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The Best DVR

Last updated on October 14, 2019

We looked at the top 10 DVRs and dug through the reviews from 55 of the most popular review sites including TechHive, Top Ten Reviews, Digital Trends, Tech Radar, The Gadgeteer, Cord Cutter News and more. The result is a ranking of the best DVRs.

Best DVR

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Our Picks For The Top DVRs

Show Contents
Our Take
Experts Included
Pros
Cons
  The Best Overall

TiVo

Bolt OTA

Overall Take

Lots of ExtrasIn addition to recording live TV, this TiVo Bolt OTA DVR also allows for streaming.

Experts Included
DWYM Electronics Experts plus BestReviews, CNET, TechHive, Digital Trends, The Verge, Top Ten Reviews and 5 more. Along with user reviews from Amazon and Best Buy.
Pros
" Feature rich update on the Roamio line with 4K capability, recording capacity up to 150 hours,commercial skip mode, and optional out of home streaming."
Cons
"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."
  The Best Value

TiVo

MINI VOX Streaming Media Player

Overall Take

Handy Voice ControlsSave time with this TiVo MINI VOX Streaming Media Player's attractive voice control, which allows you to pause your favorite show.

Experts Included
DWYM Electronics Experts plus CNET, Sound And Vision. Along with user reviews from Amazon, Best Buy and Crutchfield.
Pros
" The TiVo Mini is an easy way to give another TV in your home access to your TiVo DVR, live TV and streaming services. But if you're not in a hurry, you may want to wait till more features and..."
Cons
"Voice control adds little to program navigation. New Experience interface is sometimes cluttered and confusing."

Amazon

Fire TV Recast

Overall Take

Quick InstallationIf you have a compatible mobile device, this Amazon Fire TV Recast even works when you're on the go.

Experts Included
DWYM Electronics Experts plus TechHive, ZD Net, The Verge, CNET, Tom’s Guide, PC Magazine and 5 more. Along with user reviews from Amazon and Best Buy.
Pros
" The Fire TV Recast also works with Alexa voice commands, so you can use the Fire TV voice remote or an Amazon Echo speaker to launch live channels, play your recordings, open the channel guide, delete recordings, and check on..."
Cons
"It's not like switching inputs is a ton of work, but it is an inconvenience. Not only does that mean keeping your TV remote around for changing OTA channels, but switching to your antenna input lacks any sort of programming..."

Tablo

4-Tuner Digital Video Recorder

Overall Take

No Subscription NeededAvid TV users will love that this Tablo 4-Tuner Digital Video Recorder has the capabilities to record as many as four television shows at once.

Experts Included
DWYM Electronics Experts plus BestReviews, Top Ten Reviews, PC Magazine, Bible Money Matters. Along with user reviews from Amazon, Best Buy and Walmart.
Pros
" Provides whole home DVR with no subscription needed."
Cons
"This subscription-based DVR doesn’t come with an internal hard drive – you have to provide your own."
Don't just take for granted what one reviewer says. Along with our own experts, DWYM analyzes the top expert reviews of the leading products and generates a score you can actually trust.
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Products Considered

We identified the majority of the dvrs available to purchase.
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Products Analyzed

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55

Expert Reviews Included

In addition to our expert reviews, we also incorporate feedback and analysis of some of the most respected sources including: TechHive, Top Ten Reviews, Digital Trends, Tech Radar, The Gadgeteer.

34,929

User Opinions Analyzed

We also incorporate user reviews from the leading retailers including Amazon, Web Cortex, Best Buy, Crutchfield, Walmart.

Our experts reviewed the top 10 DVRs and also dug through the reviews from 55 of the most popular review sites including TechHive, Top Ten Reviews, Digital Trends, Tech Radar, The Gadgeteer, Cord Cutter News and more. The result is a ranking of the best of the best DVRs.

DWYM is your trusted roduct review source. Our team reviews thousands of product reviews from the trusted top experts and combines them into one easy-to-understand score. Learn more.

Look for the DWYM seal for products that are the best in their category.

The Best Overall

TiVo Bolt OTA

Our Expert Score
8.5
11 expert reviews
User Summarized Score
7.4
3,505 user reviews
Our Take

For those who want their shows in HD, the TiVo Bolt OTA is a solid contender. It also allows you to stream shows from Netflix and similar services, with a search function that works across both streaming and live TV content. Perks like voice control and a commercial skip mode are a boon for busy viewers.

What other experts liked
Feature rich update on the Roamio line with 4K capability, recording capacity up to 150 hours,commercial skip mode, and optional out of home streaming.
- BestReviews
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...
- CNET
Helpful voice controls with the Vox remote and Alexa integration
- TechHive
October 29, 2018 | Full review
Clearly the biggest reason to buy the Bolt OTA is its 4K and HDR chops.
- Digital Trends
November 12, 2018 | Full review
The software is all the same as the Bolt Vox, with support for TiVo’s voice remote, Alexa integration, and all the same streaming services that TiVo offers.
- The Verge
September 27, 2018 | Full review
The TiVo Bolt has an efficient search function that lets you search for a show in multiple content sources at once.
- Top Ten Reviews
One thing that videophiles should love about the Bolt OTA is that over-the-air HDTV channels typically arrive at a resolution closer to the 19.2 megabits-per-second ideal than what's delivered by compression-giddy cable and satellite operators.
- Sound And Vision
September 27, 2018 | Full review
With the TiVo BOLT not only will you be able to record your antenna and stream it outside of your house, but you will also be able to stream 4K content from Netflix, Amazon Prime, and YouTube.
- Cord Cutter News
October 11, 2018 | Full review
Bolt OTA is a 1080p recorder, its upgraded internals can support streamed content at 4K resolution from a variety of built-in streaming services and apps, including Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, HBO Go, YouTube, Vudu, and Epix.
- Audioholics
February 25, 2019 | Full review
In terms of specs, the TiVo Bolt OTA boasts four antenna tuners and a terabyte of storage space. The 1 TB hard drive is a beautiful thing, and improves on the competition: the Tablo Quad OTA DVR asks users to...
- Cord Cutting
February 13, 2019 | Full review
Where the Bolt shines brightest is in its interface. The TiVo Bolts makes it incredibly easy to search for new content across streaming services and OTA television. You can search for shows by genre, actor, director, etc… And all of...
- Kill The Cable Bill
May 3, 2016 | Full review
What other experts didn't like
Whole home capability requires additional purchase of a TiVo mini. Set up can take a few hours.
- BestReviews
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.
- CNET
Pricier than other options, especially for whole-home viewing.
- TechHive
October 29, 2018 | Full review
Roamio OTA owners need not apply
- Digital Trends
November 12, 2018 | Full review
It can’t access satellite content.
- Top Ten Reviews
Despite its generous built-in storage (which differentiates TiVo from a smart TV or plug-in media receiver), the Bolt OTA does not enable the downloading of online videos or the saving of program streams.
- Sound And Vision
September 27, 2018 | Full review
The bad news. The TiVo Bolt OTA costs a substantial $250, and that doesn’t include TiVo’s service fees, which add $7 per month, or $70 per year, depending on how you choose to be billed.
- Audioholics
February 25, 2019 | Full review
Throw in the high price point of this device, and it's hard to recommend it.
- Cord Cutting
February 13, 2019 | Full review
With online streaming capabilities, you can download streaming apps like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and YouTube. No word on whether or not it will support Sling TV in the future.
- Kill The Cable Bill
May 3, 2016 | Full review

The Best Bang For Your Buck

TiVo MINI VOX Streaming Media Player

Expert Summarized Score
8.2
2 expert reviews
User Summarized Score
7.5
3,603 user reviews
Our Take

An add-on to your existing TiVo service, the TiVo MINI VOX gives you access to DVR shows on multiple televisions in your home. That also includes the streaming services that come with your subscription, all in the same HD resolution where supported. And with voice control functionality, you can search and start shows from anywhere.

What other experts liked
The TiVo Mini is an easy way to give another TV in your home access to your TiVo DVR, live TV and streaming services. But if you're not in a hurry, you may want to wait till more features and services arrive.
- CNET
Finding cable, streamed, and recorded content through the voice remote is much faster and more fun than using an onscreen keyboard.
- Sound And Vision
What other experts didn't like
4/XL4 boxes require a dedicated tuner from your DVR for live TV streaming; requires wired network connections for both DVR and TiVo Mini.
- CNET
Voice control adds little to program navigation. New Experience interface is sometimes cluttered and confusing.
- Sound And Vision

Overall Product Rankings

1. TiVo Bolt OTA

Overall Score: 8.1
Reviews Included: 13

2. TiVo MINI VOX Streaming Media Player

Overall Score: 8.0
Reviews Included: 5

3. Amazon Fire TV Recast

Overall Score: 7.8
Reviews Included: 14

4. Tablo 4-Tuner Digital Video Recorder

Overall Score: 7.6
Reviews Included: 8

5. Tablo Dual LITE OTA DVR

Overall Score: 7.5
Reviews Included: 10

6. TiVo BOLT VOX 3TB

Overall Score: 7.5
Reviews Included: 11

7. TiVo BOLT VOX 500 GB

Overall Score: 7.3
Reviews Included: 10

8. AVerMedia EZRecorder

Overall Score: 6.7
Reviews Included: 5

Our Findings

TiVo Bolt OTA

What We Liked: For those who want their shows in HD, the TiVo Bolt OTA is a solid contender. It also allows you to stream shows from Netflix and similar services, with a search function that works across both streaming and live TV content. Perks like voice control and a commercial skip mode are a boon for busy viewers.

TiVo MINI VOX Streaming Media Player

Best for Multiple Televisions

TiVo MINI VOX Streaming Media Player, 4K UHD, With Voice Remote! (TCDA95000) (Electronics)


List Price: $179.99 USD
New From: $179.98 USD In Stock
Used from: $179.98 USD In Stock

What We Liked: An add-on to your existing TiVo service, the TiVo MINI VOX gives you access to DVR shows on multiple televisions in your home. That also includes the streaming services that come with your subscription, all in the same HD resolution where supported. And with voice control functionality, you can search and start shows from anywhere.

Amazon Fire TV Recast

Best for Simple Setup

Fire TV Recast, over-the-air DVR, 500 GB, 75 hours (Electronics)


List Price: $229.99 USD
New From: $179.99 USD In Stock
Used from: $179.99 USD In Stock

What We Liked: If you already use an Amazon Fire Stick, the Amazon Fire TV Recast offers a subscription-free way to view and record OTA content. It offers simple setup, as well as seamless integration with your Amazon Alexa device. Search functionality covers all shows, live or streaming.

Tablo 4-Tuner Digital Video Recorder

What We Liked: With the Tablo 4-Tuner DVR, you can record shows from an antenna through your internet router — no subscription needed. Those same shows can be streamed to a mobile app for remote viewing. The four tuners allow for multiple recordings at once, and the guide interface provides plenty of information.

 

Our Expert Consultant

Patrick Ward 
Editor-in-chief of High Speed Experts

Patrick Ward is the editor-in-chief of High Speed Experts, a broadband connectivity-, search engine- and IT-industry education blog that empowers consumers by open-sourcing information about tech services. He earned his bachelor’s degree in commerce with an emphasis on communications at the University of Sydney. His expertise spans the digital, emerging tech and telecommunications fields.

Our DVR Buying Guide

Back in the old days of cable TV — and by “old days,” we mean the mid-2000s — the role of the DVR was simple. The name stood for digital video recorder, and that’s what it did. It recorded video from your cable television to an internal storage device, allowing you to pause, rewind or record live television.

When it was first introduced, this was revolutionary. You could skip commercials! Pause for bathroom breaks! Make that must-see show wait until you were good and ready! The convenience was so great that cable and satellite providers started providing DVR service as part of their basic subscription, and most still do. People tend to use their provider’s service because it’s hassle-free and easily compatible.

These days, basic DVR features can seem quaint for cord-cutters who rely primarily on streaming services for their entertainment. But the pendulum has begun to swing back, as streaming subscriptions grow pricier and people are starting to realize that OTA (over the air) TV is still free for those with a decent antenna. But how do we make those scheduled network shows fit our busy lifestyle? Re-enter the stand-alone DVR.

“It’s worth investigating higher quality DVRs than the one you get with your cable box, since the better quality and user experience can make the additional investment worth it,” Patrick Ward, editor-in-chief of the IT education blog High Speed Experts, says.

But where should you start?

“Before purchasing your DVR, check the speed of your internet service,” Ward advises. “DVRs are increasingly using internet bandwidth, particularly when it comes to streaming.” He suggests making sure you have service that offers speeds of at least 200 megabits per second (Mbps) — 1000 Mbps is even better — if you regularly stream content, use an ultra-HD TV such as a 4K TV and have multiple devices plugged in at once.

Then, look at the options you want.

“If you have an HD TV, it is worth investing in a DVR that can also record in HD or your recorded shows’ picture quality will decrease on playback,” Ward says.

Far from sitting idle, TiVo and the other pioneers of DVR technology have been incorporating new technology to make their services relevant even to those with a streaming package. Today, DVRs offer all the modern conveniences you expect. TiVo’s Bolt OTA, for instance, presents itself as an all-in-one media device, allowing you to grab and record shows from your antenna but also giving access to streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. You can search for shows across both live TV and applications, issue voice commands through either the remote or Amazon’s Alexa assistant and even skip commercials.

Additionally, you’ll want to consider other options, such as two-tuner operation.

“Standard DVRs can only record a show or watch a show, not both,” says Ward. “With a two-tuner operation, you can watch a show while recording an entirely different show — useful if you have an overlap of favorite shows on at the same time slot.”

Other DVRs are somewhat more stripped down, but the main thing to remember is that you won’t be able to do much with a DVR alone. Nearly all of them require a TV antenna to access OTA content, sold separately. And if you want that content to be in HD, you’ll need an HD antenna. For Amazon’s Fire TV Recast, you’ll also need an Amazon Fire player or Echo Show with an active account.

How they connect to your TV also differs. Most run connections to your antenna, then deliver shows to your TV through an HDMI or another cable. The Tablo 4-Tuner DVR is a bit of an outlier, running through your wireless router which then delivers content to your TV.

There may also be a subscription cost to figure in, ranging from a few dollars a month to nothing at all. Considering that some DVRs can even let you record and watch from tablets or phones while you’re away from home, it can be a great option for viewers who don’t want to miss a thing.

DWYM Fun Fact

What do people DVR the most? If 2018 is any indication, dramas get a lot of play. Along with its rankings for live viewing, Nielsen keeps track of network shows that are played back within seven days of airing. In that category, the top five shows are all serious business, including NBC’s “This Is Us,” two hospital dramas (“The Good Doctor” and “New Amsterdam”) and the winner, NBC’s “Manifest.”

The DVR Tips and Advice

  • The first thing to do when buying a DVR is to get those glasses ready, because you’ll want to read the fine print. You’ll need an antenna to access the live shows for your DVR, and it’s best to buy the antenna first so you know what stations you can reliably pick up at your location. But that might not be all: Some DVRs will also require a subscription to start up. Those are typically the ones that allow you to access streaming services, so it can still be a great option for those that don’t already have it.
  • Most DVRs can accommodate more than one TV these days, which is great for big families. You can be watching the game in the living room while the kids record cartoons in the den, for example. Some might even be able to stream your OTA content to tablets or other devices for viewing while you’re on the go. All good perks, but make sure you’ve got enough tuners to handle all that business. In a nutshell, the amount of tuners you’ve got usually determines the amount of different shows you can watch or record simultaneously. A family using a four-tuner DVR would be able to watch two shows on separate TVs while recording two shows for later, for example.
  • Then there’s storage. If you like to record a lot of shows, be aware there’s a limit. Many DVRs will come with a certain amount of internal storage; others might require you to buy hard drives or other expansions to the memory. Most will let you know the storage capacity in hours, but a rule of thumb is that one hour of HD programming will usually take up 6 GB.
  • What are the bells and whistles on your DVR? Do your research, because some features might be worth the price alone. Others, you might already have or need other devices to fully take advantage of. For instance, the TiVo Bolt OTA’s streaming capabilities: You might already be watching Netflix or Amazon shows through a smart TV or other interface, but perhaps it’s worth it to have all those shows plus OTA TV on a single menu.
  • Got an Ultra 4K TV? Make sure that not only your DVR supports that kind of resolution, but your antenna does as well. Essentially, your picture will only look as good as the weakest device you’re using to access it. In the case of the Tablo 4-Tuner, you’ll be watching shows through your internet router, so make sure your bandwidth is up to the task.
  • Finally, setup can be a headache when you’re dealing with this many devices. Don’t be afraid to call support for connection help. Pro tip: While it’s best to set up your antenna first, make sure that its ideal location is one that the DVR’s cords can reach.

About The Author

Avatar
Tod Caviness 

As a homeowner of seven years and a journalist for the past 20, Tod Caviness had to learn to be a handyman quick — or at least stock a garage like one. He's happy if he can log as many weekly hours on his stationary bike as he does on PS4 strategy games, but how-to sites on the internet win out over both of them.