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Recording Broadcast TV with the Channel Master DVR+ (Discontinued)

By Brian
Published 12/07/2014
 | Updated 04/16/2021

NOTE: This product has been discontinued.

The Channel Master DVR+ has been my top choice for folks who want to record broadcast TV from an antenna and watch it on a single TV. This unit has now been replaced by the Stream+. But, I'm keeping this review up for folks who might still want to purchase the DVR+ used.

What It Is

The DVR+ will record live broadcast TV to an external hard drive (or internal, if you buy the version with built-in drive), from the antenna connected to it. I used it with the Mohu Leaf. It has a channel guide that allows you to see up to two weeks in the future, and easily schedule recordings during that time. It allows you to pause live TV and fast forward or rewind to the point where you started watching that channel.

The DVR+ has HDMI output only. It will NOT work with an older tube TV without an adapter.

What You Get

The DVR+ unit (without internal storage) costs $249 direct from Channel Master. I purchased mine with 2-day shipping for around $13 and it arrived on my doorstep on time.

In the package, you get the DVR+ unit, a sleek black metal box smaller than a notebook, an IR remote control, power adapter, and manual. Here’s my unboxing video if you’d like to see more:

The rear panel has coax antenna in (where you plug in your antenna), digital audio out, HDMI out, Ethernet, two USB 2.0 ports (one for hard drive and one for Wi-Fi adapter), 12V power, and IR extender input.

Channel Master DVR+ rear panel

Total Cost of Ownership

There is a version of the DVR+ with 1TB hard drive included.  If you are not tech-savvy, and don't want to mess with hard drives, you can get that. But, a better value is to attach your own hard drive to the unit.

Because I’m a bit of a computer geek, I had an old external hard drive lying around that I could use with the DVR+. But if you don’t have one, you can purchase one  for around $60.  You can even use a USB thumb drive if you have one of those, as long it is of decent storage capacity.

To get its channel guide data, the DVR+ has to be connected to the Internet. If you go with wired Ethernet, you’ll need an Ethernet cable to go to your router. If you want Wi-Fi, you’ll have to purchase the optional USB Wi-Fi adapter for $39.

Finally, you’ll need an HDMI cable to connect from your DVR+ to your TV.

Assuming you don’t have any of the accessories already, the real total cost of the DVR+ system becomes kind of pricy:

$249 (DRV+) + $60 (hard drive) + $39 (Wi-Fi adapter) + $10 HDMI + $13 shipping = $371.

Add tax, and we’re close to $400. So, if you don’t already own some of the required accessories, the DVR+ is expensive. But is it worth it?  Read on.

Setup

There is some setup involved, but it’s not too hard. You’ll need to connect your antenna to the DVR+, then connect your DVR+ to your TV. Finally, plug in the power adapter. You can plug in the hard drive later.

Configuration for the DVR+ was very easy. I powered it on using the remote. I proceeded to do a channel scan. My DVR+ found a whopping 98 channels in the Los Angeles area with the Mohu Leaf antenna. I’ll do more testing and add to this review when I have some comparison data.

I selected the language and entered my zip code (it was nice having the numeric keypad of the remote instead of having to use a letter-picker).

I used the wired-Ethernet version, so I did not have to enter a Wi-Fi password. If you use the Wi-Fi adapter, you’ll need to enter your password.

The DVR+ will work without Internet access. You'll still have crude channel guide, but of course no Internet-based channels, and no software updates.

Watching Live TV

Before long, I was watching live TV! The remote control was pretty intuitive. Pressing the “Guide” button brought up the channel guide which was simple but made sense. A few minor gripes though. It takes a second or two for the guide to come up when you press the “Guide” button. It takes two presses of the “OK” button to switch channels: one to select the channel, and another to tell the DVR+ that you want to watch the channel instead of record it. These are not showstoppers.

Channel Master DVR+ channel guide
Channel guide. You need to press the Info button to get more detailed info on the show.

I verified that I was able to pause live TV, fast forward, and rewind to the point at which I had started watching that channel. These functions were pretty responsive. No hiccups or crashes here.

A few minor beefs: The remote buttons for these functions are at the bottom of the remote, making them a bit cumbersome to use while holding the remote in your hand. In addition, the Play button is not between the RW and FF buttons, but below, which seemed non-intuitive to me. Not a big deal.

TiVo does have a small killer feature that I wish DVR+ had. When you fast forward to skip over commercials, and then you resume play, the TiVo will start playback of the video a few seconds BEFORE the point at which you pressed the play button. This is because you always overshoot by a bit. This would have been great to have on the DVR+.

In its favor, let me say that the DVR+ powers on very fast. You don’t have to sit through a long the bootup process, something that really annoys me. The DVR+ starts playing live TV in seconds after you power up.

Recording

Okay, next it was time to plug in the hard drive to do some serious recording. I plugged in a really old (10+ year old) drive to make sure this would work with any old drive and it seemed to work fine. The DVR+ asked if I wanted to format it, and I proceeded. That’s really it! After that, you can start selecting programs to record.

Recording went smoothly.  The DVR+ has two tuners so you can watch one show while recording another.

It also has a "season pass" feature where you can record all shows with the same name automatically, so you don't have to remember to set up the recording each week.

Note that the hard drive format is different from what your computer or laptop uses, so unfortunately, you can’t just plug it into your computer and copy the video files without using special software.

Also note that the DVR+ will only record from your broadcast TV antenna.  It won't record from the Internet, Roku, Chromecast, and so forth.

Other Services

The DVR+ offers a few Internet video services: Vudu for paid movies and video, Pandora for music, and YouTube, which was a pleasant surprise to me. They also just announced the addition of Sling TV!

It would have been great if the DVR+ also had Hulu Plus, Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, and other services. (I wouldn't be surprised to see those coming soon). But as is, you’ll have to get a Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, or Chromecast for most of those services.

Reliability

A big concern with these hard-drive-based DVRs is reliability. Some of the lesser-known competitors have been known to crash often, corrupt video, and so forth. I have read about some problems that people have had with the unit (i.e., losing their recordings), but these have been relatively rare. The firmware in the DVR+ seems “fully baked”. I did get it to fail with an error the first time I tried YouTube. But after that it has been fine. For the most part, the DVR+ has good reviews with respect to reliability. I’ll report any problems I find, but so far so good.

During my testing, Channel Master pushed down a software update for the DVR+, which I did. It took a while, but it went smoothly with no problems.

The Bottom Line

I would say that the Channel Master DVR+ is the best DVR for broadcast TV which does not have a dreaded monthly fee. TiVo has a superior user interface, but the $14.99 per month fee is a showstopper for me.

Yes, the total cost of the DVR+ is closer to $400 when you include all of the necessary accessories. It’s pricey, but that’s the cost of about five months of cable TV for most people. If you are using an antenna right now and want to be able to record shows, I’d highly recommend the DVR+!

In addition, the DVR+ is the only over-the-air DVR that will work without an Internet connection! - Brian

If You Have Multiple TVs...

If you need a whole-home recording solution for multiple TVs, I recommend Tablo. It requires a Roku box for each TV, but you only need one Tablo for all of the TVs in your home. As an added bonus, it's wireless, so no need to string up an antenna cable to your TVs!

Tell me about your experience with the DVR+ or other video recorders below! - Brian

Disclosure: Some of the links on this page are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. I test or research each product or service before endorsing. This site is not owned by any retailer or manufacturer. I own this site and the opinions expressed here are mine. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Did You Like This Article?

Brian Shim, DisableMyCable.com
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Check out my other site, thefrugalnoodle.com, with ideas on saving money and living simply.

Ask a Question or Tell Me Your Story

If you have a question about this article, leave a comment below. I personally read and answer each one. If you want advice on TV reception, leave your zip code. 

When you comment, you'll automatically receive replies by email. Your email address will not be displayed.

I'd also love to hear how you're saving money on TV. Tell me your story!  Thanks! - Brian
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128 Comments
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Steve Theim
Steve Theim
6 years ago

Love this dvr, closest thing to the cable dvr we had with comcast, I hear they are working on full house add on units like tivo, but without the silly monthly fee.

Brian
6 years ago
Reply to  Steve Theim

Hi Steve,

Thanks for your comments - totally agree! Yeah, I'm looking forward to their whole-home unit.

Brian

John
John
6 years ago
Reply to  Brian

Brian:
I am in Surprise, AZ. I have joined! I cut the cable. Have a Winegard FlatWaveAIR antenna. It is outside and only about 14 x 14 inches x 4 inches deep. Picture is better than cable.
For DVR I purchased used TIVO with lifetime subscription on ebay. It also gives netflix, amazon, youtube, etc for less than you paid for Channel Master.

alli
alli
6 years ago

Why is it legal to record to a DVR but not to download from the internet?

Brian
6 years ago
Reply to  alli

Hi Alli,

I am no lawyer, but I think what scares the companies about Internet distribution and download is the ability to easily distribute programs to a large number of people. They don't seem to mind recording a show for personal viewing as much.

Thanks,
Brian

alli
alli
6 years ago
Reply to  Brian

I appreciate your remark. It just seems silly as you can watch most shows after the fact on the internet at network websites.

ocass66
ocass66
6 years ago
Reply to  alli

When people record programs using a DVR they still tune into the program, and the commercials are also recorded so they get ad revenue. When people post movies illegally the ad revenue goes to the poster and not the movie company. At least, I think this is why.

alli
alli
6 years ago
Reply to  ocass66

Thank you for an answer. I think this is funny because no one with a DVR watches the commercials anyway.

wantingbalance
wantingbalance
6 years ago

Brian, following up on your request. We bought the Wireless Tablo 4 tuner digital recorder that operates off a digital antenna, a Chrome Cast, a 40-mile digital antenna and a Western Digital 1T portable drive (Tablo does not have an internal drive). We also bought the life time "guide" from Tablo that gives a 14-day view of selected channel schedules. Now at 72 hours later, pleased to report that the Tablo was as easy to setup as the Chromecast, was recording available public TV shows in 4 hours including high definition and watched with great results. I added a Chromecast to each TV in the house and can use either my phone or an android tablet to control each room individually. I now have everything cable had to offer except for the infomercials and a few cable stations that were not worth the cost that AT&T was now asking. Cancelled AT&T u-Verse today (kept the internet). Payback of the initial investment in 3 months.

Brian
6 years ago
Reply to  wantingbalance

Hi Wantingbalance,

That is awesome!!!! Thank you so much for sharing your story!! I'm going to recommend Tablo TV as a viable solution for whole-home TV recording.

Thanks,
Brian

Joycelyn
Joycelyn
6 years ago

Hi Brian, I have a JVC VHS/DVD Combo recordable unit. It worked fine for recording my TV stations for quite awhile but I'm having problems finding readable/re-writeable CD-RWs. The last set I brought kept a screeching sound. So my question is, if I get this Channel Master DVR, I'll need to continue using this unit to be able to watch DVDs. How would I set all these units up together? Oh, and I hooked the Combo unit up to an old Bose Wave Radio/CD to be able to get stereo sound for movies. Thanks in advance for your response. - Joycelyn

Brian
6 years ago
Reply to  Joycelyn

Hi Joycelyn,

The Channel Master DVR+ uses HDMI output, and your TV should have multiple HDMI inputs to plug into. Or, if your DVD player has composite video output, that should be fine too. Either way, your TV should be able to handle both types of inputs. Check your TV manual or your TV's rear panel to be sure.

Thanks,
Brian

Joycelyn
Joycelyn
6 years ago
Reply to  Brian

Thank you Brian. I will check them out.

Marine77
Marine77
6 years ago

Hi Brian,
I've made the decision to cut the cord & decided on the CM DVR+. Your site has the best info by far. I read in several articles that Channel Master was developing a whole home DVR. Does your contact have any updates on that? I want to have DVR access in 2 rooms. Would a MoCA bridge work? Purchasing 2 DVR+ puts the cost out of reach for me. My wife likes the whole home DVR we currently have (DTV). I have to find some way to keep her happy (Happy wife, happy life). Thanks for all of your info & help.
Regards,

Brian
6 years ago
Reply to  Marine77

Hi Marine77,

Great question. I have asked my contact at Channel Master about this. I'll get back to you if/when I get an answer.

Thanks,
Brian

Brian
6 years ago
Reply to  Marine77

Hi Marine77,

I just got an answer from my contact! (Fast, huh?) Here's what he said:

It's on the product road map, so yes eventually we will have a Whole home solution, I just cant say when, might be later this year or early next.

Thanks,
Brian

Marine77
Marine77
6 years ago
Reply to  Brian

Thanks Brian, That was fast. Did your contact mention if it would be compatible with the current DVR+? I'm still trying to work on a solution to have it available in 2 rooms.

Brian
6 years ago
Reply to  Marine77

My contact said it would be compatible, but I am not sure exactly what that means. Probably the drives will be compatible so that you can swap your current recordings to the new unit. That is my guess.

Thanks,
Brian

wantingbalance
wantingbalance
6 years ago

If I understand correctly, I will need a DVR for each room and record on individual units or have multiple DVR's and move the storage (ie, from den to bedroom) or move the DVR and storage to the desired room. Is this correct? If I wanted to go to the trouble of running USB cable in my home through a hub, could more than one DVR operate off the same storage device at the same time?

Brian
6 years ago
Reply to  wantingbalance

Hi wantingbalance,

Yes, you would need a DVR+ in each room. And, to watch a recorded show, you would have to move the external hard drive to the DVR+ that you want to watch it on. Not sure about the hub compatibility. Let me try to find out the answer and get back to you.

Brian

wantingbalance
wantingbalance
6 years ago
Reply to  Brian

I'm willing to cut the cord but would like to maintain maximum flexibility in multiple room access (currently 3 using ATT uVerse and wireless). It looks like the best I can do with channel master is have a box in each room and then move the storage with me. Cumbersome. What are your thoughts on Tablo 4-Tuner with my internal wireless enabled and simply add a Chromecast (or similar) dongle?

Brian
6 years ago
Reply to  wantingbalance

I think that is a great idea. But, I've never run multiple Chromecasts on the same network... Maybe just check to see if that would cause any issues and is do-able. I only have one Chromecast. Let us know how this turns out if you have a moment...

Brian

Nuzum Jimmy
Nuzum Jimmy
6 years ago

THAT BOX SHE BE $50 YOUR $25

Nuzum Jimmy
Nuzum Jimmy
6 years ago

TO MUCH MONEY DUMD ASS $400

Guest
Guest
6 years ago
Reply to  Nuzum Jimmy

WHAT THINKING MAY OUT COME OUT YOUR ASS NOT RICH PPL MAY U ARE IM NOT

Tom
Tom
6 years ago

Can I use my old TiVo with lifetime and a antenna to record local channels?

Brian
6 years ago
Reply to  Tom

Hi Tom,

It depends on which TiVo model you have. Look in the "Antenna or OTA" section of these charts to see if your TiVo can take over-the-air antenna signals:
http://support.tivo.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/300

Thanks,
Brian

Pam S.
Pam S.
6 years ago

After over 30 years as a Comcast customer, I cut the cable cord three weeks ago and it is extremely liberating! I had enough of down time and freezing screens only to be hit with increase after increase. To anybody who is on the fence, DO IT! You truly do NOT need cable companies to view satisfying television programming. I've subscribed to internet/wifi through Verizon at $45 a month, purchased a Roku and Mohu antenna, subscribe to Netflix and Hulu. My $240 monthly entertainment cost is now $61 a month. Quite a savings! The crazy thing, if Comcast had kept my monthly at $203 when i called them after seeing the increase to $230 in January, I would have stayed! So glad they said they could not - after thirty plus years, they lost a $200 a month customer. I was the 'guinea pig' for making the transition among my family and friends. Now most of them will be following me!! Thank you for your review of the Channel Master DVR...my next purchase!

Pam S.
Pam S.
6 years ago
Reply to  Pam S.

FYI, some of my numbers look off...i'll explain. Comcast bill as of 12/31 - $203. After 1/1/15 increase, $230. I've been a Netflix Subscriber at $11.99 (cost for using over two devices). I rounded the monthly entertainment cost to $240 for ease. My new monthly entertainment cost after cutting the cord is actually $65...I added wrong in my first post. Oops, sorry! If Comcast had kept me at $203, I would have stayed therefore they lost a $200 (rounding again) a month customer. Fools.

Brian
6 years ago
Reply to  Pam S.

Thanks for sharing your story Pam! Congrats on saving so much money!

Brian

Dawn Iley
Dawn Iley
6 years ago

Ok this is all fine, but you didn't include the price of internet to the equation. How can you use the Wi-fi adapter without internet? And this box isn't all that great if it only gives you 2 hours of recording. Who only does 2 hours? I certainly don't have time to watch all my shows during the week. So I have about 40 hours plus of viewing. There is always some drawback to "free".

Brian
6 years ago
Reply to  Dawn Iley

Hi Dawn,

Internet access is only required if you want the channel guide. You can use it without it, but most people have Internet already.

It is true that you need to get an external drive if you want more storage, and I do mention that in the article.

Brian

Jenny
Jenny
6 years ago

I'm thinking of canceling my DirecTV. Would my old DirecTV DVR box work for recording, rather than purchasing the CM?

Brian
6 years ago
Reply to  Jenny

Hi Jenny,

I doubt that it has a built-in tuner to accept broadcast TV signals.

You could always give it a try by using a crude temporary antenna:
https://www.disablemycable.com/quick_test.php

Thanks,
Brian

Anonymous
Anonymous
7 years ago

Hi Brian. I so want to cut the cord and have been looking at both the Channel Master DVR+ and indoor aentennas. I have a couple of questions. Firstly, is there some way to find out exactly how to do a channel scan on my particular LG smart TV? When I tried, I lost all of my channels (via Cable) and couldn't get them back. Eventually, they came back on there own so if I try again then I want to make sure I do it right. Then, if I get that figured out, I do not have a convenient place to put something like the Leaf antenna and was thinking about the Channel Master CM-3000HD indoor / outdoor HDTV Antenna. Is that a good alternative? It would be on the same stand as my television and not hanging on a wall. Lastly, I have a USB wi-fi dongle from a Logitech wireless keyboard that is plugged into the back of my television. Would that same dongle work with the Channel Master+ or does the wi-fi dongle have to be product specific? Thank you for any help you can offer.

Anonymous
Anonymous
7 years ago
Reply to  Anonymous

Any Logitech dongle is not wifi, it is a proprietary wireless device. It will not work with the Channel Master.

Anonymous
Anonymous
7 years ago
Reply to  Anonymous

Thanks. :-(

Anonymous
Anonymous
7 years ago
Reply to  Brian

Thanks, Brian.

Debra
Debra
7 years ago

Hi Brian, we did it, we cut the cord from direct and dish this week. So I have a question for you.

Is there a way to get Bravo, E, TLC, ID, Tru, WE, DIY, OWN etc channels without having a cable provider?

Thanks!

Deb

Mark
Mark
7 years ago

Thanks for the valuable info Brian. I will be cutting the cord soon thanks to you! Question: I have a couple tvs in my house and would like the flexibility to record on one and watch on another. What is the best way to do this with the Channel Master unit? Assuming I get 2 Channel Master DVRs, and I use an external hard drive, could I simply unplug it from one DVR and plug it into another and watch the show or will the CM DVR not like that? Does the hard drive need to stay paired with the DVR? Thanks!

Brian Shim
Brian Shim
7 years ago
Reply to  Mark

Hi Mark,

I just got an answer from Channel Master. You can plug a drive from one DVR+ into a different one and have it play fine. It can be read by any DVR+.

Thanks,
Brian

Mark
Mark
7 years ago
Reply to  Brian Shim

Brian, thanks so much! I think that will work well for me.I appreciate your time and info on this subject.

Mark

Allen Eddington
Allen Eddington
7 years ago

Brian, I want to replace my aging VCR with a DVR, but don't want to loose some of the cable programs my family watches. Can I keep cable and hook it up to this and record the cable channels the same way?

Brian Shim
Brian Shim
7 years ago

Hi Allen,

That is a great question. My answer is "I don't think so". I don't see any provisions for recording cable TV on the DVR+.

Thanks,
Brian

Frank Kelleher
Frank Kelleher
7 years ago

Thanks, this is very helpful information. I wonder if it would record live events from WatchESPN via Roku or Chromecast/tablet.

Roberta
7 years ago
Reply to  Brian

Hello, thank you for clarifying what I am understanding to be ---you can only record the tv shows that come through from your attached antenna.

So how does one record shows coming through Amazon Fire or streaming sports etc? Thank you

Anonymous
Anonymous
7 years ago

How well would this unit function without an internet connection. Would I get an on screen programming guide to set recordings from? A lot of people live outside cities and do not have access to high speed internet. (Think dial-up). I don't need EtherNetFlix, Pandora's WiFi Box, or Google chrome polish. I just want to record a football game in 1080p.

Nelson
Nelson
7 years ago

Hello Brian I am cord cutter as well and just found your site! Very Nice! Was wondering if you have continued using the DVR+ and if you are still satisfied with the product. I am thinking of getting it and was wondering what your short term experience has been.

Anonymous
Anonymous
7 years ago

Amazing site with very valuable information. I am trying to muster the courage to cut the cord and walk away from cable. You just got me a whole lot closer! Thanks for all the great data and instructions. Much appreciated.

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