HDTV tuners (OTA DVR)
Cord cutters can do just about everything that cable subscribers can—it’s just that some of our options aren’t that well advertised. Take HDTV Tuners (OTA DVRs), for instance. It’s not widely known that you can record live TV off of an antenna with an over the air DVR just as easily as you can with cable, but it’s true.
According to Nielsen Media Research, 86 of the 100 most-watched shows in the U.S. are available for free, including shows from all major US networks like ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, and CW, as well as local programming, news, and sports.
Of course, just as with cable, your DVR will be a separate device. Cord cutters don’t have cable companies giving them DVRs, so there’s an upfront cost to consider here. If you do buy a tuner, make sure that you get a good one! There are a few companies that make really great OTA DVRs.
Let’s run through a few of the quality HDTV tuners (OTA DVRs) on the market. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it’s enough to get you started.
Plex Live TV and DVR
Plex Live TV and DVR allows you to watch and record high definition, over-the-air television broadcasts using a variety of digital tuners.
With an intuitive, customizable program guide and powerful search, you are able to easily find, watch and record single episodes, entire series, news, documentaries, and sports. And all of your recordings are integrated seamlessly with your existing media libraries, giving your DVR the full power of Plex.
Your recorded TV shows and movies are always at your fingertips, wherever you go, on more mobile and home streaming devices than any other DVR solution. The includes iOS, Android, Windows, Mac, Linux, Roku, Chromecast, Amazon Fire, NVIDIA SHIELD and other Android TV devices, Apple TV, Xbox, PlayStation, and most Smart TVs.
Channel Master DVR+
Like most OTA DVRs, the Channel Master DVR+ uses the internet to set up a programming guide that looks just like your old cable TV guide screen. From there, you can select programs to watch live or record. Recorded programs are saved to a hard drive (external or internal, depending on which model you spring for). Channel Master also has an OTT package that they include – you’ll be able to watch their digital channels and access apps like YouTube and Pandora through the TV guide, just like they were regular channels.
Tablo DVR models include 2- and 4-tuner devices that connect to the home’s Wi-Fi router instead of the TV, which lets you watch your live and recorded content anywhere on your home network using apps on your favorite set-top box or mobile device—something that’s not possible with many competitor devices. So, for instance, you can record something on an antenna in your living room and watch it on your Roku in your bedroom.
TiVo Roamio OTA DVR
TiVo invented the DVR, so it’s no surprise that they have an OTA entry in their lineup. The Roamio family of products (including models like the Roamio Pro, which targets cord havers) has long been a critical favorite, but cord cutters tended to be leery of the $15 a month TiVo subscription fee. TiVo answered the criticism with a subscription-free model, though the $400 upfront cost is pretty steep. The storage space is built in, so you won’t have to buy your own hard drive like you would with most competitors. The user experience is second to none.
Use your PC as an OTA DVR
Using a PC as an OTA DVR is a convenient cost-effective solution, because it keeps all of your cord cutting solutions on just one device. The drawback is that PCs have larger footprints than OTA DVRs, and many cord cutters may find setting up a PC to be more difficult than setting up a streaming box and OTA DVR separately.