$189 Open Box Special on CM DVR+

On their facebook page, via twitter, and in a targeted email, Channel Master has announced that it will sell off a limited stock of open box DVR+s at $189 beginning Monday March 30 at 8:00 am PST (11:00 am EST)…

 Folks, we never do this, but you’ve been asking for discounts and we’ve got a great one for you! Starting Monday morning, click the ad on our home page to get an Open Box DVR+ for just $189!
Some of these have been gently used for media reviews and demonstration events, some have never been used at all. Tested and certified, full warranty, free shipping. These won’t last!

I bought three of these on BF to replace (awesome) aging DTVPal DVRs. This is the best OTA DVR not named TiVo. I chose this over the TiVo because…

1) one year warranty vs 90 days for TiVo (can’t spend $500 on a device with 90 day warranty)
2) completely untethered (TiVo requires internet or phone connection)
3) price

This is a great set top box for cord cutters. First, it has a very nice channel guide. The thing most people miss when they lose their cable box is the guide. The DVR is very good. Two very good tuners capture shows by name and by time. (I like to record blocks of sitcoms that play when I am at work to watch when I get up in the morning.) Playback controls are excellent — you can rewind, pause, fast forward all with preview (i.e., you can see where you are in the show as you rewind and fast forward.) These last two features are not available on simple/tablo alternatives. External storage makes it easy to swap out disks. This is very important because there is a free DVR Lister program which will let you download files from the usb disk to a PC where they can be converted to mp4 and played back on a media server. While the DVR+ uses an enhanced guide while connected to the internet, it used OTA data to build a guide when not connected. This is huge because it means your DVR+ will continue to function if Rovi pulls the plug (as it did with the DTVPal OTA guide) or Channel Master stops supporting the DVR+ for any reason. OR is you have to be off the grid for any reason — you can use this DVR when dry camping or when your power and internet are lost.

The DVR+ has some streaming capability. It can stream Vudu (movies), Pandora (music), and YouTube. Beginning next month, Channel Master will be streaming other programming to the DVR+. This programming will be more like traditional television than ondemand alternatives. Still very little information available.

I highly recommend this DVR. This is the second best ever price for the DVR+ and, though these are open box, they carry a full warranty.

Happy streaming!


A&E Coming to Sling this Month!

from Sling press release

Sling TV today announced that four A+E Networks’ channels – A&E, HISTORY, H2 and Lifetime – will be available in its “Best of Live TV” core package by the end of March. The company’s core package will remain priced at $20 per month.

Sling TV’s “Best of Live TV” $20 core package delivers ESPN, ESPN2, AMC, TNT, TBS, Food Network, HGTV, Travel Channel, IFC, El Rey, Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, ABC Family, Disney Channel, CNN and Galavision, with A&E, HISTORY, H2 and Lifetime coming soon. This package additionally features access to WatchESPN, including ESPN3 and an array of VOD entertainment.

Sling previously announced an agreement with AMC that will bring AMC, BBC AMERICA, BBC World News, IFC, SundanceTV, and WE tv to their $20 core package.

Add a second stream, and I’m in!

Apple to Launch TV Service

from the Wall Street Journal

The idea is to offer consumers a “skinny” bundle with well-known channels like CBS, ESPN and FX, while leaving out the many smaller networks in the standard cable TV package.

Pricing for this 25ish channel service is rumored to be $30-$40 per month.  Lauch is scheduled for fall.  Apple is the exclusive launch partner for HBO’s standalone streaming service as well.


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.

Channel Master Debuts LinearTV

A couple hours ago, Channel Master announced something called LinearTV at CES…

“When we developed the DVR+ we had a vision of a TV solution for both consumers and content owners that would be much more than just a DVR and apps”, said Coty Youtsey, president and CEO of Channel Master. “Our LinearTV technology is the culmination of that vision and we’re very excited to get it into the living rooms of our customers.”

So, what exactly is LinearTV, how will it be implemented on the DVR+, and why should consumers care?

LinearTV technology is a software-based, online content aggregation solution that allows consumers to access live and linear online channels with the DVR+.

Online broadcast channels appear in a linear channel guide alongside over-the-air broadcast channels and Internet-based applications such as Vudu, Pandora and Youtube, giving the consumer a seamless TV viewing experience across multiple content delivery sources. The solution, debuting on Channel Master’s DVR+ at International CES, is the first of its kind in a consumer electronics device, and is expected to be available to DVR+ customers via a software update in early 2015.

Continue reading

Sling TV

Sling TV

from dish.com

Sling TV to Launch Live, Over-the-Top Service for $20 Per Month; Watch on TVs, Tablets, Computers, Smartphones, Game Consoles

  • Sling TV to deliver the best of live TV including ESPN, ESPN2, TNT, TBS, Food Network, HGTV, Cartoon Network and Disney Channel
  • Service to feature Video-On-Demand programming and the best of online video with long- and short-form content from Maker Studios
  • Core package priced at $20 per month; no commitment, contract, credit check or hardware installation required

Supported devices expected to include Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Google’s Nexus Player, select LG Smart TVs, Roku players, Roku TV models, select Samsung Smart TVs, Xbox One from Microsoft, iOS, Android, Mac, PC

Sling TV is designed to deliver a high-quality television experience inside and outside the home, anywhere a wired, Wi-Fi or mobile broadband connection is available. The service is delivered over an IP-based content delivery system that leverages adaptive bitrate streaming technology. This allows for the highest quality streaming experience possible regardless of network quality fluctuations or location.

Customers will be able to pause, rewind and fast-forward most live channels and Video-On-Demand content. For certain channels, the service includes a 3-Day Replay feature that gives customers the ability to watch some shows that have aired in the past three days; no DVR is needed. Sling TV’s features are available across all supported platforms.

At launch, subscribers can watch live TV by downloading the app to supported versions of iOS and Android, or by visiting the upcoming Sling website from Macs and PCs. Alternatively, the Sling TV app is expected to be available on Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Google’s Nexus Player, select LG Smart TVs, Roku players, Roku TV models, select Samsung Smart TVs and Xbox One, with other streaming devices and smart TVs to follow in the coming months. Sling TV’s user interface provides a consistent experience across all platforms.

Lots of details to come…

  • How many concurrent connections? (I have been informed the cost is per concurrent connection)
  • How HD?

but this could add value for a lot of cable cutters and put pressure on others to follow suit.

Best Player Available

My favorite inexpensive streamer at this time is the Sony BDP-S5200 (which is on sale for $59.99 at Best Buy right now).  Native apps for ACC Network (college sports), Amazon Instant, Crackle, Facebook, Huffpost Live, Hulu Plus, Netflix, MLB.TV, NBA Game Time, NHL GameCenter, TMZ, Vimeo, VUDU, WealthTV, XOS College Sports, Yupp TV, YouTube plus additional apps and games from the Opera App Store, strong support for usb file playback, and excellent upscaling make this an ideal streamer for most.

Did I mention it is a blu-ray player?

Streaming is great, but you really want to watch Pirates of the Caribbean or The Hobbit on Blu-Ray.

I reviewed the BDP-S5100 here.

I’ll take a closer look at this model when mine arrives, but I didn’t want anyone to miss this price.

Black Friday: CM DVR+ $175!

Channel Master is offering their DVR+ for $175 Black Friday from 6 AM to 11 AM Pacific Time and again on Cyber Monday from 6 AM to 11 AM Pacific Time.  Limit of three DVRs per person.

  1. Here’s the ad
  2. Here’s my review from last Christmas
  3. Here’s a nice video
  4. Here’s the manual

This DVR requires no internet or phone connection.  There are no subscription fees!  Besides providing an excellent EPG, and all common DVR features, the dual tuner DVR+ streams Vudu (movies), Pandora (music), and YouTube.  It’s backed by a one year warranty (TiVo is warranted for 90 days).