Ten Reasons You Need a DVR If You Watch Broadcast TV

by | Last updated Sep 14, 2023

When you think of a “DVR”, or “Digital Video Recorder”, you might think they’re mainly used for time shifting. That is, recording a show or sporting event so that you can watch it later, kinda like what we old-schoolers used to use a VCR for.

While you can definitely use a DVR for time shifting, today’s DVRs can do so much more. In fact, some of their other features are way more important and useful than time-shifting TV programs.

Here are my top ten reasons that I think you should get a DVR if you watch broadcast TV, along with my recommended DVRs for each situation.

1. Watching Broadcast TV on Multiple TVs

If you want to watch broadcast shows on multiple TVs, you could set up a separate antenna for each TV, or use one antenna, and run coax through your home driven by a distribution amplifier.

Or, you could connect one antenna to a DVR and watch broadcast TV on all of your TVs through a Roku app (or Amazon Fire TV app or Android app). That’s how Tablo (network-connected versions, not HDMI versions), AirTV 2, and the HDHomeRun DVRs work. You can watch broadcast TV from one antenna on all of your TVs!

2. Getting More Channels Due to Better Antenna Placement

Using one of the DVRs I mentioned above also gives you a lot more flexibility on where you can put your antenna without having to run a lot of coax cable in your home.

For example, you could stick your antenna in your attic and attach it to a Roku one foot away. Otherwise, you’d have to run a long cable to your TV from your attic. Or, put your antenna closer to your TV, which might not be optimal for reception.

3. Discovering New Content

The channel guides in the Tablo and HDHomeRun apps show you a beautiful grid of upcoming TV shows and movies. This is a great way to discover old classic movies to record.

Tablo Netflix-style grid showing upcoming science fiction movies on broadcast TV
Tablo Netflix-style grid showing upcoming science fiction movies on broadcast TV

Now, this feature does have a price. Both the Tablo and HDHomeRun have fees for the channel guide, but you get something for your money.

The AirTV2 and TiVo Edge also let you see upcoming content, but paid content is mixed in, making it hard to find upcoming free broadcast shows unless you know exactly what you are looking for.

I love this feature of the Tablo and HDHomeRun DVRs, and I’ve discovered tons of great content to watch because of it.

4. Skipping Commercials

Of course, you can’t skip commercials on live TV. That would require a time machine.

But, you can skip commercials on programs you record. That saves a HUGE amount of time! For that reason, after getting my DVR, I tended to watch recorded TV over live TV.

Now, not all DVRs have a dedicated “commercial skip” feature like the TiVo Edge has, but they all have “fast-forward”, which is nearly as good.

5. Solution for TVs with No Tuner or Bad Tuner

Believe it or not, some TVs were sold without a broadcast TV tuner. The way they were able to do that was to call them “displays”.

If you have a “TV” like that, a DVR is a perfect solution to let you watch broadcast TV.

Also, not all TV tuners were created equal. Some brands, like Samsung for instance, are known to have better quality tuners (i.e., they bring in more channels).

Depending on what brand of TV you have, a DVR might bring in more channels. I’ve found the best tuners in the AirTV 2, HDHomeRun, and TiVo Edge DVRs.

6. Watching TV on Other Devices at Home

A DVR lets you watch TV shows on other devices such as a computer screen with a web browser. After getting a DVR, I discovered that I enjoyed watching shows on my computer, sometimes in a small window in the corner of my screen, while doing other work.

The best DVR brands for doing this are Tablo, AirTV 2, and HDHomeRun.

7. Watching TV While Away From Home

The AirTV is great for watching TV on your mobile device even when you’re AWAY from home (or more specifically, your home Wi-Fi network).

AirTV channel guide on phone
AirTV channel guide on phone

This can be great if you want to catch a local sporting event while you’re traveling, for example.

Tablo used to have this feature, but unfortunately, with the latest Gen 4 Tablo, you can’t watch your recordings or live TV through your device when away from home.

8. Time Shifting

OK, this is probably the use case for a DVR that you were thinking about. There’s a sporting event or movie on TV but you won’t be at home at that time. Of course, all modern DVRs can take care of this with no problem, including the dirt-cheap generic DVRs.

HDHomeRun Channel Guide
HDHomeRun app channel guide

9. Repeated Viewing

Maybe this isn’t as common, but sometimes you’ll want to keep a show or movie for repeated viewings. All DVRs are great for that.

10. Remote Viewing by Others

This last use-case is perhaps a more unusual one, but I got the idea from the Antenna Man. He’s got a relative who has poor antenna reception in his area. So, the Antenna Man set up a DVR at his own home, which has good reception, and gave the login to his relative so that he can watch local TV. Kind of a cool idea!

The best DVR for this would be AirTV.

Which DVR is Best for You?

If any of these use cases apply to you, check out my constantly-updated article on the best DVRs for you:

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Brian Shim, DisableMyCable.com

I'm an electrical engineer (BSEE Caltech) with twenty years of experience designing industrial and consumer products, and now a web developer who loves to share ways to save money on TV content, Internet access, and cell phone plans! Read more about me here.

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Patrick Spezio
Patrick Spezio
6 months ago

Is there a device that can record from a streaming box such as [product redacted].

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