Right here’s the exhausting fact for cord-cutters proper now: The best over-the-air DVR doesn’t exist.
Whereas some merchandise are higher than others, all of them—from Tablo to TiVo to HDHomeRun with Plex—have a minimum of one essential weak spot. If you wish to report broadcast TV channels from an antenna, you should resolve which of these weaknesses you’ll tolerate.
DVR patrons cheat sheet
Our quick-hit suggestions:
The excellent news is that the lowly antenna is experiencing a rebirth, and we’re prone to see much more over-the-air DVR merchandise. However if you wish to begin recording broadcast channels now, right here’s a rundown of the place the present merchandise stand.
Up to date November 17, 2020 so as to add our AirTV Wherever overview. This system is best than the earlier iteration, but it surely’s nonetheless fairly common in comparison with one of the best competitors, and the producer nonetheless hasn’t addressed our earlier criticisms. For sure, it doesn’t knock any of our present prime picks off their thrones.
[ Further reading: The best media streaming devices ]
The most effective OTA DVR for many cord-cutters
In case you don’t want 4 over-the-air tuners, the Tablo Twin Lite DVR—our earlier prime decide on this class—stays a compelling worth. The Tablo Quad DVR is barely dearer, but it surely makes the fewest trade-offs and of any product on this class. We do have a couple of nits to choose—interlaced video can’t play again at 60 frames per second, and there’s a restricted variety of streaming containers you need to use for out-of-home viewing—however in a area that doesn’t embody the proper OTA DVR, the Tablo Quad DVR comes the closest.
There’s rather a lot to love right here, particularly for cord-cutters who’ve made Hearth TV units their media streamers of selection, however there are additionally sufficient shortcomings to restrict the Hearth TV Recast (which is accessible in each 75- and 150-hour SKUs) to our runner-up decide on this class.
Finest OTA DVR for energy customers
Channels DVR isn’t the best software program to put in, it requires rather a lot in the best way of cord-cutting infrastructure to help it, and its costly. All that mentioned, it’ll reward these energy customers who make the funding in money and time with one of the best TV entertainmnet expertise you should purchase.
What to search for in an over-the-air DVR
Evaluating over-the-air DVR options is hard, as a result of there are such a lot of elements that may make or break the expertise. If you wish to examine additional, listed below are some elements to think about:
Advert-skipping options: Promoting continues to be a staple of broadcast TV, however some DVRs present instruments that will help you skip them. TiVo is one of the best on this regard, offering an auto-skip button for some applications, and a 30-second skip button for every little thing else.
Antenna placement choices: Over-the-air DVR is ineffective in case your antenna can’t obtain channels, so until you’ve received coaxial cable wired to the roof, you’ll must arrange your DVR in a spot with stable indoor antenna reception. Tablo can function wherever in the home, HDHomeRun have to be wired to your router, and TiVo and Channel Grasp are tied to your tv. Plan accordingly.
Granular recording choices: Maybe you’d wish to preserve solely a sure variety of current episodes, or substitute your recordings with higher-resolution variations when accessible. Not all DVRs are equal within the recording controls they supply. Our full critiques will present extra particulars.
Reside TV time-shifting and catch-up: Need to pause for snack breaks? How about watching partway by way of a program so you’ll be able to skip the commercials? Most DVR options help such a time-shifting, however HDHomeRun and Plex presently don’t.
Variety of tuners: Extra tuners means extra simultaneous recordings or dwell viewings. TiVo has 4 tuners, Tablo has two- and four-tuner choices, and HDHomeRun helps you to daisy-chain a number of dual-tuner models collectively.
Out-of-home streaming: Tablo and Plex each assist you to watch dwell and recorded TV from exterior the home. TiVo requires a $130 TiVo Stream for cellular system entry.
Storage choices: Excluding TiVo Roamio OTA, all of the DVRs we reviewed help storage on exterior exhausting drives. Tablo has additionally began beta testing a cloud-based storage service, however we don’t but know what it’ll price, and we haven’t examined it but.
Complete-home help: Until you solely plan to observe on a single tv, you’ll need a whole-home system, which suggests shopping for a networked tuner (Tablo or HDHomeRun) or organising extenders (equivalent to TiVo’s $150 Mini models).
Streaming service integration: Most of the DVR merchandise we’ve reviewed are whole-home options that you just entry by way of apps in your current streaming units. In these circumstances, you’ll be able to entry all of your favourite streaming providers alongside over-the-air video with out having to modify inputs. TiVo is a notable exception. It helps some main streaming providers equivalent to Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu, however you’ll nonetheless want a separate streaming field to entry others, equivalent to Sling TV and Philo.
OTA DVR options nonetheless in growth
The over-the-air DVR house ought to get extra aggressive over time. In case you’re on the fence about at present’s options, listed below are some future developments (as of April 2018) to think about:
Tablo LIVE and cloud DVR: Tablo was imagined to launch a $99 networked tuner with cloud DVR capabilities final yr, however thus far it hasn’t materialized. You’re most likely higher off with the $140 Tablo Twin Lite anyway, since it might probably report as much as two channels at a time and has a tough drive for native storage.
HDHomeRun Join Duo+ and DVR enhancements: SiliconDust’s personal DVR service didn’t fare effectively in our overview earlier this yr, however the firm says an interface overhaul is on the best way. SiliconDust can also be engaged on a brand new dual-tuner mannequin with a built-in recording engine and 250GB of storage, making it extra of a direct competitor to Tablo. The corporate is concentrating on mid-2018 for the latter, although it has a historical past of delaying merchandise that aren’t ship-shape.
AirTV Native Channels DVR: AirTV’s essential hook is the way it combines over-the-air channels and Sling TV’s streaming cable channels right into a single TV information. Earlier this yr, AirTV started testing DVR for over-the-air channels, and all you must allow it’s an exterior exhausting drive. As a beta function, it nonetheless has some main limitations—you’ll be able to’t watch recordings till they’re full, as an example—but it surely might turn into a killer answer for cord-cutters who’re uninterested in switching between apps.
ATSC 3.0: This yr, broadcasters are beginning to check a brand new broadcast TV normal known as ATSC 3.0 (often known as “Subsequent Gen TV”). The brand new normal can help 4K HDR video, higher encompass sound, interactive options, and simpler entry on telephones and tablets. On the draw back, ATSC 3.0 received’t work with current tuners on at present’s over-the-air DVR options. This isn’t an instantaneous concern, since any channel that adopts ATSC 3.0 must simulcast within the present normal for 5 years, and thus far testing has solely begun in Phoenix, Ariz. Over-the-air DVR units are nonetheless value shopping for, however remember that they most likely received’t work without end.
Our OTA DVR critiques