If you are thinking of cutting the cord and moving to Antenna based TV for most of your viewing pleasure then one of the things you might really miss is the ability to record your favorite episodes for later viewing.
And thats the one thing about Antenna TV there are still a number of good shows that you want to watch. Many people will watch Prime Time shows on the big OTA networks and then there are shows that air when you’re not home or when something else is on that you want to watch a bit more.
To get the most of Antenna based TV you really need to have a method of recording shows. Not only should you record shows you might miss but you should record shows and then keep them so you can watch them later when absolutely nothing good is on. Yeah that happens with cable and dish too even with a hundred plus channels there are times when there just isn’t anything worth watching.
After the digital transition about 6 years ago there really haven’t been a number of options to record over the air antenna based TV. This is really unfortunate because all of those VCRs are now useless when you want to watch Digital TV in High Definition. I guess you could still get a tuner box that is used to let old TVs get the new Digital Broadcasts and hook it to an old VCR but you’re going to end up with letter boxing and reduced quality of the video. Additionally then you have the problem that your show is on a VCR Tape and not every store carries them anymore if you can get them new. You will probably have to get them online.
So, what are your options then? Well there are a few inexpensive DVRs that run in the sub $75 range and some as low as $40 if you find it on sale. After talking with a number of people that own them there are two groups of customers. There are the ones that love them because at least they can record something and then there are the rest that don’t like them because the online guide is difficult to use and limited and the electronics of these devices are not the top of the line… meaning you often have glitches where you need to restart them and reset them which can be a pain if you need to do it often enough. However they do seem to work and you should give them a look.
The next option is to hook an ASTC tuner to your computer. There are a variety of ways to go. You can go for a network tuner that will share your tuners out to TVs, Game Boxes and Computers or you can go internal card and record the shows right on your computer then find another method of getting them to your TV. We have covered a number of these solutions and will do so in the future.
Finally you have the more expensive stand alone DVRs that sit right at your TV and give you the option to record shows on a Hard Drive. Right now the two biggest producers are Tivo and Channel Master.
With the Tivo you need to buy a subscription to their service. With the Channel Master the Guide Information is Free. I strongly suggest you look into the cost of using the system you buy along with the initial cost.The Tablo is another option but I have not reviewed it enough to speak about it yet.
So lets take a look at the Channel Master DVR and the options you will want to consider.
The Channel Master DVR+
There are two models of the Channel Master DVR+ with one major difference the first model comes with only 32GB of internal memory and the second comes with a 1 TB Drive for recording shows.
Both devices are dual tuner DVRs so you can record and play shows at the same time. This means no more fighting about someone missing their show.
Now before you start thinking you can hook it up to your 5 drive NAS there are limits on the drives that this DVR can use.
Primarily the maximum drive size at this time is 2 TB for full use and this is because of device limitations. If you install a 3TB Drive you probably will only see 2 TB of it so its a waste to do so. Now I strongly suggest you check this out again at the time you make your purchase and after because a Firmware update could extend the drive size.
If you get the 32GB version you will need to attach a drive if you want to record shows but at the time of writing you will reduce the cost by $150 allowing you to find a cheaper external.
The next benefit of having an external drive is that the file system is Linux so with a Device Driver installed on your Windows computer you can connect the drive and then export the shows you record.
Without a special tool extracting the files will be difficult. The files are stored in .ts file type and can be played or converted to other file formats but the naming of the files is incremental and not unique so instead of the files having the showname-ep01.ts they will be numeric.
Fortunately a software developer who is also an owner of one of these DVRs has developed a program that will read the index on the drive then match the file names and copy them to your windows computer very easily.
You can watch a video on the DVR Lister program here
Another thing you will enjoy with your Channel Master DVR+ is the ability to get a Free TV Guide / Channel Lineup. You will need internet access for the guide to update but If you have internet access you can take advantage of other services.
The Online services are a little more limited than a Roku or Android box where with the Android TV Boxes you get full access to the net.
With the Channel Master DVR+ you get a couple online services that are currently being expanded.
You get Pandora, Youtube and an online Rental service called VUDU which carries TV episodes and Movies.
With VUDU you can get content from most of the large Cable Networks but you will have to pay so I suggest you look into a Android Box and a HDMI Switcher that will let you access both free and more content in the same way you can from your phone.
So that is basically it.. maybe I didn’t say a lot about this product because its pretty straight forward and should work seamlessly with your TV.
The drawback of this device is its initial cost and a hard drive if you get the model without a drive. On the other hand you will save about half off of competitor devices because the TV Guide is Free.
This is a DVR that anyone can use. If you have kids or grandparents you won’t get confused by the interface.
In my opinion it still needs some expansion of the online services and maybe that will come in the future however it is a great addition to your media center and It will allow you to not only record a ton of content but also save it to your computer with that program I mentioned above.
I really hope Channel Master buys the rights to distribute that program. The guy who made it provided a really great service for their customers. If you use it throw the guy a few dollars or whatever he is asking for a donation because every show or movie you save to your computer is one you won’t have to buy.
Although this device will work without internet access the extended guide is worth connecting it.