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Top OTA DVRs that Let You Record Free Antenna Content

woman recording free antenna content with OTA DVR

After cutting the cord from a pay-TV service and using free over-the-air (OTA) TV, you may miss the ability to record your favorite TV shows. Fortunately, you can combine an OTA antenna with an OTA DVR. Getting an OTA DVR allows you to record live TV being watched with an antenna for free. If this setup sounds like a feature you’d like to use in your home, you’ll want to compare the top OTA DVR models and choose the best one for your needs.

To help you get started, you can examine the specs and information for the three units listed below:

  1. Tablo Quad
  2. Amazon Fire TV Recast
  3. TiVo Bolt

Tablo Quad

The Tablo ATSC 3.0 QUAD HDMI OTA DVR in-situ
The Tablo ATSC 3.0 QUAD HDMI OTA DVR in-situ is a good choice for cord-cutters who prefer free antenna broadcasting. Credits: Tablo

When you want to record free TV being broadcast using an antenna, a top OTA DVR to examine is the Tablo Quad.

  • With it, you can record up to four channels simultaneously. This feature makes it convenient for a family to record more shows. It’s an upgrade over the Tablo Dual Lite, which doesn’t have this capability.
  • You’ll also use an internal hard drive bay to store recordings, eliminating the need for an external drive.
  • The unit also has a feature allowing you to skip commercials automatically.
  • You can also browse upcoming shows, examine the programs you’ve recorded and schedule recordings in advance.

Unlike a traditional DVR connected to a single TV, this device requires you to connect it to your Internet router. Doing so allows your recorded content to be watched on any device connected to your home’s internet connection.

This feature allows you or another family member to watch your favorite shows on a TV, computer or mobile device. Basic features come for free.

Setting up this OTA DVR should be straightforward, making it a top choice for cord-cutters who prefer free antenna broadcasting.

Amazon Fire TV Recast

Another option for an OTA DVR is the Amazon Fire TV Recast.

  • It has no monthly fee, making it an excellent choice if you want to record shows being aired free with an antenna.
  • It has a 500 GB hard drive built into the unit, allowing you to record programs or a movie like ‘Dances with Wolves’ (available on DIRECTV STREAM as well). This feature saves you from using the cloud or another device to store your programs.
  • With it, two shows can be recorded at the same time.
  • It holds about 75 hours of content, allowing you to record and store many shows before watching them.

The Amazon Fire TV Recast can be connected directly to a router with an adapter or wirelessly. If you have an Amazon Alexa, you can use it with this unit.

You can also record two shows simultaneously due to the two tuners in the unit. Similar to the Tablo Quad, getting up and running should be easy, providing you with the ability to record quickly.

TiVo Bolt

The TiVo Bolt is another top OTA DVR you may want to use. It’s a standard set-top DVR, which also includes built-in streaming apps.

If you’d like, you can plug it into your TV and use it as your only streaming device as access to several popular services, such as Netflix, HBO, and Amazon Prime, are available.

With 500 GB of storage, you should have plenty of room for recording TV shows.

SkipMode lets you skip through entire commercial breaks of recorded shows, and QuickMode allows you to watch recorded shows 30 percent quicker utilizing pitch-corrected audio.

You will need to pay a monthly subscription to TiVo, which may be a deterrent to some individuals on a strict budget.

Using a TV Tuner Card to Build a PC-Based DVR for Recording OTA-Free TV

If you’ve got the knowledge and skills, you may want to utilize your home computer and set it up to capture and record free TV using an OTA.

Doing so is relatively easy if you already have a home computer and digital antenna. With those in place, all you need is a TV tuner card.

If you only plan on recording one show at a time using your homemade DVR, a single-tuner model will be acceptable and save you some money. Purchasing another tuner is essential if you want to record free content from an antenna while watching another channel.

There are four basic types of TV tuner cards you can utilize. Using the one meeting your needs relies on your preferences.

You can choose between USB, a PCI-e compatible card or plug-into-ethernet-port card. Using a USB port will be easiest if one’s available. Otherwise, you’ll need to open up your computer and install the appropriate card.

If you’re a novice, using a USB may be best. This configuration can be challenging if your number of available USB ports is limited.

connecting TV tuner to computer via USB
If you’re a novice, using a USB to connect a TV tuner may be the best.

You’ll also want to plan how you’d like to use your tuner card. Do you need to record one or multiple shows simultaneously with your homemade DVR? Using a second tuner model or dual tuner will be required.

You can also save money by using a digital-only tuner card. This option may be best if you don’t plan on adding a cable TV connection in the future.

Personal Preferences

After learning about your choices with premade OTA DVR models, your personal preferences will come into play when you decide on a unit best fulfilling your needs.

Whether you’d like to record more than one show at a time, pay a subscription or have a simple, intuitive option, a model is available for your requirements.

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