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post #1 of 15 Old 05-21-2019, 01:48 PM - Thread Starter
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Easiest and least expensive DVR+streamer solution

Here is a thread place to discuss/find the easiest lowest cost DTV solution for your friends & fam & randos, especially those with physical degradations or mental degradations maybe affecting whether they can use whatever type of remote-control vs whatever voice-control. Maybe you have real-world observations from real-world non-techie people you can pass along.

Is OTA/antenna sufficient for your friend/fam/rando-who-asks?

If not, is limited-basic-TV-service aka sufficient?
(It's often included for nearly-free with internet service and includes HD-DTAs for free.)

Of course we already advise everyone to buy/own their own cable-modem and router+wifi - the setup is quite easy - and you/we will help them if they need it!

Is a "pay cable" channel required?
(If yes, get ready to pay real $ monthly. Make short-list of required 'cable channels' for comparing with the many available streaming plans. Compare any streaming solution to a TIVO-based solution for folks who need many cable channels.)

For any cable-subscriber, consider free HD-DTAs and/or basic-service.
(HD-DTAs are way easier to use compared to full settop/X1/whatever boxes and are free with basic service.
Also there is no "HD tech fee" of $10/month with limited-basic/"choice" TV service, yet another savings.)

Lately I've noticed that normal non-techie rando end-user does not care whether content is streamed from a cloud or local disk and may not care that ability to fast forward commercials can be withheld via the cloud -DVRapproach. So the difference between cloud-DVR vs an owned-content-DVR may be lost and irrelevant to many customers, while remaining important to a shrinking segment of customers (like me).

Soooo. What do you advise for your friends & family & parents & normal non-tech randos, some of whom are facing increasing physical or mental degradations. Easy low-$ solution are the top goals, with real HDTV rendering.

Currently I advise the OTA-channels-only basic TV package from your cable provider, or no TV package - along with the lowest data-rate internet package available. Remedially low throughput is still plenty for HD streaming.

I tried Sony Vue previously and it was quite good and offers similar value but no integrated GUI like Sling for OTA as far as I know. Never tried youtube TV. Tried the pay hulu briefly until I saw Sling+AirTV integration and switched to that.

Maybe lets consider that normal non-tech randos cannot tell the difference between a DVR and an on-demand for the same show - nor can they tell the difference between OTA and streaming. This seems to have led to the brilliant Sling + Air TV integrated GUI. It's Very Nice even without purchasing the $5/month cloud-DVR option . I think AirTV DVR function "action" is quite nice but not as good as Tablo. Either is awesome for me however.

Possibly lets consider that fastforward-capability is a big difference between on-demand vs. cloud-DVR vs. owned-DVR, vs owned DVR with automatic commercial-skip (Tablo). Some non-tech randos can be very demanding about fast-forwarding & commercial-skip whether manual or automatic, as can some of us techies (hello). Who remembers VCRs with automatic commercial-skip? They were awesome !

Another interest area seems to be in voice-controls. Alexa seems to be king (queen) of voice controls from my perspective and maybe from market perspective too.

Please Discuss! Best wishes to all of you and your families & friends & randos who ask you for HDTV Recorder and related advice.
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post #2 of 15 Old 05-21-2019, 02:42 PM
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Something that's a pet peeve of mine may actually be an advantage in these situations: many modern streamers come with a very "Spartan" remote control. E.g., my Roku Express remote only has about a dozen buttons. There's not even a numeric keypad!

I hate those, but for someone who has movement or vision difficulties, such a remote control should be a lot easier to use than the "typical" remote with 40+ buttons.

So my first thought would be, start with a Roku, Fire TV, or the like on each TV. (Both also include voice capabilities.) You could then add an AirTV black box (for the Roku) or Amazon Recast (for the Fire TV) to get a whole-home OTA DVR.

And since each of those integrates an OTT package, you could then add Sling TV (for the AirTV/Roku) or Sony Vue (for the Recast/Fire) and have a single integrated guide combining both OTA and OTT channels, possibly even adding the OTT package's cloud DVR package. You don't even need to worry about which channels are OTA and which are OTT - it's all seamless. (My Roku remote even has a "Sling" button to launch the Sling app with one click! To me, that adds to my pet peeve: with so few buttons to start with, why waste four of them on apps I may never even install? But for someone with difficulties, that would make using Sling even simpler.)

About the only drawback is the lack of a 'CC' button for those with impaired hearing, so you'll have to navigate the Roku or Fire menu for that function. Well, that and you may be limited to 720p, but that still looks great compared to SD.

As for cable, a lot depends on your cable company. If yours happens to be Spectrum, and Spectrum is also your ISP, you have an advantage: just install the Spectrum app on your streamers and any "cable" channels you subscribe to become immediately available - no additional equipment needed. Usually you won't even need to sign in - just launch & watch.
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post #3 of 15 Old 05-21-2019, 05:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JHBrandt View Post
So my first thought would be, start with a Roku, Fire TV, or the like on each TV. (Both also include voice capabilities.) You could then add an AirTV black box (for the Roku) or Amazon Recast (for the Fire TV) to get a whole-home OTA DVR.

Great recommendations! The only thing I would add is to emphasize that the Amazon Recast will only work with a Fire TV device, so choosing the OTA DVR is probably the first step.
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post #4 of 15 Old 05-21-2019, 07:41 PM
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There's a lot of great information already. I guess I would add that if a cheaper channel bundle is desired, Philo also integrates with the Recast channel guide. However, if voice controls are important, then PS Vue is better in that it integrates with the guide and with Alexa voice controls. Also, getting a Fire TV Cube or combining a Fire TV with an Echo would also allow Alexa use without even pressing a button.

For a more cable box experience, the AirTV Player (the blue and white Android TV box), by default, boots straight into the Sling app bypassing the Android TV home screen altogether. This also helps make a Sling TV/AirTV combination compelling as well.

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post #5 of 15 Old 05-23-2019, 01:08 AM
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You may also want to consider the Amazon Recast/Cube combo as the Cube can control inputs to paired devices.

~ It is a DOT and a 4K firestick with hands free mode
~ It controls all your devices through IR Blaster or HDMI (CEC)
~ When you play music, it automatically can change inputs to play through your receiver
~ Can change cable channels, turn on TV, Turn off TV, switch HDMI ports, volume etc… all through hands free voice commands
~ Has a cool blue line on the top then it is listening
~ When you play music, shows all the graphics on your TV screen
~ Works with home audio groups
x Is on sale for 69.99 today! (probably will be on sale again Prime Day)
~ can connect to Bluetooth devices

from https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/custo...VVFVJTHYW7444B

Accessibility Features for Fire TV Cube
Learn about accessibility features available for Fire TV Cube, including the VoiceView screen reader, closed captions, and high contrast text.

Closed Captions
You can turn on subtitles during video playback to display the audio for movies and TV shows as text on-screen.

Prime Video titles with subtitles available typically feature a "CC" symbol in the video details.

Most videos with subtitles include English text, however other languages may also be available. To view available languages, open the video details for a movie or TV show and look for the Subtitles section.

To watch Prime Video movies and TV shows with subtitles:

Start video playback.
Press the Menu Menu Button button on your Fire TV remote to open additional playback options.
Select Subtitles and Audio.
Select the Off button under Subtitles and Captions. Then select an available language from the options on-screen to turn subtitles on.

Note: You can also set your preferred text size and display. You see a sample on-screen as you make changes to your preferences. To learn more about customizing subtitles text on your Fire TV device, go to Fire TV Cube Settings Basics.

Once you've made your selections, press the Menu button again to return to playback, and start watching the video with subtitles.
To turn subtitles off, press the Menu Menu Button button during playback, open Subtitles and Audio, and set Subtitles and Captions back to Off.

Audio Descriptions
Audio Descriptions are available for select Prime Video titles that provide narration for some movies and TV shows. They describe actions, characters, scene changes, on-screen text, and other visual content.

To watch Prime Video movies and TV shows with Audio Descriptions:
Start video playback of a title compatible with Audio Descriptions.
Press the Menu Menu Button button on your Fire TV remote to open additional playback options.
Select Subtitles and Audio.
Under the Audio options select the audio track with the [Audio Descriptions] tag.
Once you've made your selection, the video will reload and resume playback with Audio Descriptions.
For more information about Audio Descriptions go to Turn on Audio Descriptions.

VoiceView for Fire TV
VoiceView speaks on-screen text out loud as you navigate menu options and settings on your Amazon Fire TV.

You can turn VoiceView on or off by holding down the Back Back Button and Menu Menu Button buttons on your Fire TV remote at the same time for two seconds. On your remote, Back and Menu are the left and right buttons located on the top row of three small buttons.

You'll hear "VoiceView Ready" when the feature is ready to use.

The first time you turn VoiceView on, a tutorial automatically opens with tips on how to use the feature and locate buttons on your Fire TV remote. At this time, VoiceView only works with the Fire TV remotes. The Fire TV Remote App is not supported.

Note: To access VoiceView, you may first need to update your device software to the latest version--select Settings > My Fire TV > About > Check for System Update from the Fire TV menu.

To learn more, go to About VoiceView for Fire TV Cube.

Screen Magnifier
To zoom in onscreen, you can enable Screen Magnifier from Settings > Accessibility.

Hold Back + Fast Forward to enable or disable Screen Magnifier from any screen. Press Menu + Fast Forward to zoom in or Menu + Rewind to zoom out.

Press Menu + Up, Down, Left, or Right to pan in these directions.

Press Menu + Play/Pause to quickly enable or disable zoom.

Note: Most video content will not zoom.

High Contrast Text (Experimental Feature)
Fire TV devices feature a high contrast text experimental feature, designed to help make text easier to read. It changes most of the text on-screen to black or white, and adds a border of the opposite color.

You can turn this feature on or off by selecting Settings > Accessibility > High Contrast Text from the Fire TV menu.

Note: High contrast text is currently an experimental feature, and performance may vary with certain navigation options. If you're having trouble navigating your device or selecting certain items, you may want to try turning this feature off.

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post #6 of 15 Old 05-23-2019, 08:00 AM
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Originally Posted by tveli View Post
Soooo. What do you advise for your friends & family & parents & normal non-tech randos, some of whom are facing increasing physical or mental degradations. Easy low-$ solution are the top goals, with real HDTV rendering.
I recommend different configurations depending on the consumer, but, for most, the best solution is an Amazon Recast and 4K Fire TV Sticks. In fact, I generally specifically recommend Recast (OTA) + Prime + Vue Core + HBO (Prime Channel). That would cost $75 per month plus the cost of high speed internet and provide a very premium experience.

Most people I know who cut the cord are not looking for a premium experience. For those who just want free television, I recommend they replace their television with a TCL Roku TV. These televisions use PSIP to populate a grid style program guide. If you plug a 16G thumb drive into the USB port, they fast forward and rewind through 90 minutes of television. Sufficient for those who want to skip ads, pause to answer the phone, or stop to eat dinner. That USB port can also be used to play media files. Maybe best of all, the TV can be configured to remember the last input used, so no need to start at the Roku screen. If you only use it for OTA, it can remember to simply start on the antenna input. Technically, not a DVR+Streamer solution, but, practically, it is.

It's getting harder to recommend TiVo. Generally, I have considered TiVo+Lifetime too expensive, but at $199.99 to $299.99, the Roamio/OTA has been a great set top solution with local DVR functionality plus all the top streaming services. Back to $500 for an All In solution with a sketchy future and Rovi guide data, it's tough to recommend TiVo right now.

I have a Tablo TV DVR in the house. Really have not played with it much. Seems like the best OTA DVR for those who do not want OTT but have high speed internet, but I think Amazon crushes them.
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post #7 of 15 Old 05-23-2019, 08:08 AM
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As I am heavily invested in the Amazon family of FireTVs (Sticks), Echo Devices and Tablets, the Recast was a no brainier for me. Works great with the FireTVs and well...just works great.

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post #8 of 15 Old 05-23-2019, 07:32 PM
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For those who just want free television, I recommend they replace their television with a TCL Roku TV. These televisions use PSIP to populate a grid style program guide. If you plug a 16G thumb drive into the USB port, they fast forward and rewind through 90 minutes of television. Sufficient for those who want to skip ads, pause to answer the phone, or stop to eat dinner. That USB port can also be used to play media files.
Replacing your TV seems like overkill for "free" TV, but I'm unaware of a one-box solution that does all the same things. The closest (also very inexpensive) is probably a two-box solution - a Roku for OTT and an iView for OTA - but the PSIP guide won't be a grid-style one. It will time-shift, make recordings, and play media files though. (If you have no interest in streaming you could dispense with the Roku, I suppose.)

But if you're looking for a solution for non-techie users, replacing the TV may still be the best option. I'd hesitate to go with two boxes, which actually means three remotes (because the TV itself has a remote). Even with a good multi-device universal remote, controlling three devices gets confusing. That's really more suited for someone worried about minimizing cost who doesn't mind juggling several devices.

There's one other solution I'd like to bring up, although it's not cheap: paring a low-cost tuner or DVR (such as an iView) with an Xbox One. Thanks to Kinect and the OneGuide, it's the only good alternative to Amazon I'm aware of for voice control (although Roku has voice search, I think).
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post #9 of 15 Old 05-23-2019, 07:48 PM
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Replacing your TV seems like overkill for "free" TV, but I'm unaware of a one-box solution that does all the same things. The closest (also very inexpensive) is probably a two-box solution - a Roku for OTT and an iView for OTA - but the PSIP guide won't be a grid-style one. It will time-shift, make recordings, and play media files though. (If you have no interest in streaming you could dispense with the Roku, I suppose.)
It's not like people looking for free tv are replacing 90" Samsung 4k TVs. Most have analog sets. While there are digital to analog converters that use PSIP data, the only good one is no longer in production (CM DVR+). iView devices are counter-intuitive.

Quote:
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But if you're looking for a solution for non-techie users, replacing the TV may still be the best option. I'd hesitate to go with two boxes, which actually means three remotes (because the TV itself has a remote). Even with a good multi-device universal remote, controlling three devices gets confusing. That's really more suited for someone worried about minimizing cost who doesn't mind juggling several devices.
100% of the people who go this route are 100% satisfied. The quality of the sets is light years beyond what they are replacing. From size to features to energy efficiency, the newer set is a huge improvement. The idea of replacing a 25" CRT with a 55" 4K HDR flat screen for < $300 is pretty appealing to most.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JHBrandt View Post
There's one other solution I'd like to bring up, although it's not cheap: paring a low-cost tuner or DVR (such as an iView) with an Xbox One. Thanks to Kinect and the OneGuide, it's the only good alternative to Amazon I'm aware of for voice control (although Roku has voice search, I think).
The more options the better, but this is not a good one. The Xbox is not exactly a green device, and, as I said earlier, the iView devices are not intuitive. It's an alternative to Amazon, but it's not a good one. If you are going to spend Xbox money, get an all-in TiVo.

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post #10 of 15 Old 05-24-2019, 02:54 PM
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The thread title is a bit misleading: often there's considerable tension between "Easiest" and "least expensive," so there's no such thing as "easiest and least expensive." The iView is a perfect example. It definitely qualifies among the "least expensive" options, but its primitive UI can hardly be considered among the "easiest" to learn. (That said, it's not bad once you get used to it.)

Often the best we can do is put out a range of options; one-device solutions like the ones Wizwor mentioned lean strongly toward "easiest" but are somewhat more expensive (although I agree if the current TV is an old CRT model, it's time to replace it anyway, so you might as well go with a Roku TV and get 'er done in one purchase).

Something like the iView+Roku leans hard in the opposite direction; it's more suited for someone who already has, say, an older big-screen HDTV they don't want to replace, wants to add DVR and streaming functions without spending too much more, and doesn't mind having multiple devices and remotes to juggle.


I mentioned the Xbox because I feel it overcomes some of the UI shortcomings of Mstar boxes like the iView. The OneGuide is a grid-style guide, and you can just say "watch NBC" and the Xbox will blast the appropriate IR commands to the iView.

That said, it's a game machine first, and a TV guide and controller box second, so it's clearly not right for a lot of setups. And it's (still) not cheap. But if you're setting something up for a gamer, it's worth keeping its TV functions in mind.
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post #11 of 15 Old 05-25-2019, 10:34 AM
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(although I agree if the current TV is an old CRT model, it's time to replace it anyway, so you might as well go with a Roku TV and get 'er done in one purchase)
I was at our Memorial Day Parade and Remembrance today. This guy pulls up a chair next to mine, "I'm ready to go!" He explained that he only had one digital television and wanted to upgrade the rest to digital and use them for Netflix and other streaming services. I start regaling him with tales for $300 55" 4K televisions with built in Rokus and all the other things. His generally disinterested wife is now leaning in and another guy has joined our circle. People remember paying $1k for 36" tubes. These sets are an easy sell.
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post #12 of 15 Old 05-26-2019, 04:46 AM - Thread Starter
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great input from everyone!

the idea of easiest and least expensive is to find the sweet spots, the local maxima for the ease*price or {ease, price} metrics.

it could be interesting to explore the individual metrics easiest & least expensive individually, while defining a minimum functionality level (gotta be DVR not just 90 minutes of fastforward/rewind). That tv with roku and fastforward/rewind built in is super useful and interesting but not a DVR of course.

i have yet to order the recast but you all are helping me towards it even if it doesn't go on sale soon.

locally at my place i've just been tuning/testing antenna, not fun, nowhere near done.
summer/hot weather is the worst for OTA of course.

For my mum this week i swapped out an old/broken small lcd tv for a very small maybe 12" sanyo tube TV for use with old-school clunker cable box with RF output. She definitely does not want a DVR. Some elders want to pay minimum but others are way beyond caring about monthly price or understanding it. They are happy to pay more for a less-functional/easier-solution, including paying penalties for running ancient routers/wifi/hubs/modems. :|

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post #13 of 15 Old 05-26-2019, 09:37 AM
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The 'sweet spot' you speak of is something each user has to define for themselves. For the purpose of this post, it would be best to define the 'special needs', describe systems that address those needs, and assign a cost to the solution. I am really surprised to know people have a problem using remote controls. For most elderly or disabled people I know, remotes are an extension of the arm.

I think it would be useful to define use cases (aka 'special needs') and work on solutions for those situations.
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post #14 of 15 Old 05-27-2019, 04:15 AM - Thread Starter
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i've heard that most people use cellphones or other non-roku remotes to control their rokus but i find cellphone-remote annoying. the roku remote form factor is rather nice even if spartan. it would be cool to reprogram the 4-unused buttons to do customized things. its probably just a bit of software.

regarding xbox , yes i have heard excellent things about how it can control a TV/entertainment-center. heard it on the 2old2play gamer podcast.

wiz, the sweet spot is different for each customer of course, everyone has their own priorities and needs. the discussion here has already helped me do that for my peoples.

regarding remote controls and complexity, consider the use-case of the users who must put tape over remote-control-buttons or tv-buttons to try to prevent errant clicking, because they are stuck with a nonfunctioning TV for days if a wrong-click happens.
maybe some people put masking-tape over those possibly-useless 4-buttons at bottom of the roku remote?
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post #15 of 15 Old 05-27-2019, 04:50 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tveli View Post
i've heard that most people use cellphones or other non-roku remotes to control their rokus but i find cellphone-remote annoying. the roku remote form factor is rather nice even if spartan. it would be cool to reprogram the 4-unused buttons to do customized things. its probably just a bit of software.
It would have to be a third party remote as Roku gets paid for the buttons.

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regarding remote controls and complexity, consider the use-case of the users who must put tape over remote-control-buttons or tv-buttons to try to prevent errant clicking, because they are stuck with a nonfunctioning TV for days if a wrong-click happens.
maybe some people put masking-tape over those possibly-useless 4-buttons at bottom of the roku remote?
I just gave away all of my Roku 2XS remotes. They work with a lot of Rokus -- either BT or IR. In fact, given that the 'standard IR remote' is compatible with most Roku streamers, I assume those are similarly compatible. Roku has a tabletop remote which has programmable buttons and a spartan layout...



https://support.roku.com/article/360...bletop-remote-
https://www.roku.com/products/accessories/roku-touch

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