“What about a channel guide and a DVR?” … are questions we’ve been asked following our previous articles on cord cutting and streaming television technologies. For many people, the lack of a channel guide and a DVR (Digital Video Recorder) is a real deal breaker when considering cord cutting. People who use a DVR as part of their regular viewing routine may think giving up the ability to control what and when they watch television is not worth cord cutting.
No need to panic though…cord cutting does not mean you have to give up this functionality. However, instead of your cable or satellite provider leasing you a DVR that you pay for each and every month, you will have to do a little research and buy one of the off-air DVRs available today. While these options are not as robust in comparison to established cable and satellite offerings, most cord cutters seem to be willing to deal with some short-comings in order to save money and take control of their television viewing.
We should mention that we have not tested any of these off-air DVR products. Instead, we researched this information and if you are interested in any of these products, please do your own due diligence by researching further which option might work for you.
With that said, our research found multiple DVR products that work with off-air programming that allow you to watch your favorite shows on your own time schedule. However, the ability to record over-the-top streaming services such as Sling TV and DirecTV Now does not seem to be integrated. Media releases indicate that these services are working on developing their own cloud-based DVR options. If they become available, a person should have DVR capability of all their television viewing.
Based on Internet reviewers, the off-air DVR’s that have gained the most attention are TiVo’s Roamio OTA DVR, Tablo from Nuvyyo, the ChannelMaster DVR+ and Simple.TV. Each of these DVR’s have their own unique qualities such as commercial skipping, integrated streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon and Wi-Fi capabilities. Spending a little time on these company’s respective websites will be well worth it. Additionally, there are also other recording options for the more technically inclined, such as a computer with recording software.
We found that most reviewers leaned toward the TiVo Roamio OTA, as it may be the most robust when it comes user interface. The TiVo website shows features like a Unified Search & Watchlist, Skip Mode (for skipping commercials), a Quick Mode for speeding up viewing, as well as the ability to record up to 4 shows at once. The TiVo Roamio OTA DVR also includes streaming apps like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon. The Tablo OTA DVR is also highly rated, but does not connect directly to your television; rather it connects to your home network and can be broadcast to your television via devices such as Chromecast, Roku, Amazon Fire or AppleTV. This is a nice choice for multi-room configurations or if you wish to view your television on your phone, tablet or computer. The last two DVR’s we researched, ChannelMaster DVR+ and Simple.TV, are solid basic DVRs. ChannelMaster appears to get the nod here over Simple.TV as its product is subscription free, and has a full channel guide and offers both integrated and external hard-drive options. With the Simple.TV you have to supply the hard-drive.
The bottom line is that there are DVR solutions available that will still allow you to control your television viewing and time-shift however you wish. Most of the DVR’s also come with a channel guide for recording ease, however, there may be a monthly fee. One thing to keep in mind is that not all DVR’s offer Wi-Fi connectivity, which can be a big benefit. And lastly, if you wish to record shows on a single DVR using a combination of off-air broadcast and a streaming service like Sling TV and DirecTV Now, you will have to wait for that integration.