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post #1 of 33 Old 10-22-2019, 09:47 AM - Thread Starter
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Where are we at? (re: OTA DVR's)

So where are we at as far as what's available for recording OTA? I fully realize that this is a very nebulous, broad question but I can't seem to find a current review anywhere of what's available now.

We just told Direct TV "Bye" and are going to streaming. I need to find something for OTA local programming. So I need something that uses EPG to make it relatively painless for my wife to program. And somethign that use the EPG for when programs time shift.

I have the Magnavox 867 but it doesn't use an EPG. I was looking forward to the new Magnavoxes (Magnavii?) to come out that used EPG but we know what happened there.

There is the thread Consumer Available DVR's but that hasn't been updated for 3 years.

Is the Channel Master still the standard?

We switched to YouTube TV for now. It has local progrmming but that is not the reason I went with them. They were the streaming service that has Big 10 channel so we can faithfully follow our Cornhuskers. After football season we will switch to something like Sling or Philo which is cheaper but does not have locals. So I have a month or two to find something for this.

Thanks in advance for the help.

Chubby, old guy in Omaha, Nebraska
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post #2 of 33 Old 10-22-2019, 11:48 AM
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These are the options I am aware of:

ChannelMaster does have an OTA box, but it has very mixed reviews, and it is mostly for someone with a lot of technical skills. I don't know much about it.

The only real "DVR" is TIVO. The latest is the Bolt, and it can be OTA only with four or six tuners (I believe). It connects to your antenna and then directly to the TV via HDMI. It needs an internet connection for software, data, guide, etc. It is the most like a true DVR because of its direct connection to the TV and has its own storage device, which is now 1TB. It has a typical DVR interface and can be used for watching OTA or recorded shows with all the options of a DVR and has one additional feature. Within 24 hours of a broadcast of a primetime TV show on major networks, there will be an option to skip all the commercials as you play the recording. It works great.

These other three are all solutions to work within your home network: HDHomerun, TabloTV and Amazon Recast. Each of them has an antenna input and works with an ethernet or wireless connection to your home network. They cannot connect directly to your TV. The HDHomerun has either 2 or 4 tuners but does not have any storage. It records to a drive somewhere on your network. It can only be viewed through a streaming box, such as Amazon FireTV, Apple TV, Roku, nVidia Shield, etc. There is an app you would open, and then you can access it for either live or recorded TV. If you have a Plex Pass, I believe you can automatically fast forward past commercials.

The Amazon Recast and TabloTV have their own hard drives, but they still connect to your home network for viewing. The Amazon Recast only works with Amazon devices and must be set up from an Android phone. TabloTV works with any streaming box. I believe it also has an option to forward through commercials.

I have a TIVO Roamio OTA which I was able to get last year as a refub from TIVO for $229. It works perfectly and was well worth the money. It has 4 tuners, so I have no problems recording anything I want. TIVO usually holds sales around the holidays for their devices. I don't know the cost of the other devices, but I believe Recast has been pretty cheap when on sale, especially if you only want the 2 Tuner model which also has the smaller storage drive (though I think there is now a way to add storage to it). There is another box to watch your programs from another location. I don't know how well that works or what it costs. The other 3 can be watched at any locations you have a streaming device attached to your TV.

One other consideration is the cost of the guide data. The Roamio includes lifetime guide data in the cost. The new BOLT does not. HDHomerun and TabloTV charge for the guide data, but I believe they both have an option for a lifetime guide. Recast's guide data are free if you have a Prime account.

Pardon any inaccuracies. This is how I understand the current offerings.

SMK
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post #3 of 33 Old 10-22-2019, 11:55 AM
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I don't know that Channel Master was ever the "standard" but they are still in the game with their latest offering, the Stream+. It is cheap and the DVR functions work but is dead end. It is just an Android TV box with a pair of tuners built in. The DVR capability comes from running the Google Live Channels app. The problem there is that Google is still updating the app, but some of their updates will depend on the Android box having the latest version of Android TV installed. That latter part is the responsibility of the box seller and Channel Master has shown no inclination that they are interested in updating the Stream+ firmware.

TiVo is still at the high end and provides the best set-it-and-forget-it functionality out of the box with continuing support for software and new features -- but you have to pay a higher cost.

Other than that you have some PC alternatives (NextPVR, Plex, Silicon Dust), some network alternatives (Tablo, Recast), and some other Android boxes that will run Live Channels but you have to buy some external tuners for the Android boxes and the PC alternatives.

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post #4 of 33 Old 10-22-2019, 12:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RoyGBiv View Post
The Roamio includes lifetime guide data in the cost. The new BOLT does not.
The bolt can be purchased with lifetime guide as part of the total cost.

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post #5 of 33 Old 10-22-2019, 06:13 PM
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Recast guide data is no cost even for nonprime and it is excellent dvr.
Tablo is superior, best in class, so good.
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post #6 of 33 Old 10-22-2019, 08:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by matonanjin View Post
So where are we at as far as what's available for recording OTA? I fully realize that this is a very nebulous, broad question but I can't seem to find a current review anywhere of what's available now.

We just told Direct TV "Bye" and are going to streaming. I need to find something for OTA local programming. So I need something that uses EPG to make it relatively painless for my wife to program. And somethign that use the EPG for when programs time shift.

I have the Magnavox 867 but it doesn't use an EPG. I was looking forward to the new Magnavoxes (Magnavii?) to come out that used EPG but we know what happened there.

There is the thread Consumer Available DVR's but that hasn't been updated for 3 years.

Is the Channel Master still the standard?

We switched to YouTube TV for now. It has local progrmming but that is not the reason I went with them. They were the streaming service that has Big 10 channel so we can faithfully follow our Cornhuskers. After football season we will switch to something like Sling or Philo which is cheaper but does not have locals. So I have a month or two to find something for this.

Thanks in advance for the help.
I have all three types. Roamio OTA, bought on a sale, four tuners, high WAF. I also have a channelmaster DVR +, the out of production model..bought that when they went on closeout, should have bought two. You'll need an outboard HDD but they are cheap now...and listings are included.

I also have had a few of the cheap boxes, Alutek and Homeworx. You will get DVR functionality out of the gadget, literally record at 8 - 10 on channel 7.1, no names or guide data. Low WAF but they do work.

Spend the $, buy a Tivo.

I miss my Sony HDD 250.

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post #7 of 33 Old 10-22-2019, 09:38 PM
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Don't forget Air TV. You add your own hard drive. You hook an antenna up to it and connect the ATV to your network. If you have a Roku (or other streaming device), download the Sling app (no subscription necessary). You can watch (and watch recordings) on any TV that has a streaming device.
ATV can be found discounted and external hard drives relatively cheap. If you can afford it, TIVO is tried and true but Air TV is an option if you are on a budget.

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post #8 of 33 Old 10-23-2019, 12:48 AM
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Air tv has a bug where the hard drive disconnects/reconnects too, when used with sling app. Was not able to find workaround for that.

Im waiting for the hd homerun prime 6. Will it ever ship?
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post #9 of 33 Old 10-23-2019, 07:51 AM
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So, my impression of some of the OTA DVRs mentioned in this thread:

Channel Master DVR+ (discontinued): My favorite, and I dread the day the guide stops working. Currently guide data continues to go out about 14 days, with periodic times it gets down to only about 3 days, leading all of us to wail and lament that the box will no longer have a guide. At some point, I'm sure the guide will go away. It still can use the PSIP data for the guide, but in my area that rarely goes out more than two days. Because this is an orphan, I wouldn't recommend it unless you get a really nice price on a used one. This attaches directly to the TV and does not attach to your network.

HD Homerun: Works OK with a networked Plex server, and the HD Homerun DVR service. Also tried the Plex DVR service. Both work pretty well. One thing I like about the HD Homerun is that it looks like it auto-scans and picks up new channel assignments without intervention. Main complaint with it is a delay when going through Plex, and the "slice guide" format (just could never get used to it). I think the DVR / guide data is about $30 a year or something.

Channel Master Stream+: Not a bad OTA DVR. It attaches to the TV, not your network. Requires Google account. The guide data is free through Google's Live Channels app that comes pre-installed. The Stream+ is actually the Thompson Skipper unit, in use by several cable systems as their streaming box (without the OTA tuners that Channel Master has on their version). Guide data is free, and works really well if you are in a market with less than 100 total stations. If you pick up more than 100 channels on your scan, the guide data is limited to less than the 14 days you get with under 100 stations. There is an update to Live Channels to fix this, but I don't know if CM has changed their firmware to adopt it yet. The streaming side does not do Netflix, Amazon Prime or Hulu, so it shouldn't be considered for that function alone; you'll end up needing a streamer like a Roku for those services. I no longer recommend this unit because it seems Google is abandoning Live Channels (very little in the way of updates there) and Google has no problem shutting down their free services (Google+, Google Reader, Google Wave, etc.) I gave this unit to my sister.

Amazon Recast: My favorite as a backup and replacement for the DVR+ when it finally dies. This is a network unit that works with Fire TV devices, Android and iPhones. It is being frequently updated. Guide data is free, and I trust Amazon more than Google to keep it free. Navigation is good as long as you have the remote with volume buttons on it for your Fire Stick that is on your TVs. It also works best if the Fire Stick is a single device hooked up to the TV. The Fire Stick streaming side has all the apps I want, so there's no need for another streaming device. Because it doesn't use IR for the remotes you can't really use a Harmony IR remote like the 650 with the Fire Stick. And the Harmony Hub control of the Fire TV is stupidly awkward and worse than having multiple remotes. So if the Fire Stick device gives you what you need on the streaming side, then the Amazon Recast is a great addition to it.

Right now, for someone looking for the easiest plug and play solution for streaming and OTA DVR functions, I would say the Amazon eco-system with the Fire TV sticks and Amazon Recast is the winner.
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post #10 of 33 Old 10-23-2019, 10:13 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fshagan View Post
...Amazon Recast: My favorite as a backup and replacement for the DVR+ when it finally dies. This is a network unit that works with Fire TV devices, Android and iPhones. It is being frequently updated. Guide data is free, and I trust Amazon more than Google to keep it free. Navigation is good as long as you have the remote with volume buttons on it for your Fire Stick that is on your TVs. It also works best if the Fire Stick is a single device hooked up to the TV. The Fire Stick streaming side has all the apps I want, so there's no need for another streaming device. Because it doesn't use IR for the remotes you can't really use a Harmony IR remote like the 650 with the Fire Stick. And the Harmony Hub control of the Fire TV is stupidly awkward and worse than having multiple remotes. So if the Fire Stick device gives you what you need on the streaming side, then the Amazon Recast is a great addition to it.

Right now, for someone looking for the easiest plug and play solution for streaming and OTA DVR functions, I would say the Amazon eco-system with the Fire TV sticks and Amazon Recast is the winner.
Does the Recast work with other Fire devices (other than the stick)? It seems you are saying so, but then you focus on the stick.

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post #11 of 33 Old 10-23-2019, 10:22 AM
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Tablo TV: I have had one for a couple of years and really like it. Yes, it is a streaming device that doesn't directly connect to your TV but uses an app on your Roku/Smart TV/Fire device to display content. The beauty of this is one TABLO can act as a DVR for all your TVs plus you can place it wherever you have a drop for the antenna. A firmware upgrade for my 2yo device recently added 5.1 sound and automatic channel skipping. It uses a standard grid based EPG for channel selection and visual tiles to select DVRed shows. Mine uses an external HD allowing me to determine how much can be maintained in the archive.
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It should be noted the Recast is limited to 720p output so it down-grades the resolution of all your 1080 channels to 720.

Only the Channel Master and TiVo units record the broadcast in the original MPRG-2 format and resolution.
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post #13 of 33 Old 10-23-2019, 01:28 PM
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Tablo TV: I have had one for a couple of years and really like it. Yes, it is a streaming device that doesn't directly connect to your TV but uses an app on your Roku/Smart TV/Fire device to display content. The beauty of this is one TABLO can act as a DVR for all your TVs plus you can place it wherever you have a drop for the antenna. A firmware upgrade for my 2yo device recently added 5.1 sound and automatic channel skipping. It uses a standard grid based EPG for channel selection and visual tiles to select DVRed shows. Mine uses an external HD allowing me to determine how much can be maintained in the archive.
Can you access your local channels and recordings away from home if you have a streaming device?

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post #14 of 33 Old 10-23-2019, 01:40 PM
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Does the Recast work with other Fire devices (other than the stick)? It seems you are saying so, but then you focus on the stick.
Yes, I actually have one Fire TV stick and one of the pendant devices. It works with all of them.

Also, Alexa voice commands, although I rarely use those.
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Can you access your local channels and recordings away from home if you have a streaming device?
Yes, you have to enable it on your Tablo and configure your router/firewall but it does work.

You also need decent upstream bandwidth from your home.

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kelson View Post
It should be noted the Recast is limited to 720p output so it down-grades the resolution of all your 1080 channels to 720.

Only the Channel Master and TiVo units record the broadcast in the original MPRG-2 format and resolution.
1080i is used by some networks, but it's mostly indistinguishable from 720p in practice. I can't tell a difference between my live TV image through the Channel Master DVR+ and the same OTA broadcast using my Recast and the Fire TV pendant on my 1080p Samsung 55" television. (CBS channel 2.1 in Los Angeles is 1080i for example.)

For most people that's going to be a difference without a distinction until the next round of tuners with ATSC-3, IF broadcast adopts 1080p or higher resolutions. We have years before that really happens.
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post #17 of 33 Old 10-23-2019, 07:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fshagan View Post
1080i is used by some networks, but it's mostly indistinguishable from 720p in practice. I can't tell a difference between my live TV image through the Channel Master DVR+ and the same OTA broadcast using my Recast and the Fire TV pendant on my 1080p Samsung 55" television. (CBS channel 2.1 in Los Angeles is 1080i for example.)

For most people that's going to be a difference without a distinction until the next round of tuners with ATSC-3, IF broadcast adopts 1080p or higher resolutions. We have years before that really happens.
While I greatly respect your opinion, I don't agree with it. It matters to me when viewing on my 65" Panasonic Plasma as I'm sure it does for others with large high quality screens. My TiVo records the broadcast in native format and plays it back to the Plasma in native format. Football games on CBS look sharper than games on FOX.

Anyway, what the Recast does to re-process the source video is an important distinction that we should be up front about.
BTW, what about audio? Does Recast pass the DD 5.1 through HDMI to an AVR?

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kelson View Post
While I greatly respect your opinion, I don't agree with it. It matters to me when viewing on my 65" Panasonic Plasma as I'm sure it does for others with large high quality screens. My TiVo records the broadcast in native format and plays it back to the Plasma in native format. Football games on CBS look sharper than games on FOX.

Anyway, what the Recast does to re-process the source video is an important distinction that we should be up front about.
BTW, what about audio? Does Recast pass the DD 5.1 through HDMI to an AVR?

I can't tell the difference, but I don't watch sports either. I'll take a look at a football game this weekend to see if I can tell the difference. It's easy for me to switch from one device to another. I'll try both live viewing and then recorded viewing.



This article has some specs; it says the Recast records in the native format but transcodes when streaming the video. That brings in the other limitation; you can only stream to two devices at once, no matter how many tuners you have in your Recast (e.g., the four tuner recast can only stream to two devices at the same time). I don't know if the Tablo has that same limitation.



The article says the Recast will record and stream 5.1 audio. I don't think there are any Fire TV devices that have optical audio output, just HDMI, so your receiver would have to be able to handle that (or your TV pass the audio out an optical or digital audio port, right?)
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I like my Tablo Quad. It has 4 tuners (thus the "Quad") and accepts an internal SATA hard drive. Other models require an external USB drive. We have it hard-wired to the router and connect to it through the Roku box on each TV. It has an auto-skip feature for commercials that generally works pretty well.

The reasons I chose Tablo instead of Tivo/Plex/Recast/etc:
- already had Roku for each TV
- only one Tablo needed to record and playback throughout the house (instead of a separate Tivo for each TV)
- it's pretty simple to use - doesn't require much set up or a repeated tutorial to my wife (Plex, I'm looking at you)
- it doesn't require me to use a particular streaming device - it functions with Roku, Apple TV, Fire TV, etc.
- allows access via mobile device both on-site (I've used this) and off-site (haven't used this yet)
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Quote:
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Yes, you have to enable it on your Tablo and configure your router/firewall but it does work.

You also need decent upstream bandwidth from your home.
Sounds good. If/when my DVR+ goes belly up I will look into Tablo.
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post #21 of 33 Old 10-26-2019, 02:44 PM
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According to this article https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-d..._United_States many networks including ABC, Fox, and ESPN are transmitting in
720p.

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I'm not the least bit surprised. So what's the big deal about 'HDTV' TV's, 4K, 8K, etc?

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Quote:
Originally Posted by RoyGBiv View Post
The only real "DVR" is TIVO. The latest is the Bolt, and it can be OTA only with four or six tuners (I believe). It connects to your antenna and then directly to the TV via HDMI. It needs an internet connection for software, data, guide, etc. It is the most like a true DVR because of its direct connection to the TV and has its own storage device, which is now 1TB. It has a typical DVR interface and can be used for watching OTA or recorded shows with all the options of a DVR and has one additional feature. Within 24 hours of a broadcast of a primetime TV show on major networks, there will be an option to skip all the commercials as you play the recording. It works great.
SMK
Agreed that TiVo is the one box that includes all the functionality I think of for a DVR out of the box. I did want to mention they have a newer device (replacing the Bolt, which is still available) called the TiVo Edge. It has 4 tuners and a 2TB internal hard drive (good for 300 hours of HD content).

It also supports 4K streaming for Netflix/Amazon etc (obviously OTA content is still 1080i or 720p). As with previous models, you can subscribe to the service via monthly, annual or lifetime subscriptions.
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post #24 of 33 Old 10-26-2019, 09:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by orrin1933 View Post
According to this article https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-d..._United_States many networks including ABC, Fox, and ESPN are transmitting in

720p.
Yes. OTA broadcasts in the US are generally one of the following:

1080i
720p
480i

The TV can upscale to a degree, but it won't make a 480i broadcast look like a 4k image.

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post #25 of 33 Old 10-26-2019, 10:13 PM
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Originally Posted by orrin1933 View Post
According to this article https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-d..._United_States many networks including ABC, Fox, and ESPN are transmitting in
720p.
By the same token, CBS, NBC, CW and many PBS stations are transmitting in 1080i.

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post #26 of 33 Old 10-26-2019, 10:36 PM
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Originally Posted by ncsercs View Post
I'm not the least bit surprised. So what's the big deal about 'HDTV' TV's, 4K, 8K, etc?
4K (UHD) was a solution looking for a problem.

TV manufacturers needed a new and improved marketing gimmik to boost HDTV sales. 3D and curved screens were a bust so the next thing on the list was increase the panel resolution to UHD. Kind of like the ever-increasing mega-pixels of digital cameras -- it adds little to the photographic experience but produces monstrously large picture files.

4K resolution is a bust. Unless you are viewing an 80" screen from ~8' you won't see any difference in 4K vs 1080p. Turns out HDR and DV are what make UHD distinctive. Having said that, the great majority of what people watch is broadcast/cable TV shows -- none of which is in 4K. So, where's the 4K content? There is limited streaming content in bit-starved 4K, which will eat up your bandwidth caps in short order and, of course, UHD BD disks which are the only true source of 4K content. Anyway, it's all a moot point since I don't think you can buy a large panel these days that is not 4K.

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post #27 of 33 Old 10-27-2019, 09:58 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kelson View Post
4K (UHD) was a solution looking for a problem.

TV manufacturers needed a new and improved marketing gimmik to boost HDTV sales. 3D and curved screens were a bust so the next thing on the list was increase the panel resolution to UHD. Kind of like the ever-increasing mega-pixels of digital cameras -- it adds little to the photographic experience but produces monstrously large picture files.

4K resolution is a bust. Unless you are viewing an 80" screen from ~8' you won't see any difference in 4K vs 1080p. Turns out HDR and DV are what make UHD distinctive. Having said that, the great majority of what people watch is broadcast/cable TV shows -- none of which is in 4K. So, where's the 4K content? There is limited streaming content in bit-starved 4K, which will eat up your bandwidth caps in short order and, of course, UHD BD disks which are the only true source of 4K content. Anyway, it's all a moot point since I don't think you can buy a large panel these days that is not 4K.
Great Post!
I would like to get a larger TV to replace my Panasonic ST60.My dilemma is most of the shows we watch are OTA(Tivo Roamio) and streaming(I do have a collection of 4K and Blu-Rays).The picture quality of the ST60 is very good and I don't want to loose that with a larger 4K TV.The Plasma is great in the winter(space heater)not so much in the summer.
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post #28 of 33 Old 10-27-2019, 11:34 AM
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I would like to get a larger TV to replace my Panasonic ST60.My dilemma is most of the shows we watch are OTA(Tivo Roamio) and streaming(I do have a collection of 4K and Blu-Rays).The picture quality of the ST60 is very good and I don't want to loose that with a larger 4K TV.The Plasma is great in the winter(space heater)not so much in the summer.
I have a 65" high-end Panasonic 1080p plasma with the Kuro technology that was from the last year Panasonic made plasma TV's. The picture is absolutely gorgeous -- tack sharp with no hint of motion blurr. The only thing I've seen that exceeds it is an OLED display with absolutely dead blacks. When the time comes I will replace the 65" plasma with and 80" OLED. That will be years in the future before the plasma dies and the price of an 80" OLED cracks the $3K barrier.
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post #29 of 33 Old 10-27-2019, 09:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Kelson View Post
I have a 65" high-end Panasonic 1080p plasma with the Kuro technology that was from the last year Panasonic made plasma TV's. The picture is absolutely gorgeous -- tack sharp with no hint of motion blurr. The only thing I've seen that exceeds it is an OLED display with absolutely dead blacks. When the time comes I will replace the 65" plasma with and 80" OLED. That will be years in the future before the plasma dies and the price of an 80" OLED cracks the $3K barrier.
I'm in the same place. I don't like LED tv because I can see the backlight. I've a Panny plasma that will have to die before I go to the next set. I'm mostly OTA so 1080 and 720, and 4k is a great idea, but you have to go to extremes to get any raw content.

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post #30 of 33 Old 10-29-2019, 08:01 AM - Thread Starter
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Everybody, thank you for the helpful, almost voluminous, responses. Although I don't frequent this forum, I came here specifically for this question. I got exactly the response I expected.


Based on your recommendations I bought a used TIVO bolt. It was just $80 (I think ~$100 with taxes and shipping) so I am not risking much. It should arrive in a couple days and I'll get it hooked up. And I'll get back here and let you know my thoughts. I wanted something stand alone for just one TV and didn't want to have to use network or apps to view it. I'm fairly certain the TIVO is going to serve my needs.


Thanks again to all of you for sharing your intelligence and expertise.
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