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DVR Buyers Guide 2019

Best overall
Best value
Best for cord-cutters
Hopper 3 Amazon Fire TV RecastTiVo Bolt OTA
Hopper_Joey_Remote_3_4-Right_lower-1115x835Amazon RecastTivo Bolt OTA
Price: $15/month Price: $229–279 Price: $199
VIEW ON DISH VIEW ON AMAZON VIEW ON AMAZON
Best overall
Hopper 3
Hopper_Joey_Remote_3_4-Right_lower-1115x835
Price: $15/month
VIEW ON DISH
Best value
Best for cord-cutters
Amazon Fire TV RecastTiVo Bolt OTA
Amazon RecastTivo Bolt OTA
Price: $229–279 Price: $199
VIEW ON AMAZON VIEW ON AMAZON

First take

Looking for the best way to rewatch your favorite TV shows? Wondering if there’s a way to catch the whole game if you missed kick off? Well, a DVR is your answer.

These days, stand-alone DVRs work with cable, satellite, or an HD antenna and can get you awesome perks like automatic recordings and commercial skipping. While most of the DVRs we’ve reviewed here are pretty good, the Hopper 3 is the stand-out winner for its immense storage capacity, ease of use, and superior features.

Of course, it’s important to figure out which DVR fits your individual TV needs and lifestyle best. Keep reading to see the DVRs we think are worth investing in.

Top DVR 2019

  • Hopper 3—Best overall
  • Amazon Fire TV Recast—Best value
  • TiVo Bolt OTA—Best for cord-cutters
  • Tablo Quad—Best for the tech savvy
  • YouTube TV unlimited cloud DVR—Cheapest

Each of these DVRs will allow you to record TV and watch it later, but they differ on compatible devices and extra features.

Basically, we’ve looked at each device’s number of tuners, multi-room capability, storage space, special features, and of course price to find the best of the best. Scroll ahead to find the right DVR for you.

Wondering what a tuner is?

A tuner allows your DVR to find and record a single TV channel. The more tuners a DVR has, the more channels the DVR can record and/or play at the same time. We think two is necessary, but more is better.

Hopper 3: The best overall DVR

We think the Hopper 3 is the best DVR overall—because who can compete with 16 simultaneous streams?

Price$15/month*
Number of tuners16
Storage space2 TB
HD storage500 hrs.

*With a DISH satellite subscription

If you’re TV-obsessed and just looking for the best DVR on the market, DISH’s Hopper 3 is your dream come true. Touted as the world’s most powerful DVR, the Hopper 3 earns the top spot in our book for its 16 tuners, huge storage, and great extra features.

Yeah, you read that right—16 tuners. You can record and stream 16 different shows at one time. It might be a little extra, but hey, we see an end to family TV fights everywhere. Bless you, DISH.

Our obsession with Hopper 3 doesn’t stop with the tuners. We love the voice control options and auto-commercial-skip technology. No more frantically pushing the fast-forward button only to have to rewind—it’s just one click and the show goes on.

The downside of the Hopper 3 is it’s only available with a sometimes-costly DISH subscription. Plus, if you have multiple TVs in your house, you’ll have to purchase a DISH’s mini DVR called the Joey for each TV, which costs $100 upfront and an ongoing $7 a month—for each one.

So what’s the skinny? While we love, love, love the Hopper 3’s experience, the price commitment is worth heavy consideration before purchase.

Amazon Fire TV Recast: The best value DVR

We think the Amazon Fire TV Recast is a great DVR for the price.

True, the Amazon Fire TV Recast costs a lot up front, but there’s no monthly service charge and that saves you significant money overall.

2 tuners4 tuners
Price$229$279.99
Number of tuners24
Storage space500 GB1 TB
HD storage75 HD hours150 HD hours

Amazon is definitely playing the long game in the DVR market. Let us explain.

In order to use the Amazon Fire TV Recast to record live TV, you need to purchase (or already own) three things:

As a one-time purchase, that adds up pretty fast, but, remember, there is no monthly service fee. Once you pay for the equipment, you own it, which saves you a lot of money over time.

HD antenna

To be fair to Amazon, we should mention that you’ll need an HD Antenna for any OTA (over-the-air) DVR device that doesn’t come included with an established TV service (like Hopper 3 and DISH).

For example, if you decide to go with the TiVo Bolt and you don’t already own an antenna, you’ll have to add that purchase to your cost if you want to actually watch anything.

If the long-term savings isn’t enough, we also really like Amazon’s services. Like other cloud DVRs, it records your shows online, so you can easily view them from your TV (though there is a two-TV limit) or phone whether you’re at home or on the go—it’s that simple.

Amazon’s first lady, Alexa, obviously comes standard in the DVR. Combine that with the Recast’s easy-to-use channel guide and external hard drive capability, and we’re on board.

If you’re not already on the Amazon train, however, you might want to keep looking. The Recast’s biggest draw is also its biggest weakness—it’s all through Amazon. The Amazon Fire TV Stick does help make it available for more users, but there are still popular products like Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, and game consoles that just don’t work with its DVR.

TiVo Bolt OTA: The best DVR for cord-cutters

We think the TiVo Bolt OTA is a great DVR for most cord-cutters.

Price$199
Number of tuners4
Storage space1 TB
HD storage150 HD hrs.

*Not including a required $6.99/mo subscription

TiVo is basically the OG of DVR services, so it makes sense that it would have a pretty decent product up its sleeve.

The TiVo Bolt OTA connects with over 20 streaming apps and, basically, allows for all of your favorite TV shows and movies to be in one place. Also, because it’s a physical DVR, not a cloud DVR, your recordings are actually on the device, meaning you won’t have any risk of buffering when you start it up.

Here are just a few of the Bolt OTA’s best features:

  • Skipmode® allows you to skip entire commercial breaks with the push of one button.
  • OnePas™ finds and records every available episode of a series on all your channels.
  • QuickMode® plays recordings back 1.3x faster so you can watch more TV.

All these perks make TiVo an easy choice, but the price does present a little bit of a challenge. You pay $200 for the hardware then $6.99 a month for the service. If you’re confident this is the DVR you want, we suggest you go for a one-time payment of $249.99 with the All-In Plan.

Hooking it up to additional TVs also costs extra (you’ll need to buy a TiVo Mini Vox for each TV), but at least there’s no additional monthly fee.

In the end, you pay at least $500 total. It’s a far cry from Amazon’s $300 DVR, but the TiVo Bolt OTA can be used with almost any device, so it might be worth it.

Other top DVRs

We’ve got to be honest with you: we love our top three DVRs, but some of them won by just a fraction of a point, so we had to include a few more.

Tablo Quad: A close second for the tech savvy

We think the Tablo Quad is a great DVR for tech savvy TV-watchers and a very close second for all cord-cutters. If the TiVO just isn’t your thing, the Tablo Quad might be your best alternative.

Price$199
Number of tuners4
Storage spaceUp to 8 TB

*Does not come with internal storage. Access to channel guide requires a monthly subscription of $5 a month or lifetime subscription of $150.

Like the TiVo Bolt OTA, the Tablo Quad has tons of available storage and simultaneous recordings. In fact, it’s even a little cheaper. But the Tablo Quad is more complicated to set up and requires a little more technical know-how, so it ranked second on our list.

For installation, a lot of users find they have to manually set up port forwarding on their router. If that sounds like mumbo jumbo to you, then we’ll direct your eyes back up to the Amazon Fire TV Recast or TiVo Bolt, which are both easy to install.

Once it’s set up, however, the Tablo Quad is great. It streams to every room in your house, has great video quality, and holds up to 8 TBs of storage—more than any other DVR on our list.

But don’t get too excited about that quite yet. You do have to purchase the storage separately, as the device itself doesn’t come with any.

You’ll also notice the Tablo Quad doesn’t have a mandated subscription fee (which is great), but it does charge for access to its channel guide (not so great).

The channel guide will run you about $5 a month or $150 for life. You can go without it, sure. But you’ll get only one day’s worth of data and have to manually set up each recording—not really the ease we’re looking for with a DVR.

To sum up, the Tablo Quad is a solid DVR but a bit complicated for most users.

YouTube TV unlimited cloud DVR: Cheapest DVR

YouTube TV’s cloud DVR is arguably the best unlimited cloud DVR on the market.

PriceIncluded*
Number of tuners3
Storage spaceUnlimited**

*Included in a monthly subscription to YouTube TV, which costs $50 a month.
**Recordings kept for nine months.

What can we say that the word “unlimited” doesn’t already say for us? In short, YouTube TV’s DVR is pretty amazing. It’s also the cheapest, since it’s included in the YouTube TV’s subscription price, which will run you about $50 a month.

Even if you factor in that subscription price, this unlimited DVR is easier on the wallet than any other on our list. Sign us up!

We like that YouTube’s DVR allows you to create six separate usernames, and each user gets their own DVR. Recordings last for only nine months before they’re automatically deleted, but hey, if you haven’t watched that episode you recorded nine months ago yet, you probably didn’t really want to see it.

So why didn’t we rank YouTube TV’s cloud DVR number one? It’s all about the content. While YouTube TV has a decent showing of local channels, it still doesn’t guarantee as much as a normal digital antenna, and it’s missing some major fan favorites like Comedy Central or Nickelodeon.

It’s really a great DVR, particularly if you’re bent on streaming services, but we suggest checking YouTube TV’s channel availability in your area before you commit.

What to look for in a DVR

Although we selected the best DVRs we could find, we know there are still other decent DVRs on the market that may better serve your specific needs.

To help you select a good match, we made a checklist of DVR must-have features below.

1. Two or more HD tuners—Remember the number of tuners you have is the number of channels you can record or watch at a time. Don’t settle for less than two—the ability to record at least one show while watching another is a vital part of a DVR.

2. One TB or more storage space—With 1 TB or more, you can record 150 HD hours or 500 standard hours, meaning you could easily save an entire season of The Bachelor, all the action from your favorite college football team, and almost every episode of Big Bang Theory. Sounds pretty good, huh?

3. 14-day channel guide data—We like to know what’s coming and schedule our recordings in advance, so a 14-day channel guide is a must for us.

 

And the things we think are preferable (if not dealbreakers):

1. Option for extra, external storage—What can we say? We like big storage space, and we cannot lie.

2. Multi-room capability—Although it sometimes costs extra, we like DVR services that allow you to record in multiple rooms regardless of what type of TV service is there.

3. No monthly fees—This one isn’t always possible but in an ideal world, it’s best to pay for your DVR upfront and then never have to pay again.

Final cut

Well there we go. We’ve looked at the good and the bad of each DVRs and hopefully found one that fits your situation.

If you’re looking for the best of the best, grab the Hopper 3. If you’re looking to save some dough without sacrificing quality, grab the Amazon Fire TV Recast. Whatever your priorities, there are definitely some good options out there.

So, what are you waiting for? Go get your DVR and start recording today.

DVR FAQ

Which is the best DVR to buy?

We think the best DVR on the market is the Hopper 3, though you can’t buy it outright—you have to rent it from DISH. With the ability to record 16 shows at a time, store 2 TB of material, and skip commercials, the Hopper 3 is all kinds of extra, but definitely the good kind.

Is there a DVR that works with streaming services?

Some DVRs, like TiVo Bolt OTA, work to integrate your DVR and favorite streaming services, so that they’re all in one place.

But if you want a DVR that can record shows from your streaming service, then that’s a different story. You can’t record shows from a streaming service on an external DVR. Instead, you should look into a streaming service that already includes its own cloud DVR like YouTube TV or PlayStation Vue.

What is the best OTA DVR?

We think the best OTA DVR is the TiVo Bolt OTA with Tablo Quad as a close second. Both have great services and cost around $500 total. We ended up choosing TiVo Bolt OTA because it’s easier to set up and use.

Can I use a DVR with a Roku?

Roku works with cloud DVRs like YouTube TV’s as well as physical DVRs like the TiVo Bolt OTA so you can record all your favorite live TV moments.

Can I use a DVR with a streaming device?

Yes. In fact, some of the DVRs require it. For example, the Amazon Fire TV Recast needs an Amazon Fire TV (or Amazon Fire Stick) to work.

Can a DVR record from an antenna?

Yes. OTA DVRs, like Tablo Quad or the Amazon Fire TV Recast, are designed to connect to your antenna and record live shows broadcast over-the-air (OTA).

Can I buy a DVR instead of renting one?

Yes. You can buy the Amazon Fire TV Recast right now for $229 or the TiVo Bolt OTA for $199. Both are available on Amazon right away.

Can I record Netflix on my DVR?

No. In fact, since Netflix isn’t a live TV system, you shouldn’t need a DVR. Netflix shows are ready for you to view on demand, no preparation necessary.

How do you record local channels?

First, you need to pick an OTA DVR that works with your TV and an antenna. Once you’ve got your DVR set up, you simply need to go to the local channel on the channel guide and click record. It’s as simple as that.

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