Over the years, many cable-disablers have asked me to recommend a DVR (digital video recorder) that can be used to record free broadcast TV from an antenna. For a long time, the best option was TiVo, but it has a monthly fee ($14.99 at the time of this writing) which is a show-stopper for me. The whole point of getting the antenna was to dump the monthly cable fee, and now we have to start paying again? Not gonna do it.
After seeing some good reviews online, I purchased the Channel Master DVR+ to see if it could be the DVR that free TV enthusiasts have been looking for. Continue reading for my full review or skip to the end for my conclusions.
What It Is
The DVR+ will record live broadcast TV to an external hard drive (or internal, if you buy the version with built-in drive), from the antenna connected to it. I used it with the Mohu Leaf. It has a channel guide that allows you to see up to two weeks in the future, and easily schedule recordings during that time. It allows you to pause live TV and fast forward or rewind to the point where you started watching that channel.
The DVR+ has HDMI output only. It will NOT work with an older tube TV without an adapter.
What You Get
In the package, you get the DVR+ unit, a sleek black metal box smaller than a notebook, an IR remote control, power adapter, and manual. Here’s my unboxing video if you’d like to see more:
The rear panel has coax antenna in (where you plug in your antenna), digital audio out, HDMI out, Ethernet, two USB 2.0 ports (one for hard drive and one for Wi-Fi adapter), 12V power, and IR extender input.
Total Cost of Ownership
There is a version of the DVR+ with 1TB hard drive included. If you are not tech-savvy, and don’t want to mess with hard drives, you can get that. But, a better value is to attach your own hard drive to the unit.
Because I’m a bit of a computer geek, I had an old external hard drive lying around that I could use with the DVR+. But if you don’t have one, you can purchase one for around $60. You can even use a USB thumb drive if you have one of those, as long it is of decent storage capacity.
To get its channel guide data, the DVR+ has to be connected to the Internet. If you go with wired Ethernet, you’ll need an Ethernet cable to go to your router. If you want Wi-Fi, you’ll have to purchase the optional USB Wi-Fi adapter for .
Finally, you’ll need an HDMI cable to connect from your DVR+ to your TV.
Assuming you don’t have any of the accessories already, the real total cost of the DVR+ system becomes kind of pricy:
$249 (DRV+) + $60 (hard drive) + $39 (Wi-Fi adapter) + $10 HDMI + $13 shipping = $371.
Add tax, and we’re close to $400. So, if you don’t already own some of the required accessories, the DVR+ is expensive. But is it worth it? Read on.
There is some setup involved, but it’s not too hard. You’ll need to connect your antenna to the DVR+, then connect your DVR+ to your TV. Finally, plug in the power adapter. You can plug in the hard drive later.