If you are using an antenna to watch TV, I highly recommend picking up a broadcast TV DVR to record entire seasons your favorite shows so you can watch them any time. It makes the broadcast TV experience much more like a streaming service!
My recommend DVRs are the Tablo for most people, Amazon Fire TV Recast if you already own Amazon Fire TV devices, and the Stream+ if you only want to watch and record on one TV.
Keep reading for more details on each!
If you need a whole-home DVR solution, then I would recommend Tablo.
Tablo hooks up to your broadcast TV antenna and most models require an external USB hard drive for recording. To view your recordings, you have to use the Tablo app on a computer or Internet device like Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV box, Apple TV (via Airplay with an iPad), or Chromecast. If you already have one of these devices and like it, that might be fine. You can also watch TV on your computer’s browser.
The great thing is that you can record on one TV, and watch it on any other TV, as long as it has a Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV box, Apple TV, or Chromecast attached to it. Or, watch different shows on separate TVs. Thus, it is a whole-home DVR solution.
If you have Amazon Fire TV sticks, you should check out the Amazon Fire TV Recast though.
You get a free channel guide that goes 24 hours into the future. For $4.99/month, you can get a two-week channel guide, plus some other features.Read my complete review of the Tablo here. I like it and use it myself!
I’d say the one downside of Tablo is that it takes 5-6 seconds to change channels. While this is much improved from the previous generation, it’s still not great for channel surfing. But, the onscreen guide kind of makes it unnecessary to surf; you can see what’s playing on each channel directly. But, this is a minor beef, and I love watching TV on my computer and tablet, as well as my TV using the Tablo!
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The Fire TV Recast is Amazon’s broadcast TV DVR. It is a whole-home solution, in that the recordings can be viewed on any TV in your home that is connected to a Fire TV device.
The two-tuner version is $229.99 with 500GB hard drive (75 hours of recording), while the four-tuner version if $279.99 with 1TB hard drive (150 hours of recording).
The Fire TV Recast is a great choice for DVR if you’re already into the Amazon ecosystem with Fire TVs and Alexa-enabled devices. You’ll need a Fire TV streaming media player or Echo Show to view your recordings. If you already have one, then great, but if you are using Roku, I’d go with one of the other DVR options. Read my full review of the Recast here.
The Channel Master Stream+ is great for recording broadcast TV when you have one TV in your home. This replaces the discontinued DVR+. The Stream+ has more features and costs less, at $149.00. And yes, although the name is not indicative of it, it really is a DVR!
Like the previous generation, the Stream+ requires an external USB hard drive. These are commonly available and not too expensive. (It can also use micro SD, but that is a more expensive option)
When connected to the Internet, you get Google Play features such as YouTube as well as built-in Chromecast, plus a gorgeous channel guide with no monthly fees! It’s not quite as polished as TiVo, but that has monthly fees which I hate!
You can purchase the Stream+ directly from the manufacturer, or read my full review here.
The TiVo Edge for Antenna lets you record two shows at once and has built-in apps for Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and more. My favorite thing about TiVo products is the user interface when viewing shows, as well as the automatic commercial skip with a press of a button.
The downside is the relatively high cost and the subscription cost. If you pay regular price, it's insanely expensive.
But, Channel Master has the TiVo Edge 500GB INCLUDING lifetime subscription for only $359. Compare this to almost $550 on Amazon including subscription. Go to the Channel Master website and click on the DVR section for this special deal.
If you liked the TiVo interface back when you had cable TV, the TiVo Edge for Antenna might be a good choice for you.
Many outboard TV converter boxes (or “tuner boxes”) also record to outboard USB storage devices. These usually run only about $40!
So, what’s the catch? Well, these boxes don’t connect to the Internet, so the channel guide is not as slick as with the Tablo. Also, some people have said the user interfaces are not as refined as the other units on the market. The reviews are not as good as the Stream+ or Tablo, and you can’t watch one channel while recording another. But, these are SO much cheaper than the other options, it may be worth looking at if you’re willing to tolerate these shortcomings. (Hey, we tolerated much worse when we were using VHS VCRs!) On the upside, you can take the hard drive from this unit and plug it into your computer and watch the recordings that way. You can’t easily do that with the Stream+ or Tablo!
I recommend the Homeworx DVR Digital Converter:
If you are technically inclined, you can turn an old computer into a DVR. You’ll need to install a TV tuner card so that it can accept a TV antenna. These are notoriously fussy and many have dubious-quality drivers and software, so beware. I had the best results when I bought a computer with the TV tuner card pre-installed. It worked with (the now discontinued) Windows Media Center like a charm, almost as good as TiVo, but totally free!
Then, I “upgraded” to a high-def TV tuner card (Pinnacle Systems PCTV 800i), and was sorry I did. It’s never worked with Windows Media Center. It has its own software but the user interface was vastly inferior.
If you don’t mind messing with software, drivers, and so forth, this could be a good solution for recording broadcast shows. But, I wouldn’t recommend this unless you are a pretty advanced computer tweaker. I’ve had problems with each of the tuner cards that I’ve tried, which is why I can’t recommend any particular ones here.
This service lets you record TV that you get off of the Internet, as opposed to broadcast TV. For example, say you want to record a TV episode from Hulu, or a video from YouTube. PlayOn is a service that lets you do this. Cost starts at $34.99 for 350 cloud recordings or unlimited recordings to your computer.
You install the software on your computer and choose from channels to record from. Current channels include Netflix, Hulu, and many network and cable TV websites. I personally have not tried it, but several readers recommended it. Let me know what you think!
As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. This site is not owned by any retailer or manufacturer. This is an independent review site that receives compensation from the retailer or manufacturer (at no extra cost to you) when you purchase through the affiliate links on this site. I personally test and/or research each product or service before endorsing it.