Right here’s the exhausting fact for cord-cutters proper now: The best over-the-air DVR doesn’t exist.
Whereas some merchandise are higher than others, all of them—from Tablo to TiVo to HDHomeRun with Plex—have no less than one crucial weak spot. If you wish to document broadcast TV channels from an antenna, you could determine which of these weaknesses you’ll tolerate.
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The great news is that the lowly antenna is experiencing a rebirth, and we’re prone 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.
The perfect OTA DVR for many cord-cutters
For those who don’t want 4 over-the-air tuners, the Tablo Twin Lite DVR—our earlier high decide on this class—stays a compelling worth. The Tablo Quad DVR is barely dearer, but it surely makes the fewest trade-offs and of any product on this class. We do have a couple of nits to select—interlaced video can’t play again at 60 frames per second, and there’s a restricted variety of streaming bins you should utilize for out-of-home viewing—however in a subject that doesn’t embody the right OTA DVR, the Tablo Quad DVR comes the closest.
There’s quite a bit to love right here, particularly for cord-cutters who’ve made Fireplace TV units their media streamers of selection, however there are additionally sufficient shortcomings to restrict the Fireplace TV Recast (which is obtainable in each 75- and 150-hour SKUs) to our runner-up decide on this class.
Greatest OTA DVR for energy customers
Channels DVR isn’t the best software program to put in, it requires quite a bit in the best way of cord-cutting infrastructure to help it, and its costly. All that stated, it’s going to reward these energy customers who make the funding in money and time with the perfect TV entertainmnet expertise you should buy.
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 below are some elements to contemplate:
Advert-skipping options: Promoting continues to be a staple of broadcast TV, however some DVRs present instruments that can assist you skip them. TiVo is the perfect 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 in case your antenna can’t obtain channels, so except you’ve obtained coaxial cable wired to the roof, you’ll have to 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 preserve solely a sure variety of latest episodes, or change your recordings with higher-resolution variations when out there. Not all DVRs are equal within the recording controls they supply. Our full opinions will present extra particulars.
Stay TV time-shifting and catch-up: Wish to pause for snack breaks? How about watching partway by means of a program so you possibly can skip the commercials? Most DVR options help this sort of time-shifting, however HDHomeRun and Plex presently don’t.
Variety of tuners: Extra tuners means extra simultaneous recordings or stay 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.
Out-of-home streaming: Tablo and Plex each will let you watch stay and recorded TV from exterior the home. TiVo requires a $130 TiVo Stream for cellular gadget entry.
Storage choices: Except TiVo Roamio OTA, all of the DVRs we reviewed help storage on exterior exhausting drives. Tablo has additionally began beta testing a cloud-based storage service, however we don’t but know what it’ll price, and we haven’t examined it but.
Entire-home help: Except you solely plan to observe on a single tv, you’ll desire a whole-home system, which implies shopping for a networked tuner (Tablo or HDHomeRun) or establishing extenders (akin to TiVo’s $150 Mini models).
Streaming service integration: Lots of the DVR merchandise we’ve reviewed are whole-home options that you just entry by way of apps in your current streaming units. In these instances, you possibly can entry all of your favourite streaming companies alongside over-the-air video with out having to modify inputs. TiVo is a notable exception. It helps some main streaming companies akin to Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu, however you’ll nonetheless want a separate streaming field to entry others, akin to Sling TV and Philo.
OTA DVR options nonetheless in growth
The over-the-air DVR house ought to get extra aggressive over time. For those who’re on the fence about in the present day’s options, listed below are some future developments (as of April 2018) to contemplate:
Tablo LIVE and cloud DVR: Tablo was imagined to launch a $99 networked tuner with cloud DVR capabilities final yr, however to this point it hasn’t materialized. You’re in all probability higher off with the $140 Tablo Twin Lite anyway, since it may possibly document as much as two channels at a time and has a tough drive for native storage.
HDHomeRun Join Duo+ and DVR enhancements: SiliconDust’s personal DVR service didn’t fare properly in our overview earlier this yr, however the firm says an interface overhaul is on the best way. SiliconDust can also be engaged on a brand new dual-tuner mannequin with a built-in recording engine and 250GB of storage, making it extra of a direct competitor to Tablo. The corporate is focusing on mid-2018 for the latter, although it has a historical past of delaying merchandise that aren’t ship-shape.
AirTV Native Channels DVR: AirTV’s fundamental hook is the way it combines over-the-air channels and Sling TV’s streaming cable channels into a single TV information. Earlier this yr, AirTV started testing DVR for over-the-air channels, and all you want to allow it’s an exterior exhausting drive. As a beta function, it nonetheless has some main limitations—you possibly can’t watch recordings till they’re full, as an example—but it surely might grow to be a killer answer for cord-cutters who’re bored with switching between apps.
ATSC 3.0: This yr, broadcasters are beginning to check a new broadcast TV commonplace referred to as ATSC 3.0 (also called “Subsequent Gen TV”). The brand new commonplace can help 4K HDR video, higher encompass sound, interactive options, and simpler entry on telephones and tablets. On the draw back, ATSC 3.Zero received’t work with current tuners on in the present day’s over-the-air DVR options. This isn’t a right away concern, since any channel that adopts ATSC 3.Zero must simulcast within the present commonplace for 5 years, and to this point testing has solely begun in Phoenix, Ariz. Over-the-air DVR units are nonetheless value shopping for, however remember that they in all probability received’t work without end.
Our OTA DVR opinions