I live in the UK and I want a TiVo-like device, but I can't get Sky+. What are my best options?
January 24, 2005 6:51 AM   Subscribe

I live in the UK and I want a TiVo-like device, but I can't get Sky+. What are my best options?

(Oops--should have had a "MORE INSIDE." The more follows:)

My landlord won't let us install a Sky dish, so no Sky+ for us. (We can get Telewest broadband, and they say they are developing a PVR, but they haven't announced any details.) Having done some googling, I've found a couple of freeview PVRs, but it seems as though most of them are missing the single feature we most want out of a PVR: a "season pass" type feature that lets you record all instances of a single show, no matter how many times it changes time slot. Are there any PVRs in the UK that have that feature? Or is our best bet to buy a used TiVo on ebay.co.uk and hope it doesn't crap out on us?

(I should mention that I travel back and forth to the US a fair amount, so if my best bet is to buy a miniMac or an modded XBOX or a cheap PC and use it as a media center, I can do so at US prices, providing I won't have any PAL/NTSC problems. But I'm hoping it won't come to that, since I'm not too confident of my abilities to hack together a homebrew PVR. )
posted by yankeefog to Shopping (12 answers total)
A second Hand Tivo will cost you £10.00 a month on top of the initial purchase, and getting it talking to a telewest box may be tricky, but it's heartily recommended. I couldn't live without mine, and no pvr solutions I've looked at come close. If you're only interested in the analogue channels, then I'd definitely go for it.
posted by seanyboy at 8:15 AM on January 24, 2005

I bought mine from eBay, but if you look around, you can find people selling reconditioned boxes. Also - re: Telewest box... Here has more info.
posted by seanyboy at 8:26 AM on January 24, 2005

Ditto on the TiVo - had one since 2000 and wouldn't be without. If you can get one with a lifetime sub there's no monthly fee. You might want to ask here.
posted by brettski at 8:37 AM on January 24, 2005

tivoland also sell tivos. I don't know how good / trustworthy they are.
posted by seanyboy at 8:59 AM on January 24, 2005

You might have a poke around on the Digital Spy forums but I think you're right, Freeview PVRs don't seem to have season passes (in fact, from the discussion, they seem terribly basic).

Just a thought, probably a silly one, but since you're travelling a lot you might look at an Archos since you could use it as a basic PVR with your existing system and then take it with you and watch it on the plane. I can't quite think of a compelling reason why I need one of these (because I don't) but I want one nonetheless.
posted by grahamwell at 12:41 PM on January 24, 2005

Have you asked the landlord why he won't let you have a satellite dish?

If its because of you having to drill into the building, there are methods of mounting a dish that are non-destructive and non-permanent, like simply weighting the dish down on top of a roof rather than screwing it on.
posted by shepd at 12:43 PM on January 24, 2005

Response by poster: Shepd: I'm in one of those buildings where each flat has a different owner and a modification to the outside of the building requires the approval of all the owners. My landlord has sounded out the other owners and determined he won't get their approval. I get the sense that it's the aesthetics of a dish on the roof as much as the drilling. But I appreciate your suggestion, and I'll think about whether it's worth reopening the issue with my landlord (and the other owners.)

Grahamwell: I had never heard of the Archos but now I want one. Still, it looks like buying a Tivo on ebay will be about half the price of the Archos... although then I have to factor in the subscription fee....

It's a tough choice,and I welcome any more thoughts from the peanut gallery. Thanks, everybody, for the responses so far.
posted by yankeefog at 1:02 PM on January 24, 2005

Telewest Broadband are introducing a PVR (the Scientific Atlanta 8000HD or similar) at the end of 2005. If you can wait it may be worth your time.
posted by longbaugh at 1:11 PM on January 24, 2005

Best answer: I don't know if this is helpful but my flat sounds a bit like yours. Because I live at the top I was able to scout the roof and find a location for the dish where it wouldn't show. The dish that was installed for Sky + actually has four connectors on it, of which Sky + uses two. That means there are two free connectors which suggests .....

... if you don't live on the top, have a chat with whoever does. The dish is quite small and just needs line of sight to the south. As mentioned previously it doesn't need to be permanently fixed, my friend has one in a bucket on his balcony. Your upstairs neighbour may not be initially keen, but you could offer them one or two of your unused connectors, ie: free Sky. Since you've two to offer, you could bribe two households in the block this way. There's a way of getting Sky for them without a subscription (although they don't advertise it) and old decoders are cheap secondhand.

Experience is that the standard Sky installers are completely useless, they'll just come round and if the job is not totally straightforward (health and safety won't let them go out on the roof for example) they'll pack up and leave. They will however refer the job to a contractor. These are the real thing, paid only for successful installations, and they know their stuff. If it's possible they'll get it done.

I assume you've looked at the Hauppage stuff - looks interesting but you need to hear from someone who actually has one. if you liked the Archos, bow before the Ubergadget. You know you want one!
posted by grahamwell at 2:48 PM on January 24, 2005

Best answer: Your upstairs neighbour may not be initially keen, but you could offer them one or two of your unused connectors, ie: free Sky

You shouldn't do this, I don't think it's safe, although I don't know enough to expalin.

Sky+ is the only decent PVR on the UK market, currently. It'll change by the end of the year, I advise you wait. Telewest have their box coming, as you point out, and the freeview PVRs will get better. Tivo isn't really suitable for use in the UK, as you clearly have digital TV, and Tivo won't allow you to record something and watch something else. Plus, to store them, it will reencode digital recording, which is not something you want (severe degredation in picture quality).

To sum up, get Sky+, or wait/
posted by ascullion at 11:46 PM on January 24, 2005

Best answer: More details on the Telewest PVR for you - it's the Scientific Atlanta 8300HD, with the 160gig drive and the three tuners that will be released - if you let me know whereabouts you are in the UK I might be able to get you some info as to the date the service will go online. No prices have been fixed as usual.

Some data on the older 8000 series here as comparison, the 8300HD supports High-Def TV as well.

Email in my profile if you have any further questions, I will try and answer without being sacked...
posted by longbaugh at 5:58 AM on January 25, 2005

Sorry for clogging up the green - further info from another TW employee here if you can ignore the rampant corporate whoring which he exudes from every pore.
posted by longbaugh at 6:05 AM on January 25, 2005

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