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.)

Plex for TiVo Gets Apps!

I just noticed that the Plex app for TiVo has channels.  This is a welcome development.  Cord cutters can get their cable news and entertainment fix by streaming episodes and clips from web sites.  Simple TV and Tablo apps make those DVRs’ recordings available via the TiVo or Mini.  For me, though, Twit.TV is the main attraction.

TiVo Roamio/OTA + Three Minis $515

The Roamio/OTA deal is not new, but combined with the TCDA92000 Woot, this represents the BEST DEAL EVER for a house full of TiVos.  TiVo is the only box a cord cutter needs — one box, one remote, no changing inputs. It streams Amazon Instant Video/Prime, Vudu, Netflix, YouTube, Hulu Plus, MLB.tv, and Plex. It is a whole house solution. You can watch things recorded on one DVR on any other DVR or mini in the house. The Minis work as advertised. They make good use of the four tuners per DVR. The recording is very smart with season/one pass.

Great way to fill your home with TiVos.  Get the Roamio/OTA with Lifetime from TiVo for $299.99 and add three Minis from Woot for $215.  The Minis are factory refurbished, but carry the same 90 day warranty as the new units.  They require no monthly fees.  This is the original Mini, so the remote layout is different than the Roamio/OTT and there is no RF support, so you will need to point the remote at the Mini to change the channel.

TiVoTom is hanging out on the Woot to answer your questions.

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?