If you live in a place that has decent access to TV channels, it is simple and affordable to set up a TV antenna to get the shows you want without having to pay for cabling. However, with rising rates from cable, satellite, and over-the-top (OTT) online video-on-demand services alike, cord-cutting tends to increase in popularity.
The DVR is therefore attached to this over-the-air antenna, allowing the full capacity of these television broadcasts to be unlocked: you can store them later, save advertisements and even download them to watch on or off various TV channels.
While a great way to access content is to subscribe to Netflix and Hulu, an over-the-air (OTA) TV tuner allows you to watch free live television from local broadcast stations. Even if you can simply hook up an OTA antenna with an RF input to most televisions, adding a digital video recorder enables the option to save recordings for later viewing.
What to Look for in an OTA DVR
Tons of considerations exist when you want to select a DVR recorder. First, consider how many TV tuners you are going to need. While some HD digital video recorders can handle a single stream, others can handle multiple stream broadcasting and recording. With an HDMI output, a TV recording device can be hooked directly onto a TV or Projector.
However, you might want a full-home and out-of-home Internet OTA DVR. Client device compatibility is important if you use a DVR for OTA antennas that includes a Wi-Fi or Ethernet connection. For example, you must ensure you are able to stream to devices like phones, tablets, PCs, Roku, and Android TV boxes. Software is also important.
Many DVRs have channel guides and a recording center. A number of DVRs deliver paying apps in the same manner, while DVRs can also be found without subscription fees. Although DVR boxes are stored, others require hard drives or flash drives supplied by users to save records.
Often for the independent, clutter-free experience, certain DVRs can accommodate internal hard drives or flash drives while other drives only take external drives. Cost is a major buying consideration. Since an over-the-air DVR should be a one-time purchase and you theoretically save money, you should still save on cost over time even in the spring for a high-end model.
When searching for a cord-cutting digital video recorder, there are seven excellent OTA DVR items to consider: Amazon Fire TV Recast, TiVo Edge, SiliconDust HDHomeRun Scribe Quatro, AirTV 2, MediaSonic Homeworx, Tablo Dual Lite, and Tablo Quad. Each of them has its own special DVR, tuning functions, and skills. Take a look at the best choices of OTA DVR.
Amazon Fire TV Recast
The Fire TV and the Fire TV Cube are among the most user-friendly streaming boxes on the Planet, Amazon is streaming products. Amazon Fire TV Recast is also a state-of-the-art digital HD video recorder. It’s a great digital cable-cutter video recorder.
Two separate versions of the Fire TV Recast are offered: a 500GB Dual Tuner and a 1TB V-tuner. The first setup is a breeze, and the channel guide is awesome. Fantastic content and excellent remote viewing would be your favorite picture.
It’s not ideal — the OTA DVR still needs a streaming device for Fire TV Sticks, and Prime membership is useful too but its mix of versatility and flexibility has put it above the air. It is a network that broadcasts DVR like AirTV 2 and Tablo DVR, which ensures that you don’t link directly to a TV. Rather it transmits to TVs and your mobile device.
The Fire TV Recast is reasonably pricey, but unlike the AirTV 2, it at least comes with an onboard hard drive. The two tuners sell for $230 for 500 GB Fire TV Recast, whilst the four tuners for 1 GB are about $280.
That is not inexpensive, but it’s a solid investment, both in hard drive storage and in the absence of paid applications. And unlike the Tablo, there is no monthly charge for this streaming system to have full DVR capabilities.
While the versatility of Amazon Alexa is included, Alexa’s voice search is not as effective as the search for a handbook. Unfortunately, even though you have a tuner model, it’s limited to two rival streams. Nonetheless, the Fire TV Recast is a superb, user-friendly system that prevents any app subscriptions and provides storage space for DVRs.
- Includes DVR hard drive space (500GB or 1TB)
- Excellent integration with Amazon Fire TV devices and Amazon Alexa voice commands
- Dual and Quad-tuner versions available
- Out-of-home-viewing quality is amazing
- Great streaming performance
- No software subscription
- Can convert interlaced 30 FPS signals to 720p 60 FPS
- Only two concurrent streams
- Requires an Amazon Fire TV device hooked up to your TV or projector to function
TiVo always played the best role of its basics. There is no other DVR that controls the shows to catch and how to archive them, and no other DVR makes live TV streaming so comfortable. The TiVo Edge for Antenna acts as the set-top box of your cable provider using a conventional remote control and an HDMI cable that links to your TV or A/V.
The TiVo’s distinctive auto-record feature and storage space of 500GB mean that everything still needs to be watched – this is a much greater advantage when faced with fewer channels than the cable or satellite. With each channel specifically named, the conventional On-Screen Guide has a wonderful designation. We really like choices like voice-enabled search and the opportunity to pursue anything to enjoy while you continue to play your current TV station.
Also in recent months, TiVo has introduced an automated commercial skip option so that you do not need to press the “Skip” button on the remote at any break. However while TiVo still relies on human editors to classify advertisements, it does not support ad-skipping even though this method is more precise than ad-detecting algorithms which some other DVRs use.
The latest ATSC 3.0 OTA specifications do not yet support Dolby Vision but make a significant improvement if the Edge is used as the streaming media player. Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos won’t do much to boost your OTA experience though.
There are preloaded streaming sites such as Netflix, Plex, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, and Hulu, so you certainly won’t need a third-party box like an Apple TV or a Chromecast, saving you money while simplifying your setup.
For each additional TV, you can expand your TiVo experience to other household TVs that need a $200 TiVo Mini Lux, but you can also download the TiVo app for your smartphone or tablet that allows you to access and control your TiVo content from either iOS or Android device.
- Top-notch DVR recording and viewing options
- Much quieter than earlier TiVos
- Curved body replaced with common flat design
- Setup is straightforward and user friendly.
- Compatible with TiVo Mini and Mini VOX
- The antenna edition has a remote backlit version.
- 4K video output
- OTA antenna connectivity
- Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos support
- Four-tuner DVR
- Holds up to 300 hours of HD video
- OnePass aggregates episodes, including subscription platforms, from many outlets.
- Remote finder is useful.
- Recordings receive pre-roll video advertising
- Whole-home DVR still needs pricey add-on boxes
Nuvyyo Tablo Quad DVR
The Nuvyyo Tablo Quad DVR is an excellent digital video recorder. As its name suggests, with a massive four concurrent sources or records, the Tablo Quad boasts four over-the-air tuners. It is an awesome machine that can stream content to a range of users, such as streaming devices, smart TVs, PCs, laptops, or tablets. What is more, for a clutter-free system, there’s internal hard drive space.
General usage is simple, and facilities such as ad-skipping and a channel guide are included in Tablo’s program. Since the Tablo Quad provides access to Ethernet and Wi-Fi, you can put it anywhere in your house. But when you’re running an OTA antenna straight into the DVR, it’s better to position the Tablo Quad where you’ll get the best antenna reception.
Although there is space for a hard disk in the Tablo Quad, DVR storage is not integrated. You should instead connect your own with a 2.5-inch internal drive that blends neatly into the DVR itself or via an external USB drive. Cloud DVR Storage is available, but $5 USD a month prices outweigh the hard drive’s cost.
Tablo bundles a 30-day free TV-guide subscription, and then monthly retail for $5, $50, or a lifetime subscription for $150. A TV guide, which should be good for the average person, is also given for the Tablo free standard. Although it is impossible to blame Tablo for it the commercial skipping feature of Tablo’s applications is not optimal. Taking live TV means a lot of moving pieces, after all.
Frustratingly, web servers, Android TV, Fire TV, and handheld devices including telephones and tablets are only available for home viewing. Therefore, no support for Roku or Apple TV. The Tablo quad cannot play video interlaced with 60 frames per second (FPS) such as 480i or 1080i streams. It is a drawback of interlaced signals that are sent to the Table itself in 30 frames per second.
It needs to be re-encoded on the fly for a 60 FPS 1080i stream. The regular spectator may not be conscious, but power users and moviegoers may note, particularly in sports. However, with its combination of performance and ease of use, Nuvyyo Tablo Quad DVR is worth the money. And for all needs and budgets, including the Tablo Dual 128 GB with a 128 GB hard disk and Quad 1 TB with, you guessed right, a 1 TB hard drive, Tablo provides a wide variety of items.
- Built-in room for a 2.5″ HDD
- USB available for external hard drives
- Wi-Fi and Ethernet for a place-anywhere installation
- Four OTA TV tuners
- Excellent Tablo software with a channel guide and ad-skip
- Cloud storage available
- Out-of-home streaming
- Lots of compatible devices (Roku, Android TV, Android, iOS, Fire TV, smart TVs, PCs)
- 1 surround sound on devices that support any necessary codecs
- 24 hour TV guide for free, no subscription required
- Can’t do 60 FPS for interlaced (480i, 1080i) content which would require on-the-fly re-encoding
- 1 Surround sound support relies on the compatibility of codecs with client devices.
SiliconDust HDHomeRun Scribe Quatro
It has never been easy or inexpensive for cord-cutters to set up an over-the-air DVR that offers the highest possible image quality on several televisions. This gives Silicon Dust’s HDHomeRun Scribe DVR a wide-open chance.
HDHomeRun Scribe DVRs from SiliconDust are eventually testing the correct cost and consistency boxes, capturing full quality over-the-air channels and streaming content from other home-connected TV devices like Roku players, Fire TV sticks, and more. The equipment is still relatively costly, starting at $200 for the remainder of the transmitter, as for a DVR service of $35 per year.
The downside is, as always the functionality of HDHomeRun, which has changed but remains more difficult to deal with and less usable than other over-air DVRs. If the scribe is accurate depends on how many you are prepared to tolerate.
The HDHomeRun Scribe does not enable you to have your storage or your own server hardware as opposed to HDHomeRun’s Attach and Expand tuners. Rather the recording unit, TV tuner, and 1TB of storage are all combined in a single package. You only need to supply an inside or outside model over the air antenna. Installation is also virtually plug-in. Once the antenna has been screwed, the box is plugged in and attached with an Ethernet cable to your router.
As the Scribe streams over the Wi-Fi to other devices in the home, you must connect the DVR boxes with a wired Ethernet link to your router. This approach would be a non-starter if your router is in a basement closet or other place where you cannot put up an antenna and get decent reception, and you don’t have Ethernet strung to that location.
For Live TV, HDHomeRun also uses, instead of a standard grid, a modern programming manual. Programs appear on the right side of the website on a strip and a summary and potential listings are currently illuminated for each channel. Elsewhere, it can be cryptic or inconsistent with the HDHomeRun interface. There is no graphic preview or even a replay readout as you instantly move on or bypass a program. This means that it is impossible to decide what to do when a commercial break happens.
- Best-in-class Plex DVR compatibility
- Can be used with SiliconDust software
- Four tuner
- Includes 1TB HDD space
- Easy to use
- Fantastic video quality
- Compatible with the HDHomeRun CONNECT 4K
- Clunky software for SiliconDust (not an issue if using Plex DVR)
You can watch a free TV channel on your TV with a digital converter or a tuner box, as it is sometimes referred to, whether you have an older tube TV or a flat-screen with no digital TV tuners. There are actually multiple converter boxes with exactly the same functionality. Mediasonic HOMEWORX offers the same features as more luxurious boxes for a mere 35 bucks, but it is a cheaper unit.
In other options like Tablo and TiVo Roamio OTA, this $ 35 kit, mainly digital to analog, has no advanced features. The menu layout is slow and often confusing, there are no easy ways of addressing gaps in the scheme and even some fundamental tasks like the weekdays are choreographic.
However, it is one of the cheapest means of recording a cable-free televised channel at $35. And since the Mediasonic HOMEWORX HW180STB stores record on external hard drives in a Windows-recognizable format, PC owners can archive their recordings on the go.
The Homeworx is large than most TV boxes but smaller than a TV or cable channel. Attach any antenna and then watch live TV channels on a TV with HDMI or composite footage. It helps to record the connection of an external USB hard drive. And if a converter box doesn’t fit with a DVR, it will be handy to connect to a USB drive to avoid live TV.
The only feature deemed advanced is the ability to delete a disk, link to a computer, and catch the video files contained in the Mediasonic Homeworx HW180STB. Both the Windows Media Player and Windows 10’s Movies & TV Player support this format, which helps you to bring your files to your screen. You can also upload the files to a mobile program that plays MTS files like iOS VLC and Android.
- No subscription fees
- HDMI output, composite video output, RF antenna output
- Antenna input
- USB input
- Recordings mounted on external drives in DRM-free formats
- Compact, small footprint
- No included storage
- Lacks internal hard drive bay, only external storage via front-facing USB port
The AirTV 2 Player offers a free DVR over-the-air with its Sling TV app. The feature is currently beta but supports serial registrations, including overrun capacity. And if you’ve captured the same show on a cable channel from Sling’s cloud DVR, the over-the-air recordings would appear on the same menu.
The AirTV 2 is a full redesign with less space to launch and a smarter look. Like a modern cable modem, it sits upright but is much smaller, it can be 2.3 cm wide, 5 cm high and 6.5 cm deep. The machine has two online tuners so that it is easy to record or watch two channels simultaneously.
However, the beta has some boundaries. You can’t set manual records, add buffer times, automatically uninstall previous shows, or stream a TV show on other devices, as with Live Channels. But the biggest downside is that you’ll use the official AirTV Tuner for overhead channels.
Be aware that AirTV does not record streaming channels, only local ones, so if you are a Sling subscriber, you would be limited to non-antenna streaming channels such as TNT, ESPN, CNN, and other channels.
If you are preparing to become a long-term Sling TV operator, AirTV 2 has a very high benefit. It makes this unit a super-cheap DVR because while the absence of the live pause and browser support is limiting, the AirTV is still running without a Sling subscription. For cord-cutters who want to download their antenna TV, AirTV is a great value of $99 plus almost $50 for the hard disk. The best thing is, however, there is no monthly AirTV2 subscription fee.
- The AirTV 2 is inexpensive and is easily paired with the Sling TV.
- Doesn’t require a Sling TV subscription.
- No monthly fee.
- Supports video out-of-home though it’s only one stream
- Doesn’t include a hard drive.
- DVR can’t pause live local TV.
First, it is very simple to install and use Tablo Dual-Lite. The app-based interface is clean and clear, and it helps you to select which of the available channels you want to add to your guide, instead of thinking you want them all, after a short search. However, the biggest benefit of Tablo is that it is capable of being put anywhere, whether or not next to your TV or router. The Tablo just requires an antenna connection and electricity, unlike other receivers that have to be linked to your antenna, hardwired to your router, and often attached to your TV. It has, in reality, no TV output at all.
Instead of that Tablo transmits your OTA channels from an Apple TV 4th Gen or Roku media system. You do not need an additional computer if you have the right smart TV. This is the entire range of supported computers, which is expansive and allows for nearly all, other than the console owners of PlayStation.
Two OTA tuners allow the Tablo Dual Lite to simultaneously receive and record two separate channels, but not just two units. Up to six devices will track content simultaneously, based on the speed of your home network. When many of us see content on our phones and laptops, there are a lot of potential displays powered by a single recipient.
The Dual Lite does not have an internal capacity, but this increases its flexibility: By merely inserting your own USB flash drive you can determine how much storage you want. However, you need some kind of room, even though you do not want to record shows.
Tablo alone grants you the opportunity to store and broadcast any OTA material you get for 24 hours. You will get 14 days of information on the rules, enhanced recording capabilities (e.g. instant commercial skip or the possibility to record two minutes sooner or later), and a must-have option for regular flyers with a subscription fee of $5 per month, $50 per year or one-time $150 cost: remote control feature for access from anywhere on the whole system with decent Internet connectivity.
Tablo just introduced the $150 dual HDMI anytime you choose to connect an OTA receiver to your TV using a remote system such as Edge for Antenna. It’s all the same features like a dual Lite, except you don’t need a Tablo program to see the contents log and live on your TV! So one of the simplest, cheapest ways to make your OTA channels available is to use Tablo Dual Lite DVR.
- Streams TV to lots of devices.
- Many options for browsing and capturing TV shows.
- An inexpensive cord-cutting option.
- On just about any smartphone, the Tablo app is available.
- Video and audio streams are worse than broadcast quality.
- No ad-skipping features
The Bottom Line
An over-the-air tuner is a great way of saving cash. They are considered as one of the strongest investments for cord-cutters with a single upfront expense and sometimes, no subscription fees. And an OTA DVR TV tuner stores records like a conventional optical video recorder for cable or Satellite applications.
You have a wide variety of options from DVRs with a single tuner to a quad-tuner with integrated storage. You should really check the aforementioned OTA tuners before buying one.