Twelve months after shipping its long-awaited Roamio DVRs, TiVo has now released a recorder targeted solely at cord cutters: the Roamio OTA.
The Roamio OTA is virtually identical to the standard TiVo Roamio with the only difference being that it won't accept a CableCard. As a result, the only way the Roamio OTA can receive TV channels is over the air, connected to an antenna. Otherwise it still offers the same experience, with access to streaming services and the superb TiVo interface and guide.
The most remarkable thing about this product is the upfront price: only $50, currently a $120 savings over the standard Roamio. The catch? You still have to pay the same $15/month TiVo service fee -- and there's no "lifetime" option.
Especially for cord cutters, a fee-averse group by nature, it's difficult to see how the Roamio OTA makes sense versus the standard Roamio with a lifetime subscription. The standard Roamio will cost you less in the long run if you buy a lifetime plan, and promotions like the $0 upfront deal going on now make it an even better value. The standard Roamio also lets you add cable later if you realize cutting the cord has all been a horrible mistake.
Apart from the pricing -- which TiVo is wont to change at any time -- the OTA is just as recommendable as its Roamio counterpart. It offers great search, operational simplicity and access to a host of streaming services. It's just a poor value at the moment.
For an in-depth look at the virtually identical TiVo Roamio, watch our First Take video.
2nd Editors' note, May 6, 2015: Tivo has confirmed that the limited time deal announced below has already expired.
Editors' note, May 1, 2015: TiVo has announced limited-time pricing of $300 without ongoing service fees, but hasn't said when this offer will expire.
Same great design and features
Apart from an "OTA" written alongside "TiVo Roamio" on its front, the hardware is externally the same, including the same number of connections, even the eSATA port for adding extra storage. Internally, the specs are also mostly identical with a 500GB hard drive and four tuners (and if you can find four things you want to record simultaneously on over-the-air TV, you, sir or madam, are a certified TV addict). Of course, you also get the same upgraded peanut remote.
One of the best features, carried over from the Roamio, is Tivo's search, which integrates results from both the TV guide and the various streaming services. While you still have the option to record new instances of "Brad Pitt," for example, whenever he appears on an OTA broadcast, you also have the option of watching him instantly via Netflix, Amazon Instant or Hulu Plus.