New Magnavox OTA DVRs Announced

TB560S

At CES 2016, Magnavox quietly unveiled a line of OTA (Over-the-Air or broadcast television via antenna) DVRs.  There are three models in the line…

  • MDR877H/F7 (MSRP $399.99): 1 TB (1000 hours), two tuners, DVD recorder
  • TB560HP/F7 (MSRP $449.99): 1 TB (1000 hours), two tuners
  • TB560HS/F7 (MSRP $499.99): 2 TB (2000 hours), six tuners

Magnavox has a long history in the OTA Digital VCR/DVD recorder business, but, as far as I know, this is their first foray into the full feature HD DVR arena. Release date is set for this fall. The first thing that struct me about these is the fact that it looks like a TB560HP/F7 with a DVR burner is $50 less than a TB560HP/F7. I suspect there is a lot we don’t yet know about these things.

CNET posted pictures of the boxes here. I have not seen any first hand information other than that.

Here is some of the interesting stuff from the boxes…

– Pause/rewind live TV
– No subscription EPG
– 802.11n
– Tuners (2 or 6)
– Line in for camcorders (or Rokus?)
– External storage
– IOS/Android live and ‘on the go’ support (download recordings?)
– DVD-r/rw support (MDR877H/F7)
– DLNA Sync (start watching in one room, resume in another)
– DVR Link (recordings from all DVRs are available, via a single menu, on all DVRs)
– Home Network Server

The Rovi powered guide looks very nice — it’s a grid with images and details. There seems to be a search function whereby Rovi recommends and aggregates programming.

The interesting thing is that this DVR does not seem to target any existing DVRs directly with the possible exception of dissatisfied Tablo users or people who might otherwise buy a Tablo.

Also interesting, with DLNA, a six tuner model, and no diskless ‘Mini’, Magnavox seems to be inviting streamers to leverage their DVR — and giving them six months to bring a product to market. Is Roku Media Player a potential client for the Magnavox DVR? Kodi is, so Fire TV, Nexus, and Raspberry PI are too, I guess.

This thing does not include streaming apps. That disqualifies it for one box people unless that one box is a DLNA capable streamer (or TV).

Looks like guide is Rovi only, so not a good fit for those without broadband.

Then there’s price. I’m having trouble with the announced prices and feature sets, but, for discussion purposes, let’s assume the prices are correct and these things are not compatible with any other devices. Let’s see how much this will cost compared to the alternatives for 3/4/5 years…

One room 1T at least two tuners:
– TiVo 1t Bolt @$400 plus $150/yr for years 2-5: $700/$850/$1000
– DVR+ plus @$250 plus a 1t disk @$60: $310/$310/$310
– Tablo two tuner DVR @$220 plus a 1t disk @$60 plus Lifetime @$150 plus Roku 1 @$50: $480/$480/$480
– TB560HP/F7 @$450: $450/$450/$450

Two rooms at least 1T at least two tuners:
– TiVo 1t Bolt @$400 plus $150/yr for years 2-5 plus one Mini @$150: $850/$1000/$1150
– Two DVR+s @$500 plus two 1t disks @$120: $620/$620/$620
– Tablo two tuner DVR @$220 plus a 1t disk @$60 plus Lifetime @$150 plus two Roku 1s @$100: $530/$530/$530
– Two TB560HP/F7s @$900: $900/$900/$900

Three rooms at least 1T at least four tuners:
– TiVo 1t Bolt @$400 plus $150/yr for years 2-5 plus two Minis @$300: $1000/$1150/$1300
– Three DVR+s @$750 plus three 1t disks @$180: $930/$930/$930
– Tablo four tuner DVR @$300 plus a 1t disk @$60 plus Lifetime @$150 plus three Roku 1s @$150: $660/$660/$660
– Three TB560HP/F7s @$1350: $1350/$1350/$1350

Four rooms at least 1T at least four tuners:
– TiVo 1t Bolt @$400 plus $150/yr for years 2-5 plus three Minis @$450: $1150/$1300/$1450
– Four DVR+s @$1000 plus four 1t disks @$240: $1240/$1240/$1240
– Tablo four tuner DVR @$300 plus a 1t disk @$60 plus Lifetime @$150 plus four Roku 1s @$200: $710/$710/$710
– Four TB560HP/F7s @$1800: $1800/$1800/$1800

This isn’t an apples to apples comparison. By the time you get to four rooms, the DVR+ and TB560HP/F7 setups are sporting eight tuners and 4t of disk space while the TiVo and Tablo setups are four tuners and 1t of storage. Maybe you need to add streamers to support popular streaming services. Regardless, this is a basic setup for an OTA first cord cutter. Magnavox is not a price leader in most configurations.

Unless the DVR recorder is a TB560HP/F7 with a DVR burner (which makes no sense) or these Magnavox DVRs work with inexpensive streamers, I am not sure who would choose one.

On the other hand, if this thing works with a Fire TV stick running Kodi, things look a LOT more interesting…

TB560HS/F7 @$500 plus three FTV Sticks @$150 gives you streaming in four rooms for $650/$650/$650 which is truly a bargain.

What do you think about this DVR?  Did Magnavox get things right?

By Len Mullen Posted in DVR, OTA

Who’s Naughty, Who’s Nice (Updated 11/22/2015)

Updated on 11/22/2015 to include $299.99 with Lifetime!  Scroll down to DVRs…

Black Friday is a great time to shop for the cord cutter in your life.  This year, there are a lot of promotions and a handful of new devices.   This post is a guide to what I consider the best buys at this moment.

Let’s start with the ‘no brainers’…

  1. The Roku SE is selling for $25 at Kohls, Best Buy, and Walmart.  This Roku has a slower processor than the current Roku 2/3 models which are slower than the new Roku 4, but it has standard RCA composite out for older televisions.  Great stocking stuffer.  The composite cable is not included, but get one on ebay for $0.99 shipped!  Roku has great apps for Vudu, the Simple DVR, and the TabloTV DVR.
  2. Amazon’s Fire TV Stick is $25 at Best Buy, K-mart, and Staples.  It’s faster than the Roku SE and supports a voice remote.  Two features make it a no brainer.  Captive portal makes it easier to use hotel wifi with the Fire TV Stick.  Kodi support plus FireStarter allows the FTV Stick to easily slip in and out of a slick Media Center mode with virtually unlimited programming.
  3. Fire TV is $75 at Best Buy and Staples.  That’s about half the price of the new Apple and Roku streamers.  With wired or wireless game controllers, the Fire TV is a terrific, inexpensive video game console that also happens to be an awesome streamer.  The new model is more powerful, adds 4k support, Alexa integration, and 801.11ac Wi-Fi with MIMO, for better Wi-Fi video streaming.

Walmart is going to have the 1st gen Chromecast for $20.  Best Buy, Office Depot, Staples, and Costco will all have the 2nd gen Chromecast at two for $50.

My favorite DVR is steeply discounted on Black Friday and you do not have to leave home to get one.  Channel Master’s DVR+ will be on sale for $199 from 4-8 am Pacific Time on Black Friday.  (That’s 7-11 am for those of us on the east coast.)  That’s a pretty good deal.  Buy a pair for $299.  That’s a GREAT deal!

You will need to buy a disk for these, but 1 t usb disks are going for $50 these days, so you can shelve a $200 DVR with no monthly fees.  While the DVR+ is primarily an OTA DVR (which requires no internet or phone connection), plugging in to the internet enables additional features like an Enhanced Program Guide and Linear OTT or Channel Master TV (CMTV).  The enhanced program guide extends the length of the guide from a few days to a couple weeks while adding additional information.  CMTV streams media from the internet to your television continuously.  In other words, words select a CMTV station and watch television continuously until you change the channel.

I like Bloomberg TV, ABC News, WeatherNation TV, Biz TV, WGN TV, The Hunt Channel, Foody TV, Outdoor Cooking Channel, VevoTV-hits, RT Television, RT Documentaries, and Catholic TV (I’m not Catholic, but I enjoy some of the programming).  WeatherNation TV, on the other hand, is great when the weather is on my mind. I actually seek out that channel regularly.  They have recently added some new channels. I will be paying attention to DRTV (Doctor TV). I’ve stopped for a movie or a show on Backlight TV a few times. Got caught up in that. Stream Shift TV has been running a video called Blokes TV which is a bunch of Aussies riding dirt bikes across Southeast Asia, eating ‘happy pizzas’, and hanging out in strip joints. (It’s more entertaining than it should be.) Rivals is a good channel — when something is on. I have watched a couple college football games on Rivals. TWIT TV is terrific background noise.

The DVR+ is the DVR built for cord cutters and is worthy of your consideration next Friday.

Amazon has updated their listing for a TiVo Roamio OTA indicating it will be in stock on 11/26/2015 and can be pre-ordered now.  The Roamio/OTA is my wife’s favorite DVR.  We don’t love the TiVo ‘paradigm’, but do like that it streams Amazon Instant Video/Prime, Vudu, Netflix, YouTube, Hulu Plus, MLB.tv, and Plex.  It’s truly a single box solution for OTA first cord cutters.  At $299.99 with four tuners and a 500g disk, it is actually less expensive than the DVR+.  If you want to have a TiVo in a second or third room, you can buy a TiVo Mini for ~$130 or less.  The mini shares tuners and disk with a four/six tuner TiVo.

My caution is that TiVo makes their money on monthly and annual fees.  These Lifetime offers are fleeting and often prohibitively expensive.  If you get a single DVR and a couple Minis, you may feel compelled to replace a broken fee-free TiVo with one which has a monthly or annual fee.  I recommend you buy at least two for this reason.

If you cannot decide between a TiVo and a DVR+, post a comment below and we can figure things out together.  (I have three Roamios and three DVR+s.)

Stream Shift TV

This morning I discovered a new Channel Master DVR+ Linear OTT channel called Stream Shift TV.  Since I tuned in, SST has been streaming BlokesWorld TV.  BWTV seems to be about a bunch of guys from Australia who are on a dirt bike adventure in southeast Asia.  The visit tourist attractions, bike through the countryside, shoot automatic weapons, eat ‘happy pizza’, and relax in strip joints.  All the while, sports headlines scroll across the bottom of the screen.  BWTV beats the heck out of CNN as background noise.  Give it a look but be warned BWTV is not suitable for work or the family room!

DVR+ Lister

DVR+ Lister is a Windows based utility, for owners of the Channel Master DVR+, who wish to move recordings from the DVR+ USB HDD to a Windows Computer.

DVR+ Lister is a freeware program, which runs in Windows XP through 8.1 (desktop). It aids owners of a Channel Master DVR+ (with a detachable USB HDD) in copying recordings from a DVR+ USB HDD to a Windows computer, because, sadly, the DVR+ does not provide a file copying mechanism. While the recordings can be copied from the USB HDD using normal Windows file copying techniques, the DVR+ filenames are quite cryptic (for example, Strm0001.ts, Strm00EA.ts, etc.), providing no hint of the Show Titles, and the Date Stamps of the recordings are not even close to the actual recorded dates, so they can’t be used to identify a Show. This program is useful because it extracts the actual Show Titles, Descriptions, Recorded Dates, and other data, hidden in one of the DVR+ binary data files, and displays that information. The desired recordings can be selected and copied to a Windows computer (from the USB HDD) with one button push, giving the copies useful Filenames and Date Stamps. In addition to copying recordings to a Windows computer, the data appearing in the List can be output to a Text File, or to MS Excel, for whatever usage you may envision.

Channel Master Teases Sling/Linear

slingondvrplus

 

Two weeks ago, Channel Master teased that last week was going to be a ‘good week’.  Friday afternoon, CM added a couple videos to their Facebook page.  The first showed Sling TV running on a DVR+.  This is a big deal.  While OTA-first cord cutters may not be particularly excited about a pay service on their no fee dvr, many do pay for Netflix, Prime, and Hulu.  Of course, Channel Master is targeting people who are on the fence — those reluctant to cut their cord because they cannot miss a an episode of Game of Thrones or Mad Men, or because they wake and fall asleep to ESPN.  For $35/month, Sling delivers ESPN, ESPN2, AMC, TNT, TBS, CNN, A&E, Lifetime, History, Food Network, HGTV, Travel Channel, Cartoon Network/Adult Swim, Disney Channel, ABC Family, IFC, H2, El Rey Network, Maker, Galavision, and HBO.

For another $5/month, you can add special interest packages to your subscription…

  • Sports: SEC Network, ESPNews, ESPNU, Universal Sports, Univision Deportes, beIN Sports, ESPN Buzzer Beater, ESPN Bases Loaded, ESPN Goal Line
  • Kids: Disney Junior, Disney xd, Boomerang, Baby TV, Duck TV
  • Hollywood: EPIX, EPIX2, EPIX3, EPIX Drive-In, Sundance TV
  • World News: Bloomberg TV, HLN, Euro News, France 24, NDTV 24/7, News 18, Russia Today
  • Lifestyle: truTV, Cooking Channel, DIY, WE tv, FYI, LMN

The second was another demo of Linear OTT.  The quality of the video was poor, and the accompanying text did not clear things up, but it looks like the DVR+ is going to get some watchable content…

  • Bloomberg TV
  • ABCNews. com
  • CBS News
  • WeatherNation
  • BIZ TV
  • Pursuit
  • Hunt Channel
  • FOODY TV
  • Outdoor Cooking Channel

At CES, CM demo’d Linear TV featuring Bloomberg, Al Jazeera America, CNN World, WGN, NASA, BBC World News, Vevo TV, and QVC.

Let’s hope Channel Master delivers something soon.

Not a Good Week for Channel Master

May 7th Channel Master posted this to their Facebook page…

Next week is going to be a good week.

As ‘next week’ winds down, I will opine that the week was, indeed, a good week, but not for Channel Master. The week was a good week for ME.  Me and OTA-first cord cutters who have been waiting for that single box which would do it all.  It was good for us because we learned that Plex is coming to TiVo June 8th.  The TiVo Roamio OTA is the first set top box to provide…

  1. A channel guide
  2. Program recording
  3. Trick play (rewind, pause, fast forward, etc.)
  4. Premium streaming media (Amazon Instant Video/Prime, Vudu, Netflix, YouTube, Hulu Plus, MLB.tv)
  5. Whole house support
  6. Plex

At $299.99 including Lifetime Product Service, the TiVo Roamio OTA is the best set top box for an OTA-first cord cutter. Unfortunately, TiVo has pulled their $299.99 promotion and the Roamio OTA now costs $49.99 plus $15 per month.  Let me do the math for you: Y1=$230, Y2=$410, Y3=$590, Y4=$670, and Y5=$850.  At $300 with a 1t disk, the Channel Master DVR+ is less expensive by the end of the second year. TiVo has nailed the technology, but needs to fix their pricing.  OTA’ers don’t like monthly payments.  At $299.99 or even $399.99, I think TiVo wins.  At $15/month, The DVR+ is good enough.

Also, TiVo needs to match Channel Master’s one year warranty.  Who pays $400 for something with a 90 day warranty?

LinearTV Update

During CES we learned that Channel Master was going to update their DVR+ hardware to support something called LinearTV.  Launch is scheduled for Q1, but may slip to April.  If you do not know what a DVR+ is, read this.  If you do not know what LinearTV is, read this.  Here is an update from Channel Master’s Facebook page…

Continue reading

Back to Basics in 2015

If you ask me to help you cut the cord in 2015, I will simply advise that you put an antenna in the attic and a Channel Master DVR+ on each television.  That’s really all you need.  No need to get on the roof.  No need to worry about grounding your system.  You don’t need internet access at all.  The cost is $0.00 per month.  That’s a measurable, meaningful savings.  Add up the cost of installation and divide by your current cable or satellite monthly bill to determine your break even point.

You will likely be surprised at the number or channels and the quality of programming available via an antenna.  In the five years I have been doing this, my dial has swollen with new channels — very good channels.  Right now, my lineup looks like this…

ABC (WCVB, WMTW, WMUR, MeTV), BOUNCE, CBS (WBZ), COZI (WMFP), CW (WLVI, ZUUS), Escape, Fox (WFXT, Fox Movies!), getTV, Independent stations (WBIN, AntennaTV, Grit, WSBK), ION (ION, IONLife, Qubo, QVC), MyNetwork (WSBK), NBC (WHDH, This TV), and PBS (WENH, WGBH, WGBX, Create, Explore, Kids, World).

I have a total of 47 channels in Boston.  BOUNCE,  COZI, Escape, Fox Movies!, getTV, AntennaTV, and Grit have been added since we quit Comcast.  CBS Decades is supposed to launch this month.  Broadcast television gets better every day.

You can run directly from antenna to your digital televisions if price is your top concern, but I think a DVR with a grid guide makes a big difference.  My choice for a set top box is the Channel Master DVR+.  For $250, it allows you to pause, rewind, fast forward programming, has a pair of high quality tuners, includes a cable quality, grid style program guide, and can store 140 hours of HD on an inexpensive 1t disk.  If you do have internet access, the DVR+ adds a two week program guide, streaming programs via Vudu, streaming music via Pandora, and lots of fun with a YouTube app.  Bloomberg, Al-Jazzera America, WGN, WeatherNation, Daystar, Almavision, NASA, BBC World News, Sky News, France 24 (France), NHK World (Japan), CNN World, QVC, Home Shopping Network, TV Mas (Mexico), Vevo TV, 360 North (Alaska), Outdoor Cooking Channel, DW (Germany), and JewelryTV  will stream to this box later this year.

Let’s chat about the things that I’m no longer recommending.  Probably have to start with the whole house DVRs.  I have a bunch of Simple DVRs.  They are pretty amazing.  I really like that I can watch my antenna and recordings on a tablet by the poor or at an airport.  I like that I can schedule recordings across time slots and channels — if I want to.  Tablo demo’d a really impressive Roku channel at CES.  Still, I cannot recommend either Simple or Tablo for watching television.  When things work as intended, the tuners are hobbled by the internal splitters and too slow to change channels.  When you pause, rewind or fast forward, neither has visual cues.  When things go wrong — and they do go wrong — it is difficult for a less technical person to troubleshoot.  If you really remote access to your antenna, keep your eye on woot.  Woot recently sold the dual tuner Simple DVR with lifetime for $105.  It $350 for a pair of tuners plus lifetime, I can’t recommend a Tablo at all.

I’m not recommending streamers at all.  Most of the country lacks sufficient bandwidth to reliably pull HD video.  I know this stuff works great at CES and CNET, but a lot of people are having problems.  I can’t see this getting better as 4k, Sling TV, and Linear OTT come online.  Things only get worse inside your home.  Roku and Amazon offer inexpensive wireless sticks.  These seem to have problems due to television interference.  Chromecast and the FTV Stick come with hdmi extenders.  Roku will send you one.  Biggest concern is ‘other’ devices on your wireless network  Every Roku update is like playing the lottery — lots of losers.  I recommended the Roku 2 XS to a lot of people who no longer use them.

Streaming is no bargain, anyway.  By the time you pay for uncapped, unthrottled, high speed internet, Hulu, Espn, and Netflix, Comcast is competitive.  If you want to stream, I recommend a wired device.  Get the most stable device that supports the apps you want to stream.  Just don’t expect support from the streamer, the hardware manufacturer, or your ISP.

CES 2015 for Cord Cutters

Hard to get excited about more low end televisions getting the Roku Inside treatment or the announcement of TiVo’s OnePass search, but here are some developments that may raise an eyebrow or two…

As the owner of three DVR+ DVRs, I am particularly excited about the LinearTV announcement.  The idea of a single box bringing all entertainment into my home and navigating that entertainment in their channel guide is very appealing.  I won’t pay $20 a month for Sling, but I am sure it will make it easier for some sports junkies to consider alternatives to their premier provider.  Sling is not family friendly with only one concurrent connection, so you better get an antenna.  I don’t own a Tablo DVR, but that Roku channel is gorgeous!  I don’t get the idea of putting antennas on a circuit board.  Didn’t the router makers figure out that external antennas work better?

I’ll update the list if anything else excites me.