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Bob asked: “I’m trying to cut the cable and I’m really confused because I love to watch most of the broadcast channels, however I’d like to DVR those as well. Is there a way I can do that?”
Bob, we salute your cord-cutting instincts. In addition to getting your local broadcast stations free of charge, you will also be getting them in uncompressed 1080p quality, which is better than any cable or satellite provider is offering at the moment.
You have three items to be concerned with here. First you need an HD Antenna. The general consensus is the Mohu Leaf, which runs about $60, is the best of breed. However, the Antennas Direct ClearStream Eclipse has performed as well as the Leaf in comparison tests and can be found at around $40 if you shop carefully. Either way, there are two ways to buy an HD Antenna: powered and unpowered. If all your stations are within 20 miles of your home, either will work. If you need a 50 mile range, then a powered unit is the correct choice. Powered units aren’t really much more expensive, it’s just the headache of getting power to them that makes you want to avoid them unless they’re needed.
To find out about the stations in your area and how far they are from your location, visit AntennaWeb.org and enter your street address. It will tell you how far each station in your area is from your location as well as what direction it’s coming from.
Next you’ll need a DVR. If you’re going to combine your HD Antenna with a cable service at some point, the TiVo Bolt is the product to look for. Selling for around $230 at Amazon.com, the Bolt works with either cable services, HD Antennas, or both. The issue with the Bolt is that you’ll have to pay TiVo a $15 monthly fee for the guide service or the device isn’t useful. If you’re going to completely cut the cable cord, however, the TiVo Roamio OTA is the product to look at. Make sure you’re looking at the OTA model, because there is also a Roamio that works with cable and Verizon FIOS. At $350 on Amazon.com, the Roamio OTA costs a little more upfront than the Bolt, but the TiVo service is free with the Roamio. After the first couple years, you will be better off with the Roamio OTA.
There are other OTA DVRs as well, and you should do some comparison shopping, but the TiVo models are probably the most polished and easiest to use.
Finally you need to consider a streaming service and device to pick up those cable channels you want to keep watching, because aren’t we all ESPN and HGTV junkies? You will need a streaming box like the Amazon Fire or the Roku, and right now those two are neck and neck in terms of features and support. You will also need a service like Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, or DirecTV Now. Channel packages and pricing varies with each, from around $20 a month all the way up to $70 a month for their top tier offerings, but that’s month to month with no contracts and you can adjust up or down as you find out how much you use it.
Today it is easier than ever to cut the cord and, assuming you have an excellent Internet connection, combine an HD Antenna, an OTA DVR, and a streaming device with companion service, to get a premium viewing experience at a dramatically reduced cost. Good luck and let us know what you decide!