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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
  Best for Multiple Televisions

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.

  Best for Versatility

TiVo

Bolt OTA

Overall Take

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

  Best for Simple Setup

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.

  Best for TV-Lovers

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.

Don't just take for granted what one reviewer says. Along with our own experts, Simplemost analyzes the top expert reviews of the leading products and generates a score you can actually trust.
17

Products Considered

We identified the majority of the dvrs available to purchase.
10

Products Analyzed

We then selected the leading and most popular products for our team to review.

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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.

34,929

User Opinions Analyzed

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

The Best Overall

TiVo MINI VOX Streaming Media Player

Our Expert 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.


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: $229.99 USD In Stock
Used from: $229.99 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.

Simplemost 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.