If you just cut the cord, but still want to use a DVR, then you are in in good company. Luckily, there are quite a few options available that will enable you to record Over-The-Air (OTA) channels from an antenna onto a DVR. In my case, I am able to record all the major broadcast channels – ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, and also some local PBS channels with a simple indoor antenna. Find out which channels you can get for free with an antenna.
Tivo Roamio: Easiest to Setup
For ease of setup and use, the Tivo Roamio OTA VOX is the best option. This is all you’ll need:
|Winegard FL5500A FlatWave Amped Digital HD Indoor Amplified TV Antenna (4K Ready / ATSC 3.0 Ready / High-VHF / UHF), 50 Mile Long Range |
This simple to install indoor antenna provides good reception of both UHF and VHF signals. The amplifier can make a big difference for receiving weaker signals.
|TiVo Roamio OTA 1 TB DVR – With No Monthly Service Fees – Digital Video Recorder and Streaming Media Player (Renewed) This model is discontinued, but refurbished units are still available from Amazon. It is still the best deal since it includes the lifetime subscription. This DVR works for both OTA (over-the-air) broadcast signals and streaming (Netflix, Hulu, etc…). There is a newer model called the TiVo Bolt OTA, but it will require a $70 per year subscription or $250 lifetime subscription fee.|
Plug the antenna into the Tivo, and you’re done! More info on TiVo DVRs for cordcutters.
Tablo 4: Best for watching on multiple TVs or other devices (tablets, phones, etc…)
If you want to access your Over-the-air DVR recording from multiple TVs, or from you tablet or phone, then the Tablo 2 or Tablo 4 systems are a great choice. This type of system scales cheaply – to add another TV you just buy a FireTV stick. You can also do some of this with a Tivo by buying Tivo Mini’s, but it will end up costing more.
Two-tuner DVR system
Four-tuner DVR system.
Home-Theater PC: Best for maximum flexibility
If you want system a that can work as DVR, and also run as a full-fledged media server, then you want to build your own Home-theater PC. Basically this is a computer with software and hardware that enables it to run as a DVR, and also do anything else that a PC can do. This article describes a simple way to build one.
This table compares the cost and features between various OTA (over-the-air) DVR options for cordcutters. In addition to the options discussed above, I’ve also included the Amazon Recast which can be a good choice if you already have a FireTV Stick or Echo Show. I’ve priced the options that I think that make the most sense (for example paying for the lifetime subscription for the Tablo, and buying 2TB external HD space). Prices in this table are updated daily from Amazon.
OTA DVR Comparison Table
|Hardware||Tablo 2-tuner||Tablo 4-tuner||TiVo Roamio OTA||TiVo Bolt OTA||2-Tuner Amazon Recast||4-Tuner Amazon Recast||Win7 HTPC|
|Ext. HD (2TB)||60||60||includes|
|Streaming Device / Tuner||30||30||0||0||30||30||69|
|Cost per extra TV||30||30||180||180||30||30||*|
- Hover over or click the cost numbers in the table to see what hardware it is for.
- Here are directions on how build the Win7 HTPC option.