If you’re slicing cable TV and are blessed with solid antenna reception, you’ll have numerous choices for recording these free ad-supported broadcast channels.
But with every of those choices—from TiVo to Tablo to Fire TV Recast and past—the costs can range broadly when you think about subscription charges, DVR storage, and extra hardware necessities. When calculating the fee advantages of cord-cutting, it’d be useful to know what an over-the-air DVR actually prices over time.
To that finish, I’ve put collectively a worth comparability for a few of the finest, hottest, and least expensive over-the-air DVR options. Check out the chart beneath for an outline, then learn on for a deeper breakdown of every possibility. (Note that the chart doesn’t embody the price of an antenna, which you’ll want to produce no matter which possibility you select.) Click to enlarge the picture:
AirTV is a $120 machine that connects to your wi-fi router over Wi-Fi, after which data native channels once you plug in an antenna and exterior exhausting drive. The AirTV field itself doesn’t join on to your tv, however as a substitute streams the video to different units round the home, together with Roku, Fire TV, Android TV, and cellular units. If you subscribe to Sling TV’s bundle of streaming cable channels, you’ll be able to watch these alongside together with your native channels from AirTV by the identical app.
Because AirTV has no subscription charges, it’s one of many least expensive over-the-air DVR choices obtainable in the present day. And if in case you have a number of TVs with their very own Roku or Fire TV streamers, AirTV can ship video to these units at no additional cost.
On the draw back, AirTV’s video high quality is subpar for interlaced (1080i and 480i) channels, it doesn’t assist encompass sound, and it lacks a few of the granular recording settings you get with different choices. Read extra of my AirTV impressions here.
Channel Master Stream+
Channel Master’s Stream+ is a $150 streaming field that runs Google’s Android TV software program. It has a coaxial enter within the again for an antenna, plus USB and MicroSD ports for DVR storage. Android TV’s Live Channels app then handles all of the viewing and recording for native channels.
Stream+ has no subscription charges, making it an inexpensive and easy over-the-air DVR for a single TV, however a number of TVs would require their very own Stream+ packing containers, every with separate storage and recordings. Recording choices are additionally restricted, and there’s no simple technique to browse for reveals you may need to document with out scrolling by the grid information. Worst of all, the Stream+ doesn’t assist Netflix, limiting its usefulness as a streaming field.
Fire TV Recast
Like AirTV, Fire TV Recast is a networked tuner field that connects to your different units over Wi-Fi. Instead of plugging immediately into your tv, it streams native channels to Fire TV units (such because the $40 Fire TV Stick) and cellular units round the home.
While the up-front worth is on the steep aspect, the Recast has ample built-in storage (500GB for the $230 dual-tuner mannequin, and 1TB for the $280 quad-tuner mannequin) and no subscription charges. Plus, you’ll be able to join extra televisions on a budget by buying extra Fire TV streamers. The greatest draw back is that Recast doesn’t assist different streaming platforms, corresponding to Roku or Apple TV.
The HDHomeRun Connect ($100 for dual-tuner, $150 for quad-tuner) features considerably equally to AirTV and Fire TV Recast, plugging into your Wi-Fi community to stream native channels round the home. But as a substitute of connecting wirelessly, HDHomeRun requires a hardwired ethernet connection to your router. And as a substitute of recording stay TV by itself, HDHomeRun wants the additional compute energy of an Nvidia Shield TV, PC, or NAS field. Those units all require their very own storage as effectively, creating important upfront prices and potential setup complications.
The upside is that HDHomeRun gives numerous choices on the software program aspect. I’m not a giant fan of HDHomeRun’s own DVR service, however it’s cheap at $35 per 12 months. Plex DVR is a slicker and extra highly effective possibility, and it’s not a lot pricier for those who spring for the $120 lifetime service plan. Channels DVR is much more polished, although it’s quite a bit costlier at $8 per thirty days or $80 per 12 months. All these choices depend on the identical fundamental hardware setup, so you’ll be able to experiment with what works finest earlier than committing to a long-term subscription.
Mediasonic Homeworx HW180STB
The bargain-basement possibility of over-the-air DVR, Mediasonic’s Homeworx HW180STB has sluggish, ugly software program and an inelegant distant management, and it lacks table-stakes DVR options corresponding to sequence recordings and battle decision. It is, nevertheless, simply $35 plus the price of exterior storage, and you’ll all the time pull the recordsdata off the exhausting drive and transfer them to different units as wanted.
Tablo Dual, Dual Lite, and Quad
Tablo is a networked tuner, akin to Fire TV Recast and AirTV, which connects to your private home community over Wi-Fi. It then data native channels and streams the video to a variety of different units, together with telephones, computer systems, related TVs, streaming packing containers, and sport consoles. While the two-tuner Tablo Dual Lite ($140) and Tablo Quad ($200) require separate storage, the Tablo Dual ($180) has a meager 64GB drive built-in.
Notably, Tablo doesn’t require a subscription, however paying for one provides you series-based recordings, TV-guide picture thumbnails, 14 days of information information, out-of-home entry, and a brand new ad-skipping function that started rolling out last week. I’ve included the subscription in my worth calculations as a result of a few of these options are table-stakes in different common DVRs. Despite some video-quality nitpicks, these are nonetheless the best over-the-air DVRs for most cord-cutters.
TiVo Bolt OTA
Last however not least is TiVo’s DVR for cord-cutters. At $250 up entrance and $250 for lifetime DVR service, the TiVo Bolt OTA is among the many most costly over-the-air DVR choices in the present day. That’s very true if in case you have a number of televisions, as a result of every extra one requires its personal TiVo Mini Vox field, and people value $180 every.
That stated, TiVo’s recording capabilities stay the business commonplace, and the corporate simply began rolling out automatic ad-skipping, so that you don’t even must hit a button to keep away from commercials. The multi-room scenario should also improve this 12 months with Fire TV, Roku, Apple TV, and Android TV apps within the pipeline. Those apps received’t supply the identical video high quality as a Mini Vox, however they may be adequate for spare TVs.
Correction: An earlier model of the chart on this story didn’t embody exterior storage costs for AirTV. The chart has been up to date with the right calculations.
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