TiVo Alternatives?

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

  1. chiguy50

    chiguy50 Well-Known Member

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    Free but with ads? Sorry, that's way too expensive for my taste.o_O
     
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  2. OrangeCrush

    OrangeCrush Active Member

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    Interesting, but still seems fairly DiY. You have to add your own tuner, hard drive and media. I'm not sure what this offers over something like a NVidia shield, but I welcome new entrants into this space. The more the merrier, imo.
     
  3. Pokemon_Dad

    Pokemon_Dad Ruler of Unown UI

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    It does seem very similar to just setting up an NAS and installing Plex. And even more so than Plex, it seems too simple for many of the DIYers here. I doubt it will offer many "power user" options.
     
  4. Bigg

    Bigg Cord Cutter

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    It's made specifically for HDHR hardware.
     
  5. wmcbrine

    wmcbrine Well-Known Mumbler

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    I've made software specifically for TiVo hardware. I guarantee you, we're not partners.
     
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  6. Bigg

    Bigg Cord Cutter

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    Maybe so. It just doesn't look that way from their website.
     
  7. jzinckgra

    jzinckgra Member

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    I feel dumb asking, but in trying to ditch the Bolt, there are a myriad of options. We have OTA and use Bolt to DVR as well as using the Bolt to stream Netflix/Prime. However, I bought new smart TV last year (Sony 940E) that has all and more streaming apps then the Bolt.
    For best PQ, it seems Tivo would outperform any OTA streaming device (Table, HR, Silicon). Can someone comment on how much of a "hit" I'll take on PQ by wifi streaming locals to my TV vs Tivo?

    To add to my confusion, it seems Recast gets rated very well, but requires a Fire TV device. What's a Fire TV device and how is it different than the Recast? Could I use Recast with our Sony TV? There's so many options, but a lot to digest in terms of user feedback.

    In the end, we only have one TV, need to have DVR for OTA. What Tivo alternative would work best for us?
     
  8. Pokemon_Dad

    Pokemon_Dad Ruler of Unown UI

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    No such thing as a dumb question here. This is all new to most people. A Recast records OTA, and connects over your network to other Fire TV devices in your home to play that content. Those other Fire TV devices are streaming boxes and sticks that you probably don't need for anything else, because you may have all the streaming apps you need in your new Sony Android TV. Also, Recast is not highly rated for picture quality.

    Better options may include a Tablo DVR paired with the Tablo app for Android TV. I have no experience with that one. I am testing an HD HomeRun Quatro receiver with Channels DVR on a small NAS, and the Channels app on our TVs. I find the picture slightly more saturated than TiVo, but nobody else in the family sees a difference. Aside from that, looks good.

    I don't have an Android TV. You should check yours to see if it will download the relevant app for anything we suggest here, as I believe that would be the best solution. Maybe in five years, when the TV apps don't meet your needs, then look for an add-on box. But not until then.
     
  9. NashGuy

    NashGuy Well-Known Member

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    Your Sony 940E uses Google's Android TV as its smart TV app platform. So it can run any app made for Android TV. OTA DVRs other than TiVo use apps as their front-end.

    There are four major options available for OTA DVR besides TiVo. The fourth of those options is the most complicated and offers various sub-options.

    1. Tablo: You'd buy a Tablo device (with either 2 or 4 OTA tuners inside) and then connect your own USB hard drive to store recordings. To watch live and recorded TV and manage your DVR, you'd use the Tablo app, which is available for lots of different devices, including Android TV (and therefore your Sony smart TV).

    Tablo lets you set the video quality to different levels; the higher the level, the better it looks but the more hard drive space recordings take up. When I tried out a Tablo a couple years back and set it to the highest level, I didn't honestly notice any different in picture quality vs. the TiVo Roamio OTA I had at the time, and I'm someone who's pretty sensitive to picture quality.

    After buying the Tablo (you can buy a refurbished 2-tuner for as little as $70 right now, or a new 4-tuner for as much as $200. Their DVR service (i.e. program guide data) costs $5/mo (first month free) or $50/yr or $150 for lifetime service (which you can transfer to a new Tablo device down the road if you like). If you got the refurb 2-tuner model plus spent $50 on a 1 TB hard drive plus bought lifetime service, you're looking at a minimum of $270 on Tablo (Note: Do NOT buy their lifetime service until after you've set up your Tablo and tested it out with the first free month of DVR service. You can then decide if you want to purchase monthly, yearly or lifetime service, or simply return/resell the Tablo because you don't like it.)

    2. Fire TV Recast: You'd need to buy the Recast (with either 2 or 4 OTA tuners inside) PLUS a Fire TV streaming device. This is because Amazon doesn't make an app for Android TV or any other platform besides their own Fire TV streaming devices for viewing and controlling the Recast DVR. So if you use a Recast, you'll need to switch inputs and remote controls over from your Sony TV to a Fire TV streamer. But a nice thing about the Recast is that it has its own built-in hard drive, so you don't need to buy that too. You can buy the 4-tuner Recast with 1 TB storage for $280 or the 2-tuner Recast with half that much storage for $230. They also sell a special bundle that includes the 2-tuner Recast plus their Fire TV 4K streaming stick plus an OTA antenna for just $250 (so basically you're getting the Fire TV 4K stick, which you need, for just an extra $20 and the antenna for free). Don't think they sell a bundle with the 4-tuner model. The Fire TV 4K stick by itself is usually $50 but I'm sure will be on sale soon for Black Friday.

    Here's the really big deal about the Recast, though: no DVR service fees. So once you make the up-front hardware purchase, that's it. So you could spend as little as $250 on the bundle I linked to above, which is $20 less than the least-expensive Tablo set-up with lifetime service.

    I've never used a Fire TV Recast, so can't comment first-hand on picture or sound quality there versus a TiVo. I feel like I've read that there is at least a bit of a quality hit with the Recast but maybe not a big deal? I'll leave it to you to do your research on how Tablo stacks up vs. Fire TV Recast. Both have their strengths and weaknesses, I'm sure.

    3. HDHomeRun Scribe: This is a product similar to a Recast, an all-in-one DVR box with either 2 or 4 OTA tuners plus hard drive, but you would use their own HDHomeRun app to view live and recorded TV and manage the DVR. That app is available for your Sony TV running Android TV. The 2-tuner Scribe Duo costs $150 at Best Buy and the 4-tuner Scribe Quattro costs $250. Both come with a 1 TB hard drive. The first year of DVR service is included and then costs $35/year thereafter. This option is newer and less well-known than the first two above and I've read very little about the picture quality, features, etc. I do know that the UI of the HDHomeRun app doesn't look as good as that of the Tablo app or Fire TV Recast but that may not matter to you.

    This could be your cheapest option, costing as little as $150 (although you'd still need to pay $35 year every year after the first year).

    4. HDHomeRun Connect: This scenario is the most complicated. You'd buy an HDHomeRun Connect OTA tuner (2 or 4 tuner model) but all this device contains are tuners. It doesn't have DVR software or a hard drive built-in, so you'd also need a separate computer or NAS device to handle the DVR recording function, with recordings stored on that device. You have three options on what DVR software system to run on your computer:
    A. Channels Plus
    B. Plex
    C. HDHomeRun DVR

    I'll leave it to you to research those options if they interest you. From what I know, I'd say that Channels Plus is the highest-quality solution here and it costs $8/mo or $80/yr (no lifetime option) after a 1-month free trial.
     
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  10. jzinckgra

    jzinckgra Member

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    Great responses and very helpful, thank you. I'm tempted to try Recast especially since the 2-tuner/Fire stick 4K plus antenna is $249. I already have antenna, but can sell the amazon one. I guess my only hesitation is PQ reduction of the recast vs Tivo for OTA channels. I'm not a PQ snob, but I do like a sharp/clear image.
    Forgot to mention, the wife prefers the most straight forward option with as little confusion as possible
     
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  11. NashGuy

    NashGuy Well-Known Member

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    Well, if you chose to do all your TV viewing through the Fire TV 4K Stick (and simply not use your Sony TV's remote control and its built-in apps), then going with the Fire TV Recast option might be the simplest set-up. The Fire TV will have a somewhat better selection of apps than Android TV on your Sony TV, and they may run a bit smoother too. That said, going with either Tablo or HDHomeRun Scribe is pretty simple and straightforward too and would allow you to stick with using the Android TV system built into your TV.

    Aside from the PQ differences, it might also come down to whether you prefer Sony's Android TV UI or the Fire TV UI. Here's an article with a good walk-through (with screenshots) of using the Recast. It will stream all live and recorded TV to the Fire TV Stick at 720p, while the Tablo can do 1080. These threads comparing the various options may also help you:

    https://www.avsforum.com/forum/42-h...recast-vs-tablo-vs-channel-master-stream.html

    https://community.tablotv.com/t/tablo-vs-recast/20245
     
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  12. tapokata

    tapokata Active Member

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    I have used Tivo Bolts, Tablo, and currently a recast. Bolt is hdmi connected directly to TV. Tablo uses the steaming app either built in to my WebOS equipped LG Tv, or a Fire Stick app. Recast streams through the Firecast app. All DVR source material is from the same over the air antenna.

    As far as picture quality, Tivo will record and playback in the resolution broadcast by the station, so it will be the best quality. The other two transcode the picture, converting to a more compressed bit rate for streaming. If you have one of the major brand sets (Sony, LG, Samsung, etc) most have very good upscaling tech to their native display mode, and the image quality for high definition sources (1080i and 720p) is very good. For SD source material (480i) typically used by the local broadcasters for the sub channel content, such as MeTv, I have found that the Tablo transcoding leaves a bit of saw toothing and artifacts on diagonal edges that once seen, are hard to ignore. I don’t see those defects in the transcode from the recast to the firestick. The FireTv has the annoying habit of rolling up the streamed bit rate (and resolution) on the fly from the start, so the image quality for a few seconds can be meh until it syncs up along your network.

    Tablo transcodes and records everything on the fly, so a two tuner model can record two concurrent sources, and at the same time can stream up to six different recordings to different displays. The Recast records in native format, but streams a transcode, but can only stream two unique transcodes at the same time using two of the tuners. In other words, you can watch two different programs live from the recast while recording two others at the same time, but a third set cannot watch a unique source concurrently, so even a four tuner Recast can only stream two live channels concurrently.

    Note that the OTT streaming services that offer live tv, such as You Tube Live, Hulu Live, SlingTv, and the soon to be deceased PSVue do not stream at resolutions higher than 720p/60, no matter what device is used. In other words, a 1080i HD source broadcast is transcoded down by the OTT service before streaming to your home device.
     
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  13. jzinckgra

    jzinckgra Member

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    I thought recast can display 1080? Only 720?
     
  14. jebbbz

    jebbbz Member

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    Actually, 1440x720, if I recall correctly. Also, with either Tablo or Recast there is a lag on live TV channel changes as the transcoding kicks in.
     
  15. aaronwt

    aaronwt UHD Addict

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    But they still have much better quality than what FiOS broadcasts. Or what Comcast broadcasts.

    Sent from my Galaxy S10
     
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  16. Pokemon_Dad

    Pokemon_Dad Ruler of Unown UI

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  17. NashGuy

    NashGuy Well-Known Member

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    No, the Recast records the original OTA TV stream as-is, whether that's 1080i or 720p or 480i. Then as you play back recordings (or live TV), it transcodes the signal on-the-fly to 720p or 480p. Tablo, on the other hand, will transcode everything as it records to disk, based on the quality setting that you set for it. A 720p channel will still be recorded at 720p but a 1080i channel can be recorded at 1080p (although I believe if you go with that option, it will save it at only 30 frames per second, i.e. 1080p30, even though the original broadcast is at 1080i60, so there's a trade-off. Or you can have it transcode and record 1080i60 channels at 720p60.)

    Another thing: Tablo introduced an automatic ad-skipping feature this year. (Don't know how well it works.) Amazon has reportedly been testing such as feature but hasn't yet rolled it out for the Recast.
     
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  18. NashGuy

    NashGuy Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, when I tried out a Tablo a couple years ago, it was NOT great for channel surfing because it took several seconds to begin showing a new channel every time I changed channels. But that has since been improved with software updates, although I don't know by how much, or which is faster at changing channels now, Tablo or Recast.
     
  19. tapokata

    tapokata Active Member

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    Tablo ad skipping works pretty well, but is not available in all of their apps. Unlike Tivo, it applies ad skip to all recordings (save PBS or live sports), not just those from prime time.
     
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  20. NashGuy

    NashGuy Well-Known Member

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    Nice summary. I too have read that SD picture quality is better on Fire TV Recast than on Tablo. How would you say the two compare when it comes to a 1080i channel if the Tablo is set to the optimum/best picture quality setting?

    (Also, I'm pretty sure that AT&T TV Now streams 1080i channels at 1080p60, although it's possible that none of the other do. AT&T TV Now is generally reputed to have the best HD PQ among live streaming cable TV services and I can attest that it looks very, very good, as good or better than DirecTV satellite.)
     

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