TiVo Alternatives?

Discussion in 'TiVo Coffee House - TiVo Discussion' started by Saturn, Sep 21, 2019.

  1. Sep 21, 2019 #1 of 342
    Saturn

    Saturn Lord of the Rings

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    I've been a TiVo user since the Series 1 some 18 (!) years ago. The whole point was to time-shift and skip commercials. We've had our ups and downs, but our Bolt (lifetime sub) + 3 Minis are working fine. The minis are too slow and buggy to be used for Youtube/Hulu/Netflix so we also have Roku sticks on 2 of the TVs.

    If TiVo is going to start pre-roll ads the whole kit is going on E-bay and I'll need an alternative. 3-4 OTA (ATSC) tuners, 1TB DVR, view-able from an iPad and several Rokus.

    Is HDHomeRun my best bet here? Most of our TV is watched pre-recorded, though I do like to start watching football games halfway in to skip all the commercials and the between-play waiting.

    Auto-skip would be great, but not a deal breaker - a (responsive) 30 second skip, and 7-second back has worked fine for the last 18 years. I don't care about suggestions - just something with a reliable tuner that will record our shows and play them back ad-free.

    Anything else I should consider?
     
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  2. Sep 21, 2019 #2 of 342
    Adam C.

    Adam C. Active Member

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  3. Sep 21, 2019 #3 of 342
    Hercules67

    Hercules67 TiVo addict

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    I will get rid of my TiVo also if this is rolled out. The ReCast is an option.
     
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  4. Sep 21, 2019 #4 of 342
  5. Sep 21, 2019 #5 of 342
    Saturn

    Saturn Lord of the Rings

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    Does the Recast have a Roku app? I'm not super keen on replacing my Rokus with Fire sticks. The Rokus work great and seem to be a neutral ground between Amazon and Google's little spat.
     
  6. Sep 21, 2019 #6 of 342
    Adam C.

    Adam C. Active Member

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  7. Sep 21, 2019 #7 of 342
    BNBTivo

    BNBTivo Active Member

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    Sell the Tivos now while they still have value.

    But yeah, Recast is the best option. Fire sticks are cheap. Not sure about your current needs, but have you looked at streaming options as well?
     
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  8. Sep 21, 2019 #8 of 342
    Thunderclap

    Thunderclap Member

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    HDHomeRun with my Plex server is my backup. It works pretty well.
     
  9. Sep 21, 2019 #9 of 342
    FubarJeb

    FubarJeb New Member

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    I disagree that the Amazon Recast is the best option, and I recommend reading some of the reviews from customers who purchased it.


    The Amazon customer fond4tech listed the following cons.
    https://www.amazon.com/Fire-TV-Recast-over-the-air-DVR-1TB-150-hours/dp/B074J1GPB8

    -Program Guide only goes out a few days so your ability to set up future recordings for the first time stinks but remember there is no subscription fee so I am willing to try.

    -4 tuners yes but after speaking with tech support there are only two transcoders meaning you can only view a max of two simultaneous shows.

    - a very basic user interface without lots of the functionality available on TiVo like commercial skip, slow motion, frame by frame, full-featured remote controller, etc.

    - No 4k Vudu app for Fire TV. The inferior workaround is you can sideload the Vudu app but I could only get HDX as my highest quality stream although I have 4k Vudu content

    - The 4k video out from FireTV 4k Stick absolutely fails on my LG OLED screen. I uploaded two pictures running credits (black background / white text) of the same movie. One picture shows the "black" of the screen almost greyish while the other picture is the same movie credits but through my Roku 4K and the black is as it is supposed to be on OLED which is all true black.



    Also, I think the hardware tuners from Silicon Dust (HDHomeRun products) paired with the Channels DVR, Emby or Plex software are worth looking at.

    Silicon Dust Products page:
    Consumer - SiliconDust
     
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  10. Sep 21, 2019 #10 of 342
    Hercules67

    Hercules67 TiVo addict

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    The Google - Amazon spat is over. Haven't you heard?

    YouTube is back on Fire Sticks and Amazon Prime is back on Chromecast.
     
  11. Sep 21, 2019 #11 of 342
    Saturn

    Saturn Lord of the Rings

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    For now it is...
     
  12. Sep 21, 2019 #12 of 342
    Saturn

    Saturn Lord of the Rings

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    We have Netflix, Hulu and Youtube Premium as well. But there's still several programs we get OTA. I'm sure I could probably find streaming options for most of them, but adding more monthly subscriptions is the exact opposite of what I want. I've always had Lifetime TiVos...
     
  13. Sep 21, 2019 #13 of 342
    WhenenRome

    WhenenRome Member

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    All true. Unfortunately that doesn't affect the subject at hand, that the Recast is exclusive to Amazon Fire TV. They don't appear to have plans to open that up.

    For Roku, TabloTV is the best bet for an OTA DVR. It renders and performs better, and is far more stable than either "AirTV-via-Sling" or "HDHomeRun-via-Plex" (and the Recast on FireTV, which we also tried). It is all-in more expensive than AirTV and Recast, but to us, was worth it. The UI isn't as slick looking as Recast or Plex, but functions well.
     
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  14. Sep 21, 2019 #14 of 342
    Saturn

    Saturn Lord of the Rings

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    I should also mention the WAF (Wife acceptance factor). It must be easy to use, or it simply won't get used. If I have to use one app to setup recordings and another app to play them, and another to play live TV (which it sounds like the case on HDHomeRun) that's probably not a good plan.
     
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  15. Sep 21, 2019 #15 of 342
    BNBTivo

    BNBTivo Active Member

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    Ah, yeah. Forgot you were OTA.
     
  16. Sep 21, 2019 #16 of 342
    BNBTivo

    BNBTivo Active Member

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    I didn't even know about Tablo. That looks great! 4 tuner with lifetime for $350 and works with Roku. Not bad at all.
     
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  17. Sep 21, 2019 #17 of 342
    OrangeCrush

    OrangeCrush Active Member

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    Your DVR options are limited on Roku unfortunately. Highest WAF on Roku is TabloTV. There's also YouTube TV for $50/month as a cable-like option that doesn't require additional hardware.

    Highest WAF overall but you'll need to switch over to Fire Sticks 4K* (~$35 each) = Channels DVR. You would also need an HDHomeRun and some kind of always-on computer (doesn't need to be especially powerful) to run the DVR. Ongoing cost is $8/mo or $80/year. This is what I'm doing. I'll probably put together a guide for it pretty soon. Their website isn't the greatest.
     
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  18. Sep 21, 2019 #18 of 342
    Adam C.

    Adam C. Active Member

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    Everyone has their own individual needs and priorities. None of those factors listed are important to me or would sway me to other alternatives.
     
  19. Sep 21, 2019 #19 of 342
    WhenenRome

    WhenenRome Member

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    This is going to be a bit lengthy and detailed, only to really show how our "Tivo Alternative" experience has gone, and that we didn't just throw things at the wall to see what stuck. We did our research and we really tried out different options to get a feel for things. What works for us may not work for everyone, but this is our deal:

    Some background up until now...

    We'd been using Tivo since Series 3 ("Premiere HD" boxes), even earlier if you count "DirecTIVO." That changed early this year, when the writing on the wall for Tivo as a service and a company, just started becoming too clear to ignore - at least for us. They are no longer innovating in the field of home/personal TV entertainment... What they're doing is mostly clinging to a field that's shrinking (QAM cable / STB), and slowly & WAY-behind following on one that's growing (streaming TV)... and even with that, their direction is SO not clear.

    To give some context, the last setup we'd used for several years, starting in 2012, was a Roamio Plus with 3 minis. Initially, it was with Verizon Fios, then we switched to Spectrum after Frontier turned Fios into a disaster. Luckily we didn't have to use an SDV tuning adapter on Spectrum, since none of our chosen channels were affected. This worked really well at first, but we started to notice the "diminished capacity" for things like Netflix and Prime Video. We tried out two different versions of the Bolt over the last year or two, and frankly, they were disappointing. They were both NOISY (that fricken little fan - like Barbie's hairdryer never turned off!), felt poorly assembled from cheap materials, and we just didn't overall see it as enough of a step above the Roamio.

    Last year, our MOCA connected Minis just started freaking out. By that, I mean they became unstable. This started happening a little while after Hydra UI was rolled out. BTW, I like it - have no problem with it whatsoever... Tivo needed to evolve that UI, and we thought it was good. It's just that their hardware setups may not have been ready for it... So we needed to try a different route to deliver TV to our other rooms. It was goodbye minis, and ultimately hello to Rokus (at first, Streaming Stick Plus) early this year. That led us to trying different home setups overall, which I mentioned a few posts above.

    What we chose and why we chose it...

    What we settled on is a Roku Ultra in the living room, with a few Streaming Sticks for the bedroom & rec room TV's... We wanted some DVR capability for "cable" network channels, so we tried two options that had the channels we wanted: SlingTV (which we also tried with its compatible AirTV OTA DVR - it's a dud), and Spectrum's "TV Choice" service - which allows you to choose your 10 favorite networks, and also happens to give you the local channels for roughly $30/month plus $5/month for a cloud DVR option with a 50-program capacity. On both Sling and Spectrum's platforms, you can't pause or rewind Live TV - only your DVR recorded programs.

    On Roku, Spectrum's app overall renders video & sound better than Sling - arguably better than Tivo's QAM, and though not perfect or glitch-free, far more stable than Sling. In most cases, you don't really "need" the DVR option because almost everything is available On-Demand the day after it airs. Yes, there are sometimes commercials when you do that (many times, there aren't any - especially the further you get away from the original air date). But there are still way less commercials than what's originally aired. So we stuck with the Spectrum option.

    We combine it with a Tablo setup in the living room where our router is located, with an exterior OTA antenna. We use Spectrum's app exclusively for the "cable" channels (it's not cable anymore, but I'm not sure what else to call them) with its Cloud DVR as needed (a few programs don't always migrate to On-Demand, so it's more of a "safety net"), and we use the Tablo exclusively for the OTA channels.

    Other differences....

    On Roku, switching between apps - Tablo, Spectrum, Prime, Netflix, etc. - is seamless, no lag, easy-peasy. Prior to making the change, I've read many times here people saying that switching input sources on a TV to watch different platforms is no big deal - that they don't get why unitizing these services on a Roku or FireTV is important. Let me set this clear: Using a streaming platform to switch between services is FAR more intuitive, consistent feeling, easier, and more stable, than bopping around the source / input selector for your TV. It IS different, and it IS better.

    Some misconceptions to bust....

    Since our home network is strong, there are no issues streaming wirelessly to the other TV's via Roku. If you're going to stream wirelessly, you need a strong, stable wi-fi network. You're going to see a ton of reviews out there complaining about every stick option & every one of its apps regarding "buffering." I promise, 90% of those, it's the fault of the wifi network of the person posting - not of the app or streaming platform. And the reviews about pixelating on OTA devices, most often they're using an indoor (or even attic) antenna. Just keep that in mind.

    Wrapping this up...

    Overall, we're saving money. We no longer pay for monthly Tivo service or cable card fees for the Tivo box. With Tablo, there is a monthly fee of $5 for their enhanced guide service (or $50/year, $150 lifetime). It's not required, but without it, the DVR functionality is much less and guide data is reduced from 2 weeks to 24 hours. To us, it's worth it.

    It's been several months, and we don't miss Tivo now, at least not in any practical non-sentimental way. Even beyond what I wrote here, there's a lot more variety to what you can watch via a Roku platform. (Fire TV, too, but not AS much - and using Fire TV is like using the Prime Video app for your entire UI experience... NOT the best for such a purpose).

    I listened when Tivo announced Roku apps in January that aren't even in a "beta" phase on Roku all these months later. I waited a month or so to hear more details, and based on the last two years+ of Tivo's patterns of "talking about" paths, and then not actually going in a clear direction, I didn't have enough confidence that anything would come of that. So far, it feels like my instincts were right.

    I totally get that not everyone enjoys change, and I respect the comfort that some feel in keeping with what they're used to. But I know, and I think everyone really knows deep down, that this is where the market is going. Since this brand was once such an innovator, it's a bummer that so many people got here before Tivo did.

    If anyone has questions about why we chose this setup vs. FireTV/Recast, HD HomeRun via Plex, or anything else (I know, it's a LOT!) please feel free to ask.
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2019
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  20. Sep 21, 2019 #20 of 342
    mdavej

    mdavej Well-Known Member

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    Maybe a really early review. Most are non-issues.

    - I checked my guide just now, and it still goes out a full 14 days as it always has.

    - True on the two streams and basic interface. Not a good option if you need 3 or more streams. But six quick 30 sec jumps instantly skips commercials like the old days on Tivo. Amazon claims commercial skip feature is planned.

    - Not sure what Vudu has to do with OTA DVR functionality, but it's true Amazon has no Vudu app. Last time I checked, Tivo didn't have a Vudu app either. In any case, I easily side loaded it on my stick, and 4k works fine.

    - 4k issues are user error in this case. Just turn on HDR tone mapping on your TV, and everything looks fine.

    Tablo or Channels is probably the best option for Roku users at the moment. But Fire is really a superior platform over all in many respects (voice control, side loading Android TV apps, speed).

    While Silicon Dust's tuners work well with several DVR apps, their own app is absolutely terrible. So you should avoid that if possible.

    Some really nice things about Recast are guide integration with other apps, universal search, voice control (i.e., "watch PBS" or "watch channel four" or "record the good place"), and low price.

    FWIW, I've replaced Tivo systems with Recast in two cord cutter households so far and it's been working well. Yes, I miss the advanced DVR features of Tivo. But what I gain with integrated streaming options makes it worth the trade off for me.

    Regarding Spectrum Choice, I had that package for a while and really liked it. The a la carte aspect made it pretty much the perfect package for me. It even worked fine with my lifetime Tivo. But they kept raising the "broadcast fee" every year. When it went over $10, that was the last straw. So I cut the cord and went with OTA plus DirecTV NOW (similar to Sling, PS Vue, Youtube TV, Hulu Live, etc.). But they keep doing insane price increases as well, so I'll probably drop them eventually too.
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2019

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