For the increasing ranks of cord-cutters -- those ditching cable or satellite TV -- there are more options than ever before for streaming video. But free, over-the-air TV often comes with a big caveat: Even if you live in an area with good reception, you're stuck with live TV. Fine for sports, award shows and local news, but not much else.
Thus the demand for over-the-air (OTA) DVRs. We've seen a handful of promising models in the past few years, including TiVo, Tablo, SiliconDust and the Channel Master DVR+. That last one is arguably the best, with dual tuners (the ability to watch one show while recording another) and no monthly subscription fee for the on-screen electronic programming guide (EPG). TiVo, while arguably best in class, requires a yearly service fee of $150 on top of its $300 hardware price (after the first year).
But Channel Master may have a new rival in the form of Magnavox. Yes, you read that correctly: The brand you may best remember from your grandparents' house is alive and kicking (now under the umbrella of Japan's Funai corporation), and it's got some new antenna-friendly DVRs here at CES 2016 that caught my attention.
The three new Magnavox models -- the MDR877H/F7 ($400), TB560HP/F7 ($450), and TB560HS/F7 ($500) -- are all due out in the fourth quarter of 2016. Each one has at least two tuners (six on the 560HS) and at least 1TB of storage for hundreds of hours of recording time. More importantly, they all have a no-fee on-screen EPG that looked good and offered fairly zippy navigation when I tried it out.
It gets better. These models also have Wi-Fi, and they can beam live and recorded programming to iOS and and Android devices elsewhere in the house. Moreover, Magnavox is promising the ability to download programs to watch offline, as well as -- on the MDR877H -- to burn shows to the integrated DVD recorder.
Sound too good to be true? As usual, the broadcast TV networks -- such as CBS, the owner of CNET -- can flag programs to be un-copyable, so any such content would be unable to be transferred to mobile device or disc. Other drawbacks: None of these DVRs appear to have streaming apps such as Netflix, Vudu, YouTube or Amazon. The disc playback and recording on the 877H is limited to DVD, not Blu-ray. And the remotes had the look and feel of something from an old VCR.
That said, earlier models in the DVD line, such as the MDR557H and MDR867H, already seem to be reasonably well reviewed on Amazon. To me, that means these Magnavox models could be worth your consideration if you're looking to cut the cable cord.