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Article updated on Feb 6, 2024

Best OTA DVR for Cord Cutters in 2024

Free TV is better when you can watch on your schedule. Here are our top picks for devices that pause, record and stream free over-the-air television with an antenna.

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Ty Pendlebury
Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement
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Ty Pendlebury Editor
Ty Pendlebury is a journalism graduate of RMIT Melbourne, and has worked at CNET since 2006. He lives in New York City where he writes about streaming and home audio.
Expertise Ty has worked for radio, print, and online publications, and has been writing about home entertainment since 2004. He majored in Cinema Studies when studying at RMIT. He is an avid record collector and streaming music enthusiast. Credentials
  • Ty was nominated for Best New Journalist at the Australian IT Journalism awards, but he has only ever won one thing. As a youth, he was awarded a free session for the photography studio at a local supermarket.
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Our Picks

$100 at Best Buy
tablo-4th-gen-6
The best OTA DVR overall
Nuvyyo Tablo 4th Gen
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$80 at Amazon
Air TV 2
Best OTA DVR for Sling TV users
AirTV 2
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$399 at Channel Master
tivo-edge-06
Best high-end DVR
TiVo Edge for Antenna (currently out of stock)
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Cable and satellite can get expensive, but you don't have to pay a huge monthly bill to watch TV. If you live in a city or town with good over-the-air reception, putting up a TV antenna is an easy way to cut the cord and get access to free TV. Pair an affordable antenna with an OTA recorder, and you'll be able to pause live TV, save your shows for later and fast-forward through commercials. Many of the DVRs we've tested will even let you stream your recorded content to multiple TVs or when you're away from home.

The downside is that "free" can turn into, well, not free, especially if your DVR charges a monthly fee. For example, a basic DVR like the Nuvyyo Tablo 4th Gen starts around $100 while a TiVo Edge with all the bells and whistles is usually $499 (with lifetime subscription). Yet, compared with the cost of cable TV and live TV-streaming services such as Hulu Plus Live TV or YouTube TV, even the most expensive antenna DVR will pay for itself in due time. Let's dive in and take a look at the best OTA DVRs available right now.

What is the best OTA DVR?

There are two standout OTA DVR products to consider when buying a cord-cutting digital video recorder: Nuvyyo Tablo 4th Gen and the TiVo Edge for antenna. Each recorder has its own unique features, tuner and capabilities, but there's one I'd recommend to beginners and old hands alike: the Tablo 4th Gen. At $100 (or $130 with a bundled antenna) the lack of ongoing fees means the Tablo offers an astonishing value. It has enough storage space for 50 hours onboard and can be expanded while its ability to stream and record FAST channels helps boosts its worthiness. It's good now, and will only get better with time.

Meanwhile, theTiVo Edge for antenna continues to set the gold standard for DVRs with onboard streaming, a friendly user experience and the best recommendation engine out there. The TiVo Edge is not quite worth the 5X price of the Tablo for most people, but if you want the cream of the crop, then this is it.

$100 at Best Buy

The best OTA DVR overall

Nuvyyo Tablo 4th Gen

The Tablo range has been a favorite of cord-cutters for many years, but now the selection has been whittled down to a single model: the Tablo 4th Gen OTA DVR. While previous Tablo models have always skewed to the enthusiast side of the cord-cutting world the 4th Gen 4 is instead designed with a broad appeal. Even better, there's no monthly fee. The Tablo 4th Gen DVR is easy to use, it's very affordable and it works straight out of the box. It's the model to get if you just want to watch and record OTA TV at the lowest possible price.

$80 at Amazon

Best OTA DVR for Sling TV users

AirTV 2

The AirTV 2 has its pluses, especially as it's the equal-cheapest of our OTA DVR recommendations and also works without incurring a monthly charge. Yet this OTA DVR is really designed to complement a $40-a-month Sling TV subscription by adding local channels. And you need to add an external hard drive (not included) to make the AirTV 2 function as a true DVR, though it lacks live TV pause. If you want pause functionality it's worth upgrading to the $200 AirTV Anywhere which includes an onboard 1TB hard drive.

$399 at Channel Master

Best high-end DVR

TiVo Edge for Antenna (currently out of stock)

TiVo has the best name recognition of the devices here, and if you want a traditional set-top DVR the Edge for antenna is your best option. While the Tivo Edge is pricier than the other products here (especially after the lifetime OTA DVR service is added), the Edge for antenna also offers a ton of features including streaming apps, all packaged with TiVo's interface. 

At the moment, TiVo representatives advised that the Edge DVR for Antenna is currently out of stock and were unable to give a restocking date.

Factors to consider when choosing an OTA DVR

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Sarah Tew/CNET

There are two main types of DVRs: a traditional set top, which connects directly to a single TV via an HDMI output; or a networked TV streamer, which streams to all of your devices over your network and/or the internet. The TiVo Edge for antenna is a traditional set-top (which also has in-home streaming) while the AirTV 2 and Tablo 4th Gen are straight networked TV streamers.

A set-top is best for people who usually watch TV on a single screen, while a network device is for people who want to watch on multiple devices -- a streamer like a Roku or other devices like phones and tablets. In general, a networked TV streamer is the more flexible OTA DVR option, and can better complement live TV streaming apps or services like Netflix.

Regardless of which style of OTA DVR you choose, there are some features common to both that you should look for.

  • Two or more HD tuners: One tuner is just not enough. When it comes to HD (or eventually 4K) tuners, the more your device has the merrier. The bare minimum is two so you can record two channels at the same time, or watch one while you record another, but heavy antenna heads will appreciate even more.
  • 1TB or more of storage: Depending on the device you have, a terabyte of built-in storage space should offer about 150 hours of program content. But if you choose a recorder such as the TiVo, which automatically records shows it "thinks you like," you could run out very quickly. Which is why you also need...
  • The ability to add extra storage via USB or SD card: An external hard drive is an excellent option, providing your DVR doesn't need a proprietary model. Generally, a 1TB external hard drive is cheap at around 60 bucks.
02-amazon-fire-tv-recast

A 14-day program guide is essential on a modern DVR.

Sarah Tew/CNET
  • 14 days of guide data: While seven days is really the minimum useful amount, two weeks gives you more flexibility.
  • No ongoing fees: Most people cut the cord to save money, so paying yet another monthly fee doesn't make a ton of sense. TiVo does offer a lifetime service option so you pay for the device and guide data upfront.
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Antenna DVR FAQs

What about ATSC 3.0 compatibility?

The next version of the ATSC broadcast standard, called NextGen TV, is now available in over 70% of homes. NextGenTV promises visuals in up to 4K resolution in the future, as well as interactive features not possible with standard broadcast. While some TVs have onboard NextGen tuners, there's at least two DVRs available for it -- the HDHomeRun Flex 4K and the ZapperBox M1 -- but the drawback is that DRM requirements are still seemingly in flux. Meanwhile, the competitive Tablo ATSC 3.0 Quad HDMI OTA DVR has been delayed or even discontinued. The important thing to note is that ATSC 1.0 antennas will work with ATSC 3.0, so there's no need to buy a new one.

Are there DVRs without subscriptions?

While TiVo famously runs on a monthly subscription -- or after paying extra for "lifetime service" -- there are an increasing number of DVRs which work without paying more. Both the Tablo Gen 4 and the AirTV 2 will work without a susbcription fee, though the Tablo is better suited to this as it's a standalone device and not tied to a service like the AirTV and Sling TV.

Can I use a DVR with an over-the-air antenna?

TiVo made its name by making DVRs for cable services but there are a number of DVRs which work with OTA TV. Brands like Tablo, HDHomeRun, TiVo and AirTV all offer HD recording in the home with just a simple indoor (or outdoor) antenna.

How do I get rid of cable and still watch TV?

"Cutting the cord" is a popular way to save money on watching television. As well as OTA DVRs there are other ways to watch TV including on-demand streaming, live TV streaming and FAST (Free Ad Supported TV). All of these services typically cost a lot less than a typical cable TV and internet package.