Let’s look at over-the-air DVR choices

This week’s reader question asks how to record over-the-air TV content.

“How do you add DVR features like reverse and fast-forward (and recording, for that matter)? Do I need to bring TiVo back into my home?”

— TiVo

If you ask me, the best over-the-air DVR is the TiVo Roamio OTA Vox, but I have to warn you that it’s expensive, at $399.99.

TiVo is the gold standard for digital video recorders. I owned an original TiVo back in 1999. The fact that the company has stayed relevant is impressive.

The Roamio OTA Vox includes lifetime guide data, so while the price of entry is high, there is no ongoing cost.

Just connect the antenna, set up your channel lineup, and you’re ready to set up your recordings. You can record four shows at once.

— Tablo

I’m a big fan of the Tablo Dual Lite OTA DVR ($99.99, tablotv.com), which does not include a hard drive (you bring your own). Unlike other DVRs, the Tablo doesn’t connect to your TV directly.

You connect the Tablo to your home network and your antenna and then you access your content from virtually any device on your network at home, including Roku, Apple TV or Amazon Fire TV.

You’ll need a subscription for guide data, which is $4.99 per month, $49.99 a year or $149.99 for lifetime service. You can record two shows at once with the Tablo’s dual tuners.

— Plex + HDHomerun

At home, I’m currently running a Plex home media server on a Synology RAID box. Plex itself is free, but if you want the live TV/DVR feature, you’ll need to buy a PlexPass ($4.99 per month, $39.99 per year or $139.99 for lifetime). The PlexPass unlocks the guide data and allows DVR recording.

The Plex server’s hard drive is where your shows will be stored. To connect your antenna to the Plex server, you’ll need one more thing: an HDHomerun TV tuner box from Silicon Dust (starting at $88.99 from silicondust.com).

This isn’t a server for the faint of heart or the tech-challenged. Setting it up is an involved process, but it works well when you get all the pieces working together.

So there are three choices to record free over-the-air TV signals. Each has its own advantages, and none is perfect.

I’ve tried them all, and I’d recommend TiVo first, then the other two are a tie. There are other hardware boxes that can record TV, but none that I’d particularly recommend. If you have a recommendation, please let me know.


Jim Rossman writes for The Dallas Morning News. He may be reached at jrossman@dallasnews.com.

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