Right here’s the arduous fact for cord-cutters proper now: The best over-the-air DVR doesn’t exist. And when you’re on the fence about even needing one, see this article that will help you determine.
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 vital weak spot. If you wish to file broadcast TV channels from an antenna, you could determine which of these weaknesses you’ll tolerate.
The excellent news is that the lowly antenna is experiencing a rebirth, and we’re more likely to see much more over-the-air DVR merchandise. However if you wish to begin recording broadcast channels now, right here’s a rundown of the place the present merchandise stand.
One of the best OTA DVR for many cord-cutters
The recent introduction of the Tablo Dual DVR, with its 64GB of inside storage, hasn’t modified our opinion that the older Tablo DVR is the only option for most individuals. This whole-home answer streams recordings to just about any linked gadget. Plug in an exterior arduous drive and an antenna, then join the Tablo field to your community over Wi-Fi or ethernet, and you may stream reside or recorded TV by way of the Tablo app on telephones, tablets, computer systems, media streamers, and good TV.
Tablo is straightforward to arrange, has broad gadget help, and affords frequent DVR features equivalent to reside TV time-shifting and catching up with recordings in progress. Better of all, you by no means have to modify 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.
One of the best 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 strong four-tuner DVR with helpful ad-skipping options, and it contains lifetime DVR service in its $400 worth. It additionally ties into a number of main streaming providers equivalent 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 providers 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 if in case you have multiple tv at dwelling.
Finest 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 along side 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, nevertheless, couple of potential dealbreakers: Watching reside 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 reside 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 checklist, 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 rather a lot cheaper when you provide your personal exterior arduous 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 components that may make or break the expertise. If you wish to examine additional, listed below are some components 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 one of the best on this regard, offering an auto-skip button for some applications, and a 30-second skip button for the whole lot else.
Antenna placement choices: Over-the-air DVR is ineffective when you’re antenna can’t
obtain channels, so except you’ve obtained coaxial cable wired to the roof, you’ll must arrange your DVR in a spot with stable indoor antenna reception. Tablo can function wherever in the home, HDHomeRun should be wired to your router, and TiVo and Channel Grasp are tied to your tv. Plan accordingly.
Granular recording choices: Maybe you’d wish to hold solely a sure variety of latest episodes, or change your recordings with higher-resolution variations when accessible. Not all DVRs are equal within the recording controls they supply. Our full opinions will present extra particulars.
Reside TV time-shifting and catch-up: Wish to pause for snack breaks? How about watching partway by way of a program so you possibly can skip the commercials? Most DVR options help one of these time-shifting, however HDHomeRun and Plex at the moment don’t.
Variety of tuners: Extra tuners means extra simultaneous recordings or reside viewings. TiVo has 4 tuners, Tablo has two- and four-tuner choices, and HDHomeRun allows you to daisy-chain a number of dual-tuner models collectively. With Channel Grasp, two tuners is the restrict.
Out-of-home streaming: Solely Tablo
natively helps reside 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 cell gadget entry.
Storage choices: Except for TiVo Roamio OTA, all of the DVRs we reviewed help storage on exterior arduous drives.
Entire-home help: Except you solely plan to look at on a single tv, you’ll need a whole-home system, which suggests shopping for a networked tuner (Tablo or HDHomeRun) or organising extenders (equivalent to TiVo’s $150 Mini models).
OTA DVR options nonetheless in growth
The over-the-air DVR area ought to get extra aggressive over the subsequent 12 months or so. Listed here are another options we’re anticipating:
Tablo LIVE and cloud DVR: Tablo can be engaged on a $99 networked tuner that ties into present 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 alternate for a month-to-month service cost. One draw back: The only tuner will solely permit 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 answer for a pair years now, and in contrast to Plex DVR, it should help time shifting. Control this answer if in case you 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 12 months.
HDHomeRun and Channels DVR: Channels is a slick third-party HDHomeRun app for Apple TV and iOS gadgets. Full DVR help is in growth, nevertheless it’s separate from HDHomeRun’s personal service, and requires a Mac, Home windows PC, or NAS field to retailer recordings. You may 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 help recordings, the corporate says that’s within the works. That stated, AirTV hasn’t fairly delivered on its OTA-streaming integration guarantees but, so we’ll imagine in DVR help once we see it.