TiVo Roamio OTA review: the best OTA DVR for cord cutters


TiVo Roamio Over-The-Air is the best OTA DVR without a monthly subscription

The TiVo Roamio OTA DVR is the best DVR for recording TV shows, movies and sports from a TV antenna. There is no monthly fee for a channel guide or DVR functions with the TiVo Roamio OTA, which made the device stand out since its release nearly two years ago.

With cord cutting now booming, competitors like Channel Master are expected to challenge TiVo’s subscription-free status in 2018. More on that later.

The only other thing you will need with a Roamio OTA is any decent TV antenna that will bring free Digital Television (DTV) into your home. You can check out my guide: How to Choose the Best TV Antenna & DVR to determine what antenna would work best for you.

The TiVo Roamio OTA supports streaming apps including Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Plex. The Roamio connects to the Internet via Ethernet or 802.11n WiFi connection. The “One Touch Skip” option allows users to skip entire commercials with one button.

What can I watch with a TV antenna?

Before going a little deeper into the Roamio’s functions, it’s worth quickly reviewing what kind of HD programming is available for free when you use a TV antenna.

NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX, PBS, ION and CW are among the 50+ channels that I get from a pair of indoor antennas that I regularly use. The majority of NFL games are broadcast over the air in HD on CBS and NBC. You can also catch some NBA games on ABC. And you can watch golf all season long on some of major networks mentioned above.  

If you watch shows like Empire, Thursday Night Football or The Big Bang Theory, you can get all of those shows by using an antenna. Depending on where you live, there might be a lot of other programming from over-the-air channels that you won’t find on cable.

TiVo Roamio OTA features

  • Built-in Casting: Your TiVo Roamio OTA can act as a client to smartphones and tablets. So if you have a video on your YouTube app that you really want to see on TV, just pick the cast option and choose the Roamio from the list.
  • Smartphone app: One of the more handy features for the TiVo Roamio OTA is the smartphone app. It basically gives you an extra remote on control on your smartphone. So you will be able to schedule recordings or figure out what to watch.
  • Music: Spotify and Pandora apps are handy if you have your TiVo set up with a home theater or even a soundbar.
  • OneSearch: You can easily search your local channels and apps like Netflix to find where your favorite show or movie is available
  • QuickMode: Watch your recordings 30 percent faster with pitch-corrected audio
  • SkipMode: Jump past commercials with your recorded shows by pressing one button.


How many shows can TiVo Roamio OTA record at once?

TiVo Roamio OTA can record up to four shows at once, or up to 150 hours of HD programming. The Roamio OTA comes with 1.0TB of storage and lifetime service instead of a mandatory monthly subscription fee. Your picture quality from OTA channels is up to 1080i, depending on what kind of signal a station is broadcasting.  The Roamio connects to your home network either by Ethernet or WiFi.

Can I stream Netflix and Amazon Prime on TiVo Roamio OTA?

Yes. One of the most impressive features of the TiVo OTA box is its streaming options. Netflix, Amazon Prime, Plex, Hulu, Vudu, Spotify, and YouTube all stream up to 1080p. There’s no 4K or HDR support for TiVo Roamio OTA devices at the moment.  

If you are searching for a particular TV show or movie, the OneSearch feature pulls up a lineup of results from your TV and streaming apps like Netflix and Amazon Prime.

The Roamio’s streaming and consolidated search options also may eliminate the need for you to buy an Amazon Fire TV or Roku for your home. The only thing that TiVo Roamio OTA lacks is the ability to tap into live streaming platforms like Sling TV, DirecTV Now or PlayStation Vue.

Can the TiVo Roamio OTA DVR stream to Amazon Fire TV?

TiVo recently retired its app for Amazon Fire TV with plans to release a new app in the near future. You can also stream your TiVo content to Apple TV.

TiVo Roamio OTA DVR vs. Tablo DVR

Tablo 4 is a very popular OTA DVR. Users especially love the ability to tap into their OTA broadcasts on their computers, smartphones, tablets and set-top boxes. Tablo has apps to stream OTA TV to Android TV, Amazon Fire TV and Roku.

A Tablo tuner connects directly to your TV antenna then streams the signal to your TV and other devices in your home via an app.

Tablo 4 tuners can record four shows at once. You’ll need to buy an external hard drive to store OTA recordings. Tablo also requires a monthly subscription to tap into its 14-day TV guide data, and more detailed information on sports, movies and shows. If you don’t subscribe, you can still get a guide that shows programming 24 hours in advance.

The Tablo subscription rates are $4.99 per month, $49.99 a year, or $149.99 for a lifetime. Like the TiVo Roamio OTA, you need to buy your own antenna with a Tablo. Not a big deal, and probably a good idea since people will have very different needs for an antenna based on where they live.

The Tablo Dual OTA DVR was released in July 2017. The user interface is the same as the Tablo 4, but has a 64G internal hard drive that can store up to 40 hours of HD programming. The unit has a USB port to expand storage. You can either subscribe to the channel guide or get the free 24-hour guide.

Tivo Roamio vs HDHomeRun

TiVo Roamio OTA DVR is basically a plug and play device, which is what a lot of people prefer. HDHomeRun tuners take a little more work, but give you added features.

With HDHomeRun tuners, you can watch live TV on your iPhone, Android smartphone, tablets, PCs, and gaming consoles like Xbox One and PlayStation 4. HDHomeRun tuners give you more flexibility with what kind of software you want to use for watching and setting up your DVR. SiliconDust, the makers of HDHomeRun, offer a DVR service with the app for $35 per year.

Plex, a compatible software hub, is a popular alternative that costs $5 per month for its Live TV & DVR features. The HDHomeRun app is available on Amazon Fire TV, NVIDIA Shield TV, iOS devices, Xbox One, PS3, PS4. You can use third party apps like Kodi, emby, mythTV and Windows Media Center. HDHomeRun suggests using hard drives from Western Digital, QNAP, Synology and asuster.

I’ve found that these tuners work well even if you build a hard drive like I did in my review of Plex with Live TV.

The latest HDHomeRun tuners are the Connect Duo and Connect Quatro. The Connect Duo has two tuners, allowing you to record one show while watching another. You can also watch two different shows simultaneously on separate devices. The Quatro doubles those capabilities. Read my review of HDHomeun Extend for an overview of these tuners.

What’s coming in 2018?

There are two new OTA DVRs on the horizon in 2018 that will be worth considering.

Channel Master is about to release the Stream+ Media Player, a subscription-free DVR with a built-in channel guide that operates on Android TV software. The device uses a MicroSD card for storing recorded shows and movies. Stream+ supports 4K HDR streaming, and use the Google Play Store for its streaming apps and games.

The Stream+ basically will have all the streaming capabilities of other Android TV devices that have apps for Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Video. Channel Master says that the Stream+ will include advanced features such as built-in Chromecast functionality and integration with Google Home. The device has two ATSC tuners so you can watch a live channel and record another simultaneously.

SiliconDust will release a Connect DUO tuner that includes a 250GB internal hard drive, a first for the company. The hard drive can store up to 60 hours of HD recordings.

5 facts about TiVo Roamio OTA

  1. Watch or record up to 4 shows at once
  2. No subscription fees
  3. 1TB internal hard drive
  4. Built-in Casting
  5. Supports streaming apps like Netflix and Amazon Video

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