First Look: Simple.TV offers a new way to record and stream TV content
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First Look: Simple.TV offers a new way to record and stream TV content

3:44 /

Simple.TV's new DVR records over-the-air HDTV content, then streams it to supported devices like Roku, Google TV, Boxee and the iPad.

-Hey, I??m Matthew Moskovciak from CNET and we??re here with Simple TV. You may remember Simple TV from CES 2012 where the product nabbed CNET??s Best of CES Award in the home theater category. And now, it??s finally shipping for a $150. [unk] Simple TV is a DVR for recording free over-the-air TV signals, although it??s quite not like any other DVR you may have seen. It??s just a small white box. And you turn it around, you??ll notice there??s no HDMI output on the back. That??s because Simple TV is designed to stream to compatible devices on your network, which includes Roku boxes and iPad or even a standard web browser. You can also access your content outside your network, giving you the Slingbox style ability that tune in to live TV and recorded programs from anywhere you can get an internet connection. To get the simple TV box working, you actually need to provide some of your own hardware including a hard drive for storage and an antenna for receiving over-the-air TV signals. Simple TV also requires a wired Ethernet connection. The box doesn??t have built-in WiFi, so you need to find a place where you can connect an antenna and an Ethernet cable. Setup is pretty simple, and once you get it working, you can set up season past recordings and browse the electronic program guide just like you would on a normal DVR. The iPad and browser interface is really pretty slick including art work and program descriptions. Now, the Roku Channel has a more basic user interface, but it??s good enough for accessing shows in your living room. Again though, it??s worth pointing out Simple TV??s limitations. You only get basic network TV channel, so there??s no cable channels like ESPN, Comedy Central, HBO, or Showtime. Also, Simple TV only has single-tuner capability, so you can??t record 2 shows at once or watch live TV while it??s recording another show. Now, because Simple TV sends all its video signals over your home network, it needs to use some compression and that affects image quality. If you??ve got a sharp eye, you??re gonna notice the image softness right away, but for a lot of shows, it actually looks pretty good. Where I did notice the difference a lot was on programs with fast-moving action like sports. NFL games really suffered from Simple TV??s compression, making it especially hard to track the ball on long-passing plays. And Simple TV isn??t nearly as responsive as a typical DVR. When you??re fast forwarding or skipping through content, the image and the background actually stays paused, so you don??t have any idea where you??re about to stop. You just have to guess. Really, the best thing Simple TV has going for it is its low total cost of ownership even when you include its $5 per month premiere subscription option that you really need to access its best features. The best competing over-the-air DVR is the Tivo Premiere. And while the hardware only costs a $150, Tivo??s 15-dollar monthly fee adds up fast. Total cost of ownership for a Tivo is $330 for 1 year while simple TV is only 200. And if you look at lifetime subscription options, Tivo??s total cost is 650 compared to just 300 for Simple TV. So, sure, Simple TV isn??t as good as Tivo, but it is much cheaper. And that pretty much sums up the Simple TV experience. It has a lot of limitations compared to a traditional DVR and the experience isn??t nearly as good, but it does offer significant savings, which will definitely appeal to the cord-cutter crowd. Simple TV still feels like an early adapter only product, but if you??re looking to save money and can put with its limitations, it??s worth checking out. I??m Matthew Moskovciak and this is Simple TV.

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