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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.

There's also no way to make the guide go full-screen. It's nice how it only covers half the currently playing program (and the guide is even a little transparent so you can kind of see what's underneath it), but a full-screen guide would help me see more channels at once. I couldn't get ABC and CBS to display on the same page without deleting several channels between them, which made it a little harder to evaluate my prime-time choices.

Since the DVR+ has two tuners, you can record two programs at once. You can also pause live TV for up to 2 hours, with an onscreen indicator that shows exactly how much pause time you have left. (I actually like it a little better than TiVo's implementation.)

If you want to access your recordings from a computer or mobile device, the DVR+ works with a Slingbox — Channel Master recommends the $300 Slingbox 500, which sits between the DVR+ and your TV and makes live TV and all your recorded videos accessible from Web browsers and the SlingPlayer mobile apps.

Bottom line

The DVR+ is certainly unassuming in your entertainment center: it's thin, quiet, and it puts itself to sleep when not in use. But best of all, with no subscription fees, it's a one-time outlay and you're done paying. Everything it doesn't do out of the box, it can accomplish with add-ons, from a Slingbox if you want to go mobile, to the Wi-Fi adapter if you don't want to bother with Ethernet. But if you don't need those features, you aren't stuck paying for them.

A TiVo Roamio, for example, starts at $200 with up to 75 hours of HD storage, but then you have to pay for service, which costs $15 a month (with a 1-year minimum, so you'll spend at least $180), or $500 for the device's lifetime. The DVR+ is $250; after you supply your own hard drive (Channel Master will sell you a 1TB Seagate drive for $100) and shell out $40 for the Wi-Fi, you'll still come out ahead of the TiVo owner by the end of the first year. (Neither device includes an HDMI cable, so that's a wash.)

TiVo's more robust software and feature set makes sense if you're using it with a cable subscription and a bunch of OTT apps. But if all you want to do is record over-the-air TV, Channel Master's offering will get the job done.

 

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