As TiVo degrades their consumer DVR experience, and generally hasn’t morphed into the digital lifestyle company some had hoped for, folks are seeking out alternatives. And, for cord cutters, there are several great options to enjoy and manage that free antenna television… with or without an actual antenna.
First, most of the streaming aggregators (YouTube TV, SlingTV, etc) now provide access to local affiliates of national broadcasters (ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC) along with varying degrees of DVR capabilities. In fact, Hulu Live’s recent moves are led by TiVo alumnus Jim Denney.
For those those who’d prefer a home-based OTA DVR to round out their video toolbox, I’ve got several suggestions. While I’d prefer my recommendations had the ability to connect directly to a television, these are all of the “headless” network tuner variety. Yet, given relatively low price of streaming boxes many already likely own (Roku, Fire TV, Apple TV), it’s not really a burden and actually allows preferable placement for maximum indoor antenna receptivity. Beyond streaming set-tops, my top selections all also provide iOS and Android mobile device access.
The Best OTA DVR
Tie: Tablo & HDHomeRun with Channels
We’re huge fans of both Tablo and Channels — you can’t go wrong with either solution. They’re both well-rounded, full-featured DVRs that include niceties such as advanced scheduling, commercial skip, and out-of-home access. Both are also a bit more geeky than TiVo as they are network tuners and require add-on storage, but implementation is well within the conception and skills of most. Channels ($8/mo) DVR software runs on whatever you have, from computer to NAS to Raspberry PI, and streams the live television from HDHomeRun hardware ($100 and up). Unfortunately, most HDHomeRun hardware requires an Ethernet connection and Channels only provides clients for Apple TV and Fire TV. By comparison, Tablo hardware ($150 and up + $5/mo) includes WiFi and additional clients, such as Roku and Xbox One.
The Best Fee-Free OTA DVR
Amazon TV Recast
Amazon is a relative newcomer to this space with the Recast DVR ($230 and up). It’s not quite as full featured as my top picks (but improving) and only streams to Fire TV devices and televisions, with their cluttered, inefficient presentation. HOWEVER it has the benefit of ZERO FEES.
Beyond my faves, there are additional ways to solve this problem and some will prefer the following: