Tablo DVR home screen

3 Popular Over-the-Air DVRs for Cord Cutters

An Antenna’s Best Friend, the OTA DVR

Taking a Look at Price, Features and Functionality

An important item in any cord cutters arsenal is the OTA DVR. Live television via an over-the-air antenna is great, but it’s also nice to have something that can record your favorite shows when you’re not around. It is also a huge advantage to be able to fast forward through commercials. But for most cord cutters (who don’t want to build their own), the question isn’t “should I get a DVR” (that’s a no brainer) but rather “what DVR should I get?”

And that’s a tough question to answer.

There are dozens of different DVRs on the market today, and if you don’t know where to look, it can be daunting. To help you with your DVR dilemma, I’ve narrowed the field for you to three popular choices; the Tablo, the Channel Master DVR+, and the TiVo Bolt. All three devices have pros and cons to them, so today we’ll take a quick look at each one to see which device is right for you.

Let’s get started!

TiVo Bolt

This is by far the flashiest, and newest DVR option on our list today, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The Bolt is meant to serve as your all-in-one replacement device for online streaming and OTA television. The Bolt (previously known as the TiVo Roamio) supports most of the major streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, HBO Go (no Sling support yet) and supports 4k HD resolution.

If you’re an HD junkie, that can be a great selling point; but for the rest of us, not so much. Especially when you consider 4k’s limited reach. But in a few years, it’s definitely going to be a must have. The Bolt also comes with four tuners, which enables you to record up to four shows at once.

One of it’s biggest draws is its seamless interface that lets you watch all of your recording, streaming, and live content all from one source. That means no jumping back and forth between your DVR, Netflix, and your antenna. Instead, you simply search by show.

The biggest downside to the Bolt is it’s monthly price. If you want the pleasure of recording shows, you’ll have to either pay $15 a month, $150 a year, or a onetime $600 fee. If you’re looking for something simple and easy that comes with all the bells and whistles, check out the TiVo Bolt.


Unlike the other DVRs on today’s list, the Tablo DVR doesn’t actually connect to a television. Although still connected to an OTA antenna, the Tablo sends you your recorded content through your home network (either through WiFi or Ethernet cord). What makes this significant is that it allows you to stream live and recorded OTA content through a litany of Android and Apple devices.

Not to worry though, you’ll still be able to watch your OTA content on the big screen through one of the many devices supported by Tablo, such as the Roku or Apple TV.

As far a price goes, Tablo is definitely the cheapest of the DVRs discussed today. If you want a Tablo with two tuners (i.e., record two shows at once), it’ll set you back $220. The four tuner Tablo costs $300. You still have to purchase a USB Hard Drive in order to record and watch live OTA television.

Like TiVo, Tablo has a monthly subscription fee. Thankfully, it is substantially cheaper. Tablo will only set you back $5 a month or $150 for a lifetime. Alternatively there is a free version, but its features are limited.

If you’re always on the go, but you still want your OTA television, Tablo might be your best bet.

Channel Master DVR+

What makes Channel Master unique is that there are no monthly subscription fees. Instead of paying for DVR services, you download your OTA content straight to a hard drive that you own and keep.

The Channel Master DVR+ has fewer features than the others on this list, but this is a product that aims to be a DVR not a streaming box (although the Channel Master does support streaming apps like YouTube, Pandora, and Sling TV). Many have also complained that setup can be a bit difficult, so keep that in mind when deciding which DVR is best suited for your needs.

The Channel Master DVR+ has two prices and they’re based on storage capacity. For $250, your Channel Master DVR+ will have 16GB of storage (which can be upgraded through the purchase of a USB Hard Drive) or you can spend $400 for 1TB of storage. I would recommend getting the $250 version because you can purchase your own 1TB USB hard drive (and shop around for a great deal on one).

If you’re looking for a straight up DVR, with no monthly fees or extraneous features, the Channel Master DVR+ is worth looking into.

Deciding which OTA DVR is best for you

As you can see, you need to put some thought into what is important to you. At the end of the day, I think it really comes down to what you are willing to pay – from a subscription perspective. The Bolt seems to be the most robust and advanced device of the bunch, but it comes at a price. Alternatively, the Channel Master has fewer features, but the monthly savings you could tuck away are substantial.

What’s your favorite DVR? TiVo, Tablo, Channel Master, or something else? Sound off on social media or let us know in the comments below!