Amazon Fire TV Recast Program Guide
By Don Lindich
Week 3, 2021
Q. I read your article about watching television broadcasts with antennas. I have antennas and they work great, but the hesitancy I have to cutting the cable is losing my ability to record programming on a DVR. Could you talk about recording options for over-the-air broadcasts, and how they work?
-C.B., Plymouth, MN
A. The antenna column was very popular and generated a lot of email, including lots of tips from readers. I would like to recognize D.J. of Burnsville, MN, for telling me about Locast, a not-for-profit service that rebroadcasts local channels over the internet. The service is free but donations are encouraged. Locast does not serve all areas of the country but fortunately it does serve Minneapolis and the surrounding areas, so if cable subscribers there are still shut out of NBC locals when this column is published you have another option for getting the channels back. D.J. gets his local channels using the Locast app with an Amazon Fire Stick, and there are also apps for Roku, Apple TV, tablets, phones and other devices. Learn more and see if your channels are available at locast.org.
There are quite a few DVRs that work with antennas to record over-the-air broadcasts, priced from $29 and up. Most work by connecting the antenna to the DVR, and then connecting the DVR to the TV with an HDMI cable. Scan for channels on the DVR and it will find and save them. You are now ready to use the DVR for tuning and recording.
I am allergic to paying subscription fees for something that receives over-the-air broadcasts, even a DVR recorder, so I will only be recommending products that work without subscription fees. Why pay a subscription fee if you do not have to? It is self-defeating, and in my experience these fees only go up. I will start with one premium and one budget-priced option to get us started, and I will review and recommend additional models in future columns.
The top spot goes to the Amazon Fire TV Recast, which can record two shows at once and comes in a 75-hour version for $229 and a 150 hour version for $279. Setup is guided via an online app and it can rebroadcast to Fire TVs, Fire Sticks connected to a television, and portable devices. A network connection is required to send the signal to the TV so if you do not have internet service you will have to find another DVR. When paired with a Fire Stick for streaming it becomes a very compelling cord-cutting option. amazon.com
You can get your feet wet with over-the-air DVR recording for only $29 with the ZJBOX Digital TV Converter Box with PVR recording. Available on Amazon, it records over-the-air high definition broadcasts to external drives and has pause, rewind and fast-forward functionality. The ability to record on external media is a big plus for those who like to archive their recordings. Being so cheap I am sure everyone is wondering, “What’s the catch?” I’ve used these small, inexpensive recorders and while the tuning and recording quality can be surprisingly good, the interface, menus and support from the manufacturers tend to be substandard. Given the sub-$30 price I have a hard time complaining about that as they still get the job done. My own unit, a Mediasonic HW-150, still works just fine almost 6 years after I purchased it.