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Channel Master DVR+: Record over-the-air TV with no fees and few frills

Susie Ochs | April 24, 2014
Cutting the cord doesn't have to mean cutting yourself off from broadcast TV. Depending on where you live, an HD antenna will let you pull in dozens of local channels over the air, including sports, news, big events like the Oscars, and a lot of the same network shows you'd find on, say, Hulu Plus.

Remote control: Simple but capable

The DVR+'s included remote is also on the basic side, but unlike TiVo's, it doesn't make any annoying sounds. It's IR so you do need a line of sight to the DVR+. But the optional $15 IR Remote Control Extender has a 72-inch cable, allowing you to tuck the DVR+ in your media cabinet or otherwise out of the way, and still use the remote.

You can skip the commercials with the jump-forward button, which skips ahead 9 seconds, and there's a jump-back button too. The buttons are pleasant to use, but when you find a currently playing program in the guide and press the OK button, you don't go right to that channel. Instead, a pop-up asks you if you want to start watching that channel, or set a recording. I'd prefer just going to the channel without an extra click, and maybe another button — like, I dunno, the Record button —could be used when you actually want to record.

The remote has four color-coded buttons that help you quickly navigate the program guide: a red one goes back 2.5 hours, the green launches the Search window, yellow goes back one day, and blue goes forward one day. They aren't labeled — I had to look up their functions in the user guide, and even after "learning" them, I still never used them.

To put more of the remote's buttons in use, you can program it to control your TV's volume, power, mute, and input functions. You can either use a four-digit code for your TV manufacturer, found in the DVR+'s user guide, or just use the handy Easy Scan feature to find the remote code by pressing a few buttons. Easy Scan was a snap, and I was glad it worked so well, because the user guide lists no fewer than 23 codes for Toshiba TVs. Easy Scan saved me from having to enter each of those codes until one of them worked.

Everything works, with just a few quirks

Navigating the menus and flipping through channels was as fast and responsive as you'd expect when watching over-the-air TV or using a cable box. The delay when telling the DVR+ to record was acceptably brief, but when setting up recording, the software wasn't amazing at knowing which episodes to record. Your options are "record just this program" or "record all programs with this name." So when recording Sesame Street on PBS, I selected "all programs with this name" hoping to get several Sesame Street episodes, like a Season Pass on TiVo. Instead, I got multiple copies of the same episode, which PBS plays a few times during the course of a day. If you're coming from something like TiVo, you might find DVR+ a little on the primitive side.

 

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