on time. i was interested to see u say tivo can be used free. any other suggested brands 4 free 2 air. & what sites 4 best buys (pricewise). p.s. this is my 1st hour looking into surfing this subject

  25. John on said:

    I want to upgrade my old glass tube SD TV and SD Topfield 5000 to HD TV & PVR. The old Toppy was so reliable and hassle free. Read a lot of comments online and would like the Beyonwiz for its tech smarts but the reported unreliability turns me off and am leaning to the Tivo. Does anyone have a HD Topfield-what are their new PVR’s like?

  26. I have the Beyonwiz DP-P1 .. it has been reasonably reliable .. early on a few issues were sorted with firmware updates .. i think this is totally acceptable for a product pioneering in this type of technology . I chose Beyonwiz above Tivo because i did not want to have a permanent internet connection hooked up to it ( that pretty much rules tivo out ) and found the network to pc abilities of the Beyonwiz very attractive . I am always transferring recorded files to my pc , editing them and archiving them . The ability to move recordings to other media players is a feature i could not do without … I know of a few people with Tivo’s who have had hardware issues .. and i think any product similar to these will have some issues , again due to being new-ish technology , a work in progress. If i need to buy another PVR , i’m pretty sure it will be a more up to date Beyonwiz. … I call it the control freaks PVR of choice !! … As a last word i would like to point out that HDD space is barely worth mentioning if you have easy network connectivity … the only limit is how many hard drives you can add to your pc ( i have about 3.7 TB internally and another 5 TB externally ) … and even as an added bonus , you can extract recorded files directly from the beyonwiz using USB fat32 storage.. Why would you bother with anything else ??

  27. Beyonwiz DP P2. Bought it in Feb 2009. Still 100% OK in October 2011. Gets used whenever the TV is on ie, every night from 6PM ish to midnight. Had ONE issue that would have required a hard disk reformat but then I would lose about 100 recordings, so I had anothe hard disk on hand (1 TB). In it went – worked fine ever since, AND I then mounted the original hard disk in an enclosure and connected it to the Wiz via USB – all recordings available!
    How good is this….
    I set up the recording program via the internet from work (or anywhere in the world!).
    Whenever the Wiz powers on (to record a program, or someone at home turns it on) it logs into the internet and downloads my programming selection.
    If I can’t watch the show (shows) I have recorded, I usually download them to my laptop (via the home network) to watch later – whever I might be.
    By the way, the shows are downloaded as ONE file (NOT 32 Mb chunks), and VLC plays them (on my laptop) at full HD with no issues at all.
    By the way, the ad-skip on these is via 4 buttons on the remote: UP skips forward a pre-settable number of seconds (set it to 30 is convenient), RIGHT skips it forward a pres-settable percentage, down skips BACK a predetermined number of seconds, and LEFT skips back a pre-settable percentage. Ads just don’t exist anymore.
    About the only issue is keeping track of recordings. (“Why did I record that?” etc…)
    I have just downloaded the latest PC download software onto my laptop. Now displaying the Wiz’s contents can be done while someone else is watching the TV (recording, playing back etc) to save interrupting their viewing. I can also download programs, stream them, delete recordings etc from the WIZ, via laptop.

  28. Just bought a Sony SVR 1000, I did have a BAUGHN PVR. 35 mins to setup and read the manual. Recorded the F1 race In China and watched on half hour delay. The benefits are you can pause indefinitely. The peg is basic but functional, the timer list is good the stup is good the clarity is very good. All in all I am very happy so far. The unit cost $398 au compared to the BAUGHN AT $200. I got a refund on the BAUGHN BECAUSE IT FROZE ON CHANEL 9 even after a reboot. I looked at my mates TOPFIELD and I still reckon the SONY for the price is excellent hope this helps some consumers

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