DVRs You Can Use Without Needing a Cable Subscription

I’ve stopped paying for cable about 6 months back and I have to say that I’m really happy. I’ve always been one of those people who thought cable was absolutely necessary and always ponied up the $100 or so to have about 300 or so channels. However, over time I realized I only watch a few channels here and there and a lot of the stuff I was watching was via iTunes, Netflix, or Amazon Video. Did I really need a cable connection?

Well, for some live TV events it’s great: Oscars, news, etc, etc. However, I could watch all of that anyway without my cable box! I never knew until I read an article somewhere that there is something called Over the Air channels. These are all HD channels that are broadcast for free. This includes channels like ABS, CBS, NBC, Fox, and lots more. So I was really excited that I could watch just about everything I wanted anyway without the cable box.

The only issues I had were the program guide and the recording of shows! Now that the cable box was gone, I had no DVR and I had no program guide. Kind of sucky, but that problem was quickly fixed. After doing some research, I found that I could buy a DVR with a antenna or with a connection for my own antenna and record shows on my own. Better yet, a couple of these DVRs come with an extra service that will give you a program guide for the channels that you have! Of course, the service costs money, but it’s way cheaper than paying for cable.

In this article, I’ll mention a couple of companies that are selling these DVRs and extended services to help users get rid of their cable boxes altogether. If I can do it, you can definitely do it also. It’s worth a shot if you’re not addicted to 500 cable TV shows and can manage with Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video, iTunes, and a live TV antenna.

Boxee TV

boxee tv

Boxee TV is a new product from Boxee that seeks to combine a DVR, broadcast TV channels and Internet apps into one box. You can attach an antenna to it and it also works with unencrypted basic cable. Unfortunately, the FCC recently passed a law that allows cable operators to encrypt basic cable coming to your house. So if you were connecting straight from the wall to your TV, you might not be able to do that anymore.

However, in addition to that, the FCC said cable operators still have to give access to third-party companies with unencrypted basic cable. Boxee just made a deal with Comcast with the new Boxee TV that will allow you to watch those basic cable channels for free using their box.

The Boxee TV is $99 and it’ll be $15 a month for their service. So what does the service include? One pretty awesome feature: no limits DVR. You can record as much as you want to the cloud and watch it anytime only our TV, computer, or tablet. This does mean you’ll have to have a good Internet connection, which could be a problem for some people if don’t have reliable Internet.

The other caveat is that the DVR option (which is $15) only works in 8 cities right now. They’ll have more in 2013, but for now, it’s limited. However, it’s a good overall product and it has two tuners also, which means you can record one show and watch one live.


tivo dvr

Tivo has multiple boxes that you can purchase to record TV using an HD antenna. The antenna works with Series3 and Series4 boxes except TiVo Premiere 4 and Premiere XL 4. The TiVo box has been around for a long time and you probably owned one at some point. It was the real first DVR out there and I remember buying my first one a long time back.

If you have a TiVo laying around that is compatible with an HD antenna, you can still use it to capture a bunch of OTA channels for free, record them and view them on your mobile device or computer. TiVo also will pull up a programming guide if you’re using just an antenna, so that is great.

The service is $15 a month, so pretty much the same as Boxee TV. The only difference is that you have limited space on the TiVo (75 HD hours for the TiVo Premiere). It also has 2 tuners, so you can watch and record at the same time. The device is $150, so about 50% more than the Boxee TV.

Simple.TV is a new company that is seeking to give you more options when it comes to cutting cable. It is fairly simple. Basically, it lets you connect an antenna and record as much as you want. The allows you to connect a USB storage device for recording shows, it’s not cloud based.

Also, it doesn’t work with any encrypted cable, only over-the-air channels. Boxee TV has the advantage of working with one cable provider so far and hopefully more in the future. You can stream the recorded content to your iPad, computer or Roku box. Note that the does not connect to your TV.

The device is $199 and the service is $49 annually or $149 for lifetime. The service includes an electronic programming guide, the ability to schedule recordings, and being able to stream outside of your home network. The device is a little on the expensive side if you ask me, but the service is definitely cheaper than Boxee or TiVo. I like the fact that they have a lifetime option too.

In conclusion, you have a lot of new options these days for getting rid of your cable and recording shows on your own. Almost 85% of the shows that people record are delivered free OTA, so it’s a great option for the cost conscious. If you end up feeling you need to get cable again, well, they are always there and ready to take your money. Enjoy!

Comments [4]

  1. Are you using a DVR after you cut the cord? If so, which one?

  2. I need advice on which product would be best for my mom who has no cable hookup but wants a DVR to record programs on her TV. Please advise.

  3. Hi E Brock,

    The best thing you can do in her case is buy something like a Simple.TV. It’s a small device you connect to the local network and attach a Over-the-Air antenna to. It’s got a web interface and will automatically find all your local channels and download a guide. You can then program it to record shows like a normal DVR. You can also watch them over the web, on your TV using a device like a Roku, or watch it on an iPhone or iPad. Pretty cool device, I use it at home and cut off my cable completely.

  4. I live in an RV now and am wondering if I could use one of these products to record my shows I like to watch when I’m not home. How would I hook it up? Thanks for any advice.

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