If you are moving to Over The Air Antenna based Television then one of the things you might miss from cable or Dish is the ability to Record your shows for later playback.
In this how to we will look at some of the options you have to record your shows and even save them on your computer’s hard drive or serve them over your wired or WiFi network to your Televisions, Tablets and Phones.
There are a lot of options out there and you really have to be a smart shopper and decide what best suits your home. As you can imagine the more options you have then the more it will cost but you can find solutions for as little as $40 or as high as many hundreds of dollars. Since our intentions are always to save money we won’t be looking at the higher dollar options but may mention them in relation to other products we do cover.
We also have to say that although we might have tried or currently own some of the products mentioned here we are not endorsing them. Every product here should be researched by you heavily before you make your purchase. Look for unpaid reviews and read up on things before you spend your money.
Standalone DVR Options for OTA Antenna Based Television
The easiest and fastest way to record television shows from your antenna is to install a set top DVR that can record shows directly from your antenna signal and then play them back on a single television.
These DVRs normally run under $50 and at any given time you are probably going to find about 4 manufacturers out there that are making them.
If you buy one of these boxes they normally come as a Converter/Tuner along with the DVR option. They are an upgrade from the early Digital to Analog Converters that many of us bought years ago during the digital transition to let our old Tube Analog TVS watch the New Digital over the air stations.
The boxes normally do not have internet access so you won’t be presented with a nice channel lineup that lets you scroll all your stations and see whats on now and in the future in the way you are use to on cable or on a website lineup.
What they do offer is a few hours or maybe a days worth of future programming that is sent out over the air by the tv station broadcasters in a special data signal attached to the video signal.
To see the lineups you have to turn to each station. To record shows from the lineups you have to find them from that list or you have to setup a record time based on the day of the week, the station and the time of day. Its not really easy at first but it is doable.
Higher end versions of these boxes are available from companies like Tivo and they can connect to the internet and give you that lineup info for 3 weeks coming but you will pay a service fee for that guide information and you will pay $150 or more for the hardware.
Standalone boxes normally record to a USB device which can be a Thumbdrive stick or an External Drive however many of these devices have limits so if you have an older IDE drive under 1TB or a drive over 2TB the device may not be able to use it. Mine could not see my old IDE drive which was 800GB.
If you use a Thumbdrive like a 32GB stick you will be limited to recording and storing only a handful of shows because HD or even SD TV can take 3 to 7 GB of storage per show.
How do you record TV from your Antenna on your Computer
Here you have a few more options there are a number of companies that build TV Tuners and there are two types of tuners that you have to choose from. Standard Tuners and Network Tuners.
Standard Tuners come in Two types you can get an internal card tuner or an external USB connected Tuner. Each of these options require that you use DVR software to convert the TV Signal to a Video signal that your computer can display and record. Microsoft Media Center is one such software product but there are others for Windows, Linux and Mac OSx.
Network Tuners capture the TV Signal from your antenna and instead of converting it to a Video Format it simply encodes it and sends it off to a device. There are a number of devices that can interpret this signal and then play it on a Computer, Phone or Tablet or Connect to a Device at your TV such as a Roku.
Like we said the signal is a bit different but the idea is the same. You are taking signal from your antenna and sending it to something else that can play it or Record it.
Playing Live TV from your Antenna on your Tablet or Phone
This is where it can get a little tricky there are only a couple devices that are made by SiliconDust and marketed directly by them or through two other outlets/companies that let you play TV directly on your device with the help of your local Ethernet and WiFi Router.
The first is two products from SiliconDust called the SiliconDust Homerun Extend and Homerun Connect. They both offer HD over Ethernet however only the HD Extend can do HD over WiFi so your devices will need to be wired or accept lower resolution video which really isn’t a problem on your Phone because the screen is so small. Please research all of the options here. You really need to find devices that can play this video and it can get expensive if you have lots of TVs and devices.
The next option is the Simple.tv which is also made by SiliconDust but this network tuner requires that you have a subscription to their service for full access to the tv guide information.
On a HomeRun you can use Media Center or other software to get a TV Lineup.
Finally there is the Tablo this device is much like the SiliconDust but it has either 2 or 4 tuners that let you watch or record up to 4 different shows at the same time.
The drawback of the Tablo is its extremely high price you can expect to pay $200 for the 2 tuner and $300 for the 4 tuner .. I could never justify that high price but maybe you can.
I have tried a few of these devices and I am currently shopping for another different one if I can find it at an extreme discount or used for a great price.
That is another thing if you are on a budget I strongly suggest that you look at all the options of these devices. Make sure they work with your TV, Computer or device and then find some people that really have them and ask some questions.
Although Tens of Millions of people in the USA alone depend on Antenna based TV for their entire live tv experience the lack of hardware and software out there is unconscionable. Microsoft actually announced that Media Center is no longer a priority for them and they have decided to charge you $100 extra for it if you use Windows 8 or above. I can remember installing it with Windows 95 and it was free and then with Windows 7 it was free with the Premium Home version of Windows.. but now it seems they don’t care and on the web developers have been completely ignored.
At a time when millions of people are leaving Cable TV and going to Antenna and Streaming to not only ignore but cancel development of this type of software is very bad business. On the other hand Microsoft does have a strong and long relationship with Comcast so maybe this is being done for reason. To try to reduce the ability of people to cancel their subscriptions an forcing them to choose streaming or a cludge of products that are difficult to manage.
If you need easy fast and not so much performance I suggest a $40 set top box It will let you save some shows for later viewing.
If you want to record full seasons of shows automatically and compile tons of free shows on your computer that you can feed out to your TVs then I suggest you look at the SiliconDust HDHomeRuns but READ THE DESCRIPTIONS and know what each can do.
If you got tons and tons of cash hey go buy 5 of the Tablo 4 tuner boxes and record everything to your home blade cloud server..