Right here’s the laborious reality for cord-cutters proper now: The best over-the-air DVR doesn’t exist. And if you happen to’re on the fence about even needing one, it is best to learn the June 22 installment of Cord Cutter Confidential.
Whereas some merchandise are higher than others, all of them—from Tablo and TiVo to Channel Grasp DVR+ and HDHomeRun with Plex—have a minimum of one essential weak spot. If you wish to file broadcast TV channels from an antenna, you have to determine which of these weaknesses you’ll tolerate.
The excellent news is that the lowly antenna is experiencing a rebirth, and we’re prone to see extra over-the-air DVR merchandise later in 2017 and past. However if you wish to begin recording broadcast channels now, right here’s a rundown of the place the present merchandise stand.
This story was up to date on October 10, 2017 so as to add our assessment of the Mediasonic Homeworx HW180STB. Whereas it is tremendous cheap (just $29.99 at Amazon), we finally did not discover it to be a ok worth to advocate it.
The perfect OTA DVR for many cord-cutters
The recent introduction of the Tablo Dual DVR, with its 64GB of inner storage, hasn’t modified our opinion that the older Tablo DVR is your best option for most individuals. This whole-home resolution streams recordings to almost any linked gadget. Plug in an exterior laborious drive and an antenna, then join the Tablo field to your community over Wi-Fi or ethernet, and you’ll stream dwell or recorded TV by means of the Tablo app on telephones, tablets, computer systems, media streamers, and sensible TV.
Tablo is straightforward to arrange, has broad gadget assist, and gives widespread DVR capabilities similar to dwell TV time-shifting and catching up with recordings in progress. Better of all, you by no means have to change inputs from the streaming field you’re already utilizing. These pluses assist compensate for Tablo’s sometimes-inferior recording high quality, lack of granular recording choices, and occasional glitches.
The perfect OTA DVR for only one TV
The TiVo Roamio OTA feels a bit like a relic of the cable period, with its clunky distant management and infrequently complicated interface. Nonetheless, it’s a robust four-tuner DVR with helpful ad-skipping options, and it consists of lifetime DVR service in its $400 worth. It additionally ties into a number of main streaming companies similar to Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu, placing all recorded and streaming episodes of a given present right into a single menu. Nonetheless, many more recent streaming companies are absent—together with channel bundles like Sling TV—and including whole-home or out-of-home DVR requires expensive add-ons. It’s a troublesome promote you probably have multiple tv at dwelling.
Greatest OTA DVR for energy customers
HDHomeRun (we advocate the Prolong mannequin for its h.264 transcoder) is a networked TV tuner that connects to your router and turns into a whole-home DVR when used together with Plex Media Server. (The setup is a bit convoluted, as you want an always-on PC, NAS box, or Nvidia Shield TV for recordings, however video high quality is great, and Plex’s recording choices are multitudinous.
There are, nonetheless, couple of potential dealbreakers: Watching dwell TV requires separate apps from HDHomeRun as a substitute of Plex, and people can be found on far fewer gadgets. And proper now, neither app helps time-shifting for dwell TV or watching recordings which can be in progress. If in case you have a desktop PC or Protect already, HDHomeRun and Plex are helpful add-ons, however constructing a completely new setup round these merchandise is hard to justify.
A less expensive various
In comparison with the opposite DVR options on this listing, the Channel Grasp DVR+ is decidedly bare-bones when it comes to recording choices and options. However in some methods, it’s simpler to decipher than the TiVo Roamio OTA, and beginning at $250, it’s so much cheaper if you happen to provide your personal exterior laborious drive.
What to search for in an over-the-air DVR
Evaluating over-the-air DVR options is hard, as a result of there are such a lot of elements that may make or break the expertise. If you wish to examine additional, listed here are some elements to think about:
Advert-skipping options: Promoting remains to be a staple of broadcast TV, however some DVRs present instruments that will help you skip them. TiVo is the very best on this regard, offering an auto-skip button for some packages, and a 30-second skip button for every little thing else.
Antenna placement choices: Over-the-air DVR is ineffective if you happen to’re antenna can’t obtain channels, so until you’ve received coaxial cable wired to the roof, you’ll have to arrange your DVR in a spot with stable indoor antenna reception. Tablo can function anyplace in the home, HDHomeRun have to be wired to your router, and TiVo and Channel Grasp are tied to your tv. Plan accordingly.
Granular recording choices: Maybe you’d prefer to hold solely a sure variety of current episodes, or exchange your recordings with higher-resolution variations when obtainable. Not all DVRs are equal within the recording controls they supply. Our full evaluations will present extra particulars.
Stay TV time-shifting and catch-up: Need to pause for snack breaks? How about watching partway by means of a program so you possibly can skip the commercials? Most DVR options assist any such time-shifting, however HDHomeRun and Plex at the moment don’t.
Variety of tuners: Extra tuners means extra simultaneous recordings or dwell viewings. TiVo has 4 tuners, Tablo has two- and four-tuner choices, and HDHomeRun helps you to daisy-chain a number of dual-tuner items collectively. With Channel Grasp, two tuners is the restrict.
Out-of-home streaming: Solely Tablo natively helps dwell and recorded TV on the go, whereas Plex a minimum of gives entry to recordings. TiVo requires the aforementioned $150 TiVo Mini field for every further TV, and a $130 TiVo Stream for cellular gadget entry.
Storage choices: Except for TiVo Roamio OTA, all of the DVRs we reviewed assist storage on exterior laborious drives.
Entire-home assist: Except you solely plan to look at on a single tv, you’ll need a whole-home system, which implies shopping for a networked tuner (Tablo or HDHomeRun) or establishing extenders (similar to TiVo’s $150 Mini items).
OTA DVR options nonetheless in growth
The over-the-air DVR house ought to get extra aggressive over the subsequent yr or so. Listed below are another options we’re anticipating:
Tablo LIVE and cloud DVR: Tablo can be engaged on a $99 networked tuner that ties into current Tablo apps, due out in Q2 2017. Whereas it received’t have native DVR capabilities built-in, an upcoming cloud DVR service will let customers retailer their recordings on-line in change for a month-to-month service cost. One draw back: The one tuner will solely enable for recording or watching one program at a time.
HDHomeRun DVR: SilliconDust, the makers of the HDHomeRun tuners, have been engaged on their very own DVR resolution for a pair years now, and in contrast to Plex DVR, it would assist time shifting. Regulate this resolution you probably have an Android TV gadget, PC, or Xbox One console—these are the one platforms HDHomeRun helps—or be part of the beta now for $60. The official launch ought to occur later this yr.
HDHomeRun and Channels DVR: Channels is a slick third-party HDHomeRun app for Apple TV and iOS gadgets. Full DVR assist is in growth, but it surely’s separate from HDHomeRun’s personal service, and requires a Mac, Home windows PC, or NAS field to retailer recordings. You’ll be able to join the beta for $8 per month.
AirTV: This Android TV field, already available on the market, will mix over-the-air channels and Sling TV right into a single interface. And whereas it doesn’t at the moment assist recordings, the corporate says that’s within the works. That mentioned, AirTV hasn’t fairly delivered on its OTA-streaming integration guarantees but, so we’ll imagine in DVR assist after we see it.