In researching the options for Freeview HD PVRs I've come across a range of information from a wide
variety of sources. While this may all be obvious to many, I thought it might be useful to gather some
basic facts on this stuff together in one place for Newbies (like me!)
Please feel free to clarify and/or correct if I've made any errors, and of course the whole subject is a
moving feast, so details may well need to be adjusted over time.
Freeview HD PVR - The Facts as I understand them - 5 December 2008......
Freeview is only available in HD in NZ through Digital Terrestrial (DVB-T) Receivers using a UHF signal.
No Freeview set top box has yet been released with PVR functionality - ie with a hard drive and the
ability to record and play, multi-record, chase play etc etc.
Freeview has just issued PR announcements on the forthcoming release of the first of such boxes, the
Zinwell ZMT620, scheduled for December 11, with a RRP of $699.00
Care should be taken in the selection of a HD Freeview PVR to make sure it has:
H.264 decompression capability, to handle this high definition compression format, otherwise known as
MPEG4 Advanced Video Codec (AVC)
MHEG-5 compatibility to translate the 8 day Electronic Program Guide (EPG) that is broadcast as part of
the Freeview signal.
AAC Audio compatibility to handle the audio format that current channels use.
HDMI outputs - to allow for 1080 vertical pixel or "true high definition" playback (Component Video
output is nearly but not as good.)
The Freeview organisation has a process to approve Set Top Boxes. Currently (as at 5 December 2008) only
the Zinwell ZMT620 is approved.
The alternative of developing a PVR using Home Theatre Personal Computer (HTPC) is achievable but also
contains a number of traps, such as:
Windows Media Center (sic) does not currently include codecs to decompress H.264 or ACC signals, and an
update that will do it has not been explicitly scheduled.
The current optimal alternative to Windows Media Center is to use freeware alternative media
applications such as GBPVR or Mediaportal, although these may negate the utilisation of the Freeview
The hardware requirement to decompress the HD signals is reasonably high, so a Dual processor PC running
at 2.4Mhz or higher is probably recommended.
A large volume of useful advice on setup and troubleshooting HTPC developments is available on forums
such as this, and on the web in general, although it is probably important to distinguish between
material that is generic and material that is specific to the somewhat unique NZ configuration required.