Right here’s the laborious 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 at the least one essential weak spot. If you wish to file broadcast TV channels from an antenna, you could resolve which of these weaknesses you’ll tolerate.
DVR consumers cheat sheet
Our quick-hit suggestions:
- Greatest OTA DVR for most individuals:Nuvyyo Tablo Quad DVR
- Greatest OTA DVR for energy customers:Plex DVR[plex.com]
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 18, 2019 so as to add our overview of the all-new TiVo Edge DVR. Discover out why we take into account this once-great DVR to be on the decline.[ Further reading: The best media streaming devices ]
One of the best 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 costlier, however it makes the fewest trade-offs and of any product on this class. We do have just a few nits to select—interlaced video can’t play again at 60 frames per second, and there’s a restricted variety of streaming packing containers you should use for out-of-home viewing—however in a discipline that doesn’t embrace the proper OTA DVR, the Tablo Quad DVR comes the closest.
There’s loads to love right here, particularly for cord-cutters who’ve made Fireplace TV gadgets their media streamers of alternative, however there are additionally sufficient shortcomings to restrict the Fireplace TV Recast (which is accessible in each 75- and 150-hour SKUs) to our runner-up decide on this class.
Greatest OTA DVR for energy customers
If organising a DVR utilizing Plex was extra simple, it might be our no-reservations prime decide. Because it stands, putting in a Plex-based DVR is a frightening course of involving merchandise from at the least three different producers (you’ll want a TV tuner; a TV antenna; and a set-top field, NAS field, or private laptop). That blend can result in difficult-to-troubleshoot issues.
Upon getting the whole lot assembled, you’ll have a powerfully extensible system that delivers granular management over the recording and recording-management processes. However one in all belongings you received’t get with a Plex DVR is a grid-based channel information on most gadgets. (Plex lately added a information to its internet app and says it’s coming to different platforms, however hasn’t given a timeline.) This in-depth overview ought to aid you resolve if the trade-offs are value it.
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 here are some elements to contemplate:
Advert-skipping options: Promoting continues to be a staple of broadcast TV, however some DVRs present instruments that can assist you skip them. TiVo is the very best on this regard, offering an auto-skip button for some applications, and a 30-second skip button for the whole lot else.
Antenna placement choices: Over-the-air DVR is ineffective in case your antenna can’t obtain channels, so except you’ve obtained coaxial cable wired to the roof, you’ll must arrange your DVR in a spot with stable indoor antenna reception. Tablo can function anyplace 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 change your recordings with higher-resolution variations when out there. Not all DVRs are equal within the recording controls they supply. Our full evaluations will present extra particulars.
Dwell TV time-shifting and catch-up: Need to pause for snack breaks? How about watching partway by means of a program so you may skip the commercials? Most DVR options help this kind of time-shifting, however HDHomeRun and Plex at the moment don’t.
Variety of tuners: Extra tuners means extra simultaneous recordings or stay viewings. TiVo has 4 tuners, Tablo has two- and four-tuner choices, and HDHomeRun permits you to daisy-chain a number of dual-tuner items collectively.
Out-of-home streaming: Tablo and Plex each will let you watch stay and recorded TV from outdoors the home. TiVo requires a $130 TiVo Stream for cellular gadget entry.
Storage choices: Except TiVo Roamio OTA, all of the DVRs we reviewed help storage on exterior laborious drives. Tablo has additionally began beta testing a cloud-based storage service, however we don’t but know what it’ll value, and we haven’t examined it but.
Entire-home help: Except you solely plan to observe on a single tv, you’ll desire a whole-home system, which implies shopping for a networked tuner (Tablo or HDHomeRun) or organising extenders (resembling TiVo’s $150 Mini items).
Streaming service integration: Lots of the DVR merchandise we’ve reviewed are whole-home options that you simply entry through apps in your present streaming gadgets. In these instances, you may entry all of your favourite streaming companies alongside over-the-air video with out having to modify inputs. TiVo is a notable exception. It helps some main streaming companies resembling Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu, however you’ll nonetheless want a separate streaming field to entry others, resembling 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 the moment’s options, listed here are some future developments (as of April 2018) to contemplate:
Tablo LIVE and cloud DVR: Tablo was purported to launch a $99 networked tuner with cloud DVR capabilities final 12 months, however to this point it hasn’t materialized. You’re in all probability higher off with the $140 Tablo Twin Lite anyway, since it could possibly file 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 nicely in our overview earlier this 12 months, however the firm says an interface overhaul is on the best way. SiliconDust can 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 predominant 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 12 months, AirTV started testing DVR for over-the-air channels, and all you’ll want to allow it’s an exterior laborious drive. As a beta function, it nonetheless has some main limitations—you may’t watch recordings till they’re full, for example—however it may change into a killer answer for cord-cutters who’re uninterested in switching between apps.
ATSC 3.0: This 12 months, broadcasters are beginning to take a look at a brand new broadcast TV commonplace known as ATSC 3.0 (also called “Subsequent Gen TV”). The brand new commonplace can help 4K HDR video, higher encompass sound, interactive options, and simpler entry on telephones and tablets. On the draw back, ATSC 3.Zero received’t work with present tuners on at the moment’s over-the-air DVR options. This isn’t a right away concern, since any channel that adopts ATSC 3.Zero must simulcast within the present commonplace for 5 years, and to this point testing has solely begun in Phoenix, Ariz. Over-the-air DVR gadgets are nonetheless value shopping for, however remember that they in all probability received’t work eternally.