I cut the cable! DVR suggestions?

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hornet driver

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Yea, I finally did it. We were going to do this earlier but we negotiated a lower price of about 100 bucks a month for cable/internet/ phone(we don't use). Just got a letter from spectrum(charter pos) that our rates were going up 50 bucks. After 2 hours on the phone with customer no service we pulled the plug and have internet only. I'll be looking for another provider for that as well. I'm headed out later to pic up an antenna. I need suggestions on a good-simple-dvr, so I can record some shows. If possible the cost needs to be a couple hundred bucks or less. Any ideas out there?---H
 
Welcome to the post-cable future. Come on in, the water's fine!

I'll share my experiences (I cut the cable in April, 2009), in hopes that what I've learned along the way will benefit you.

First, I know little about what media you like, what platforms you like (Win/Apple/Linux/iOS/Android), or how techie you are. So, if I'm dumbing things down too much, sorry about that!

I recommend considering the next step to be not just about a "getting DVR" but about analyzing what media you want and where you want to view it. If all you want is just an appliance box that records via an antenna, check to see what TiVo has at the moment. I used to have a TiVo that did that, long ago (2005?).

When I left cable, I really wanted to improve the viewing experience, getting as much in HD as possible, but now pretty much everything other than DVDs and "old content rebroadcast" are HD, so no worry there.

I recommend a product that really changed my viewing life, called Emby. Check this out:

https://emby.media/

Emby consists of two parts:

1. A server on one of your PCs (or various other platforms) that hosts your media, and which performs the recording of off the air (OTA) programs.
2. Clients that play back the media. There are PC clients (Emby Theater), Android and iOS clients, Roku clients... and so on. Pretty much any recent smart device has an Emby app.

In my case, I have a dedicated PC that acts as the Emby Server and also runs Emby Theater. This PC is near my main TV; the TV acts as the monitor for that computer. Emby Theater is always up; I rarely minimize it to do something else on that computer. So, any of my stored media, including "DVRed" TV shows and other media I've ripped to the server are instantly accessible.
That TV happens to be a smart TV, so I can use Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime to stream, as well, needing nothing at all from the PC.

How does the PC record shows? I use a network-attached tuner, from SiliconDust. Your antenna plugs into the tuner. I've got their Extend model, which now has been superseded by the "Connect" model. Both are dual-tuner models so you can record two things at once or watch one live program and record another at the same time. These are all in the "HD HomeRun" product line. I think they are about to release a 4-tuner variant.

SiliconDust HDHomeRun has their own DVR software; I haven't used it. I believe it to be relatively primitive.

Anyway, Emby can be configured to use TV schedules from SchedulesDirect, so it knows what's on, and you just tell it what to record, and it talks to the tuners and records your shows. You then watch the content on any device at home, or anywhere you've got a smart device connected into your server. It's pretty slick.

What does this all cost?

I'll assume you have a PC running some fairly recent (Win7+) Windows hanging around. The server DOESN'T have to be super fast or the latest tech. I was running a dual processor Athlon from circa 2009 until last Christmas when I built a new server. You will want some hard drives in that thing... a Terabyte or two. To start. :)

So, if you already have a PC, the SiliconDust Connect will run you about $100. Emby Premiere costs $5 per month, OR $54 per year OR $119 lifetime. I am a lifetime subscriber. SchedulesDirect costs about $26/year after a 7 day free trial (you can buy 2 months for I think $6).

If you want to try this out, I recommend buying a one month Emby Premiere license and signing up for the schedules direct trial AFTER you get the Connect hooked up.

I use Emby for much more than DVRing TV. All of my bluray content is ripped in glorious 1080p and stored on the server. I also rent blurays from Netflix and 3d-BlurayRental.com, and TEMPORARILY rip it to my hard drive for viewing, after which I delete it. Note, I'm a big anti-piracy advocate. I pay for all content I watch.

With this setup, there's always something on, I can watch it anywhere, it's easy to record my shows, and the main inteface on the TV (Emby Theater via PC for me), is very simple for anyone to use.

Please let me know any questions; this is my "other hobby" besides rockets.

Good luck!

Marc
 
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Pick up a used Tivo Premier unit that someone has already paid the lifetime service on. It follows the box, not the user. Since it's an older model, people are sometimes unloading them for cheap, even with lifetime. If you need a more recent model, they have the Roamio OTA, which does over the air only, no cable capability and is quicker on the user interface than the Premier. Hard drive upgrades are easily available for either.
-Ken
 
The big question is...do you want to watch live sports? If the answer is yes, this gets complicated. If the answer is no, pick up a Roku box and get a Netflix and Hulu subscription. You probably won't need anything else. Don't even worry about the antenna. Let the cloud do the work for you.
 
The first thing to decide is if you want to go down the home server rabbit hole. It can get... Interesting... Fast. :) Emby, Plex, Kodi are the big names here..

There are also appliance setups. Tivo and similar.

Do you need/want OTA? If you don't, streaming only can work well.
 
Another option to investigate is Sling TV (not to be confused with Sling Box). Basically, pay a moderate monthly fee, get a bunch of channels no muss, no fuss, delivered over the internet and watched typically via a Roku.

Marc
 
... Don't even worry about the antenna. Let the cloud do the work for you.
Disagree with the antenna suggestion. I live in the same general area as the OP and there are dozens of OTA channels here in the DFW area. There are a fair number of decent TV shows, plus the local news, late night shows, etc. I have a ChannelMaster 2 channel OTA DVR that has a pretty decent on screen program guide. Paired with a 1TB drive I can record many hours of very high quality video, often better than what is available via some streaming services. Lots of current TV shows are very hard to stream as they are not available until the on-air season ends. And I can record stuff like the Cowboys games and start watching in the 3rd quarter and skip past the commercials to get to real time a few minutes before the game ends. (Avoids spoilers.)

Many of my friends have been amazed when I show them the number of channels available OTA here in the DFW area. There is one that runs shows like COPS, Alaska State Troopers, Border Wars, etc. that I can watch for hours. Drives my wife crazy. With the DVR I can blow past the commercials and turn a 1/2 hour show into 18 minutes. Another thing that surprises people is that you can get current Blu-Ray discs at your local library. We've watched lots of series on Blu-Ray without ever having to worry about buffering on a Saturday night.


Tony
 
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Not getting cable/satellite was one of the best decisions I made. Easily saving 1200+ a year.

I started out with a simple Mohu leaf, it worked pretty good, but depending on the weather conditions would drop some channels.

Recently switched to a Clearstream max that is mounted in the attic. Now we get even more channels and are not dropping any, in any weather conditions. Truly money well spent.

Best of luck in your cord cutting venture!
 
The big question is...do you want to watch live sports? If the answer is yes, this gets complicated. If the answer is no, pick up a Roku box and get a Netflix and Hulu subscription. You probably won't need anything else. Don't even worry about the antenna. Let the cloud do the work for you.

Exactly. Sports is the hangup. My wife and I ran the numbers (Roku, Hulu, Sling, Amazon, Netflix, etc.) every which way to Sunday but could not avoid the need for cable in order to watch college football and local baseball. Once this collusion is broken up, then cable TV will be dead for good.
 
We have a Tablo Over-the-Air DVR. It isn't as slick as the DVR we had when we had satellite TV, but it is easy to use and works well. The model we have records up to four channels at once. We have a Roku hooked up to each TV in order to use the Tablo app. We can also schedule events and watch live or recorded shows on my phone.

We get about 60 or 70 channels/subchannels with just a simple dipole and loop antenna sitting inside on top of a cabinet inside the house. I have an antenna and mast to erect outside, but haven't had the time to put it up yet.

I highly recommend the Tablo if you live in an area with good OTA reception.
 
Disagree with the antenna suggestion. I live in the same general area as the OP and there are dozens of OTA channels here in the DFW area. There are a fair number of decent TV shows, plus the local news, late night shows, etc. I have a ChannelMaster 2 channel OTA DVR that has a pretty decent on screen program guide. Paired with a 1TB drive I can record many hours of very high quality video, often better than what is available via some streaming services. Lots of current TV shows are very hard to stream as they are not available until the on-air season ends. And I can record stuff like the Cowboys games and start watching in the 3rd quarter and skip past the commercials to get to real time a few minutes before the game ends. (Avoids spoilers.)

Many of my friends have been amazed when I show them the number of channels available OTA here in the DFW area. There is one that runs shows like COPS, Alaska State Troopers, Border Wars, etc. that I can watch for hours. Drives my wife crazy. With the DVR I can blow past the commercials and turn a 1/2 hour show into 18 minutes. Another thing that surprises people is that you can get current Blu-Ray discs at your local library. We've watched lots of series on Blu-Ray without ever having to worry about buffering on a Saturday night.


Tony

What's your antenna setup Tony ?
 
Antennas will vary in performance for everyone. A good place to start is something like this..

https://www.antennaweb.org/

It gives you a good idea where the TV stations are in relation to you, and how much antenna you might need. My situation has all the stations in a similar direction, so a directional type works well. And UHF makes for a smaller antenna. If you can get it outside, it will work better, but many areas don't need an outdoor antenna. I have one like this on the roof and it works really well, probably overkill for me, but I'd rather have a nice solid signal than be on the edge.

https://www.channelmaster.com/Digital_HDTV_Outdoor_TV_Antenna_p/cm-4221hd.htm


Thankfully for us, no one in our house watches sports, so that's not an issue for me. There has been some noise about ESPN creating a streaming service. That would be a game changer for a lot of people.
 
OK , So here is where we are at. I've installed a Moho Leaf Ultimate as an antenna. It comes with a signal booster and works about as expected. I get good reception on the channels I watch except for Fox and CW. Fox is fine about 99.9 % of the time , CW is another story. I've moved the antenna around to several locations and it's in it's best spot now--on a window. I did a little studying and it turns out that digital OTA is more susceptible to landscape interference( buildings, trees, hills) than analog. Tonight I'm going to my upstairs neighbor and try the antenna there(line of sight).
I signed up for Hulu Live. I had no interest in sports except for NASCAR. HL carries NBC,NBCSN,FSI,FS2, FOX. So that covers the racing thing. They offer 50 hrs of record time. That covers me being at work. The downside is , Hulu is not very intutive--just hard to navigate until you get the hang of it. I have yet to figure out the recording part! I did go ahead and resign for Netflix just to get some older programs I enjoy from time to time and can get rid of any of this stuff at any time.
So, that's where we are at for now. I may just resort to this---candle.jpg
 
There has been some noise about ESPN creating a streaming service. That would be a game changer for a lot of people.

It would definitely be a game changer for me. I cut the cable several years ago, but college sports drug me back in. I hate to think about how much I pay just to watch college football and basketball per year.
 
What's your antenna setup Tony ?
I have a fairly large antenna in my attic suspended from the ceiling. I was able to tap into the cable that had already been run through the attic to feed the signal into the house. I've been in the house 20 years and I installed it when I first moved in and things were still broadcast in analog. My DVR shows signal strength and it's consistently well over 95% and often at 100% for most channels. I remember a guide I found that told me where to point it for the best reception but now I could just use the guide to adjust the angle.


Tony
 
OK , So here is where we are at. I've installed a Moho Leaf Ultimate as an antenna. It comes with a signal booster and works about as expected. I get good reception on the channels I watch except for Fox and CW. Fox is fine about 99.9 % of the time , CW is another story. I've moved the antenna around to several locations and it's in it's best spot now--on a window. I did a little studying and it turns out that digital OTA is more susceptible to landscape interference( buildings, trees, hills) than analog. Tonight I'm going to my upstairs neighbor and try the antenna there(line of sight).
I signed up for Hulu Live. I had no interest in sports except for NASCAR. HL carries NBC,NBCSN,FSI,FS2, FOX. So that covers the racing thing. They offer 50 hrs of record time. That covers me being at work. The downside is , Hulu is not very intutive--just hard to navigate until you get the hang of it. I have yet to figure out the recording part! I did go ahead and resign for Netflix just to get some older programs I enjoy from time to time and can get rid of any of this stuff at any time.
So, that's where we are at for now. I may just resort to this---View attachment 330146

CW has a streaming service. The App should be available.


Sent from my iPhone using Rocketry Forum
 
We "cut the cable" when DirecTV Now came out. We now pay $50/month for 60mb/s internet through Spectrum and $35 a month for the DTVN. The DTVN is a promotional price that holds as long as I have continuous service and came with a free Apple TV 4. They added HBO and keep adding channels to the service as they negotiate.

TL;DR: Get DirecTV Now, it's nice.
 
I should have mentioned I have a ChannelMaster DVR that is very good at over-the-air recording:

https://www.channelmaster.com/DVR_Plus_16GB_Bundle_p/cm-7500bdl3.htm

It uses a channel guide the is distributed over the air and there are no subscriptions or fees involved. I have mine paired with a 1TB drive and it holds lots of recorded programs.

They also make both indoor and outdoor antennas. We also have a Sony Blu-Ray player that has Netflix, Hulu, AmazonPrime players. Of course you need to have a subscription but it is convenient to be able to use it for both discs and streaming. I have a 3rd Gen AppleTV that we use for HBO Now.


Tony
 
I should have mentioned I have a ChannelMaster DVR that is very good at over-the-air recording:

https://www.channelmaster.com/DVR_Plus_16GB_Bundle_p/cm-7500bdl3.htm

It uses a channel guide the is distributed over the air and there are no subscriptions or fees involved. I have mine paired with a 1TB drive and it holds lots of recorded programs.

They also make both indoor and outdoor antennas. We also have a Sony Blu-Ray player that has Netflix, Hulu, AmazonPrime players. Of course you need to have a subscription but it is convenient to be able to use it for both discs and streaming. I have a 3rd Gen AppleTV that we use for HBO Now.


Tony

that's a good tip. So far so good for us--not missing much of anything! Got rid of netflix--waste of money for us--Hulu is fine for the moment--might loose it after the NASCAR season is over, got about 35 channels OTA!
 
Welcome to the post-cable future. Come on in, the water's fine!

I'll share my experiences (I cut the cable in April, 2009), in hopes that what I've learned along the way will benefit you.

First, I know little about what media you like, what platforms you like (Win/Apple/Linux/iOS/Android), or how techie you are. So, if I'm dumbing things down too much, sorry about that!

I recommend considering the next step to be not just about a "getting DVR" but about analyzing what media you want and where you want to view it. If all you want is just an appliance box that records via an antenna, check to see what TiVo has at the moment. I used to have a TiVo that did that, long ago (2005?).

When I left cable, I really wanted to improve the viewing experience, getting as much in HD as possible, but now pretty much everything other than DVDs and "old content rebroadcast" are HD, so no worry there.

I recommend a product that really changed my viewing life, called Emby. Check this out:

https://emby.media/

Emby consists of two parts:

1. A server on one of your PCs (or various other platforms) that hosts your media, and which performs the recording of off the air (OTA) programs.
2. Clients that play back the media. There are PC clients (Emby Theater), Android and iOS clients, Roku clients... and so on. Pretty much any recent smart device has an Emby app.

In my case, I have a dedicated PC that acts as the Emby Server and also runs Emby Theater. This PC is near my main TV; the TV acts as the monitor for that computer. Emby Theater is always up; I rarely minimize it to do something else on that computer. So, any of my stored media, including "DVRed" TV shows and other media I've ripped to the server are instantly accessible.
That TV happens to be a smart TV, so I can use Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime to stream, as well, needing nothing at all from the PC.

How does the PC record shows? I use a network-attached tuner, from SiliconDust. Your antenna plugs into the tuner. I've got their Extend model, which now has been superseded by the "Connect" model. Both are dual-tuner models so you can record two things at once or watch one live program and record another at the same time. These are all in the "HD HomeRun" product line. I think they are about to release a 4-tuner variant.

SiliconDust HDHomeRun has their own DVR software; I haven't used it. I believe it to be relatively primitive.

Anyway, Emby can be configured to use TV schedules from SchedulesDirect, so it knows what's on, and you just tell it what to record, and it talks to the tuners and records your shows. You then watch the content on any device at home, or anywhere you've got a smart device connected into your server. It's pretty slick.

What does this all cost?

I'll assume you have a PC running some fairly recent (Win7+) Windows hanging around. The server DOESN'T have to be super fast or the latest tech. I was running a dual processor Athlon from circa 2009 until last Christmas when I built a new server. You will want some hard drives in that thing... a Terabyte or two. To start. :)

So, if you already have a PC, the SiliconDust Connect will run you about $100. Emby Premiere costs $5 per month, OR $54 per year OR $119 lifetime. I am a lifetime subscriber. SchedulesDirect costs about $26/year after a 7 day free trial (you can buy 2 months for I think $6).

If you want to try this out, I recommend buying a one month Emby Premiere license and signing up for the schedules direct trial AFTER you get the Connect hooked up.

I use Emby for much more than DVRing TV. All of my bluray content is ripped in glorious 1080p and stored on the server. I also rent blurays from Netflix and 3d-BlurayRental.com, and TEMPORARILY rip it to my hard drive for viewing, after which I delete it. Note, I'm a big anti-piracy advocate. I pay for all content I watch.

With this setup, there's always something on, I can watch it anywhere, it's easy to record my shows, and the main inteface on the TV (Emby Theater via PC for me), is very simple for anyone to use.

Please let me know any questions; this is my "other hobby" besides rockets.

Good luck!

Marc

Great info...
 
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