So, you've decided to move on from Channel Master's now-discontinued DVR+. Or maybe you're keeping your DVR+ in service, but want to add a different DVR to your setup. What are your choices? I'm creating this thread so you can discuss your options.Is there a thread for disenfranchised DVR+ users? Since the DVR+ has been discontinued, I've been looking for alternatives. I guess I'm looking for the Former DVR+ discussion thread. :frown:
Here are the obvious (at least to me) "new DVR" choices, along with links to their own threads; but feel free to suggest your own! Or suggest "other discontinued" DVRs that DVR+ owners might like.
"Traditional" DVRs: These are DVRs that hook directly to your TV like the DVR+ does.
- "Cheapos:" There are many low-cost, one-tuner, PSIP-only DVRs on the market. These are often sold as "converter boxes," de-emphasizing their DVR capability, because they have composite video outputs for older analog TVs as well as HDMI for newer HDTVs. Most are based on the mStar 7802 chip and the same firmware, and typically cost less than $40. The most popular brands are iVIEW (models 3200STB and 3500STBII) and HomeWorX (models HW-150PVR and HW-180STB-Y18), but there are dozens of other clones too. Two that aren't based on the 7802 chip are also worth mentioning: iVIEW's 3100STB, and Channel Master's 7004.
- TiVo OTA DVRs: TiVo's OTA DVRs are operationally most similar to the DVR+. You connect an antenna to it via coax cable and your TV via HDMI, plug it in and set it up. (Update: Link is to the new TiVo Edge OTA thread.)
- Channel Master Stream+: This is Channel Master's own alternative: a streaming box running Android TV, with two tuners and Google's Live Channels app as its DVR app.
- AirTV Player: Another Android TV streaming box very similar to the Stream+. The main difference is that the tuner(s) aren't built-in; instead they plug in via a USB port.
- Tablo DVR: The original network DVR.
- AirTV "Black Box:" This is a network-attached tuner/DVR, somewhat like the Tablo, made by Echostar (manufacturers of the DVR+).
- Amazon Recast: Another network-attached tuner/DVR much like the AirTV Black Box but designed to work best with Amazon's "Fire TV" streamers.
Thoughts and Recommendations:
Each of the above, of course has its own strengths:
The "cheapos" won't fully replace a DVR+ - their big advantage is obviously low price - but they do have some nice features. They only record by time, not by show title, sort of like an old VCR, but they do let you schedule recordings from the PSIP program guides broadcast by the stations. The guide is typically only one day long and one channel at a time (the slightly pricier 7004 does sport a grid-style guide and a somewhat DVR+-esque user interface), but it gets the job done. Whether you keep your DVR+ or replace it, it's probably worth picking up a "cheapo" or two just for "overflow" recordings (when two, or even four, tuners isn't enough).
The 7802-based cheapos make the most of their single tuner; while you obviously can't watch one channel while recording another, you may be surprised to find that you can watch one subchannel while recording another, if both subchannels are on the same signal! (Usually, one RF signal carries all the subchannels starting with the same number; e.g., if you have 8-1, 8-2, 8-3, and 8-4, they would usually be on the same RF signal. There are some exceptions in both directions: sometimes one channel number is split between multiple signals, and sometimes one RF signal carries subchannels from multiple channel numbers.) They also sport multiple "favorite channel" lists, although they have the fixed (and not terribly useful for OTA TV) names "Music," "News," "Sport," and "Movie." And the recordings aren't encrypted and are easy to copy to a PC and edit.
TiVo OTA DVRs (Edge, Bolt, Roamio, Premiere, etc.) probably work most similarly to the DVR+, giving you the easiest learning curve. They also have a lot of features the DVR+ never delivered, inc;luding (depending on the model) four or more tuners, whole-home capability, "Season Pass" (the ability to record every episode of a season, including picking up a rerun if the original show didn't get recorded for some reason), and some of the most popular streaming apps. But it's expensive; the up-front cost is low, but it has a high monthly fee. However, I believe a "lifetime" subscription is still available for the OTA version. I generally recommend trying to find a used OTA TiVo (either the Bolt or the previous Roamio model) with a lifetime subscription (lifetime subscriptions are transferable) rather than buying one new. Also, unlike the DVR+, TiVo requires an Internet connection for the guide; it won't use PSIP at all.
The Stream+ is a good choice if you're getting more and more into streaming. When the first ones were shipped at the start of 2018, it had a lot of weak spots compared to the DVR+, but I've seen a lot of encouraging news lately; it's now close to the DVR+ in recording (and of course beats it in streaming). The Google's Live Channels app offers integration with some streaming services such as the free Pluto TV, somewhat like the DVR+'s "Channel Master TV." Live Channels isn't a great DVR app yet, but it is being improved slowly but steadily. The EPG can be up to a full 14 days, same as the DVR+; but at present it can shrink to as little as 2 days if you have over 100 channels available from all your channel sources (even if you don't display them all). As a streamer, it's biggest weakness is a lack of the most popular apps, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, but some Stream+ owners have found working versions of Amazon Prime that can be "side-loaded." (The firmware now runs a side-loaded Amazon Prime app more reliably than before.) The Stream+ can record to a micro SD card, or to a USB-attached HDD, I believe up to 2 TB.
The two AirTV products will be especially attractive to folks missing the DVR+'s Sling app, which was disabled by Sling TV earlier this year. The Player is very much like the Stream+, but you use its Sling TV app instead of Live Channels; the OTA channels and your Sling TV channels are integrated into a single EPG. The Player can be purchased without a tuner, or with either a one-tuner or two-tuner dongle that attaches via USB. (The Player has two USB ports so you'll still have a place to attach an HDD.)
Network DVRs like the Tablo can save you some money if you want DVRs for multiple TVs, and they provide "whole-home" (the ability to schedule and/or watch your recordings from any TV) essentially for free. A network DVR works much like a traditional DVR, except it has multiple "outputs" (i.e., streams), accessed via an app on a smart phone, tablet, PC, or streaming device (such as a Roku) at the TV. They provide the flexibility to place your antenna far from your TV, without having to fish coaxial cable through your walls, and some (I know for sure the AirTV; unsure about the others) will let you watch your local channels and recordings over the Internet when you're away from home! On the downside, network DVRs typically "transcode" video to reduce the load on your home network; that often results in lower picture quality than traditional DVRs, so you may not be satisfied if you have really big screen TVs (65" or more).
The Tablo has both 2-tuner and 4-tuner models. One difference is that the Tablo transcodes video while recording, while other network DVRs transcode video while viewing. Thus, with the Tablo, you have to choose your recording quality, and that determines how much you can record on a given size HDD.
As with the Player, AirTV's "Black Box" (unofficial name) integrates with Sling TV, even if you aren't a Sling TV subscriber. (Sling TV now offers a few free CMTV-style channels, as well as some "a la carte" channels that require a subscription but don't require a $25/month Sling TV "base" package.) You just launch the Sling TV app on your Roku, Fire TV, or Android-based streamer, set up the AirTV BB, and all your OTA channels appear in your Sling TV guide. The "Black Box" has two tuners, like the DVR+, and requires an external HDD up to 2 TiB. The AirTV formats the HDD with a file system I haven't figured out yet, so at least right now, there's no known way to copy your recordings to another drive.
Amazon's Recast is very similar to the AirTV BB, but integrates with the PlayStation Vue service instead of Sling TV (AIUI it can also integrate the Pluto TV guide), and has a built-in HDD. The 1 TB model sports four tuners, while the 500 GB model has two. You can also attach an external HDD, but you can't (yet) control which HDD the Recast records to. (Some folks have gone so far as to deliberately fill up the internal HDD with junk recordings before attaching an external HDD, in order to force the Recast to record to the external HDD!) The Recast formats the external HDD with a Linux ext4 file system, and at least for now, the recording files are not encrypted, so you can copy Recast recordings from your external HDD to another drive. Its biggest weakness is that it won't work with Android devices (except for setup) or Rokus; only Fire TVs and iOS devices (iPhone, iPad, etc. - but not TVOS devices like Apple TV) are supported.