Feature-rich update on the Roamio line with 4K capability, recording capacity up to 150 hours, commercial skip mode, and optional out-of-home streaming. Interface is effortless to use. Connects to TV via HDMI.
Whole-home capability requires additional purchase of a TiVo Mini. Setup can take a few hours. Skip mode doesn’t work on all TV programs. OTA only; no cable capability.
Has lots of capabilities considering the budget-friendly price, including HDMI connectivity, easy recording, and versatility. MP4 and JPEG compatible. Small footprint.
It's a bit confusing to set up and instructions are lacking, but customer service is attentive. Internal hard drive is a separate purchase.
Very responsive, springy unit that’s easy to set up and use. Has over-the-air and cable options.
Half the recording capacity of the Bolt OTA. Subscription to TiVo is required to use DVR features. A bit buggy when using core streaming apps like Hulu or YouTube.
Provides whole-home DVR with no subscription needed. Has two tuners for over-the-air reception from separate antenna. Connects to WiFi easily and has Ethernet input and USB port. Ongoing manufacturer support and upgrades keep firmware current.
Setup works best on iOS devices; can be kludgy on Windows or Android. Using an external drive may be a trial-and-error process.
Records up to 450 hours of HD content and up to six shows simultaneously. Easy installation and setup takes about an hour, including cable setup. Fast, responsive menu.
TiVo service subscription required. No OTA component. Tends to run hot. Alexa integration can be confusing.
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The way we consume TV has changed — no one is tuning in to their favorite shows at specific times anymore. Instead, people are recording them on their digital video recorders (DVRs), so they can watch when they want and skip the commercials.
Most people rent their DVRs from their cable TV providers, but there are better, more flexible, and more affordable options out there, as well as a host of options for cord-cutters who want to record shows from their local broadcast TV stations.
No matter what kind of TV you want to record, there are some great options out there — and there are definitely a few to avoid as well. Here’s everything you need to know to tell the difference.
Not sure what to look for in a DVR or how to narrow down your search? Start with these questions:
So what separates the good DVRs from the amazing ones? It comes down to a few key features.
With a DVR that’s connected to an over-the-air antenna, you’ll be able to record your favorite shows in crystal-clear HD that will look significantly better than anything you’ll see from a cable box.
Entry-level DVRs usually cost between $150 and $200. In this price range, you’ll find DVRs for over-the-air TV, but they often have clunky interfaces or require you to spend more and bring your own file storage space. Some CableCARD™-compatible DVRs can be found in this price range.
DVRs between $200 and $500 pull out all the stops. They’ve got built-in apps, tons of tuners, and often support streaming to mobile devices — even if they’re not on your WiFi network. If you record everything, binge everything, and rewatch everything (or if you’re a home theater nut who wants the user experience available), look at the DVRs in this range.
Most DVRs require a monthly subscription fee for program guide information. You’ll need this so your DVR knows when your shows will be on — it will be nearly useless without it.
Amazon’s Fire TV Recast does a lot to innovate the over-the-air DVR category: it’s an all-in-one over-the-air DVR solution that works with voice commands. You can get it with four tuners and an impressive 1TB of storage space, so you’ll never miss an episode, and you’ll be able to stream from as many other devices as you like. Naturally, the real star of the show is Alexa, who can take voice commands from any Alexa-supported device — and that includes your smartphone. Now for the perfect binge session with your DVR, all you have to do is ask.
The Sling Media AirTV is the perfect companion device for subscribers of the Sling TV streaming service. It takes the cable-TV-over-the-internet channels that users love and integrates them with a DVR for local channels. This device is the dream: local channels and streaming cable TV all living together in harmony on one platform. If you’re a Sling TV subscriber, this is a must.
Q. How much space does a typical hour of TV take up on a DVR?
A. An hour of high-definition programming will usually consume anywhere between 1.5GB and 5GB. The size will depend on the quality of your recording — for example, most DVRs allow you to record in lower resolutions to conserve space, but if you want to see every original pixel, your recordings will be on the large side.
Q. Can I watch my DVR recordings on other devices like my smartphone?
A. Most DVRs include support for streaming recorded content to other devices. In most cases, it’s usually limited to streaming on your local network, so you’ll need to make sure both your DVR and the device you want to watch content on are on the same network. Some high-end DVRs support streaming from anywhere, so you can stream to your phone when you’re on the go or stream to your laptop while you’re at work (not that we encourage that sort of thing).
Q. Are over-the-air broadcast channels in 4K?
A. Not yet. The technical standards for antenna broadcasts are currently based on the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) 2.0 standard. Testing and planning are underway for the upcoming new standard: ATSC 3.0. ATSC 3.0 will support 4K over-the-air broadcasts. There’s no current timeline for when it will be implemented.
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