2019's best DVRs for those who watch live TV with an antenna rather than with cable.

Share story

On-demand streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu can plug many of the holes that appear when you cut the cable TV cord, but there are still some gaps — particularly news and sports — that only live TV can fill.

For the savvy cord cutter, putting up an antenna to get free over-the-air (OTA) TV broadcasts is a no-brainer. And you can record that live TV with DVRs especially made for antenna-users. Here are four of CNET’s favorite DVR alternatives for the cord-cutter generation.

Amazon Fire TV Recast

CNET rating: 4.0 stars out of 5 (excellent)

The cost: $190

The good: The Amazon Fire TV Recast antenna DVR doesn’t charge any monthly fees. Its sophisticated program guide fits live TV channels seamlessly into the Fire TV interface. Setup is easy and out of home streaming to your phone works well. Picture quality was perfectly good and performance was more reliable than streaming live TV services. You don’t need a Prime membership to use it, though that helps.

The bad: It’s more expensive initially than many antenna TV options. You need a Fire TV device attached to your TV, and can only watch on two devices at once. Alexa search isn’t as dependable as manually using the channel guide, and the required Fire TV menu system pushes you toward Amazon content.

The bottom line: The Amazon Fire TV Recast DVR makes it easier than ever to watch free live and recorded over-the-air TV without monthly fees.

TiVo Bolt OTA

CNET rating: 3.5 stars out of 5 (very good)

The cost: $200

The good: The TiVo Bolt OTA offers a plethora of services including streaming apps with 4K support, in-home streaming and voice search. The price per month is a lot more affordable than the full-fat version of the Bolt, and lifetime service brings the total cost to $500. The interface is quick and Netflix loads instantaneously.

The bad: There is no access to live TV streaming services which would help bolster the OTA options. The functionality is skewed heavily in favor of streaming over the DVR. For example, voice search isn’t able to be limited to guide data only which means streaming shows are mixed in. I had limited success trying to get in-home streaming to work.

The bottom line: With its household name, slick hardware design and affordable pricing structures the TiVo Bolt OTA offers one of the best alternatives to the still-fledgling world of streaming TV services.

AirTV

CNET rating: 3.5 stars out of 5 (very good)

The cost: $120

The good: AirTV allows you to watch your over-the-air TV channels on any TV in the house, or on tablets and phones outside the home. Easy setup and integration with the SlingTV subscription service. There’s no monthly fee for program information, and AirTV costs less than Amazon’s Fire TV Recast DVR.

The bad: If you’re not a SlingTV subscriber, much of the appeal fades. Unlike with Recast, AirTV’s DVR, features requires you to bring an external hard drive.

The bottom line: For SlingTV subscribers who want to make it easier to watch local over-the-air channels at home and on the go, AirTV is a one-time investment that works almost invisibly.

Nuvvyo Tablo Quad

CNET rating: 3.5 stars out of 5 (very good)

The cost: $194–$220

The good: The Nuvvyo Tablo Quad offers power users the tools they need to record and watch massive amounts of OTA television. Excellent image quality in and out of the home. The interface is both easy and fun to use. The device offers a degree of flexibility with both wired and wireless operation in addition to ability to add internal storage.

The bad: The device requires both a subscription fee and an aftermarket drive, which makes it one of the more expensive antenna DVRs. To use the Tablo out of home you’ll likely need to manually set up port forwarding in your router. If you use a PC or Xbox One there’s some limitations, especially the inability to listen to recordings in surround.

The bottom line: The Nuvvyo Tablo Quad offers excellent performance for power users, but there are cheaper, easier-to-use options for budding cord-cutters.