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The Best OTA DVR for your Antenna

When considering how to watch TV without cable, a streaming device and an over the air (OTA) antenna provide near unlimited television programming at a fraction of the cost of cable. TV shows available on the streaming device can be viewed at your leisure. However, broadcast channels viewed using your TV antenna have to be enjoyed when they are scheduled to air.

If you discover that much of the content you watch is over the air, then you may want to purchase an OTA DVR. (OTA means “over the Air” as in TV signals sent over the air from a broadcast tower and received by a TV antenna.)

In this article, I’ll take a look at the best OTA DVRs on the market today. Together, we’ll figure out which over the air DVR is right for you. We’ll even examine if you can get by without purchasing a DVR.


DVR Options

There are a few things to consider when deciding which OTA DVR to buy. The most important of which is the DVR guide. In order to schedule show recordings, the DVR requires a means of knowing what times your favorite shows air.

Cable subscribers already have a TV guide with their cable subscription. However, we are using a DVR without cable. So we will either have to pay a monthly or one-time fee for a DVR guide. Don’t worry though, considering that cable providers charge about $240 per year for DVR service, we will still be saving a sizeable amount of money using our own OTA DVR.

Aside from the DVR guide, there are other options to consider when purchasing an OTA DVR. They are:

  • Can the DVR stream to multiple TVs?
  • Does the DVR support Wi-Fi?
  • Do I need a DVR that can stream to a mobile device?
  • Does the DVR require a TV streaming device to watch recorded shows?
  • How many shows can I record at once?
  • Does the DVR require external storage?

So let’s get started by taking a look at my top pick OTA DVR.

Best Multi-room DVR


Next, to the TiVo Roamio, the Tablo OTA DVR is my favorite DVR, but its most impressive quality is its multi-room capabilities. The device connects to your network as opposed to your TV. This allows easy access to your Tablo from any device on the network. Tablo doesn’t require a subscription to their DVR guide, but if you do want the guide, they offer both a recurring subscription or a one-time payment.

They support every major streaming device and there is functionality from third party products like Plex. There is even a function called Tablo Connect that works like Slingbox, allowing you to access the recorded programs while you’re away from home through the internet, Wi-Fi, or cellular data connection. While it’s a bit more complicated than the TiVo it is easily integrated with other cord cutting tech you may have in your home. This makes it a better choice for techies.

Tablo offers 3 versions of its over the air DVR, a 2 tuner version for $219.99 and a 4 tuner version for $299.99. However, Amazon sells the Tablo DVR at quite a discount. Then, there is the Tablo Dual OTA DVR which comes with 64 GB of onboard storage. Otherwise, is similar to the 2 tuner version of Tablo.

If you own a Nvidia Shield and are looking for an inexpensive way to get OTA DVR functionality, check out the Tablo ENGINE DVR App.

Is there a DVR guide fee?

The Tablo DVR can be used without a subscription. When purchasing a Tablo DVR you are provided a free 30-day guide subscription. After the 30 day trial, you can opt to not use the guide or purchase a guide subscription.

You can purchase a lifetime subscription for $149.99, which eliminates any recurring fees. Otherwise, you can purchase a $49.99 yearly guide subscription or pay $4.99 per month to continue using the guide.

Do I need to own a streaming device with Tablo DVR?

If you’d like to watch recorded shows on your TV, you will need a streaming device. Tablo will work with Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV or a Chromecast dongle (casting from an Android device or Chrome browser). Apple TV 4th Generation supports a Tablo App. However, previous versions of Apple TV will have to use Air Play.

You can also use the Tablo web app on your PC or laptop and hook your computer to the TV with an HDMI cable.

Does the DVR support Wi-Fi?

Tablo DVRs support both Ethernet and Wi-Fi 802.11n dual-band 2.4 and 5Ghz

How many shows can the Tablo OTA DVR record at once?

The Tablo 2-Tuner OTA DVR can record 2 shows at once while the Tablo 4-Tuner OTA DVR can record 4 shows at the same time.

How many devices can view recordings simultaneously?

Shows recorded by the Tablo DVR can be watched on up to 6 devices at the same time.

Does the Tablo DVR stream to mobile devices?

Not only does Tablo DVR support mobile devices, but with Tablo Connect you can access your recordings from anywhere in the world. Tablo offers apps for iOS, and Android devices. The requirements are as follows:

  • iPad – Must be iPad 2 or newer and run at least iOS 7 or later
  • iPhone – Must runs on iOS 7 or later
  • Android Devices – Must be running Android 4.1 or later.
  • Kindle – Screen size must be 7” or larger and must be running Android 4.1 or later.

Does Tablo DVR require external storage?

If you didn’t purchase the Tablo Dual OTA DVR, which comes with 64 GB of onboard storage, then you will need to have external storage for recording shows. Tablo supplies two USB ports for external hard drives. I recommend this Seagate 2TB external drive.

Total Cost of Tablo OTA DVR

While could spring for the 4 tuner DVR, I think the 2-tuner is sufficient. The only required cost aside from the device would be external storage. It’s easy enough to find a 1TB external hard drive for about $60. Therefore, the minimum cost of a Tablo OTA DVR is about $280.

If you decide to use the guide I recommend the lifetime subscription priced at $149.99. That would bring the total cost to $430 dollars with no monthly fees. Considering the monthly cost of cable TV DVR service, the Tablo OTA DVR pays for itself in the second year of owning the device.

Best OTA DVR For New Cord Cutters

TiVo Roamio OTA

As of May 2nd, 2016, TV has removed it’s monthly subscription fee and added more storage to the device bringing it to 1 TB.

The company that brought us the DVR is my top recommendation for those that want to record over the air television and prefer an all in one device. The strength of the TiVo is it allows you use a single device to meet your DVR and content streaming needs. It’s a one-stop cord cutting device. This makes it the perfect device for those new to cutting the cord.

With TiVo Roamio OTA you can record and playback shows just like any DVR you’ve had with a cable or satellite TV provider. TiVo provides a TV guide that allows for easy series recording. Additionally, TiVo Roamio OTA includes Apps for Hulu, Amazon Instant Video, and Netflix, allowing you to substitute the Roamio for set-top streaming devices like Roku, Apple TV, and Chromecast.

Is there a DVR guide fee?

No, there is no longer a monthly fee.

Do I need to own a streaming device with TiVo Roamio OTA?

No, and Roamio OTA includes Apps for Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, and Netflix, allowing you to substitute the Roamio for set-top streaming devices like Roku, Apple TV, and Chromecast.

Does TiVo Roamio OTA support Wi-Fi?


How many shows can TiVo Roamio OTA record at once?

TiVo Roamio OTA can record up to 4 shows at once.

Can multiple devices view recordings simultaneously?

Yes, but with an added device. For each extra TV, a TiVo Mini will be needed to watch recorded devices. You can also set recordings for the through the TiVo Mini. TiVo’s website indicates the following:

“The TiVo Roamio OTA 1TB works optimally with up to four TiVo Minis, and potentially with up to ten TiVo Minis.”

This means TiVo Roamio, with additional TiVo Minis can support 5 – 11 televisions depending on how well your network is set up to handle the traffic. Note that the TiVo Mini requires an Ethernet connection to operate.

You can also watch recorded shows on an Amazon Fire TV or Apple TV if you have the TiVo Stream device. (See the next question)

Does TiVo Roamio OTA stream to mobile devices?

TiVo Roamio OTA requires the purchase of TiVo Stream at $130 to stream to mobile devices. The TiVo Stream will allow you to download live and recorded TV to iOS and Android™ smartphones and tablets, both in and out of your home. It will also allow you to watch your recorded shows on an Amazon Fire™ TV or Apple TV® in another room of your home.

So cord cutters with a few Amazon Fire TV sticks on other TVs may want to consider purchasing the TiVo Stream instead of buying a bunch of TiVo Mini devices. However, be aware that the TiVo Stream must be connected to the TiVo with a wired Ethernet connection.

Does TiVo Roamio OTA require external storage?

No. TiVo Roamio OTA has an internal 1TB hard drive.

Total Cost of TiVo Roamio OTA

The TV Roamio costs $399.99 and includes a lifetime guide subscription. It’s a cord-cutter’s dream solution for recording OTA TV. However, if you want the privilege of streaming to a mobile device, even within your home network, you need to pay an additional $130 for TiVo Stream. You will also need to purchase the TiVo Stream if you want to watch the DVR on multiple TVs. Furthermore, you are currently tied to using the TiVo app that’s only available on Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV. Otherwise, you will need a TiVo Mini on each TV.

If you use Apple TV or Amazon Fire TV, this may be a feasible solution for multi-room functionality. However, if you have to use the TiVo Mini device, then the costs can add up quickly depending on how many TVs you want to add the DVR functionality to.

Still, considering multi-room DVR functionality can run between $20-$40 per month from a cable provider, the TiVo Roamio pays for itself fairly quickly.

If TiVo isn’t workable as a multi-room solution for you, then you may want to look at the Tablo DVR which excels at multi-room DVR function. However, if you want an ultimate replacement to the traditional cable TV DVR service, then look no further than the TiVo Roamio OTA.

Why Not the TiVo Bolt

I’ve been getting a lot of questions as to why I don’t prefer the TiVo Bolt to the Roamio as an OTA DVR. While the Bolt offers some advantages over the TiVo Roamio OTA, I feel the Roamio OTA provides better value for cord cutters. Here is a list of major differences between the devices.

  • The Cost of TiVo Bolt with a Lifetime Guide subscription costs $849, TiVo Roamio OTA comes with a lifetime subscription and cost $399.
  • The Bolt has 4K video streaming, where the Roamio supports 1080p
  • The Bolt has a slightly faster processor and a bit more RAM
  • The Bolt has MoCA built in, so it will work as a cable box. (useless for cord cutters)
  • The Bolt supports 802.11ac for WiFi where the Roamio tops out at 802.11n.
  • TiVo Stream is built into the Bolt allowing you to stream to iOS and Android devices. The Roamio requires the purchase of TiVo Stream device for that capability.
  • The Bolt has GB Ethernet, where the Roamio offers 100 MB Ethernet.

While I’ll agree that there is better functionality with the Bolt, the fact that it costs more than double the Roamio makes it a poor value for cord cutters. While both TiVo devices can stream, I recommend using a device built for streaming to accomplish that function.

A Roku device will provide better streaming functionality than a TiVo device. Streaming video is Roku’s primary focus, where the TiVo is a DVR that can stream. This renders the 4K video less of a perk, as OTA signals currently don’t support 4K video.

The 100 MB Ethernet offered by the Roamio is more than adequate for the DVR functionality. Furthermore, the added RAM and Processing speed is mainly a benefit to those using streaming apps. Since I recommend an OTT streaming device for that, yet another benefit of the Bolt is inconsequential. That said, there isn’t a noticeable difference in the devices when it comes to using the streaming apps.

If you want to use iOS or Android devices, then the Roamio can accomplish this with the TiVo Stream for an additional $120. That’s still $300 cheaper than the Bolt. The only benefit the Bolt offers that actually matters for cord cutters is the 802.11ac WiFi, and that’s hardly enough to recommend the Bolt over the Roamio given the massive difference in price.

Cheapest OTA DVR

Mediasonic HW-150PVR HomeWorx

For those looking for a bare-bones solution to record OTA TV the Mediasonic HomeWorx PVR is just that. This DVR doesn’t even need an internet connection. In fact, there isn’t even a way to connect it to the Internet. It’s just the essentials. The box is a digital tuner that records your over the air signal.

With that said, there isn’t any real guide data Therefore, you can’t actually set a TV show to record by name. Instead, you have to set the HomeWorx PVR to record a certain channel at a certain time. It isn’t pretty, but it works.

As far as storage is concerned, you can use an external hard drive or even a thumb drive. The device will support up to a 2 TB external hard drive via it’s USB port. It can connect to your TV via HDMI, coaxial, or component video. This DVR isn’t much, but for under $35 dollars it’s a way to record OTA TV on a budget.

DVR without a Subscription

Channel Master DVR+

(Currently Discontinued) The DVR+ from Channel Master offers a subscription-free DVR with an integrated program guide. While they offer a 1TB for a price of $399, I recommend purchasing the 16 GB version for $249. A 2TB USB external hard drive costs about $80 and can be used as storage on the Channel Master DVR+

This option comes at a total cost of about $310. While that price seems steep, it’s a one time fee. After 2 years the DVR+ is cheaper than what one would pay for the TiVo Roamio subscription and more than beats cable providers monthly DVR fees. This makes Channel Master DVR+ the option for consumers looking for long-term savings.

There is one other drawback aside from the initial price. The device is Ethernet only and doesn’t include Wi-Fi. You can add a Wi-Fi dongle to the device, but a WiFi dongle will cost another $40. The Channel Master DVR+ is a very effective OTA DVR but gets edged out by Tablo for my top pick.

Is there a DVR guide fee?

No. The guide is included in the cost of the device.

Do I need to own a streaming device with DVR+?

You don’t need a streaming device to watch TV shows recorded by DVR+ as it hooks to your TV with an HDMI cable and includes its own UI. However, I don’t recommend depending on DVR+ as a streaming device as the only apps it currently supports is YouTube and Vudu.

Does DVR+ support Wi-Fi?

Not without the purchase of a USB WiFi dongle.

How many shows can the DVR+ record at once?

DVR+ can record 2 shows at once.

How many devices can view recordings simultaneously?

Since ChannelMaster DVR+ hooks directly to your TV it can only be used on the TV it’s connected to.

Does ChannelMaster DVR+ stream to mobile devices?

ChannelMaster DVR+ doesn’t stream to mobile devices natively, but this can be accomplished by purchasing a SlingBox.

Does ChannelMaster DVR+ require external storage?

The $399 model has an internal 1TB hard drive. However, there is a considerable cost saving if you buy the $249 model and add your own $60 USB external hard drive.

Total Cost of ChannelMaster DVR+

The Base cost of this device is around $310 when you add the cost of external storage. While a tad cheaper than other solutions, ChannelMaster DVR+ lacks native WiFi and lacks the ability to stream to mobile or multiple TVs without the help of other products. This puts it behind Tablo OTA DVR in my book.

Build Your Own DIY DVR

For those with a PC and a little tech savvy, the affordable solution would be using media server software and a TV tuner or Tuner card. Using a device like The HDHomeRun and a product like Myth TV, a TV show can be recorded with the signal from your antenna and saved to a computer. From there it can be streamed to any DLNA compliant device for viewing on a television.

While these products give you the capabilities to capture the signal and play it back, you still need a place to store the TV Shows. Some build there own media servers out of an old PC, however, there are great Network Attached Storage solutions to handle this. Western Digital My Cloud has a built-in media server, making it my favorite.

There are numerous other media server solutions to use if you decide to build your own, such as PLEX and Kodi. Setting one of these up is an article for another day, but there is plenty of information available on their website to start the process.

If the HDHomeRun is a bit outside your price range, there are various TV Tuner cards you can use to record on a media server. Alan Henry at Lifehacker provides a fantastic overview of Five Great TV Tuner Cards.

Intel just released a device that can turn your TV into a PC. It’s perfect for creating your own personal DIY DVR.

While this solution isn’t for everyone, and it may seem a bit tedious to configure, a Media Server will provide a means to stream tons of digital content from the web for later viewing on your television. There are even products out there like pogi, that have done the heavy lifting for you to deliver all this functionality in one device.

DVR Alternatives


Before considering OTA DVR devices, Hulu should be examined. Depending on the shows a viewer watches, a traditional DVR may be unnecessary. Hit shows on ABC, NBC, and Fox are available the day after airing on Hulu. “The Blacklist”, “The Goldbergs”, “Agents of Shield” and other hit shows are all available on Hulu. You can try them free for one week.

If everything you watch is provided by Hulu, then why even have a DVR? Unfortunately, TV shows airing on CBS will not be available. However, CBS already has the past 5 episodes of shows available for free on its website. For next day access, take a look at CBS All Access.

Hulu Plus costs subscribers $7.99 a month. However, the first year of service is $5.99 per month. They also offer a commercial-free option for $11.99 per month. If this service meets a consumer’s needs, then that sets a reasonable price point when examining DVR devices and services. Keep in mind Hulu offers much more than broadcast network shows, and also offers original content not found anywhere else.

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View Comments (347)

  • Hey man, you gotta review this inexpensive device - it looks great and is REALLY cheap -
    Mediasonic HW-150PVR HomeWorx ATSC Digital TV Converter Box with Media Player and Recording PVR Function/HDMI Out


  • Can the Tablo (or any other OTA DVR) record shows off of apps on a Roku such as Sling TV?

    • Not currently. That would be great, but I think content providers would fight it tooth and nail.

  • After a lot of research, I was trying to decide between the Channel Master and Tablo with the upfront cost for full functionality at $310 and $430 respectively. Tivo looked like the best to me, but the cost of an Over-The-Air unit is $50 and then a whopping $500 for a lifetime subscription!

    Well, I'm glad I took pause because Tivo is currently running a promotion that gets you a new Roamio OTA or a regular Roamio (refurbished, but with both OTA or cable TV functionality) for only $300 with free shipping.

    I took the plunge and am excited to be unleashed from DirecTV. Without the satellite bill, the Roamio and subscription will pay for itself in a mere 6 months. Then, no more TV bills!


  • Do you have any thoughts on the new TiVo Bolt? For $300 you get a 4-Tuner DVR with some cool features like commercial skip mode, quick mode, and a search feature that searches BOTH over-the-air programs AND services Netflix and Hulu. It also does streaming, but apparently out-of-home streaming may not be available until 2016. And TiVo is waiving its hefty subscription fee for one year (they also now have a yearly option for $150, which is $12.50 a month).

    I already have a Roku so the idea of Tablo is attractive, because it will keep all my streaming services and live TV on one input. The up-front cost of Tablo is $260 bucks ($200 on Amazon for the Tablo, $60ish for a hard drive). My concern with Tablo is that it's a newer company and since EVERYTHING is streamed. That's really great if I want to get more TVs and devices, but I have read a few reviews talking about glitches which concerns me.

    I ALSO have a SlingBox Pro-HD, so the Channel Master seems like a pretty good idea. I really like that Channel Master has no monthly subscription, which is kind of the goal of cord cutting for me to begin with. The big downsides of the Channel Master: it connects to only one TV, so it's not a whole-home solution like Tablo or even TiVo (which offers expansion through TiVo Mini boxes at $150 each), and it doesn't stream. But my SlingBox can take care of that... I think. Channel Master touts online that it supports the Slingbox 500 -- it doesn't say anything about the Pro-HD which is an older model. The upfront cost would be about $310 including the hard drive.

    Things like WiFi connectivity are not important to me.

    Any advice?

    • With the exception of Tivo, I think Tablo has the most stable brand. They've been around since 2010 and have been successful. As far as the "glitches", it's really a configuration issue. Disabling the "enable fast live TV start-up" typically fixes any issue. Tablo is a great solution if you have good OTA signal and a decent home network.

  • I am a recent cable cord-cutter and somewhat of a technology newbie (don't even have a BluRay player). It looks like the Channel Master DVR+ might be the right fit for me, but I am looking for some advice. I am looking to avoid the recurring monthly fees if possible.

    Do I need a DVR channel guide? (How would I use the Tablo without a guide?)

    What would the Wi-Fi capability allow me to do? (I only have 1 TV, but do have a tablet and laptop.)

    Can I add a Roku streaming device to the Channel Master DVR+ (or to my TV) later if I went with the Channel Master DVR+? (I haven't decided if I even want Hulu/Netflix/Amazon Prime yet.)

    Thanks very much for any advice you can offer to a newbie!


    • Gary, Tablo offers a guide with a lifetime subscription, so no monthly fees. Wi-Fi will enable your mobile device to access Tablo. A Roku device would be a device, completely separate from your DVR.

  • While I generally consider your reviews to be good, I got the Tablo 4-tuner DVR and it has been nothing but a disappointment!

    The Tablo does record shows well, but playback and management of the shows is poor. The firmware and software (apps or Roku channels) seems unstable even after 5 years of the company being in business. Channel and firmware updates are occurring about once a month; however, the system seems to be growing less stable with each fix.

    On my Chrome browser, it takes an excessively long time to "connect" to the Tablo. I'm not sure what it is doing as I'm connected by hardware (home plug) ethernet. The browser sometimes displays recorded shows that were previously deleted -- attempts to play these result in a player error, but the show is still displayed as being available. The guide data is no longer updating nightly - I have to do it manually. Browsers on different computers will display a different set of recorded shows.

    Watching my Tablo on my Roku 3s is a terrible experience. It takes an excessively long time for the recorded shows to display (2-3 minutes). Once you select a show, it takes an a similarly long time to "load". If you fast forward past a commercial or even rewind a few frames, it takes the 2-3 minutes for the playback to resume.

    None of these issues are present with Amazon or Netflix and they are streaming across the internet and my home network. Why does the Tablo have such poor performance when it just streams across the home network only? Answer: poor systems design and engineering!

    • Randy,

      I'm sorry to here the issues you are having. Have you contacted support. While I've seen it take 10-20 seconds to load on Roku 3. 2-3 minutes indicates something is wrong. If you have called, I'd call again. Not just Tablo, but with any company offering support, it's only as good as the person that picks up your call or gets your ticket. Here is the page to initiate a support ticket.

  • Does the Tablo or ChannelMaster DVR come with an IR or RF remote control? I would like to install this a television in one room and duplicate the signal to a television in another room, so I need to be able to control from both rooms with an RF remote.

    • ChannelMaster DVR+ uses an IR remote control, but Tablo only uses an App.

  • Is there a workaround with the channel masters DVR+1TB where you can burn a DVD of the show that you want to take off the hard drive for future usage?

    Is there any other units out there that is nonsubscription as good as this one and you can extract files for iMovie or DVD's?

    I sure miss my Panasonic DMR-EZ48V

    • RE- Making a DVD of a program recorded on the HD of the OTA DVR. A High Definition copy would be difficult & costly. (..you'd need to do it on a computer w/ high-quality video card, video/re-authoring software & a Blu-ray writer).
      Since most of these DVRs only have HDMI output, you have few options. If you had a unit with some sort of analog output, like Component or S-video, you could send that into a stand-alone unit or video card on a computer.
      The Mediasonic HW-150PR, is one of the the few with component outputs (..very high quality analog). I have a stand alone Panasonic DVD recorder, DMR-EH59, with S-video inputs. So if you convert the Component to S-video, you can send it to the DMR-EH 59 hard drive, then make DVDs from that.
      This would be DVD quality but still very good! If the disc is played back on a DVD player that 'up-scales' to 720 or 1080, it looks very good.
      Hope this helps.

    • Not that I know of. I'm sure if you dig into the technical weeds a bit, you'll find some possibilities, but I'm sure it's not supported.

  • Hoping someone can help here:

    My situation is easy, but after a lot of research, I don't know what the best option. And in reality, I'm not even looking for the best option, but the cheapest.

    I cut the cord and purchased roku's for our home. We watch 99.9% apps available on that device. But, one thing I could not watch was my Sunday football.

    That is absolutely the only on-air show we watch. I thought I was screwed because of our location that we wouldn't be able to get OTA TV. I hooked up some rabbit ears and to my shock (and great glee) I had perfect reception.

    However, with an active 4 year old, I don't always get to watch the game when it comes on.

    Now back in the day, if that were to happen, I could simply walk up to my VCR, hit record, and come back a few hours later and rewind the tape.

    Does there exist something that simply has an input for my HD-Antenna, that would output to my TV that would record whatever I was watching at that time? I don't need bells, whistles, guides or any of that. Just a simple recording device. I would be hard pressed to tell my wife that I want to by a $300-$400 piece of equipment so I could "tape" my game in the fall...lol

    I am obviously not to tech savvy so any advice or help would be appreciated. Thanks!!

    • Have you looked at NFL Game Pass (I think that's what it's called)? We are looking at it. It is an internet thing but you can watch the shows AFTER they've played - costs about $40 per season, I think.

    • Am in same situation. Got homeworx PVR from Amazon for $35 or so. Get a USB drive with at least 16G and you can record game. It's not perfect, but it works.

    • You can check out my post on OTA DVRs. The prices are with a guide, but if you are only looking to record one show you might be able to get buy with a budget DVR and no guide. A reader suggested a budget DVR in the comments if the recommended solutions are over budget.

  • Maybe your group will provide a little help with my DVR issue. I have a Samsung Smart TV (3D, although I do not use the 3D option). I am attempting to leave my cable company behind. I've purchased an multi directional indoor/outdoor HD antenna. I use sling TV, Amazon Prime, and Netflicks. Is there any DVR choice with 4 channels that will work with all these apps plus record my basic HD channels from the antenna? Solution must be wireless.
    Any thoughts would be appreciated!

    • There isn't a DVR that will run all those apps. However, you could run the apps on your smart TV and grab a DVR that supports 4 devices. Tablo seems to fit that mold.

      • A Tivo OTA ($50 at Best Buy or Tivo.com) will do everything you want but does not have Sling TV at this time and there is a monthly fee of $14.99 (no $149 annual fee available). The built-in Netflix and Amazon Video/Prime interfaces are beautiful and you don't have to change inputs. Tivo will not work without the subscription. The new Tivo Bolt (an upgrade from the Roamio HD) basic model 500 gb currently costs $299, which includes one year of Tivo service (normally $149). It's a great deal that may not last long. It can record 4 channels simultaneously and is wireless. If you have more than one TV, you will need to buy a Tivo Mini for the second TV. The Mini needs to be hard-wired, no wireless. I have a basic Tivo Roamio HD for OTA only and absolutely love it. It is the first DVR I ever owned and don't know how I lived without it. OTA channels are all in crystal clear 1080i HD and are mostly flawless, even in snow and wind storms. It may be expensive but I think that the price of the subscription is totally worth it because it blows every other DVR out of the water. The current special buy won't last long so you better hurry. For Sling TV, I have a Roku Stick plugged into my HDTV (HDMI). Your TV will need to have at least two HDMI outputs--one for the Tivo and one for the Roku or you can use an HDMI splitter. Your TV will also need at least one USB slot for the antenna amplifier (if your antenna has one). I highly recommend the Winegard Flatwave Amplified Antenna (Costco), which plugs directly into your Tivo. Good luck.

  • Are you familiar with any DVR devices that support both OTA and Cable inputs, simultaneously?
    I'm looking into cutting the cord with both DirecTV+AT&T forTV, internet, and phone, in favor of the triple play from SuddenLink for about half the monthly cost. I'm also an OTA fan because where I live the closest "local" channels come from a town 30 miles away but physically in another state, so the default "local" channels supplied from the cable & satellites providers are from a town in the same state as I, but 90 miles away according to FCC DMA (Direct Marketing Area) rules. Phooey - very little in that town we're interested in; we don't shop, play, or work there. But, I have an antenna on the roof (the wife loves it) and get all the local channels from the nearby town. With both Dish and DirecTV there are options that integrate the OTA channels with the sat lineup, and problem solved - full DVR functionality independent of source - geographically "local" channels integrated into a common guide.
    But I've hit a roadblock with SuddenLink. For years they've supported the Tivo Premiere which includes coax connectors on the rear panel for both the cable and OTA channels. It also integrates the channels found on each source into a common guide and with full DVR functionality - independent of source.
    However the newest models being supplied from Tivo (which SuddenLink OEM's for their DVR option), have only a single coax connector. While some models include support for cable "OR" antenna, they cannot be used simultaneously (VHF/UHF OTA transmission frequencies occupy the same RF space as cable channels).
    So, I've been digging to find an alternative (your review has been very useful, thank you!). I can still buy a Tivo Premiere independently of SuddenLink, but (a) no one there has been able to assure me it will work, and (b) I'd like to avoid recurring costs (the guide).
    If you have any suggestions I'd be grateful.

    • TommyB - yes, the regular Tivo Premiere has coaxial inputs for both cable and OTA (but the 4 tuner model is cable only). You can rent a CableCard from Suddenlink for a few dollars a month that inserts into the back of the Premiere. the tivo program guide will combine the OTA and cable channels in numerical order.

    • Could you pass through the devices with a Blu Ray or DVD player that supports both?

      • RE: "Could you pass through the devices with a Blu Ray or DVD player that supports both?"
        Hmmm... its an odd question for me. Far as I know Blu Ray and/or DVD players don't have inputs of any kind, much less cable or OTA inputs. I think my answer is no.
        Again, I'm looking for DVR functionality. That means a channel guide that integrates both cable and ota channel into a common lineup, schedule recordings on any received channel at any time regardless of whether its a cable or OTA channel, play them back at arbitrary times, etc. This is what the Tivo Premier does, Dish 222k and other receivers, DirectTV receivers with optional OTA receiver, etc. All have two standard "F" style coax connectors on the rear panel, one labelled "Cable" input and the other labeled "Antenna" input.
        Again, the simple question is do you know of any "OTA" DVR devices that also includes "Cable" input? However, if you know of a Blu Ray or DVD **Recorder** that also includes two F-Connector inputs, one labeled "Cable" with a QAM demodulator, another labeled "Antenna" with an ATSC demodulator, and all that scheduling functionality I'd be happy to learn about it!

  • An alternative question: do you know of any OTA DVR that also supports LAN connectivity to the Internet, and access to channels like ESPN3? E.g., the equivalent of a common OTA DVR integrated with something like a Roku 3? With services like Sling TV starting to appear, I'm wondering if a better option would be such a device?
    It would potentially support the ability to have DVR functionality for OTA channels and ONLY the common cable/satellite channels I'm really interested in!!

  • I have a Roku powered Smart TV....I have a channel that gives me All my Regular Cable Channel Lineup and then Some for Free Eliminating my need for Cable. SUBSCRIPTION. HOWEVER I use my DVR a lot. For Shows like The Walking Dead and Others that I dont Want to Wait till they are on Netflix or they just are not on Hulu. I cannot watch at the moment they air but at other convenient times. I Have 2 Cable Dvrs....I want to Get Rid of them since I will get rid of Cable Subscription. WHICH DVR will allow me to Record from My Free live Channels? Or is there a way to do it thru my Roku TV or any of its Apps?

    • Sling TV will get you Walking Dead among many other things. I think my article on Cable TV Alternatives will answer most of your questions. All of these DVRs can record live broadcast TV.

  • Just stumbled on this, nice write up! I'm reviewing options again as somehow I missed the whole sling tv subscription thing, and now am seriously considering it. I 'cut the cord' several years ago, and have been a netflix subscriber over a Roku since Roku v1.

    For over the air, my antenna splits into the tv directly and into an HDHomeRun on my home network. I use Mythtv for scheduled recordings, and wrote my own scripts to transcode the recordings down to 720p (network performance w/no perceivable quality loss) and generate symlinks to the recorded files for PlexTv to pick up and stream to Roku. Mythbackend and Plex server run together on an old desktop pc which had become re-tasked for home file/media server when I replaced it with a smaller/quieter nettop for general home office/web browsing usage.

    While all of this works pretty well for me, sports (specifically NCAA football/NCAA basketball) have been my largest pain point. For this I subscribe directly to ESPNPlayer and use a VPN to pull content from servers in the Netherlands (subscription is only available outside the US). Given that ESPN is included in sling tv's $20 deal, this is very attractive and likely a better alternative.

    Finally now to the point: Sling TV's largest shortcoming that I see is the lack of timeshifting. Soooo while I will very likely subscribe anyway, I'll also likely pursue using some form of HDMI input capture device -- hooked up to my basement media/file server -- to encode content for later viewing or for timeshifting functions. The only question will be how to configure/control it? Roku/streaming box with hdmi going into an hdmi capure on the media server?

    I may want to use a nettop type pc running mythfrontend for highly responsive pause/rewind/resume functions hooked directly to the tv via hdmi. sluggish responsiveness to pause/rw/ff is my biggest complaint to the Roku.

    any thoughts are appreciated! thanks!

    • I've never tried capturing the stream from Sling TV. You may be able to run the AV cables from a Roku 1 to a tuning card in the server to capture the video. The drawback to that is having to be running Sling TV to record. I can't think of a way to automate that easily.

  • Dennis - would just like to have a simple ota dvr to record sports broadcasts, shows, etc. that I get with my external antenna. Are there devices that use the scheduling information provided in the ota broadcast. Have an Apple TV which is used with a Netflix account. Don't need anything fancy.


    • All the products in this article do just that. They record OTA and function with a guide.

  • I'm looking to move from my $140 cable bill and do all of the above but will miss all my movie channels.... not that the movies are that good, but honestly there are a lot of movies I would never really go out of my way to watch but when I am clicking through I decide to watch and enjoy. Such at T3 right now... haha

    At any rate it seems like Tablo with HD antenna, Roku and SlingTV is my best bet to be as close to what I have now without the $140 cable bill. I have amazon prime already, so I should have coverage of some decent movies at all times.

    Does this make sense to do? I'm worried by buying all these things it will be a pain in the neck rather than just clicking one button and start scrolling through 100+ channels (60 of which I never watch). The ease of use however is hard to beat I think...? I will probably get annoyed if it takes 1 minute to load shows and what not.. no?

    • Hi Jim,

      It's definitely a change in mindset from channel surfing. While the load time is longer than flipping channels it's not a minute. It takes 5-10 seconds for a show to fire up on my Roku. If it takes much longer than that then there is likely a network issue in play. When it comes to movies, you can get Showtime, Stars, and HBO without cable these days. That's a lot of movies available to you on demand. If you enjoy movies, then streaming should best cable in overall experience. You might actually have too many options.

  • Is there any dvr that does not have a monthly subscription fee but you are able to record cable? I have uverse and would like to keep cable but separate it from the dvr. That way I could stop paying an extra monthly fee for the dvr. This would also mean I could change cable companies whenever I want for better deals but keep my dvr programs. Thanks for your help.

    • I don't know of any that work with cable without a monthly fee. If your willing to spring for the monthly fee, then Tivo is the way to go if you want to integrate with cable TV.

  • Thanks for the great article. One question I haven't had answered, do any automatically record the channel you are watching. Let's say I'm watching live news that I have not set to record, I see something interesting, want to pause, call the wife, backup and watch it again. On my cable dvr, it is always recording the station that is tuned, so the previous hour is available as long as I have not changed channels. I use this function a lot.

    • They can all do that. The tuner on Tablo records what you are watching so you can pause and rewind.

  • I use Windows Media Center for my over the air TV DVR so my DVR has no monthly fees.. I have a internal 2 tuner card and an external 2 tuner cable card tuner. I can record 2 over the air and 2 cable channels at once while watching a 5th pre-recorded program at the same time. I see both the over the air and cable channels intermixed in the schedule guide which is awesome. The cable card rental is only $1 a month from comcast but I can drop cable any time and continue to use the over the air channels. Only problem is that windows media center cannot be installed on windows 10 so I will be staying with windows 7 for as long as possible.

    • Yes, WMC is great. It's unfortunate that they got rid of it. I'm hopping to demonstrate how to build a DVR solution using Apache, MythTV, and an HDhomerun sometime in the future, so stay tuned.

  • Can I use the Tablo with the 2 tuner with a Roku and OTA antenna to watch TV on 2 different TV's at once? How do I connect the 2nd TV?

    Great site!

    • Thanks! Recordings on the Tablo can be accessed from up to 6 devices. So just through a compatible streaming device on the other TV and you should be good to go.

  • Hi -

    I have a 2014 Samsung Smart TV that has it's own channel guide built in. I have never used it (always using cable guide), but as I am looking to cut the cord I was interested to know if any DVR can work with it?

    The TV functions as a streaming device, every app I'll ever need is already there, so ALL I am looking for is quality DVR functionality.

    Love to know your suggestion for my set up!

    • Hi Nick,

      What Model is the TV. Some Samsung TVs have recording built in.

  • Hi Dennis,

    I have been searching all over the Internet for info on OTA DVR's and your site has a lot of good information. One thing I have found missing consistently is the quality of the DVR tuner. I have read some personal reviews on the Channel Master DVR+ that indicate they contain a lousy tuner, but none of the other top models are ever rated by that feature. We recently moved to an area where our OTA reception is spotty and a brand-new LG HDTV has been able to pick up all of the channels using a powered TERK antenna, but depending on time of day, weather, etc. the quality may not be ideal. Now I want to buy a DVR but before I fork over a lot of money, I'd like some feedback from those in the know about the quality of the tuners in them.

    Thanks in advance for your help!

    • Hi Alex,

      I live in an area with pretty good OTA and I haven't stress tested the tuners on the DVRs. However, I didn't see any problems with normal use. However, due to your questions I did go out an read quite a few Amazon reviews looking for info on Tablo's Tuner and didn't see any complaints. Whatever you decide, let me know how it works out.

  • I read elsewhere that Tablo downprocesses surround sound OTA two 2-channel. That's a dealbreaker for me. I've seen awesome 1080P 5.1 shows on my channelmaster.

    • Aaron,

      Thanks for pointing this out. I will update the article soon to reflect this soon.

  • With the Tablo I read that you can enjoy play back on up to 6 devices. Does this mean one show can be viewed on 6 devices at the same time or does it also mean that 6 shows, can be viewed on 6 different TVs at the same time?

    Also can you view multiple recordings on the Channel Master?

    Thanks, Kevin

    • Different recordings can be viewed on 6 devices at the same time. However live TV is limited to the number of tuners on the Tablo. Also be aware that you should use an ethernet connection from the Tablo to the router to take advantage of the 6 simultaneous streams.

  • Hi! What a great site! I want to make sure I understand:: I can buy a Tablo and OTA antenna and record OTA programs. cAn I record movies from Netflix or apps on Roku?

    tHank you!

    • Yes, a Tablo will allow you to record over the air broadcasts. However, the Roku allows you to use streaming services on your TV. While you can't record the shows from Netflix or other services, there is little need to because everything is on demand.

  • Thank you for providing this website I greatly appreciate your hard work in helping the General ["less" technical savvy] Public “such as myself” in trying to figure out which options to consider when purchasing an OTA DVR and "freeing" ourselves from paying for unwanted programs "forced" upon us by Satellite/Cable Cartels.

    I read over your reviews but not being technically [electronics] savvy I am still confused. I do not own a cell phone or any kind of computer like device except a Desk Top Computer [nor to I expect to]

    I live in the SF Bay Area [so good signal strength] I am 63 yrs old with a "fixed" income, I live alone and have one TV [thou in the future, if my cousin moves in possibly two TV’s/2DVR’s [do I need two?] and he has a laptop]

    I own a 2008 Sharp 60” Aquos [1080p] “LED” TV set and recently I bought a “used” Apple/Mac “mini” [late 2009] 2.53 GHz Intel core 2 Duo that runs OSX El Capitan 10.11 [I do not know what any of this means] I have included it so that you can advise me which “cut the cord” OTA DVR is “compatible” with my equipment

    I've been a PacBell/ATT landline phone customer for 36 years, Up until June 1, 2014... I watched "OTA" TV (w/antenna) and then a converter box with a VCR and had “basic” [non-dial-up] Internet. I use the computer for email and research [no gaming, no streaming movies etc] yet

    Thou I probably will want to get something like Netflix [but NOT Netflix] because the owner /ceo is a rabid corpoRAPIST [persons and the environment] who uses the profits from Netflix to “lobby” our “Corrupt” Congress to “privatize” Social Security, Public Education [charter schools], Water and Public Land/National Parks

    I never use "automatic" Bill Pay because [for the past several years] ATT would "consistently" try to cheat me" by adding "unwarranted" fees/charges on my bill [every month].

    My Phone [landline] plus Internet bills were steadily climbing until combined were $90 a month. Then “during” one of my monthly [over overcharges] conversations with ATT’s Billing Department their representative convinced [monetary wise] that by creating a “bundle” [w/promotional discounts] I could have “free” [for three months] HBO, Showtime and Starz, digital HD TV service [200 channels] plus a DVR as well as “faster” [digital] Internet and Home Phone services plus a $400 Visa Debit Card [to spend any way I wanted].

    When the “first” bill came it was $120 NOT $90 [as promised]. When I called to complain they said I must have “misunderstood” that the Bundle “price” [quoted] did not include taxes/regulatory fees etc.

    I decided I could use the $400 Visa debit/card to supplement the price difference. For the first year it was a “pretty good deal and I got “very spoiled” having a DVR with a program guide that allowed me to “record” four programs at the “same” time and “save” up to 455 hours of “regular” TV and/or 155 hours of HD TV. Once I realized that HD [service] cost $10 per month. I cancelled it because I couldn’t tell the difference.

    But I would like a DVR with multiple channel recording options plus a large “memory” capacity for “saving” [knowledge] programs to watch later.

    PLUS I really like “fast forwarding” thru commercials actually I never watch programs in “real time” and even thou PBS claims to be commercial free they have LOTS of “sponsor” advertisements

    I NEVER watch “Sports” or Mainstream ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX/CNN, [Corporate] News and/or Programs [stupid/trivial]

    I am a self taught artist and jack of all trades and I own an old house built in 1908 that I am slowly “rejuvenating” [artistic/creative renovation] so I like to watch programs that help me learn additional skills or get ideas that help me in my “house and garden” projects plus I really enjoy documentaries about world culture, history, and socio-economic and environmental justice “struggles and victories”, as well as “independent” US and World News.

    However ALL the PBS channels seem to be “constantly” pledging [with the worst “snake oil” [self help for idiots] programs and ALL CHANNELS are “constantly” showing “recent” re-runs [within 6 months] again and again and again I HAVE HAD IT. If I want to watch an interesting program again, in all likely-hood it is stored in the DVR’s memory

    Thou..I do want to get one of those HDMI cables? [I read about here] to connect my computer to my TV [How do they work?]

    Now that my “Promotional” Discounts ARE OVER and my bill is now $180 per month I am more than “ready” to get rid of ATT “for ever”

    I found a “local” home phone and Internet service provider “LMI” here in Berkeley/Oakland [for $39 per month] with no additional charges
    I do not mind “paying” Up Front Costs to avoid “monthly” fees and additional charges. But I do not want to pay [$$$] for equipment that breaks down in the first year.

    I had my ATT Uverse DVR [which I rent] “replaced” twice since June 2014 [the first time it erased lots of the HBO, Showtime, Starz movies [from the 3 month promotional] I had saved to watch “slowly” [in the future] and recently it started “on it’s own “erasing” programs within hours of recording them and EVERY TIME the “equipment was replaced” I “lost” ALL the programs I had saved that had great construction hardscaping/landscaping gardening and decorating ideas.

    Any suggestions will be gratefully and sincerely appreciated

    Thank You

    Daniel Cooper

    • I don't think the OTA/DVR route is for you since you don't watch the broadcast networks. You might be happy with a couple of streaming services. It really depends on which programming you want to watch. You can check out the Online TV Streaming Database I put together and it will tell you where the shows you want to watch can be found.

  • Hi, Dennis,

    To start the Cord Cutting process, we sold our 2 flat screen televisions (<5 years old) on Craigslist and bought 2 new Smart TVs on sale for about $150 total more than we got. We decided it was worth the cost to keep us from having to buy Roku or Fire devices. This ended up costing about the same as the devices and worked well for us. Then someone gave us 2 Fire Sticks. We record all our programs and watch nothing live so DVR is important.

    I lam looking at buying the Tablo 4-tuner. We can't stand commercials and are not tied to a clock and the television but enjoy many of the network shows.

    The Channel Master only has a 2-Tuner and TiVo 4-tuner requires a box for every tv. We have 3 smart tvs and it would be too difficult to run wires to the televisions. Also, we will have the guide so we can program entire series, New not repeats. If you have any input/better ideas on any of this, please respond. While I have done research, I am not an expert.

    My main concern is the USB external hard drive I will need to get separately for the Tablo. I understand that one of the primary features I need to look for is either going with a 7200rpm drive or a solid state drive and that a standard 4500rpm will most likely overheat as it is running constantly to enable recording when we are not at the television. Is this correct? Looking at the cost, I will be saving $140 a month when I drop cable and phone which means I will eat up the savings for a couple of months with the purchase of Tablo ($300) and the guide ($50/yr). Adding in a hard drive appears to not be as inexpensive as I initially thought as a 7200rpm, 1-2TB, 3.0 USB, with a 3 year warranty is hard to find and solid states cost considerably more. I expect we will only need 25-50 hours of tv on the DVR so 1TB drive??? But I am told a solid state will last considerably longer. However, on the flip side of that, most electronics drop in price every few years so if we can spend a little now for a 4500rpm drive (safety??) and then upgrade to a solid state in a few years when the price comes down, that is another cost-saving idea.

    What is your experience with your hard drive? You said you have the Tablo, I believe, so you must have an external hard drive. Are you happy with yours? Would you recommend the same thing you purchased or would you change if you were just starting out?

    We are in our 60s and I am somewhat tech savvy but have not really been into it in the past decade. My husband just wants his tv to work and as long as I can make sure that happens, I can do whatever I want.

    I have seen a number of VERY happy Tablo customers who rave about it and a few who had issues with setup. I understand Tablo has a great customer service department to help you over any hurdles with setup as long as you don't wish to do it at 3 am.

    Hopefully, I provided enough information without giving pages of useless details

    • I've never had an issue using a mechanical hard drive, I tend to go with more affordable drives from western digital. The external ones don't get that hot to where it's a concern. However, you are correct a solid state drive is much better, hence the cost. As for the Tablo, I tested one for a few weeks and loved it. I already have storage on my network at my house, and have a custom solution. Our family is pretty much 100% streaming, so we don't really record that much. We have an antenna, but it's more for NFL and live events which aren't really conducive to watching on the DVR. If you want some testimonies from folks using various drives, here is a forum discussing various drives and how they worked with Tablo.

      • Dennis, thanks for getting back to me so quickly. I also need to know if I have to have anything other than Smart tv. Can't I just use the Smart Hub to watch anything on the Tablo? I have fire sticks but don't really use them as we have Amazon Prime. Any suggestions there? I am just not that familiar with the streaming devices/services and just don't see the need for them, as long as I can use my Smart tv to set up the Table. I have a wireless keyboard and mouse for use with the TV.

  • I live way up North in MN Ely by the Canadian border, I put in my zip code and the Tablo came back stating no channels is there some other way I can get TV channels with out cable or sat

  • Great article - thanks for addressing a topic where there seems to be so little objective info. I would appreciate recommendations for our rather unique situation...

    We're cutting the cord because we're moving full-time to a sailboat. We'll be cruising in US waters for awhile but will soon be heading to the Bahamas, the Caribbean, and beyond. We don't expect to see real-time US TV on a regular basis but would like to enjoy some of our favorite shows - even if significantly delayed. How can we best do that?

    Here's what we have to work with:
    - We have 2 TVs on-board - one Sony "Smart TV" and one Samsung with Apple TV
    - Also have laptops (running Windows 10) and multiple iPads onboard
    - We expect to have internet access intermittently although it may rarely support streaming.
    - We have family members in the US with good Direct TV and OTA service. We could connect equipment to their system if that would help. We hope to see them a few times per year so we could swap out hard-drives, etc.

    Any thoughts? Which options would work best internationally? Do any allow downloading the content via internet? Could we periodically swap hard-drives and view via a laptop?

    Thanks for your help!

    • Renee, your plans sound amazing! I just read your comment aloud to my wife, and we have decided we are coming with you. :)

      As for the TV issue. It's possible to enjoy U.S. streaming services abroad by running your streaming device through a VPN or DNS based in the United States. This should work if you have an accessible internet connection. While this may sound complicated it's actually quite simple. Check out this post on using a VPN. It explains there uses and how to access U.S. content abroad.

      • Thanks Dennis - we're excited about the new adventure!

        I just read your VPN article. Very helpful - especially the assessment of specific services. I've used VPN in the past for business reasons but had not considered that for personal use.

        Any suggestions for times when we have very slow or no internet connectivity? Any sites / techniques for downloading video for later viewing? or moving recorded video from our family's US TV system to watch offline on the boat?

        Thanks again for the great resource!


        • Unfortunately, many of the streaming services won't allow you to download and save for later. If you purchased a digital copy of a particular movie some services will allow you do download it to the device (I do this with "Disney Movies Anywhere" for my kids on long car rides.) Have you looked into converting DVDs to MP4. If you have some network attached storage on the board like WD My Cloud, you could store the files there and watch them. They would be on your boats local network so you wouldn't need to connect to the internet to watch them.

  • If I go with the Channel Master DVR, I still need an antenna. Is this correct?

    • Yes. The DVR is only a recording device. You need an antenna to pull the signal in. Some DVRs have a built in antenna, but I find it best to use a separate antenna to ensure good reception.

  • Dennis
    I really apprecaite your advic e and tools to help my fmaily took the leap and cut the cord. And have not regreated it one bit. We opted for the Channel Master DVR with a remote antenna and we get more channels than we have time to watch them all. One of the reasons we cutr the cord is to feel the pain that many of our custoemrs brought to us. You see we are an ISP provider in Florida and offer DSL up to 18 megs in certain areas for around $65 per month. Many peopole call and say "if we get Bitcom's DSL what do we offer for TV viewing. Well we tell them all about the the OTA options and Roko, Fire Stick solutions. So our business model is going to be to help sell our DSL Interenet srvice we are going to support thier cord cutting experience.
    We like the channelMaster becuase it has a no cost on-screen programming guide. And it has a wireless and Ethernet connection to watch some of the IP programs and apps. In our own case most of the TV viewing is OTA and thus it frees up the DSL for other IP functions like streaming and general surfing.

    Our next task is to try to pipe that OTA signal to other TV's in the house using existing coax and wireless. Will let you know how that goes.

    We're also working on a wireless solution for customer who do not have DSL. Are you following events in the TV White Space area? We're looking for a single antenna solution that capture OTA programming and 802 wireless data for IP voice streaming and surfing.
    That's what we need in order to cut all the cords in the house for phone. Internet and security.

    Got any thoughts on that possibility?

    • That sounds like a really good business model. We don't have any whitespace providers where I live so I'm yet to see it in action. The tech sounds promising for those that want to get away from cable based internet or don't have access to decent speeds in their area.As far as a vendor, the only one I know of is Carlson Wireless.

    • I assume you mean the Tivo Bolt. Unfortunately, I haven't had a chance to examine the Bolt.

  • Hey, Dennis, I still see you never got around to responding to my reply to your response from March 24, 2016. So have a few questions:
    1. I am in Omaha, NE, where there are plenty of OTA channels.
    2. I purchased the Tablo 4-Tuner, Toshiba 2TB external hard drive, 3-1byone antennae.

    3. I hardwired the Tablo and hard drive to my router (not modem) and connected an additional antenna to the Tablo as I missed some recordings this weekennd due to low signal. The channels are fine on the tv so not sure why that happened. Just wondering if the low signal is due to the Tablo being in the kitchen and TVs in living room and bedroom? Would the antenna attached to the Tablo help, plus having antenna attached to each tv?

    4. While I am definitely having complications getting it set up, it is quite easy. My complications come from trying to figure out how to use my Smart TV to connect. I figured I could just connect it through the tv and be fine. No matter that all the info says I have to use an app, I have Amazon Prime so figured that was all I need since my Smart TV has apps...figured I could download the app to my Samsung Smart TV. Turns out I am incorrect, or so I think. I have the app downloaded on one TV through a Fire Stick and have to do the other one today.

    5. The final question is since the Fire Stick remote stinks and my Samsung TV remote is wonderful, is there a way to get a better remote to operate the Fire Stick or should I sell my Fire Sticks and buy something else with a better remote? Initial cost is not the issue because the savings are huge in the long run. I just don't want to pay a bunch of money for something I will hardly use. For the most part, we watch just broadcast TV and only then on the DVR.

    I spend $299 for Tablo, $89 for the HDD, $30 for 2 antennae, in one month will pay $150 for permanent guide and for under $580 I have saved $1680 a year! I will probably call Tablo Support today but figured I would start here, since you answer so promptly.

    Thanks for saving us so much money, Dennis. Without you I never would have figured this out. I subscribed because this is a great site, even for old folks like me!

    • Sorry I must have missed that question. I apologize. Placement of the antenna matters greatly. Is there any way you can try the Tablo using the TV's antenna? This is a way to eliminate all other variables and test if there is an issue with the tuner on your Tablo. I personally haven't noticed any issues but there are so many variables when it comes to TV signals that my situation could be vastly different then yours.

      As for the Fire TV, unfortunately it can't use a universal remote because it's not InfraRed. Hover this person on the Tablo discussion board seems to have found a solution. I haven't tested this myself though. I use a Roku, they do support universal remotes. As or the Samsung, most smart TVs don't allow downloading of Apps. There are exceptions. You'd would have to check with Samsung to see if that is possible on your models.

      Thank you so much for your kind words about the site. Please let me know if you have any other questions.

  • I'm getting ready to make the plunge and cut w/DirecTV. I have the 'whole home' w/Genie, so i have a main box and 3 additional tv's that have a wireless receiver. I haven't figured out how to accomplish that same setup. Following your suggestions, I plan to get MoHu 60 and Tablo 4 channel. W/Mohu and no dvr, all tvs have to be hard wired to the antenna. I'm presuming w/Tablo, I do not have to do that, correct? Tablo will act as a hub so long as all tv's are connected to it via WiFi?

    Which is where my next question comes in...is there a requirement for the televisions to be a certain type with certain specs, or is there a receiver that can be plugged into them? That's how 'genie' works with DirecTV...it connects to each tv which allows the TV to wireless connect to the main box. It provides great flexibility in that i don't need cable connections anywhere in the house. Is that how I can set this up? If so, what piece am i missing?

    and by the way...this is the most comprehensive/easy to understand explanation i've seen anywhere. I've looked into doing this for years, but it's just pieces all over the internet. Nothing that brings it all together. Thanks for that. Great job.

    • Yes, the Tablo will act as your hub, but it plugs into your Router. You would need a device on the TV to access the Tablo. They currently support Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast (with android phone/tablet), and android TV.

  • Dennis,

    thanks again for your speedy reply. I am still having issues with my Tablo not recording. The message next to the recording simply says Weak Signal. The programs which seem to have issues are CBS programs. I have the Tablo in the kitchen where the modem/router are located and the tv in the living room, about 20 or so feet away from each other. The antennae are identical to each other. Are you suggesting that I swap them or when you say to use the tv antenna for the tablo are you suggesting running a long cord from antenna to Tablo? Your information suggests splitters reduce quality so I ran separate antennae to each tv and one on the Tablo, which has a connection about 6 inches from the Tablo to the window where it is placed.

    Also, just an FYI, Tablo support told me this morning that they will be releasing a Smart TV app for LG in the spring of this year and will follow at some point with one for Samsung. Since my Smart TV is a Samsung, I will have to wait quite some time before being able to use that so Fire stick it is.

    I asked my husband about Roku since it seems to work best for most people, but he doesn't want to pay a monthly use fee We are paying the one-time for the guide for Tablo so as not to have monthly fees at all. I even told him that Roku has a "free Roku 2" or "$50 for Roku 3" but he is not interested, at this time as the "free" option still costs $60(three months prepaid Roku). Thanks for the link to the universal idea. I have not checked it out yet but will do so.

    • The antennas may be identical, but it's the location of the antenna in the house that matters. You would be surprised the difference in signal strength when moving to various rooms in the house. I would unhook the TV antenna from the TV, leave it exactly in the same position and hook it to the Tablo and see what happens. You shouldn't need an extra antenna on the TV if you can get the Tablo working as you can watch live TV through the Tablo.

  • Best article I have seen, thank you.
    I am just starting out cutting the cord. Trying to choose a location for the Tablo if I get it. I presently have my antenna by the TV and also my Roku 3. I hardwired the Roku with CAT 5 E it's been a while but the color is gray not blue and I don't see any markings on it. Can I run the Tablo of a TP-Link Gigabit Switch rather than run another dedicated Cat 5 from the router, I rather not use WIFI for it.
    Thank you

    • The Ethernet card on the Tablo is 10/100, you can hook it to a Gigabit switch but it will only go 100 mbps. Still that's faster then the 802.11n network card for all practical purposes.

  • Great article. I'm looking to help my mom cut the cord. I have a TiVo Roamio and love it. I'm thinking about the same for her, but I'm also interested in the Tablo. She only has one TV in her apartment, and is a bit of a techno-phobe so I don't think she'll be streaming to any mobile devices. Despite the monthly cost I still think TiVo is best for her (additionally because of the simple interface.)
    How is Tablo's interface?

    • Tivo may be easier as your mom won't have to watch through a Roku or Mobile device it you don't mind the extra cost.

  • Thanks for this great info. I currently have a Channel Master DVR+ that replaced a DVR Pal, since I refuse to pay a subscription fee. I still have one DVR Pal, but it frequently freezes, and I need to unplug/plug it to reboot. I want to replace it soon, so this info is very useful.

    I mentioned that I replaced on DVR Pal with a Channel Master. Generally I have found that the Channel Master is reliable and adequate for my needs.

    I have one complaint that I have brought to the attention of Channel Master, but to date have not received any response from them on a resolution. I record all sporting events, then join them in progress to save time by skipping over commercials, half-time, etc. I can watch an NFL game in less than an hour usually. My complaint with the Channel Master DVR+ is that when I am watching any program that is in the process of being recorded, and I fast-forward or skip forward and reach live TV, it throws me out of viewing the recording, and resets the playback counter to the start of the program. So, say I am recording an NFL game and I start watching about two hours after the kick-off. Skipping over the idle time between downs, commercials and half-time, I am caught up to live TV time at the two-minute warning. If I accidentally skip forward to live TV, it throws me out of the recording and resets the playback counter. Either I need to fast-forward through about three hours of the game I have already viewed, or I may need to change the channel to the NFL game, view anything I missed, cancel the current recording and start a new recording. Someone may say that I should simply wait until the recording is complete to start viewing, but I don't think I should have to do that. Throwing me out of the recording is not a big issue, but having the playback counter reset is. What I really want is a DVR that would do what my old DVR Pal did, which was to switch the in-progress recording to live TV mode (while still viewing the recording) when skipping forward to live TV time.

    Anyway, this one issue has become such an annoyance to me, that I told Channel Master I would not buy another DVR+ until this issue is resolved. Since they have not responded, I am considering other manufacturers. This info about the TiVo with no subscription interests me. How can I find out how the TiVo Roamio handles this feature? I don't want to purchase a Roamio and find out that it has the same issue.

    Thanks in advance for your comments and best regards.

    • That wasn't an issue on the previous Roamio. However, I am yet to test the new 1 TB version. That said, Amazon has a great return policy if you do experience the issue.

  • I am helping my dad cut the cord and this site has been very helpful. I just set up the Channel Master DVR for him last night. Using the same antenna, he was able to get another 9 channels with the DVR than the tv. Also, the Channel Master now can stream Sling.TV as well.

  • Do OTA DVRs record streaming sports packages? I basically only have cable because I can't watch my preferred NBA games live (I'm two time zones away), so I need to DVR the games from NBA league pass. If I could just purchase the NBA Broadband package and record the games with an OTA DVR, I would definitely cut the cable..

  • Hi Dennis. Thanks for the great info. If my prime interest is recording OTA live sports that I can't watch live because I'm unavailable, which solution would you recommend? I.live in an apartment,so a multi-TV solution is not important. Also, the apartment provides good wifi, so I don't have a router/Ethernet connection. Thanks!

  • Dennis,
    Great info. I am 1 month to end of Prism contract so I am about to Cut. Tell me if I have the right info. I can get the Tivo OTA DVR along with one Tivo Stream if I already have 2 Apple TV's for 3 TV's. Main TV would have Tivo DVR and the 2 other TV's would have Apple TV that would used with the Tivo Stream. Is that right? Or do I get 1 Tivo OTA and 2 Tivo Minis?
    And do I only need antennae to the Tivo OTA if I use the 2 Minis?
    Lastly, where does sling fit in with any of this? Do you just watch from Air Play?

    • Yes, 1 TiVo Stream and 2 Apple TVs (along with the Roamio of course) should handle 3 TVs. You only need to connect the antenna to the Tivo. Stream will let you send the content to the Apple TVs in the other rooms. Sling TV is currently unsupported on Sling TV. While you can airplay it with screen mirroring, it makes for a pretty lackluster experience.

  • Hey there. Im a bit flustered by so many good & different details here. Im divorced & cutting costs. I have an android phone. No home phone, no home internet & dont want to pay for cable or SAT tv anymore. So in short can i purchase a low end DVR? And do all these other options (Hulu etc) ONLY pick up movies from a home internet connection OR can they receive an air signal as A cell phone would? This is always confusing to me. Thank you so much. Ron

    • Ronald - Dennis's response is incomplete. You could use a high-end DVR with an electronic program guide that is updated over the Internet if:

      1. your Android phone and your cell phone service provider / phone plan allow the use of your phone as a WiFi hotspot, and

      2. The DVR is capable of connecting by WiFi to your phone's hotspot. (If not, you could buy a wifi extender/wifi repeater/wireless bridge that includes 1 or more Ethernet ports to indirectly connect your DVR's Ethernet to the phone hotspot)

      In either case, I recommend against using up all your phone data on streaming even a single tv show or movie by online streaming service.

      You may want to consider asking a neighbor for their wifi password, and maybe splitting the monthly bill, or asking your local cable I nternet service provider for their
      lowest price 5+ Mbps offering, maybe for low income people.

      • Johnny is correct. However, I don't advise doing this without knowing the amount of data the guide consumes. Depending on how often the guides polls for updates, it could take a chunk out of your monthly allowance.

    • Hi Ronald. If you have an unlimited data plan, it's possible to cut the cord with a cell phone plan. However, it's a rarity to find those these days. In most cases a home internet connection would be needed. You can go for a low end DVR, but I haven't found many under $100 that I'm happy with. But's it's completely possible to make it work. You can check out my article on cable TV alternatives to get a detailed overview of a lot of the options out there.

  • I am not a techie. We cut the cord with the satellite service. We are now using an ota antenna. We want to buy a dvr. No internet. If we buy a dvr with internal storage, do we need anything else. What should we use?

    • If you get a DVR with internal storage make sure it doesn't require an internet connection. Many DVRs require one to download the guide data. Its pretty frustrating trying to set up a DVR schedule without a guide. It's possible, but very tedious.

  • Me again. Regarding the internet and program guide, would the internet only be used for the guide?

    • Yes, but it's also needed if you plan on using any of the streaming apps that come with the DVR. Also if the DVR connects to a router you will need a home network. That network doesn't need to be connected to the Internet, but devices will need a way to communicate within your house.

  • Not sure the Tivo is the right choice. They are so proprietary. You have to buy tivo mini's then to put on your other TV's. I still prefer the Tablo approach. DVR hooked into your home network, then use and app on the Roku or Fire Box to view it. That is a much simpler way to go than that Tivo approach. I do wish there was a DVR option out there that supported DD 5.1 surround sound that would work with the Roku and Fire Box. If Tivo would develop apps/channels for Roku and Amazon I would agree, that would be ideal. Until then, I do not want to have to buy more boxes to put on TV's.

    • I went the Tablo Route, and returned it. Software was buggy, and slow. Hardware was noisy. Simple.TV was no better. YMMV. Tivo is much more reputable and now that they've eliminated the subscription fee, I'll be trying it out. Not keen on dropping $400 right away though so it may have to wait a little while. Keeping an eye out for a sale!

    • Unfortunately there isn't an easy way. I'm sure there is fairly technical way to intercept the feed and record it, but it's beyond me without investing some time to research it.

  • Great write up! I'm in the process of determining a new solution for our home. For the last 5 years I've been running a dual tuner based Windows Media Center solution for the single TV. We love that we can load our movie collection on the box and have DVR and guide all in a single source. We have slowly moved to the native applications on the Samsung TV for Amazon and Netflix so have gotten more used to two sources.

    Now, we're looking to move to a multi-TV solution as our kids get older and we start to use TV in other rooms. And, with the loss of Media Center I find that I'm on an island having to learn the tech that I let evolve without me! I've been looking hard at Tablo and TiVo per your guide. It seems all we'll be giving up with this either of these is the ability to centralize our movie storage. I do have a question though on TiVo... am I oversimplifying by surmising the difference between their Roamio and BOLT just that BOLT also supports cable signals? It seems to me that I could go BOLT and get 4k HDMI and 1gb ethernet while enjoying all the other benefits of Roamio.

    Note, I'm also looking at something like Synology.

    • Dennis, yes I'm only OTA. Have been for nearly 15 years now. The point I was making was that for OTA folks like myself, Bolt only provides gigE and 4k resolution. But since Tivo doesn't have an "included" guide option, you're facing the huge uplift in cost. Like $850 total. So if you don't need gigE and don't care about 4k, the Roamio is the route. I'm hoping they eventually drop the price on the Bolt or upgrade Roamio as I'd prefer gigE and 4k.

      • While GiG Ethernet is nice, it's really not needed for streaming. 10 Mbps is plenty for a 1080p HD stream. 4K is only needed if you use your TiVo for Netflix, as I know of no affiliates that broadcast 4K video OTA.

    • It is worth noting that TiVo doesn't have an option for Bolt that includes the subscription. So if you don't need that cable option you're paying nearly $850 to pick up the 4K and gig Ethernet abilities. So while I like the features of Bolt, Roamio looks to be very attractive until they update the hardware or drop the subscription prices.

  • Hi. I'm considering getting rid of dish network and going ota. I'm interested in the roamio or the tablo. My question is, if I want to watch regular live tv, either in the living room where the dvr would be or in the bedroom where a second tv is, can I do that using either of these boxes? Or do I have to have an antenna cable ran to these tvs direct and use their tuners? I have a home theater receiver that runs everything through it in the living room, so if I have to go to the tv direct, then I can't use my home theater.

    • For either you would hook the antenna to the DVR. The article explains how to watch on multiple TVs for both Tablo and Tivo.

  • I am looking for a device that I can record all my DVDs on and watch them. I spend about 3 months a year camping and a lot of places I go don't get ota TV or cable don't want the hassle or cost of a dish. Is there a system that supports input recording though av jacks

  • I want to install either a TiVo or Tablo in the attic where my antenna is so that I don't need to run the coax anywhere (I don't have it run already and want to avoid that if possible). From your articles it seems clear that the Tablo should work with no physical access to the device, but what about TiVo? Do I need to have it connected directly to a TV in order to set it up and manage recording schedules, or can everything be done remotely through apps on Android or fire TV devices? Would one be better than the other as far as the interface and user experience if limited to access only through remote devices? Thanks!

    • Hi Reed,

      If you want to avoid wires then it sounds like the Tablo would be best then. You still need the Tablo to the Router. While I recommend Ethernet to avoid any wireless networking doubts, WiFi is a completely legitimate way to set up your Tablo.

  • Hello,
    I'm so glad I found your site. I recently moved and simultaneously cut the cable cord. Earlier today I successfully installed an HD antenna. Of course now I want an OTA DVR. Here's my issue. Currently I have no internet. Think 1930's farmstead. The powers that be in my county are in the process of connecting my neighborhood to the internet. While I'm impatiently waiting, is there an OTA DVR available that will work without the internet and then still work/become enhanced once I do have internet? It may be several months before the internet is available.
    Thank you in advance,

    • I do on occasion, once per day, turn my phone into a hotspot. As it can burn through my monthly data allowance quickly, I only use it for specific tasks. If I knew that after downloading the guide the OTA DVR stored the guide, might that be a plausible, albeit, clumsy, workaround until I have internet access?


      • It may work, but I'm not sure how a given DVR would behave if it lost connectivity. It shouldn't matter, but I haven't tested it out.

    • Heidi,

      I'm not sure. I'll definitely look into it. Most of them require internet for the guide to work. I'll let you know what I find out.

  • Great article, but it's a disservice not to mention the Mediasonic Homeworx or similar devices. It doesn't touch the functionality of these fancier alternatives but for someone like me who wants the ability to pause live TV and record one show at a time, it was the obvious choice at $28 from Amazon.

    • Stephen,

      That's a good point. I'll see if I can do an update to include it.


  • Dennis,

    Do the Hulu, Netflix, etc., apps on the Tivo Roamio stream over WiFi, or does one need to have a hard-wired connection to stream using those apps?

    Thanks for all you do,

    • Dennis, thanks for the reply. However, my question isn't if one can set up the Tivo via WiFi. Rather, can one stream Netflix, Hulu, etc., over WiFi using the Tivo's built-in apps.

      (I know you advocate using dedicated devices for OTT streaming. But I can hear SWMBO asking "Why do we need a Roku when the Tivo already has the apps?")

      I read on another site that the Tivo apps only stream over (wired) Ethernet. I can't find anything that clarifies this point.


      • Dan,

        Sorry about that. You can use the apps on Wi-Fi. However, you can't connect a TiVo stream over Wi-Fi to the Romeo OTA.


  • I had the Roamio and switched to the Tablo/Nvidia Shield for a one device option, but I am not impressed with the Tablo. The recording functionality is lacking and the overall UI is not great. I also find the shows encounter issues with network connectivity always required. I am tempted to move back to the Tivo.

  • Getting ready to cut the cord, I've had it with cable. The DVR is the only thing stopping me. I don't use it to record series or programs. I use it for movies only. I go to sleep each night listening to one of the movies. I have the cable set on starz western (encore) so when the movie is over the western comes on. My sleep stays uninterrupted. If I get starz western channel from amazon prime and buy a dvr, can I still do this? Or if I just use a dvd player, when the movie is over, will the starz western channel come back on automatically? Anyway I can record the movies I currently have on the cable dvr onto a dvr I purchase?
    Thank you so much!

    • For movies I would just use the on demand streaming, then you don't need a DVR. I would try out the Amazon Starz App and then see if you movies your interested in are available. If they are then you can watch them whenever you want.

  • Thanks for the article.

    My home wifi network is not always on; I'm using my phone's unlimited data plan for home wifi and I don't leave it on all the time. Do you think this intermittent internet connection will be a problem for the Roamio or will it simply update whenever the network is available?

  • I'm looking for a OTA PVR. my requirements:
    1. Ethernet - a 6' cord and never have to worry about a flaky connection
    2. No hard drive, just USB. I don't plan on having over 10 hours recorded on the thing
    3. Can either stream the USB drive over the network to my laptop, or just pull the USB drive out.
    4. Front panel display. I'd like to change the channel and hit record without turning on the TV
    5. Under $50. I've seen a few other ones around $30, but not all of the above features

    program guide is optional.

    • Hi Matt, I think the Homeworx is closest thing you will find. However it lacks the network connection. It's going to be tough to find that functionality under $50. Let me know what you find.

  • Dennis, My two years with Comcast are up in May. I purchased a used Tivo HD DVR with lifetime subscription 5 or 6 years ago. At that time in my life finances were very tight. Things are good now but I'm thinking of cutting the cord because I don't watch as much tv as I use to, mostly network tv. I chose the Tivo HD because at that time of the quality of the OTA tuner on the HD was better then the newer Tivo devices and some didn't come with a OTA tuner.
    Is the OTA tuner on the Roamio as good as the TiVo HD tuner? Hopefully it's better.
    Thanks for your time.

    • Hi Jim, I haven't tried the older HD model so I don't really have a comparison. However, the issue might be due to the multiple tuners on the newer devices. I'd assume there is a splitter in the device which would add attenuation. If that's the issue, it should be easy to fix using a pre-amp.

  • I'm cutting the cable and your advice is invaluable to me. I'm at the point now of picking a DVR. I ready your reviews of Tivo Roamio and Tablo. It's not clear to me why you prefer the Tivo. After all, the Tablo includes the ability to stream to remote devices. Could you please give a quick summary of why you prefer the Tivo. Thanks!

    • Jim you make a good point. In fact I recently recorded a podcast episode that makes it a bit clearer. It will be released in roughly 2 weeks. At that time I'll update my article to make the choice a bit clearer. Basically I think TiVo is better for people new to cutting the cord. As I demonstrate in this post, it can act as a single device solution. That said, I think the Tablo is better as a multi-room solution.

  • Hello,
    Thank you very much for the informative comparisons. I am torn between Tablo and Tivo. Will the Tivo stream Sling TV app that I have on my Amazon Fire? It has a plethora of "Live TV" programs....Is this app even available on Tivo or does Tivo offer similar live TV (HGTV,Food, ESPN, SiFi, TBS, etc.).

    • It was my understanding that Sling was an on-demand service - why would you need to record a Sling program?

    • TiVo won't be a be able to record Sling TV. However, Sling TV will soon be releasing a cloud based DVR for their service.

  • Such a helpful article! I read through more than half of the comments and answers, but am not sure my particular question has been asked/answered there. Here goes: We are ready to cut the cord, purchase an OTR antenna and probably the TiVo Roamio OTR DVR. We have 3 TVs and 2 teenagers so being able to watch/record programs on 3 TVs simultaneously is a must. We have 2 Apple TVs currently. Will we need to purchase 2 TiVo Minis in order for all 3 TVs to watch OTA channels? Are the Apple TVs redundant with Tivo Minis? If yes, I've read the Minis need to be connected via Ethernet. Connected to what? From the Mini to the TV? Sorry if that question is displaying my tech ignorance, which I own, but all of the research I've done has left me with questions. Lastly, we are woefully inept at DIY. Would an electrician likely be the source for installing all of this? Many thanks in advance.

    • You may want to consider the Tablo, It is a better Multi-TV solution due to the price difference. The Apple TVs are compatible with Tablo as well. However, as for your question in regard to connecting the mini, it needs to be connected to your network via Ethernet (as in not wirelessly.)

  • Good info. The other nice thing about the Roamio is the remote. When you are sitting in the dark trying to get through a commercial or find you next program, there is no other remote that compares to a TIVO although the Roku 4 is also pretty good. With the TIVO setup you can record all your OTA programs and have them all just sitting there for you to watch at your convenience (while quickly skipping the commercials). If you ever get low on your normal list of programs, you can also go and search for all the upcoming OTA movies and record a few of them to watch later at your convenience.

  • HI, Great article. My question or concern is that, is all of this going to be down the drain once cable companies start putting data caps on usage and what is your theory about this and what can be done? Currently I live in in NYC and TWC/Spectrum is currently data cap free, but I can't imagine this will go on much longer.

    • That's always in the back of my head. However, there are some new technologies on the way that will force wireline internet to remain competitive (Like 5G wireless, and millimeter wave.) Those will enable broadband speeds over Wifi.

  • Silicondust has a DVR program with apps. It is $60 and you need to have one of their devices. There isn't enough worthwhile OTA programming to compel me to purchase this right now, but I may in the near future.

    I can't watch more than 3 hours a day and between the OTA channels I can get with my current HDHomeRun and OTA antenna, Amazon Prime, network websites (for the channels I can't get with my antenna) and especially a VPN (to get UK, Canadian and Australian shows) I don't need any additional sources of entertainment.

    I currently run all this on a Windows 7 HTPC with WMC for OTA DVR.

  • I'm ready to cut the cord...probably today or tomorrow! My next month's billing starts on the 1st.
    I'm looking at the Tablo OTA DVR. If I get the 2 tuner model I can record 2 at a time and still watch something else on regular TV, right?
    Dennis, thanks for this site. I stumbled across is this morning and am totally graceful for your perspective on this issue...and that of the other subscribers...

    • Sure thing Tom. Be aware 2 Tuners only provide the ability to Watch\DVR 2 channels at once. So that would be watch both, record bother or watch one and record the other.

  • Dennis, as I am preparing to rid my life of Cox cable your articles have been my go to guide for everything I need to know. Thank you. One of the considerations in ditching Cox is DirecTV Now. While I can get a DVR with that service will the TiVo Roamio or any of the other DVRs be able to record DirecTV Now shows. Thanks again.

    • Not at the moment. Cable Networks don't want people to be able to record their content on third party devices. However, DirecTV Now indicated they will have a Cloud DVR at some point in the future. Sling TV is beta testing one, and PlayStation Vue currently has one. This tech will allow you to record shows in their Cloud so you can watch them whenever you want.

  • Awesome rundown! Thanks!

    Question: If I had a Smart TV that has a built-in Roku smart platform (such as the Insignia model: NS-48DR510NA17), would it be able to access the Tablo DVR without a streaming device (such as a Roku device)? TIA

    • Yes, the Roku OS is the same whether it's on a Roku device or a Smart TV.

  • I actually purchased a Tivo Roamio OTA DVR as a result of treading this blog, and I have to say as I pack my device up to return it, you have missed one very important feature of the Roamio that should be taken into account by anyone who lives in a rural setting. The performance of the amplifier responsible for filtering and sorting digital information out of the incoming OTA signal is awful. The Tivo is awesome, but I could only receive one channel with the Tivo in the circuit compared to more than 20 without it. I purchased an outside antenna and mounted it on a 48ft pole and still had no joy with the device. I did a bit more digging after discovering the signal gain flaw and note it is the single biggest complaint of Roamio users in rural areas. I think signal gain should be a major element in considering any cord cutting device and I'm afraid the Tivo Roamio is not up to scratch.

    • If using only 1 or 2 TVs the effective range of your antenna can be increased using a Winegard LNA-200. It cuts the noise down a lot, and allows your amplifier to just amplify clean signal.

    • Can you provide a source? I haven't encountered this issue. Although I live near a city. I'm interested in researching it.

  • I initially used Comcast before moving to OTA, Comcast was almost $180. a month. My first setup used HDHomeRun, EyeTV, MacMini and an outside antenna. The outlay was significant however within a year it had paid for itself.
    I have since switched to Channels using AppleTV. I already owned the AppleTV so there was no additional costs.
    Although Channels (currently) does not offer DVR functinality it should have it soon.
    I live between two major TV markets. Channels has the ability to merge two tuners. Because of distance, combing the antennas is not an option. I receive 55 channels from my north pointing antenna and 56 from the south.
    So far I'm pleased with my setup.

  • Dennis,

    There is a broken Link (DLNA) in the following text.

    Build Your Own DIY DVR

    For those with a PC and a little tech savvy, the affordable solution would be using media server software and a TV tuner or Tuner card. Using a device like The HDHomeRun and a product like Myth TV, a TV show can be recorded with the signal from your antenna and saved to a computer. From there it can be streamed to any DLNA compliant device for viewing on a television.

    • I agree Ken. Definitely the most affordable and configurable. However you have to enjoy tinkering a bit.

  • I've read a lot of negative reviews on Amazon for the TiVo Roamio OTA 1Tb DVR, even during last part of 2016 and into 2017. Highlights: Very poor customer technical support ("farmed out"). Integrated Guide issues (related to another Co. taking over TiVo and bugs not worked out?). Overheating of unit. Undependable recording OTA stations--Spurious recording OTA channels depending on signal strength, yet not always recording the supposedly higher signal strength stations. Channels keep adding automatically to Guide, cluttering listings for searching. Are these random? Have you experienced any of these issues. Final note: I'm surprised this model doesn't have Gb/-ac WiFi capability. This by itself makes we want to wait until hopefully this is available as on the Bolt model.

    • For those of you with a strong geek background, consider MythTv. This is a program which runs on Ubuntu, and utilizes a Hauppauge ATV card for recording OTA HDTV. The system also can use a Hauppauge box which takes a component video signal and outputs the high definition signal over USB. Other tv cards are available as well.

      I have been using the system since 2012 for HDTV OTA and satellite systems. They use a schedule service (Schedules Direct) which costs about $25 per year. This is NOT for non geeks. You will need to be familiar with the Linux command line and hardware installation, and have lots of patience as you configure and tweak your system. The net result is worth it, but be prepared for a fair amount of work. Not for the inexperienced.


    • I agree... got a TIVO Bolt, and after 3 months I've abandoned the idea of getting it to work. TIVO just cannot get the channel list to work. Bring up the guide and my only decent channels have 'to be announced' in their space. You cannot set up a recording... what the hell good is a digital video RECORDER that won't RECORD. Getting my money back for the non-existent channel guide, and returning the TIVO. They are very polite, but very ineffective...

    • I haven't encountered any issues. I will say that any DVR will be signal dependent. Also people should be aware that when a device has 2 tuners that the signal is split within a device. That will weaken the signal. However, that's not just TiVo but any DVR with multiple tuners.

  • I want to cut the cable/satellite..... I spend about $115/month to basically watch about a half dozen channels...... What is the best option for me (I've looked at Playstation VUE); but I also want DVR functions of both OTA and Cable Channels?

    • I have Playstation Vue and it works for me. I pay $35 to get most of the channels I want instead of $90 to get them on Dish. One comment is the DVR is a bit quirky and takes getting used to. But it is included. Keep in mind Vue only keeps recordings for 30 days, I believe, which is a bit odd, but that is the way it is.

      It really depends on what you are looking for whether Vue is the best for you or not. Sling is out there and DirecTVNow as well. They may be better options. Check them out. All of these have free trials so that may help as well. Good Luck

    • What shows do you watch? If only a handful are on cable TV consider purchasing them directly from amazon or iTunes. I did that with an antenna to start. Check out this cord cutting guide for more information.

  • I love your site, and based my decision to cut the cord and go with a TiVo Roamio on these articles & feedback. Unfortunately, if you live in even a "barely rural" area you will regret buying the TiVo Roamio. Signal strength issues are rampant (as many posters on this site can attest to) and TiVo has absolutely no solution. The Roamio breaks down your incoming signal and essentially weakens it to a degree that the ability to keep a signal to record a show is eliminated and you end up with no/partial recordings...or recordings of choppy & pixelated jibberish. You *really* missed a key piece to the Roamio puzzle by not testing in a rural environment. I'm still a cord-cutter but I ditched the Roamio.

    • What works best in rural areas then??? I am contemplating cutting the cord and am very confused on what to purchase...I appreciate any info you can provide me. Thanks!

    • Mitch, thanks for the input. Sorry, but I live near Baltimore. I didn't have the opportunity to test the Roamio in a weak signal area. Thanks for the input. I update this guide periodically and may switch up the order based on yours and others feedback. I try to considers my readers input when making these suggestions.

  • Hello,
    I have a TiVo Roamio box currently not in use. If I remove all services except internet service from the cable provider (Spectrum), can I use the TiVo and a 3rd party provider such as Amazon Prime to receive TV shows? Or, do I need an antennae? I tried the TiVo with an OTA once before and received a lot of digital feed back when trying to record shows.

  • Your main reasons for Best OTA DVR For New Cord Cutters did not include can you stream Dolby or AC3 surround sound through your choice?

    Tablo does not offer this unless it's change recently.

  • Great article, and timely. I just cut the cord, 300mbps AT&T Fiber now installed, as well as a Winegard outdoor flatwave air antenna this past weekend. Most channels are very clear, but I noticed the closest PBS channel is not showing up well at all. I have a Tivo Roamio hooked up to it that I was using with a TWC cable card for the last few years. Prior to this I had a cheap Philips antenna that was outside, but not very well placed...but it picked up the weak PBS signal no problem. So perhaps the Tivo is in fact degrading the signals... I'll route the antenna cable direct to the TV to confirm. The Winegard should be in a great position, based on TV Fool and Antennaweb.

    A buddy of mine uses the Channel Master DVR+ and loves it. I'm likely selling my Tivo if I can and upgrading to it. Tivo won't cut my monthly fee, and I'm not going to pay $15 for their guide anymore. And if it is degrading the signal, that's all the more reason.

    I second the vote for the Playstation Vue service. Set it up on the new Amazon Fire box, and it is great.

    • The Winegard came with a small 5db inline amplifier.
      Is it OK to replace that with something more substantial like the Channel Master ones that start at 15gb and go up to 30dbs?

      It seems that PBS station is borderline. The other night it worked fine, even going through the Tivo. I did fix the grounding connection, re-stripped a couple ends and put on new RJ6 caps, and might replace the grounding block as it has been outside for 5+ years, and has probably seen more then a little rain and moisture.

      • Yea, it's tough with borderline channels. I wouldn't double up on amplifiers due to potential line interference. If you can replace the amplifier with a more powerful one, you could give that a try. It's a matter of continual troubleshooting. Is it possible to go with an outdoor antenna?

    • Remember, each Tuner in a DVR splits the signal. That's usually the cause of signal degradation. If you can get a signal when you plug the antenna directly into the TV an amplifier may fix the issue.

  • I have an issue as it was a far better deal and TV quality to stick with Verizon local HD package (coax wall to TV) and internet bundle. So far most DVR options require me to have an external HD antenna and won't allow me to plug coax cable from wall to DVR to TV.

    Already have all the bells and whistles (ROKU, Hulu, Sling TV, Amazon and Netflix) to watch programs a day or two later on demand, but my family wants to record live, local TV shows and watch along or at least right after they air if missed. Any suggestions?

    • If you are using Verizon's local package then you would need something like a TiVo Bolt, but that gets expensive. What is your monthly bill? Every time I do the math on Fios it always works out to just get the $55 internet plan once you factor in all the taxes and fees on their bundle.

  • Hi Dennis-

    I really like the Table 2-tuner OTA DVR. But, i'm confused on something. Will I still need an antenna if I have the OTA DVR?



  • Two questions:

    - My wife is technically handicapped and will go bonkers if the interface is not clean with these devices. Question: will I have to use multiple remote controls to view menus and select programm material from OTA sources, SlingTV, Amazon Video, etc., or is that contained in a single user interface?

    - What is the latest on Dolby 5.1? I have a surround sound system I hate to toss. Do any of the recorders support anything other than simple stereo as of mid-March 2017??

  • I am a second away from cutting the cord. I just purchased the Amazon Box. I have the smart tvs, and I upgraded my router for a stronger (streaming) connection.
    I was looking to purchase the clear channel hd attennae but was told it's not necessary. I'm looking to watch football and want to record it. Actually, I really just want to be able to record anything. Sports, movies, shows, etc. I also Netflix and Amazon prime. What would be my best solution. I live in a small (surb)urban area.

    • We actually enjoy watching all football teams (except maybe like the Browns). We had DirecTv NFL Sunday package. Our teams are not local so we don't get to watch it our teams unless we have the package. The only reason I still have DirecTv. He watches basketball as well.

      • I'm hoping Sunday Package will be available to us next year. I will write a recap before the season begins on how we can all watch the NFL. Basketball is a bit tough. You can use NBA League Pass, but only select games are live. Most are On-Demand.

    • Sling TV will let you record on their Cloud DVR. What network is your football team on?

  • Hi Dennis, which DVR to you recommend for pausing and rewinding OTA live tv? Does the Mediasonic HW-150PVR HomeWorx do this? Thanks!

    • I ended up going with the TiVo Roamio OTA with lifetime subscription. It's awesome! Easy to use and I love the tv guide. Thank you for the help!!

    • It will. However you need to enable "Time-Shift" mode by pressing pause while watching a show. It will then take about a minute to enter time shift mode where you can pause and rewind.

  • I really hope you can settle these questions for me once and for all:
    So, am I understanding correctly.... ALL DVR's only record things that are on live TV or say an HDTV Antenna? Can't we record items that are streaming through our television? We have a Digixstream that airs live TV. Can we record items that stream on there? Also, do these recording devices allow you to record something a week out? Thanks for helping. If DVR's don't record what we stream from say a firestick, what's the point on having one and getting rid of cable or satellite?

    • There is no point to recording what your streaming from a fire stick because that's all on demand anyway. Sling TV and VUE have a could DVR for you to record most cable stuff that live streams. The only real need for a DVR as a cord cutter is OTA TV.

  • This is great info, Dennis. One thing I'm not clear on is the ability of the TiVO OTA devices to record streams. Their site makes it look like it will do that, but I see conflicting reports.

    I want to cut the cord, but our Xfinity internet service can be wonky (especially in the evening) making streaming a bit hit-and-miss. A DVR that would let us actually record streams to be watched at a later time (the way my current TiVO does with cable channels) would be great.

    • OTA only record from an antenna. I have no need to locally record streams because they are all on demand anyway. I can watch them whenever. There are some services that do live programming like VUE and Sling TV, but they both have Cloud based DVRs.

  • I'm at such a wits end to find the answer to all our questions. First, we have cut the cord. Second, we have almost dial up Wifi service. Third we live in the tullies.

    Now, we do have a high def digital antenna and get all the regular, local channels plus we get Cozi, GetTv, etc. Since cutting the cord we keep missing our regular shows, like Greys, Blue Bloods, etc. I'd love to go back to being able to record these shows. We don't care about Netflix, Hulu, etc. obviously because of the wifi capabilities and streaming (buffering is too much). We do have a computer, router, etc., but just ok internet speeds and I do mean just ok, like dial up.

    Is there a recorder for over the air that we can use. It's ok if it's only on one TV. I just want to be able to watch a program that we've missed that we've recorded. A 2 tuner would be ok. I know with our wifi speed we'll never be able to get the foo foo channels, but that's ok for now.

    Please help......if you can. There may not be an option because of our internet/wifi speed, but I'd like to know for sure instead of just wishing and then finding out "no" or buying and having to return.

    Thanks for any help provided.

  • One comment on the Tablo- I have a 4 tuner Tablo DVR, and while it's great for that function, it does not work well as a "channel surfing" device- there is a a 9 to 12 second buffering lag, each time that you change channels. The reason for this is that Tablo is trans-coding the digital signal to a format (h.264) that can be recognized by the over-the-top box (i.e., a Roku or Amazon FireTV box). It works really well as a DVR reorder for OTA broadcasts, but if you intend to use it as your prime access point, you will be disappointed in a channel surfing mode. It's a different animal- that said, it's a good solution as long as you recognize the limitations.

    A Tivo Roamio or Bolt (or a channel master) will likely have a more rapid tuning response, but the Tablo becomes a multi-room dvr at a very affordable cost, unlike the others.

    One other note- Channel Master now integrates SlingTV into their DVR, although (sadly) not Netflix nor Amazon prime.

    • That's a good point. It's why I lean Tivo. However, as you said, I feel Multi-room with Tablo is worth the sacrifice.

  • Sorry if this is already answered in the comments but there are A LOT of them and I didn't see it.
    I have talked to ChannelMaster people and found that the recordings are proprietary and cannot be watched on anything but their system. I would like to be able to record OTA in some way and then watch it on another device. Not specifically but for example, I'd like to be able to record OTA on a DVR and then copy it to a flash drive and then watch it on my laptop when I am not online. Do you know of a solution? Thanks!!!

  • I'm interested in the Tablo because of it's multi-room feature, but I really don't care that much about the DVR. I'm really just looking for a way to watch live TV from my antenna in multiple rooms without having to run cables everywhere. Is the Tablo still the best bet? I saw in a previous comment that "channel surfing" on the Tablo isn't very responsive. Thanks!

    • Quick update. I checked out the HDHomeRun but ultimately went with the Tablo. I already have Rokus on all my TVs, and Tablo easily integrates with them. The HDHomeRun needed either Fire Sticks or software always running on a computer. Didn't want a computer as a middle-man, and buying the HDHomeRun and Fire Sticks cost about the same as just the Tablo. Been using about a week and it works great. The 5-10 seconds of loading when you pick a channel doesn't bother me.

  • I am leaning toward cutting the cord and going with VUE. The only issue I am having is being able to record sporting events on CBS, FOX, etc. From what I can tell, these channels are only on-demand and not live. (Am I reading this wrong?) If i get an antenna, which dvr would you recommend for this? Would like to view in living room or bedroom. Thanks!

    • I was able to watch programs as they happened. They also have sports packages you can buy

  • Decided to cut the cord with Cox Cable HD TV and installed a HD Antenna which works just great for all Network stations and smaller locals. Although I had Smart TV's for Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Pandora, I purchased an Amazon Fire TV stick through a promotional offering by Directv Now which gives me some additional content that I really wanted (ESPN, CNBC, VEL, etc.). My only issues were no DVR and changing from one HDMI input to another. Then after reading your article on TiVo Roamio OTA 1TB, I purchased it and am very happy. However, I still need to switch from one HDMI input to another for Directv Now. If only the Directv Now app was on the TiVo Roamio I'd be delighted. I have the Directv Now app on my iPad and iPhone and it works great. Since more and more people are cutting the cord and want variety, why doesn't TiVo put the Directv Now app on their device and have a killer package that would dominate the market?

    • It's likely complicated corporate politics. I completely agree that they should go after all the major cord cutting players.

  • I would have to disagree with your best OTA DVR For New Cord Cutters being either Tivo Roamio OTA or Bolt. I have the Bolt and 2 minis. I bought it a year for future cord cutting. Now I am ready to cut the cord from cable and see a glaring weakness; huge gaps in streaming apps.

    As I see it, in order for me to eliminate cable I need my local TV channels via OTA antenna. No problem with the Bolt. I need access to Netflix and Amazon Prime. Also, no problem for Bolt. I also need a streaming app to replace lost cable tv only channels such as AMC, FX, TBS..... These are available through Sling TV, Directv NOW, and Playstation Vue. None of these are available on Tivo and responses from Tivo indicate they are not even being worked on.

    Don't get me wrong, Tivo is a great platform. They just don't support streaming apps as they need to for cord cutters. Just look at streaming apps by device and you will see huge gaps on the Tivo.

    • I haven't cut my cord's yet, but I'm ready! Just a lot of research I'm still processing. Your situation sounds very much like mine. If you need AMC, FX, etc., aren't they just streamed through SlingTV or some other service? I had the impression they were more like "on demand" shows and just play when you find them and hit play. Which would mean you don't need a DVR for them. Am I wrong here? I need to have my Walking Dead!

      • SlingTV has a cloud DVR, but some shows do show up on demand. Also, how many cable shows do you watch? If it's only a handful you can buy the entire current season from Amazon for $25-$40 (depending if you want HD or not.) You own the show so you can watch anytime. If you keep it to 5-6 shows a year, it's actually fairly affordable.

    • SJ,

      I recommend either the TiVo Roamio OTA or the Tablo. The points you make about streaming apps I mention in the article.

  • I need help in I am looking for a DVR that will record shows that stream on directvnow through my Roku TV. They are not on demand so I have to be able to record them when they air. They are not on OTA channels and not on demand so as stated need to record when they air. Additionally I would need to record more than one show on one channel, through directvnow streaming service, at the same time. So basically trying to record live streaming TV on a DVR that I can watch later. Wanting to do so on multiple channels for multiple programs at same time. Can you please advise. Thank you.

    • That's not supported by DIRECTV NOW to my knowledge. They are working on a Cloud Based DVR however.

  • Hi Dennis:

    I am dumping Direct TV this month and going to the CHANNEL MASTER 4228HD OUTDOOR HDTV ANTENNA 75M on 20 ft mast with the Tablo 2 tuner DVR. I plan on connecting to 3 TVs. Should the quality be as good if I go wireless to all or should I use a splitter and coax for all 3 rooms? Wireless sounds like the easiest and I like easy but most times my easy ways turn out to be nightmares. Any thoughts?

    I enjoy your informative site.


    • You can use an antenna pre-amp, and a compatible distribution amplifier in-house, instead of splitters. This setup will deliver the best possible signal to each set. I have my house wired for five rooms, including an FM tuner with the small RCA digitial antenna up top.

      Using splitters degrades signal quality by a significant portion. (You can use the right side of a two-way splitter for 75% of available signal, they are designed that way.) A mast pre-amp, mounted as close as possible to the antenna output, will give the best signal. Use the shortest cable you can to connect the antenna to the pre-amp. Copper-clad cable (not solid copper) is best to get the signal to your distribution point with minimal loss. You might get by with a 35-foot antenna cable. Running the antenna cable into the input port of the distribution amplifier, which should have six 'out ports', and from there to your TV sets, will prevent signal loss in-house.

      Of course you may not need to do all this in your area to get the stations you want. This page gives a description of the variable ways to install an amplified antenna system:


    • I use the Tablo to watch on multiple TVs. You want to ensure little signal loss is occurring between the antenna and the DVR.

  • I have outright purchased about 90 movies from Comcast. Now I want to cut the cord. Can I put a machine like the Mediasonic HW-150PVR HomeWorx between my Comcast DVR and the TV, start playing the movies that I purchased using Comcast's On Demand function, and simply dub off those movies to the Mediasonic box by adding a large enough external hard drive? If I can't take those movies with me when I go, I'm really going to be mad. "Owning" doesn't mean anything if I still need to pay Comcast to see them.

    • According to their FAQ you can watch title you've purchased through xfinity.com/watch after you disconnect. However, that seems to be the only solution.

  • I have been researching the best method(s) to "cut the cord" and have found yours website to be the most helpful and am very appreciative of the information provided. I have to admit that the initial cost of "cutting the cord" seems to be quite expensive when you look at what is needed (Antenna, Amazon TV/Roku/Apple TV, possibly Sling TV and the DVR). I have read your article on the best DVR to use and despite the cost, I am leaning towards the TiVo Roamio OTA. My question is can this DVR also record Cable channels that you would need to get through Sling TV or would I need to rent their DVR from Sling as well. Please let me know. Thanks.

    • I'd recommend trying it without the DVR first. The DVR with only be able to record from your antenna. I found that I have little need for one due to streaming most my content. That will differ from person to person. When I originally cut the cord I used an Xbox 360 and a $30 Mohu Leaf.

  • Hi we are ready to cut cable completely. We currently own a Roku and a Fire stick. Which indoor antenna and OTA DVR would you recommend for beginners like us. I've been reading about all of these devices and it's really hard to make a decision on which one to settle on. We would like a service that allow us to watch live tv, record programs and provide some of lineup channels that we currently have with our cable provider. Also do you suggest on getting the latest Roku, or is there another streamer better suited for what we want. Thanks for the info...

    • To get an idea of which antenna to pick, I would use this article on choosing the best TV antenna. As for the DVR, I would hold off and see how much you think you would use it. When I cut the cord I found myself doing a lot of streaming so the DVR wasn't going to be cost effective for us. That said I generally recommend the TiVo for a single TV and the Tablo if you want a multiroom DVR.

  • Hello,
    Like others have commented, this blog was very informative.
    I am stuck...paralysis by analysis. If done so much research/reading I'm brain dead.

    So, I am getting ready to cut the cord, but need to find a solution to the OTA/DVR gap to keep the rest of the house hold from kicking out.

    I recently took the offer from PlayOn (not mentioned on your blog) and purchased their life time subscription for $40. Sounded like a good investment thinking I could find a solution to the OTA/DVR issue. I thought I hit a home run (no pun intended) with I found out about HDHomeRun from SiliconDust. But, after several conversations with tech support, they say it will not work. There are also issues with HDHomeRun...will not play on Roku. I can't believe no one has a solution for this gap!!!

    So, really could use some help on this "last mile".

    • I would pick up an Android device or a fire TV stick. Both of those would solve your issues.

  • When I look at the customer reviews of the Roamio OTA, I see many complaints of it not picking up as many channels as a TV directly hooked to the antenna. Is this a common issue and if I buy a Roamio OTA should I try it before telling cable to take a hike?

    • It's because there are 2 tuners in Roamio. It's essentially the same as having a splitter and hooking it to 2 TVs.

  • I cut the cord in May 2017 and it was the best decision ever. I have an HD Atenna and dug out my old Tivo HD Series 3 and hooked it right back up and it works perfectly! I have a lifetime subscription on it from eons ago so don't have worry about that. If only I had done this eons ago.

    My Sony TV streams Hulu, Netflix and the likes so I'm all set with all I need

    • That's great Kara. Thank you for sharing with the readers of the blog.

  • Hi Dennis. Thanks again for this wealth of information. On June 19, 2017 you said this to Tricia, on the https://www.groundedreason.com/ota-dvr-without-cable/ page:
    "The DVR with only be able to record from your antenna."

    TiVo says this about the Roamio OTA DVR on https://www.tivo.com/shop/ota-detail:
    OnePass™ tracks down every available season and episode of a show—whether it’s on television or a streaming app—and creates a customizable watchlist for you. Start with the pilot episode or jump in anywhere mid-season. OnePass even automatically records upcoming episodes and adds them to your list.

    I'm reading that last sentence from TiVo to say that it does, indeed, record episodes from the Roku or Hulu or Sling. I planned on dumping DirecTV, purchasing an antenna for my local broadcast stations, purchasing a TiVo to record series from those stations, and subscribing to a streaming service like Hulu for series on stations like FX and TNT, AND using the TiVo to record those as well. Won't the TiVo be able to do that, or am I misunderstanding something?

    Thank you again for your help. I have a pending comment to you about which antenna to select.

    • I don't think it records it. It uses streaming technology to pull from their services. It's also only going to be from apps that are supported by One Pass. If you want to record shows on those stations, take a look at Sling TV or Hulu TV. They offer cloud DVR for recording those types of shows.

  • Hi Dennis,
    I feel like there is so much info and variables about cutting the cord it's like stepping in quicksand. I'll give you our particulars and ask for your thoughts. We have 4 TV's in the house. Our internet provider is Verizon Fios. We also have one Roku device, one Chrome Cast dongle, Netflix, and Amazon Prime Video. Here is my antenna report:
    I think we would be fine getting the channels down to WPSG-DT the first one listed in yellow/pink. That should be enough
    What antenna's do you recommend?
    My wife records morning shows (ABC,CBS,NBC) every day to watch later after work.
    Which DVR do you suggest, along with ability to watch a recorded show on a different TV.
    Thanks for any help,

    • I'd give the ULTRATenna 80 a try. As for the DVR, I find Tablo to be the best for multi-room.

  • I am ready to cut the cord and have been doing research. Most of the shows we watch are on CBS, enjoy watching sports (NFL, college basketball), not always home to watch shows when they air, have 2 tvs, and would like to get local channels for news. What do you recommend? Do we need an antennae? a DVR? We live about 25 miles from a somewhat large city.

  • I was using Simple.tv till I got an email today saying they are going out of business on August 5th However my Simple.tv Dvr seems to already be deactivated even though my Subscription is good till Nov. When you email Support you get an Auto reply telling you they are Done you are screwed and have a nice life ! No prorated reimbursement just you have 2 days to get a discount on a tivo R which has already expired ...NICE LOL

  • I know I'll probably sound like a bearded old road apple saying this, but Windows 7's Windows Media Center has been the bomb for me for years now.

    I have a five year old PC with Windows 7 Professional, a 2tb hard drive, a halfway decent graphics card with HDMI, a Wi-Fi dongle and a Hauppage TV Tuner card. I connected it to the TV antenna on my roof via coax and to my HDTV via HDMI. I use Windows Media Center to record OTA TV and view downloaded videos.

    It just works. It gets schedule guides over the internet. I can schedule shows, automatically manage them, etc etc. etc. I use an eleven-year-old Window Media Center Remote Control unit that came with an even OLDER PC from 2006. Works just fine.

    The only problem is Windows 7 is getting a little long in the tooth, but it still JUST WORKS, so I'm fine with that. No streaming, no 4K video, but I'm fine with that too. It was cheap to start and it's paid for now.


  • Dennis--thank you so much for all the great info on DVR OTA options--I no longer have any cable or dish subscription---only SlingTV, Hulu and Netflix and an HD Antenna and I have been researching this option.

    One thing I would like to point out---you stated somwhere above that Hulu is also a possibility for people use instead of purchasing a DVR OTA because Hulu shows network TV shows a day after airing-----that is not quite correct and I think people should have the full, complete answer-----

    Hulu DOES have SOME network channels and cable shows that can be watched the day after, HOWEVER (this is the big caveat)----it does NOT have ALL of them available the day after. Some of the shows will not come to Hulu until couple of days or couple of weeks after the current season ends (so you are always a season behind) and sometimes only with a few episodes will be available, not the entire season and some (i.e. the new CBS series "Salvation") is not showing up on Hulu or any other streaming service at this time. Hulu is hit and miss as to what shows it has the following day on current seasons, whether it be from a major network or from a channel like History or Discovery----and there is NO comprehensive, complete breakdown anywhere that lists every show and what Hulu DOES have available for viewing and when (trust me, I've tried to find one).

    I just wanted to comment because Hulu makes it seem like you're going to be able to see any show the day after it airs and that is NOT correct. It's very hit and miss. SlingTV and Netflix is the same with the hit and miss.

    Keep your great information coming and Thank you!

    • Thank-you Lori. I do preface the Hulu section by saying "Depending on the shows a viewer watches . . ." just for that reason. I urge people to try a Mix of Hulu and CBS All Access to see if it meets their needs. (Both offer a free trial.) They may find that it's enough and they do not require a DVR.

  • I'm a 50 year old un-techie. I like it, but don't understand it all. Currently we have U-verse, but I'm thinking of upping our internet to the max offering, dumping U-verse. We currently have some old tube type TVs which we use converter boxes on, and couple of Samsung Smart Tvs, one is an older 3d TV (never have used 3d) with Smart Hub, the other is newer.

    We don't stream on our phones, tablets or notebooks. Our oldest daughter (not living at home) has Netflix and Hulu, which I guess we could sample through her account. We actually have her logged on to the newer TV, but we don't use it currently, she does when she's at home.

    We use the DVR a LOT, but I realize most of the stuff we record will be available, the only thing I question is being able to record the local news and live sporting events like college football and the OKC Thunder. Initially my thought is no DVR and if we need one, something like the HomeWorx box you spoke of in the article.

    • Homeworx is what I would do in your situation. No need for the expensive DVRs if you are going to use it so little.

  • I bought a 2 tuner Tablo used off Ebay and it only picked up a fraction of the channels my OTA antenna did when just hooked up to TV w/ no DVR. I will likely return Tablo and try a new Tivo Roamio. Any reason why these Tablo/Tivo boxes would pick up fewer channels?

    • The two tuners split the signal, so the antenna is feeding 2 tuners instead of the one in your TV. This can usually be compensated for with about 5 dB gain from a preamplifier.

  • Great site Dennis. Really helpful in researching cord cutting.
    Couple Q's about Tablo vs. Channel Master. Tablo has no HDMI connection. Does this compress the signal? Noticeably vs. CM? It seems the advantage of Tablo is easy multi room and device streaming, CM not. The advantage of CM may be uncompressed video and built in streaming services. Also the free guide vs. Tablo paid.
    Also, if more tuners split the signal, I'm more likely to have signal "reception" issues with the Tablo 4 tuner vs. the 2 tuner?
    Thoughts on these issues?

    • Both have to transcode the signal to record it, so it won't be "pure." That said, I haven't done a head to head comparison of video quality for CM and Tablo.

      As for the tuners, treat each one like an added splitter port. In technical terms, it's a 3.5 dB loss for each tuner.

  • You may want to revise your info on the TiVo Mini "requiring" ethernet. This is not true, in fact TiVo recommends using existing coax via MoCa but the fact that it has both options is awesome. You can purchase a TiVo Bridge for $80 and this will allow the internet to be passed through the existing coax in the home to each Mini and the Roamio OTA or Bolt. You may also want to add that each TiVo Mini has a one time fee of $149. Added up per TV it may seem expensive but actually costs less overall than what a person would pay annually for equipment rental fees from cable providers.
    Since TiVo was purchased last year by Rovi this opens it up to becoming a major streaming device as it has already added several Apps to its list since the purchase.

  • Hi Dennis, We are on our second channel master dvr+and are having trouble playing recorded shows. We frequently experience audio skips every 3 or 4 seconds, making play back hard to watch. Half the time it works fine. Our external hard drive is a seagate 5tb. Could that be the problem? When we connected the hard drive, the dvr said it was compatible. We really do like the dvr when it's glitch free.
    Thanks for your help, Dan Olenick

    • It's really hard to troubleshoot over the site. Have you contacted their support?

  • Dennis,
    I currently live with in the country, but am able to receive >78 channels from a small OTA antenna. I currently am unable to get internet though which ( I think) makes most of the popular ota dvr's useless for me. Are there any DVR's that do not require an internet connection? Or if I was able to connect to my phones hotspot just to set the dvr up and then disconnect the hotspot and have the dvr able to record? Any help much appreciated......opening kickoff coming and we have a baseball tourney.

  • All this information is helpful, but seems to emphasize cost vs function.

    My primary concern is the user interface - rather than switching to a variety of input sources, I would like to have one interface that consolidates content from all sources (OTA and Streaming) into a single menu. It would appear that TiVo Bolt does this but I am not certain.

    It may seem silly but could Tablo be used as an OTA input to TiVo which is configured for cable input? If so, it seems that one could have OTA, Cable and Streaming with one interface (TiVo).

    • Tablo has a Roku App. It's what I currently use. It's better suited for Multiroom.

  • Thanks for your article. My setup is FiberOptic to my home/home-office with Roku 3's throughout the house. For content I have Netflix, Amazon Prime, and was using Simple TV for OTA until it's recent Demise. Your article helped me make the decision to switch from the SimpleTV to a Tablo 4 tuner. Very happy with the switch and the Tablo app is decent through my Roku devices and Android phones (so far only used on my LAN but later hope to stream over internet).

    In short, Tablo was a seamless switch from Simple TV (used the same hard drive and antenna) and a significant upgrade...

  • You are a genius but there is so much info here I am still a wee bit lost. I want to cut the cable. Looking at my area I can get all the broadcast channels OTA. I still want MLB TV and the wife wants HGTV, Food, and of course we need HBO. If I get DIRECTV Now I can get those and subscribing to MLB TV is easy. But what is the best way to connect all this and record it? Amazon Fire looks good and works with DIRECTV Now and MLB TV. Use one of the OTA antennas in your article and all I need is to be able to record it...that I think is where I am the most confused. What device would I be able to use to record all three? DIRECTV Now, MLB TV, and off the OTA antenna? And do you agree that Amazon Fire would be a good choice for DIRECTV Now and MLB TV?

    • Thank you, Dan! DirecTV Now is beta testing a cloud DVR so you should be able to record stuff from the service soon. In the meantime, you will have to lean on their on-demand offerings for back content. HBO has their entire back catalog available so there isn't an issue there. Just stream it when you want. MLB.TV also allows you to watch previously aired games, so no DVR needed.I think the Fire is a great option for the services you want, but if you are using the blackout workaround with MLB TV then you will need to watch on your laptop. (Most devices don't easily work with a VPN)

  • I gave up on the newest Tablo Dual and sent it back to Amazon when the Android app simply stopped being able to find the Tablo unit. Uninstalling and reinstalling didn't help. No one was available at Tablo support. Basically, we couldn't re-scan after adjusting the antenna position. One Roku stick we have in one room seemed to work well in searching and playing with it but not being able to connect to the Tablo to control it basically makes it useless. We also discovered that the Tablo unit didn't find as many channels as our other devices/TV's being served by the same antenna. (it found about 2/3rds of what the others find). I think we're going to hold off on OTA wifi-networked DVRs until there's more reliability in the app world. It seems that too many app developers (especially Android types) are faced with too-many versions and simply can't take the time to test on enough devices to make their product even near bullet proof.

  • Thank you for all the good info. I just received my Channel Master DVR, and after connecting it to the antenna, I find that I'm not receiving but one channel vs the six I get with the Mohu Mini connected to the TV. I understand from reading the comments that this is because the signal is split between two tuners. Is an amplifier what I need, and if so, how do I know which one to get? I chose the Channel Master because it has no fees and will stream Sling to my TV, but if a different DVR will get all my local channels, I can return it. I'm also willing to get another antenna if that is the best solution. Thanks for your help.

    • I gave up on the Channel Master DVR+... I just could not get consistent reception with it. I switched to the Tivo Roamio OTA and have been very happy. Tivos tuners are much more refined.

      • Thank you for the recommendation, Mike. I wish I had seen this a few months ago when I could have returned the DVR+. I was unable to find an amp that boosted the signal by the small amount suggested by Dennis, so I purchased an additional antenna (Mohu 50) just for the DVR. This allowed me to receive all but one of my local channels, and gave me the option to record two programs while watching another on the other antenna. Since then, reception has deteriorated on one channel received on the DVR, I received an email from Sling saying that Sling will no longer be available via Channel Master, and I have become less satisfied with the guide, which provides no episode detail and truncates the program titles. I am ready to start over. I have one question for you or Dennis - with my new OTA DVR, how will I get Sling? I assume I will need a Roku or similar device, but both the DVR and Roku use the HDMI port on the TV. I am not willing to give up Sling, as it is the best value for the programming I watch, and I need the DVR because my local channels are not available on any streaming services, and I want to record local news and other programming offered on the secondary digital channels.

        Thanks to you and Dennis for the assistance.

    • I would try an amp. You just need one that boosts the signal about 5 decibels (dB.) Don't go higher than 10 decibels.

  • I currently have U-verse 300 service including a wireless connection to a second tv. Both U-verse receivers are DVRs and the remote location is used exclusively to record shows. To cut the cord, what equipment would be required to provide similar service with OTA tv and adding additional streaming service? Sling appears to offer the most major channel selections that are similar to U-300.

    • Cutting the cord is a bit different than the cable experience. I wouldn't recommend trying to exactly replicate a cable package. I would approach it with which shows do you want to watch.

  • Concerning the Mediasonic HW-150PVR Homeworx:
    - Does it support USB 3.0 thumb drive speed or is it only a 2.0 interface and speed?

    - If record on a thumb drive, can you play it back on a digital TV or Blue Ray player?

    - Is it true that recording on a thumb drive (as opposed to a hdd) produces jerky transmissions or less quality or jerky playbacks?

    - On the pricier OTA DVR's (eg. Roamio, Bolt, Tablo, C.M.) is it true you cannot set recordings manually (date/time/channel) but must you the DVR guide?

    • Hi Gary. The Mediasonic HW-150 PVR is USB 2.0. As for the Thumb drive issue, I haven't tested a thumb drive so I'm not sure. You are correct though on the pricier DVRs. You need the guide to set recordings more than a couple days out.

  • I really like the Tivo Roamio solution but have a big question that I'm unclear on.

    So, the Roamio can record 4 channels at once. My question is can I watch live TV on some other channel without having to have some splitter set up for Roamio and the TV?


    • The number of tuners on the device is equal to the number of shows you can record or watch live. If you are looking to do multi-room, I'd go with the Tablo.

  • Really great information! I appreciate your personal candid thoughts on equipment as it is ever changing almost weekly.

  • My home Wi-Fi is a Verizon Jetpack. Is this practical ? I really only want to be able to see upcoming shows and record OTA TV.

    • You're only pulling guide information through the Tablo. It's not that much data.

  • Hi, can you use the Tivo Roamio without a stable broadband connection? My folks live in a rural area and their broadband connection is 2.5Mbps on the best day but usually more like 1.5Mbps. It's also not very stable and will "drop out" for a few seconds to minutes several times a day or slow down. I got them the Channel Master DVR last year, the one with the built in 1 TB hdd (which isn't offered anymore) but they would like to have the option of watching the recorded content on multiple tvs like they did with Dish. The Roamio would be perfect as long as it doesn't have to depend on stable or fast wifi.

    In case this helps someone else looking at the Channel Master DVR..... When it works it's great but they've had a lot of issues. Had to be reset often. Ended up having to connect external hdd anyway because internal one quit recording. Channel Masters only solution was to reinitialize and wipe the drive, losing all their recorded content. If that didn't fix they would replace it. The warranty period just ended. They had already wiped the drive a time or two when it was new so not very reliable if you keep more than a few hours of content that you're willing to lose. Even after plugging in a brand new hdd (the one they suggest), they've still had to reset it a few times in last few weeks. I've been very disappointed in the quality, especially for the price.

  • Dennis,

    i am trying to cut the cord here in Los Angeles. The TiVo Roamio seems a good part of the solution from your reviews.

    Here is what we want:

    Local channels
    Basic cable channels like cable news, reality shows like HGTV, Food Network, all of them
    DVR to set recording and watch on our schedule

    We don't want premium movie channels, ESPN or any sports. Nothing but the basics.

    How can I can the basic cable channels without cable??


  • Dennis, you were kind enough to answer my question I posted on 11/17, thank you so much for that. I've briefly researched this option since then and want to ask if you feel this option will work with their internet situation I described originally. I'm just confused on how the streaming option will work for them but I'll be super excited if it does. Thanks for your help, I've spent hours and hours trying to figure this out.

    • The streaming is just within your home network so the internet speed doesn't matter. You're network inside the house from device to device will run much faster than your internet connection. There will be some initial slowness for the Tablo to update guide data but actually watching the shows shouldn't be an issue. To be safe, I'd contact Tablo support and make sure.

  • have tried a tablo, channel master dvr+, and tivo 2 tuner. all gave me signal interference on 2 separate tv channels and for some reason i do not understand and cannot find this info on google. have a multi directional antenna(ota)from antennas direct the DB8E extreme long range. i get 22 digital channels, all perfect without the dvr. coax cable is about 50' long, distribution amplifier at 50', and another line for another 25' to bedroom t.v.

    i did get the best results with channel master , so i re-ordered another to try out and also bought a pre amplifier with dual settings(17 and 30 gain). spoke many times with all of those customer support people, they want me to keep moving my antennas, i have a problem with that, since i cannot see how if i get perfect tv channels without them, why that would that help improve the signal from those dvrs. that are causing a problem. any help would be greatly appreciated and MOST WELCOME. OVER THE HILL, BILL

    • Most DVRs have at least 2 tuners built in so you can record on one tuner while watching TV on the other. This is the equivalent of having a splitter in the line. Some things you can try is to shorten the cable length between the antenna and distribution amp.You want to boost the signal as early in the line as possible. I have a 2 TVs and a Tablo. I simply have a 20' cable from the antenna to the Tablo. The Tablo then plugs into my router and I can watch liv and recorded shows on my Rokus through the Tablo app. I don't actually run any coaxial to either TVs. Everything just runs over my network.

  • Cord cutting includes cutting internet. In many areas, you can't get internet without cable tv. What would be the point of an ota dvr if you need the cable/internet connection? I just want to record broadcast as it comes in for later viewing. The technology that was available in the 80s seems unattainable today. Channel master would be perfect-if it worked! 3 out of 3 terra bite devices broke down in a matter of months-none making it a year.

    • You don't need internet for Tablo, you just only get a 24 hr program guide.

  • I've owned the CM DVR+ for about two years, but I bought the one without the internal hard drive and used an external one for greater storage. I haven't had a single hiccup. You don't need the internet to use it, but it takes greater advantage of both OTA and streaming sources if you have Internet available. I can get a reasonably priced internet subscription (because I need it for work), and because I have it, I can get a 14-day program guide and take advantage of the streaming services, too.

    I'm pretty happy with my DVR+

  • I have just eliminated our cable DVR and I'm getting basic channels with no DVR through our cable because I am still using the internet connection from the cable provider. I would like to buy my own DVR, but don't know what the best option is for my situation. I don't want to pay a subscription fee if I can avoid it I only need to see recorded shows on one TV, but would like to be able to watch TV while I am recording a different show if possible. Can you give me a recommendation?

    • If you plan on using it with your cable provider, I would check with that to ensure compatibility. The TiVo Bolt is usually a safe bet.

      • The Tivo Bolt is a little more expensive that I am able to go. I was considering the Roamio because of the price. Do you think that would be sufficient? My cable company is not willing to give me an answer. They want me to continue renting a DVR from them.

        • The Roamio is nice, just make sure you don’t get OTA if you are going to use it with cable. You can contact TiVo support to see if they support your provider.

  • I currently have a channel master for OTA recording, but recently started having issues. I use a hotspot thru my cell phone for guide updates. Would a Tablo be a logical replacement and if so is it reasonable to assume I could use the hot spot for the guide subscription?

  • We are on the verge of getting rid of cable all together and are going to switch to OTA for locals and stream for other entertaining purposes (Netflix, Amazon, Directv Now). I am curious if any of you had issues with data capping the internet providers are using now? I believe att is 1 TB of data a month. Also will the Tablo use alot of data for using in multiple rooms and other devices? Thanks

    • 1 TB should be enough for most cord cutters. An hour of HD video varies a bit based on the technologies used, but Netflix claims an hour of HD video is 3GB an hour, so 10 hours a day of streaming would still leave 100 GB in your cap. That said the Tablo won't use much at all if you are recording from your antenna. The only thing Tablo will use is for the guide data which is minimal.

  • Dennis Thank you so much for helping me to find a DVR Roamio that would work with my TV that has only OTA.I also wanted one that has a tv guide with no cost. I had to pay a little more for it But in the long run it will pay for itself Thanks again

  • Dennis- You haven't made any mention of these "$100 boxes" that are advertised on FB that say they do free streaming. Are they a scam?

    • They aren't technically illegal, but they aren't legal either. They fall within a gray area of the law. I cover this topic in an article on Jailbroken Firesticks which are similar to the android streaming boxes are. It's basically just taking a media player like KODI and installing unofficial plugins which pull content from sources outside the jurisdiction or view of U.S. copyright law.

  • Dennis - Looking to cut the cord (Directv). Your article helped alot as I have been researching all options, setups, equipment, etc, thus causing a brain meltdown. We have one TV. I want to stream and have the capability to view and record OTA and view directly through my Yamaha RX-V667 receiver (example: thru HDMI 1) yet simple enough for my spouse to use. From your article it appears to me that the TiVo Roamio OTA DVR might be the answer?

    • The Roamio is easy to use, as is the Tablo. I use Tablo because it's easier to do Multi-room, but TiVo is perfect if you only have one TV. Now I haven't tried running TiVo through a receiver, but I don't see why that would be an issue. You may want to check with them just in case. The Tablo is accessed through an app on your streaming device, so if your streaming device can run through the receiver then you should be good to go.

  • I am leaning towards buying the Roamio OTA after our cord cutting ceremony. However, it looks to be almost 2 years (May 2016) since any upgrades to the Roamio OTA. It seems like the whole market (OTA DVR) is stagnated. Are there any advances to be put on the market in the next few months? I am an accomplished buyer's remorse guy.

    • DVR tech doesn't typically have to do frequent hardware updates because it's a fairly simple device. However, software improvements are made all the time. Those can be pushed to your current device.

  • Dennis - I am looking to switch from DirecTv to Sling TV and I want to get a stand alone DVR rather than the Sling TV DVR which only has 50-100 hours of storage and cost $5 a month. I have a smart Blueray that I can stream premium channels (Hulu, Amazon Prime, Netflix, etc.), and I should get a channel guide through Sling, so I don't think I need an internet connected DVR, but I am not sure. I will have wifi access as well (25 mbps download). I am also willing to buy an external hard drive for more storage if that is more economical.

    Would you recommend the Tablo, the Channel Master or another product? All I need is somewhere to record live shows. Also, any external hard drives you would recommend? Sorry if any of this is a repeat from a former comment.

    Finally - I see you are a Baltimoron! Same here! Go O's!

    • Go O's Claire!

      As for the streaming services like Sling TV, VUE, and DIRECTV Now, they typically only offer a cloud DVR for licensing reasons. You won't be able to record cable channels with an OTA DVR. These are for recording from an antenna only.

  • Offered FWIW - we've been using a Tablo for better part of a year. It works "well enough". I actually ran across this while researching a replacement. The Tablo is basically irritating. The box runs so hot I made some spacers to elevate it off the shelf. We use Android devices and Chromecast. The Tablo app - v1.4.1 new this week - crashes and restarts when you try to end casting a playback. Also, the app has never been able to cast subsequent recordings, you have to stop casting, exit the app, load the app, select the recording and cast. That gets old real quick. I'm a network engineer and we have a fast in house network and wifi. Also have a big grid antenna with excellect signal capture. Still have to slow the DVR capture rate to get decent playback. Note, do not as yet have network cable to the main TVs. Reason - lazy, nothing else.

    • Thanks for the input. I use mine with a Roku so I don't have the casting issues.

  • I believe one model of the HDHomeRun will record OTA ATCS in uncompressed form, including 5.1 audio. Do the other OTA DVRs do that? And if you use an external hard drive, can the files be copied to your computer (MacBook) from that directly or through the DVR itself, with or without an external hard drive, or are they encrypted or copy protected?

    • 5.1 Audio is available on the TiVo Roamio. TiVo also has a desktop app that allows you to copy files from your TiVo

      • Thank you for your reply. Does the TiVo Bolt also support 5.1 audio? Also, I assume the audio 5.1 audio is uncompressed, is the video also uncompressed as it's recorded from the broadcast signal, and does the app allow it to be downloaded in that uncompressed form for video and audio? I currently use a rather manually operated, no TV Guide subscription (it just reads the title of the current show), discontinued Eye TV app for recording OTA ATSC from an indoor antenna directly into my computer, with a PC TV USB tuner, and for most channels it does an excellent job recording the uncompressed signal, usually 384 Kbps, sometimes 420 Kbps, mp2 with 5.1 audio, into mpg, and I can edit and compact in the app losslessly and export it losslessly in mpg or other re-encoded formats. I did not use this for my own TV viewing, but for recording specific programs. This works well for most channels but for a couple of channels I receive a signal that creates glitches such as freezes or jumps, which ruins the recording. Recently, for some reason, on a normally very reliable station and the signal is still good, for periods of time, say a week or two, I cannot export the recording losslessly from the app, even though it plays fine, and I checked with the station and they said nothing was different. Oddly, I could export re-encoded versions, but that's not what I want. The previous recordings that worked still worked for export. I suspect it has something to do with time stamp issues. In those cases I had to use the native mpg in the app and process it outside of the app; that also sometimes resolves small glitches that sometimes show up in the export but are not visible in the native mpg. I have maintained an OS that is about four generations out of date out of fear that that app won't work in updated OS versions, and I may need to maintain that computer just for this purpose if I get a new one, we will see. It seems that the TiVo or HDHomeRun may be a better, or additional, option in the future.

  • I have been planning to cut the cord for several months, but technology is changing so fast, it's hard to make a plan. One of the features I'm looking for is a simple user interface, i.e., as few remotes as possible. Roku TV has caught my eye in that regard. What are your views on that as a way to centrally control OTA and streamed content? I have an old XBox 360 and use it to access Amazon Prime and Netflix, for which I have subscriptions. I'm also thinking about subscribing to Hulu. We like the basic network channels, plus Hallmark. I would appreciate any insights you may have. Thanks.

    • I also just bought a Roku TV and like it for the same reasons you suggest. Our Dish subscription includes Hallmark also. When we cancel Dish, my wife would like to have access to Hallmark, and I have found that the best option for us (although not the lowest price) is PlayStation Vue (which has a Roku app). Currently, my plan is to use Tablo for OTA channels/recording and use PS Vue, Netflix, and Amazon for everything not OTA. All of them are accessible via Roku. We will have two Roku TVs and one TV with Roku stick.

        • Maybe the list you’ve linked is outdated, because PS Vue’s website distinctly lists Hallmark Channel as part of their Core package. The Elite package includes Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Drama Channel. Neither are included in the (cheapest) Access package. I guess channel offerings could vary by location...?

    • I have 2 Roku TVs for this reason. It has 3 HDMI ports and an antenna port on it. It treats each port like a separate app. Therefore, I just use the Roku Remote to go to the "Xbox" app to play games. If you had 3 games systems plugged in, they would all get their separate "app" in the Roku menu. The same is true with the antenna port. However I have a Tablo DVR. It's connected to my router in another part of the house and live TV is watched on any device using my Tablo app. I use is my Roku remote to do all of this.

  • I'm currently in the process of significantly reducing my Dish expense and I've recently installed a very good antenna that give me good OTA reception in a very rural area. My next step is adding DVR capabilities to the OTA system. It appears that the TiVo Roamio would be best for us because one of our requirements is a good guide with programming-based recording setups. However, I'm having a very difficult time finding Roamio's. TiVo even shows them "out-of-stock". That leaves me with 2 basic questions:

    1. Is there a new model or significant update coming on the Roamio that has them flushing out the supply chain? If so, would it be worth waiting on the new ones? I've tried contacting TiVo Customer Support on this...and found them basically impossible to get in touch with unless you're a customer. That's also raised some red flags with me about this company.

    2. The "free" guide on the Roamio is biggest selling point to me. I've experimented with the bare-bones 1ByOne $40 box and I'm basically the only one who can operate it. Is there another product that offers a guide/user interface as good as the Roamio without subscription fees?

    • Roamio and Tablo offer a one time payment for a lifetime subscription, so it's not free. The TiVO has been hard to get on Amazon lately. Have you tried TiVo's website? I know they have been pushing the more expensive Bolt, but that one seems sparse as well.

      • I thought TiVo did away with the subscription fee on the Roamio. Are you saying there is another one-time fee on top of the $400 purchase price? TiVo is currently showing the Roamio out of stock. That's why I was wondering if they had an update in the works or something.

  • I have to wonder if you actually tried out your top recommendation, the Tablo 2 device? While the specs are impressive with what it SHOULD DO, the software is far from being capable of handling it. Weak signal or a periodic drop in signal from an indoor antenna, recording canceled. Weak signal or blip while watching live TV, box reboots. Their support team told me this is by design to reset everything. Seriously, by design? Tablo takes the R out of DVR - If you schedule a repeating program on the same day you want it to start, you're out of luck it won't record a repeating show on the same day you create the recording, the first day it will record is the following week. I thought I was going cray but It can be repeated easily. Oh if you rescan channels and miss one with a mediocre signal, it deletes any scheduled recordings on that channel, instead of orphaning the schedule, again they told me this is designed this way. Of course these issues didn't exist after buying a high power antenna but the late scheduling of repeating shows as well as all the other issues was enough to convince me this device is not ready for cord cutters who want to watch recorded shows. The forums show the same problems going back to 2015 which is why I finally opted to return the device because it's clear the company is not fixing their software.

    If the device worked as advertised (aka better software) it would be an awesome product.

  • Thanks for the article. I have one comment:
    "Note that the TiVo Mini requires an Ethernet connection to operate." Partially true. According to the TiVo website, they have a MoCa 2.0 device called a Tivo Bridge that utilizes the existing coax in your house instead of Ethernet cables. 1 device will connect your Roamio to any TiVo Minis, as long as there is a coax connection near each TV you are using them with.

    • Yes, that it true, but many cord cutters may not have coaxial. That said. Thank you for the clarification.

  • Hey Dennis, great article, came to my attention as my brother is trying to cut the cord. Are you aware that the Roamio and Mini do NOT need an Ethernet connection for multi-room if you still have coax cable in the house? At least I think so. I'm not a cord cutter as I live in NH where we only have one network broadcast station (ABC) :( I have a Premier XL-4 in the family room connected to Ethernet (via a wireless bridge) and coax. I have a Bolt in the bedroom connected only to coax. Multi room viewing goes via MoCA from box to box and is faster than real time.

    • Yes, I should fix that. I don't have Coaxial and didn't consider that many still do.

  • I'm looking for a device to pause and rewind live tv with an hd antenna, any advice on this one? I do not need to record.

    • On my 32 TCL Roku TV that feature is available only over the air, it constantly records loop fashion onto a USB flash drive in the USB slot. Recording and live rewind should be two distinct functions. I think I have read that some DVR boxes partition the disk drive off, small partition just for 90 minutes of constant loop recording that you don’t have to set. You most likely will get both functions on one of these boxes.

    • You technically have to record in order for this to happen. The live feed is recorded so you can pause and rewind. If that's all you want then I would just get the cheapest DVR you can find. Out of these I'd go with the media sonic.

  • I'm considering purchasing the Roku player. Could I add a DVR to record shows I will later later, or is it unnecessary since the shows are on demand? Also, my TV has two HDMI ports. One is used by the Blue Ray player and the other one is reserved for the Roku. Is there a way to add another HDMI port for the DVR?

    • You shouldn't need a DVR for streaming services. Most are either on demand or offer a cloud DVR within your subscription. As for the HDMI port issue, I would go with Tablo. That connects to your router and not directly through the TV. You simply install the Tablo App on your Roku and watch through your network.

  • How old is this report? Looking at Channel Master's site, the DVR+ is discontinued. Replacing it but not shipping until April is the Stream+ with a price of $150, no subscription. While the DVR+ did compete with the Roamio, the Stream+, technical specs are more inline with the Bolt (less the cable functions since Stream+ is OTA only).

    • The Tablo and Tivo information is up to date. I was waiting for the Stream Plus+ to come out before updating, but since you noticed I'll put a note in the article.

  • I am 75 yrs. old and have 0 technical knowledge. After thousands of dollars later, I finally had the nerve to cut off cable. I bought an outside antenna and am very happy with it - I get 135 clear channels. However, I miss the tv guide that cable provided and the dvr where I could record several shows at the same time I could watch regular tv. My dilemma is this . . .
    1. Need to record a minimum of 2 or 3 shows and while it's recording, I want to be able to watch regular tv.
    2. Dvr must be able to be connected straight to the tv (not the antenna on the roof)
    3. Would be nice to have a weekly tv guide on the dvr
    4. Need to be able to watch the recordings on a different tv from the one that it was recorded on.
    5. Do not want to pay any more subscriptions
    6. Must offer time and date
    In other words, I want the dvr to be like the one I had with Direct TV before I cut them off - is that possible?
    Taking into consideration all of the above, which dvr meets my needs - unless it costs an arm and a leg, price is not that big a deal. i did keep Direct TV internet/landline. I have Sony KDL46EX640 Edge LED with wi-fi adapter; Sony KDL46HX750 with built-in wi-fi, and Panasonic Viera Plasma and use a 3d blu-ray player with built-in wi-fi. I've tried to figure it out myself but it is extremely confusing. I would really appreciate it if you would suggest the best dvr for my purposes and where I could buy it. Thank you for any help you can give me.

    • I am also a senior, but not quite 75. Looking at your list, needs some flexibility but potentially doable if physically possible. First, there are only 4 choices in two groups based on their approach. You can eliminate the first group - HomeWorx and Tablo - they both require a subscription for a TV guide and neither physically attach to the TV. However, they excel at the multi tv playback in any room. The way they work is roof antenna to device which is physically connected to the home network router port, then each TV's smart device (Roku, etc) is able to receive wirelessly over the network.

      The second group may better meet your needs, but not 100%. The Tivo Romano and Channel Master Stream+ (and the discontinued DVR+ if you can find one) so not require subscription while the Tivo Bolt does, eliminating it. They all connect to the antenna (disconnect antenna line from TV and connect to DVR - no splitting required) then the DVR connects to the TV HDMI input. That actually simplifies the system somewhat as no longer need change TV inputs between antenna and streaming device - assuming the DVR includes the desired streaming service. Tivo is probably the most comprehensive with 6 tuners can record/view up to 6 simultaneously, while Stream+ has 2 tuners for two simultaneous - but remember, the other TV is independent with both systems so can watch live there while recording 2. Multi room viewing is an issue with both. Stream+ is so new (pre-order for second shipment) that the jury is out on exactly what it will do on multi room (not in marketing material) or extended/portable storage (USB applications 'planned'). That leaves Tivo which is also the most expensive option of the 4, typically $399 for the unit, and for multi room $180 per room for the Mini unit. The other complication of multi room is Tivo apparently can't be 100% wireless with Mini units as the Romano needs to be physically connected to the network (independently can be wireless) which may require running a network cable (CAT5e or CAT6) to that room is not already wired (probably not).

    • I'm confused. The Antenna has to be connected to the antenna. It needs to receive the channels.

  • I use a 4-tuner Tablo with a 2TB USB drive to record live shows from my single antenna. This has worked great streaming to all my Fire TV enabled TV's.

    I recently purchased a Nvidia Shield that works with the Tablo as well. However, now I am working on building a Plex Server to store and access all my media. In your article on DVR's you mentioned that Plex and Tablo will work together to store shows. I have worked with them both some but have not yet figured out how to do that. What am I missing?

  • Hi Dennis,
    Really great article! I'm cutting cable this month and I'm planning to build my own DVR using the article listed at the bottom of this post as a guide. I was wondering if you see any potential holes/drawbacks in the plan below before I buy the materials. This was the cheapest way I could think of to access and record HDTV without a subscription service. Thanks so much!

    Step 1: Connect Mohu Leaf 30 HDTV Antenna (linked below) to Hauppauge TV Tuner dongle (linked below).
    Step 2: Connect Hauppauge TV Tuner dongle to personal PC to record live via onto 1TB external hard drive.
    Step 3: Connect personal computer (via MicroHDMI to HDMI cord) to TV, use WinTV V8 (free download with Hauppauge purchase) as TV navigator/directory.

    Article for building personal DVR: http://www.gomohu.com/blog/cutting-the-cord/build-your-own-over-the-air-dvr/
    Mohu Leaf TV Adapter: https://www.amazon.com/Mohu-Paper-thin-Reversible-Performance-MH-110583/dp/B004QK7HI8/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1523366816&sr=8-4&keywords=mohu+antenna&dpID=317WfLjh7aL&preST=_SX300_QL70_&dpSrc=srch
    Hauppauge TV Tuner: https://www.amazon.com/Hauppauge-1191-WinTV-HVR-955Q-Tuner-Notebook/dp/B015IL0FIW?th=1

    • The WinTV solution looks viable. I personally haven't tried this. I used to run a Linux based PVR, but once I got a Tablo I just used that. I find it a lot more convenient. Home made solutions can require a but of upkeep.

  • Thank you for all of the great information. We are looking to cut the cord from DirectTv. I love the DVR function of it and would like to keep an easy interface. We are looking to use an HD antenna, but do not have great internet service. We are looking to cut it as well and use a hotspot for wifi. Do we need internet for the DVR? What do you recommend? Thank you!

    • You don't need internet for something like the Media sonic. What is your current bandwidth?

  • Hi Dennis

    Are all TiVo's subscription-free? Do you get a free lifetime guide with all models? I am interested in the Roamio VOX. How will I know if you've responded to my question?

    • You should be able to get a lifetime sub with the models in this guide.

  • Hi Dennis,

    I purchased a Channel Master DVR+ when I first cut the cord, mainly because it could stream Sling. Now it no longer streams Sling, and the problems I have with the DVR+ are no longer worth putting up with. The two biggest problems I have with it are that it does not pick up all the local channels that my Mohu Leaf gets. I even bought a Mohu 50 to use with the DVR+, but that did not improve the reception. I also dislike the guide because it truncates program names and offers no additional information about the program.

    So now I'm looking at the TiVo Roamio and the Tablo. I read somewhere that someone's Roamio got more channels than antenna connected directly to the TV, an this idea makes me happy. But, the Roamio does not stream Sling, and I understand that the Tablo does. I have a Roku stick and a 1 Tb hard drive, so there is basicly no difference in cost to me, once I add the lifetime guide subscription to the Tablo, and I only have one TV (I am very old), so I don't need all the extras provided or purchased for watching on multiple TVs.

    I am most interested in finding out which of these two DVRs has the best reception, and which one has the best guide, but I can't find this information anywhere. Can you help?



    • It's more about the antenna than the DVR. Keep in mind, the more tuners in the device the more the signal will need to be split.