The Recast arrived yesterday- so my observations and comparisons to my TiVo Bolts, and a Tablo Dual 64:
Setup: Relatively straight forward, although not really descriptive on operations and settings. Faster setup than TiVo, probably a bit longer than Tablo. Channel scan is straightforward, although signal strengths are not shown (ala Tablo) and real channel ID (helpful for multiple stations or repeaters with same virtual channel) is not available (unlike TiVo). Tuner sensitivity and channel selection same as others as installed on same antenna and coax plant. We’ve been OTA consumers for years, before “cord-cutting” was cool, so the number of and quality of channels received via OTA not of great consideration.
Pick and choose from guide, otherwise use voice search (mixed results- sometimes requires date of broadcast along with show title, but impressive that it works at all) Not known how this compares to VOX service on TiVo.
Options for series recording could offer fewer than 5 to hold (ie, 1,2, etc). Some programs, such as nightly news broadcasts, are one-off time shifts, not “binge-worthy” viewing.
No recording conflicts are immediately noted- recordings are handled by setting priority. Attempting to schedule an additional recording for a time when all tuners are scheduled is prohibited. Attempting to select a non-Recast DVR channel source for recording is (naturally) prohibited.
No web interface, outside of mobile app for iOS or android, where settings functionality is limited, unlike TiVo and Tablo.
No suggested recordings (as on Tivo).
Playback and trick play
No commercial skip (for prime time TV on Tivo, for most non-news, non-PBS on Tablo using FireTV Premiere app).
No quick view or accelerated playback (as found on TiVo).
Recast allows only two playback streams, as no matter the four tuner or two tuner model configuration, transcoding service (which is done on the fly from the recorded or live source) supports only two unique streams to FireTV devices. Like TiVo, the Recaast records OTA sources in their native MPEG-2 format. TiVo can stream recordings to up to 12 IP addressed locations with a TiVo box, and Tablo can support six simultaneous streams to any Tablo app. Recast allows you to playback a recording in progress, as do Tablo and TiVo
Overall, 9/10. Slightly softer compared to TiVo on some content, although not generally distracting (you have to be looking for it), and is greatly dependent upon the TV sharpness and motion settings. Much better than Tablo on SD source material, as found on most market sub-channels (further evaluation needed). Some minor motion issues, but this appears to be related to the FireTV v2 streaming box used, especially when not set at “automatic” resolution. Same source recording motion issues are not apparent on FireTV Edition television. No observed bit-rate ramp up issues reported by others, likely due to all-ethernet connectivity.
TiVo attempts to offer a unified, inward-facing “solar” solution- providing over the air, DVR services, and app usage that orbit within and are controlled through the TiVo experience interface. This requires a TiVo hardware box, one for each viewing location, with its own remote. The TiVo remote can be easily programmed to control most other Televisions and AV equipment. The app functions on TiVo are limited: while the hardware on a Bolt supports HDR10, the Amazon Prime and YouTube apps do not support HDR. No apps or app versions are available that support live TV streaming, such as Hulu Live or SlingTV. The storage drives are not easily expanded by the ordinary user. Picture quality from Tivo’s DVR is superb- the near equal of the OTA broadcast. The TiVo apps can be a bit buggy, with lockups of Netflix and/or Prime Video occurring from time to time.
Tablo is an outward-facing “planetary” system- providing DVR and limited live OTA viewing services to a variety of operating platforms at the center of the viewing experience, including OTT boxes such as Roku and FireTV, and native apps for LG/WebOS, Samsung/Tizen, and Android based televisions. Tablo does not attempt to integrate other apps or services. Tablo allows the user to easily add USB based external storage. The Tablo menu screens are relatively straightforward, although the guide grid does not always show at least two weeks worth of program data (this information is available through other recording-programming features, however). Tablo does not support voice command or voice controlled search.
The Recast is a “lunar” like system- it only works with the FireTV system, so unless you are using FireTV edition televisions exclusively, like TiVo, the Recast requires a separate FireTV device. However, with those limitations, it works well: easily integrating TV sources recognized by Amazon, including Prime Channels such as HBO, PSVue, and others into the viewing guide, along with the Recast DVR channels. Image quality is better than Tablo, and nearly equivalent to Tivo. The 720p transcoding of material really isn’t an issue, as the viewing experience is dependent upon how well the television upscales to the native display rate. ATSC 1.0 does not provide for 1080p source material (never mind 4K)- so provided the transcoding system is designed properly (and typically favors hardware based transcoding over software based solutions), the final image quality is typical of what can be found from most OTA source material.
The Recast is a fairly robust first version platform. It’s not the perfect solution, but may serve well, especially when associated with a FireTV Edition television. In all other cases, it requires a secondary box, with an additional remote and input settings. If Amazon could add a couple of user features (commercial skip, for one), and find a way to integrate the Recast services into all Prime Video apps, regardless of platform, they’d likely have a world-beater. On the other hand, if TiVo could improve their app offering to include OTT live TV services that are integrated into the Rovi guide, they’d likely have the best of all worlds. If Tablo could improve their transcoding, and allow for Tablo DVR services to be incorporated with outside guide services- they might be the best choice. So, in short, whatever works: nothing is perfect.
Is the Recast enough to get me to dump my lifetime-guide service TiVo Bolts? Maybe… maybe not. I suspect whenever our second TV is upgraded, we’ll look at a FireTV Edition set as a solution. I’m going to pick up a FireTV 4k stick on Prime Day to replace the FireTV 2.0, to see if that makes a difference on our primary LG set. Time will tell, especially on features updates to the Recast, such as commercial skip.