Week 40, 2018: DVRs for over-the-air television recording with an antenna

Sound Advice

By Don Lindich

Week 40, 2018

Q. Do any manufacturers make a DVR that has a broadcast tuner and internal memory, so a person can set a particular time and channel to record, and then review the program at their leisure? I am looking for something that works much as the old VCRs worked. All the products I have been able to find use proprietary program guides and it seems the DVRs are often offered through cable or satellite services at a monthly charge. I have minimal technological skills and something simple would be best for me.

-R.B., Minneapolis, MN

A. No one makes a product that is exactly as you want it, but there are some products out there that should be a fit for you.

First we will address your desire for internal memory. All of the OTA tuners I am familiar with use external memory, and this is actually a good thing. A USB flash drive or external hard drive with lots of capacity can be purchased for well under $100, and using external memory allows you to keep your recordings rather than be forced to overwrite them when the memory is full.

Though the program guides tend to be proprietary by manufacturer and you will have to become familiar with whatever guide you choose, once you are used to navigating the guide you will find it to be much simpler than programming a VCR. I think most people have forgotten how inconvenient and frustrating programming a VCR could be!

Once you accept that you have to use external memory and a program guide, there are several products that will fill your needs.

My first recommendation is the Channel Master Stream + Media Player and OTA DVR. The Stream+ has a two tuner over-the-air DVR so you can watch one channel while recording another, and can connect the unit to your network and enjoy popular streaming services. All you need to add is an antenna and a hard drive. It sells for $149 and you can currently buy it in a bundle with a 1 TB hard drive for only $178. If you buy this product, I recommend getting the bundle as it is a really good deal. channelmaster.com

A simple option I have recommended for years is a MediaSonic HOMEWORX DVR. MediaSonic makes several models of single-tuner DVRs that use external memory and an antenna, just like the Channel Master unit recommended above. The difference is the MediaSonic interface, operation and on-screen guides tend to be simple and a bit quirky compared to the top-of-the-line products that sell for much more. Speaking of which, you can’t argue with the price though the HOMEWORX DVRs typically sell for only $25 to $35. See them on amazon.com.

A compelling option for those with more technical savvy and a desire for something cutting-edge is AirTV, $119. AirTV receives over-the-air channels with an antenna and streams them over your network to televisions, smartphones and tablets throughout your home. If you do not have a Smart TV you can use an accessory like an Amazon Fire Stick or Roku box to receive the signal from the AirTV and display it on your television. It can also work as a DVR with an external hard drive, and you can place the AirTV unit in the part of your home with the best placement for the antenna, even the attic.