Fire TV Recast: A New OTA DVR for Cord Cutters

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Amazon Fire TV Recast Review: An Easy Way to Cut Cable TV

The Amazon Fire TV Recast is a DVR for your antenna with a simple hook that sets it apart from competitors.

There is no monthly fee whatsoever. In fact, you don’t even need an Amazon Prime subscription.

I spent about a week testing out the Fire TV Recast, and it makes a compelling choice for cord cutters or anyone looking to replace their pricey cable TV subscription.

The Recast will broadcast live over-the-air TV from NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX, PBS and whatever else your TV antenna can pull in. For sports fans, that means lots of free NFL football, NCAA basketball, NASCAR, NHL hockey and soccer. Local news and whatever prime time programming you want to watch are up for grabs too.

A mobile app for Fire TV even lets you watch these channels outside of your home.

 Amazon seems intent on using Recast to compete with similar OTA DVRs from TiVo, Tablo and SiliconDust, the makers of HDHomeRun tuners.

With millions of Fire TV units already in homes around the U.S., the Fire TV Recast may turn out to be a consumer-friendly way for more people to jump into cord cutting.

If you don’t already own a Fire TV device  — whether it’s a Fire Stick or the latest Fire TV Cube — you’ll need one to use Recast. You will also need a TV antenna to plug into the Fire TV Recast.

There are two Recast models available:

  • Two tuners, 500 GB hard drive for 75 hours of recording: $229.99
  • Four tuners, 1TB hard drive, 150 hours: $279.99

Setting up the Fire TV Recast

The Recast is easy to set up. The Fire TV app on your smartphone will tell you what direction to place your antenna. (For me, it was south.) The antenna is connected to the Fire TV Recast. And from the app, the Recast scans for channels.

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A TV antenna is connected to the Fire TV Recast. The Recast connects to your home WiFi network and broadcasts over-the-air channels to your Fire TV devices.

Once that’s done, you’ll be able to watch free, live TV from channels like NBC, FOX, PBS and CBS into your main menu of any Fire TV device. Watch any of your recordings from those channels on any device in the Amazon family, including Kindles and iOS devices.

Fire TV Recast: Is the Integrated channel guide a cable killer?

The combo of a Fire TV streaming device with a Recast can make you forget about cable TV pretty easily, especially when you start using the new channel guide.

There are a few ways you can look over your antenna channels on the Fire TV.

On the main menu of the Fire TV, you’ll notice a new row: ‘On Now’ which shows what’s currently airing on over-the-air channels. If you drift off to another part of the menu, you can return to the show you were watching under the ‘Recent’ row as well.

I prefer to use the channel guide for finding something to watch. The channel guide is designed for scheduling recordings, but you can also use it to quickly surf through what’s currently on.

There’s a quick way to get to the channel guide, which I really like. Under the “Recent” tab, if you hover over an antenna channel, click on the hamburger button on your remote. A side menu will pop up that lets you choose channel guide.

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The channel guide pulls together over-the-air channels and subscriptions through Amazon Prime Channels.

The grid-style channel guide will be familiar to any cable subscriber. You can find your antenna channels there alongside others, depending on your subscriptions.

Let’s say you subscribe to HBO, Showtime or Starz through Amazon Prime Channels. You’ll find those subscriptions there too. Amazon also added channel guide support for PlayStation Vue, which carries cable-like networks including ESPN and National Geographic.

A budget conscious person who only needed a small amount of antenna channels could easily get by with an antenna and free streaming apps like Pluto TV.

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Under the ‘Recent’ tab, you can pull up a side menu (right) that can quickly get you to the channel guide.

Fire TV Recast: Managing Recordings

The channel guide lets you schedule recordings 14 days from today.

From the DVR tab, you can schedule recordings, and view up to two weeks of programming. If you’re channel surfing and spot something you want to watch later, you can also begin recording right away.

There is no way to schedule the DVR when you’re not at home (bummer!), but you can add buffering times to recorded events. So if you’re recording an NFL football game or another sporting event, no worries.

I wasn’t thrilled with the Recast’s limited ability to skip commercials. You can fast forward 30 seconds at a time. That’s it. Amazon could learn a thing or two from a software hub like Plex, which is becoming a popular solution for those willing to cobble together their own OTA DVR like me.

What does Fire TV Recast work with?

The design of the Fire TV Recast isn’t a far cry from a Tablo or HDHomeRun tuner.

An antenna is connected to the Fire TV Recast. The Recast is connected to your WiFi router by Ethernet or WiFi. (I decided to connect my Recast using an Ethernet cord during my review.)

Once it’s connected, the OTA signal can be broadcast across your home network to smart phones, Fire TV devices and tablets.

While cruising through chanels, you can use the picture-in-picture feature to keep watching something.

But since this is an Amazon product, the compatible devices are Fire TV Sticks, Fire TV Cube and all older Fire TV devices.

Fire Tablets and Amazon Echo Show will work, too. There are a few non-Amazon devices that are compatible. Apple iPads, iPhones, Android smart phones and tablets will work. If you’re looking for an OTA DVR to work with your Roku, the Fire TV Recast isn’t it.

The Recast and Tablo have built-in hard drives. You need to add your own hard drive with a HDHomeRun tuner.

Watch Recorded Shows Outside of Home

It was smart of Amazon to have device compatibility with iPhones and Android smart phones. There’s a growing amount of data showing that Millennials and younger generations prefer to watch shows, movies and sports on smart phones instead of TVs.

The Recast will let users stream content outside of the home through the Fire TV app. Ideally, you’d be using WiFi instead of eating into your cellular data. The Fire TV app is free.

Fire TV mobile app needs some work

After spending months using the HDHomeRun app, and software hub PLEX, the Fire TV app comes off as a bit clunky when it comes to watching TV on the go.

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From clockwise (left): The HDHomeRun mobile app lets you watch live TV and cruise through channels. The Fire TV app does not. Below: Pluto TV mobile app has a grid-style menu that lets you channel surf.

The thumbnails are way too big. Even on a large smart phone with a nearly 6” screen, I can only see what’s on two channels at once without scrolling. Competitors like SiliconDust’s HDHomeRun has a sides scrolling menu that let’s you see what else is on while you’re watching on your phone.

Even the free streaming service Pluto TV has a more user friendly channel guide on mobile with a clicker on the side that lets you channel surf.

That said, this is far from a deal breaker. I was very happy with the picture clarity and didn’t encounter any lag or blips while watching on my home network.

How many streams does Fire TV Recast have?

The Fire TV Recast allows you to stream to any two compatible devices at a time. Amazon says that the Recast will automatically optimize the use of bandwidth on your local network, delivering the best HD picture quality possible—even when streaming across multiple devices in a congested Wi-Fi environment.

Fire TV Recast vs Tablo vs HDHomeRun

The Tablo Dual comes with a 64GB hard drive. One advantage that the Tablo and HDHomeRun have over the new Fire TV Recast is that you can use it on more devices. The Fire TV Recast will be ideal for homes that mostly use Fire TV and other Amazon devices.

Here’s a list of compatible devices for Tablo Dual users.

  • Amazon Fire TV
  • Apple TV
  • Xiaomi MiBox (Android TV)
  • Nvidia Shield (Android TV)
  • Xbox One
  • Chromecast via Android mobile devices and PC

Source: Tablo

The list of compatible devices for HDHomeRun tuners goes even longer. Windows 10

  • XBox One
  • NVIDIA Shield TV
  • Android phones/tablets
  • AirTV Player
  • Xiaomi Mi Box
  • Android TV OS TVs
  • Apple Desktops
  • Apple Laptops
  • Apple iOS devices
  • Apple TV 4 (w/ AirPlay)
  • Amazon Fire TV (all devices)

Source: SiliconDust

And one big difference with HDHomeRun tuners is that you can choose what kind of channel guide/DVR hub that you’re going to use. SiliconDust offers its own channel guide and DVR service for $35 per year. The Channels app works exceptionally well for Fire TV and Apple TV.

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Plex has a channel guide using HDHomeRun and NVIDIA Shield TV.

I’ve been using PLEX for the past year, and set up my NVIDIA Shield TV so that it functions as my DVR and player. You can read my review of NVIDIA Shield PRO with Plex for more on that setup. Plex Pass costs $5 per month, or you can get a Lifetime Pass for about $149.

5 Facts About Fire TV Recast

  • Records Free Over-the-Air Channels
  • No fees for Channel Guide/DVR features
  • Watch Recordings Outside of Home
  • Works on iOS, Android, Fire TV, Echo Show
  • Stream up to 2 devices simultaneously

Voice control with Fire TV Recast

With Alexa on Fire TV or Echo Show, you’ll be able to control the Fire TV Recast with your voice and quickly get to the programs you want. You can use your voice to change the channel, or search for your favorite live TV shows.

 

FIRE TV RECAST VOICE COMMANDS
RecordAlexa, record ‘Good Morning America’
DeleteAlexa, delete ‘Supernatural’
Cancel a recordingAlexa, cancel my recording of ‘Riverdale’
See the channel guideAlexa, show me the channel guide
Tune to a channelAlexa, tune to PBS
See your storage usageAlexa, how full is my DVR?
Show your recordingsAlexa, show my scheduled recordings
Source: Amazon

Voice commands also lets you schedule, cancel, browse, and delete recordings with commands like:

“Alexa, open Channel Guide,” or “Alexa, play ‘The Voice.’” Amazon says the Fire TV Recast is going to get even better over time with software updates to Alexa.

Is the Fire TV Recast a Cable TV replacement?

For anyone who can get local stations fairly well, and is already all-in with the Fire TV and Amazon Echo universe, the Fire TV Recast is easy to recommend.

It’s one of the simplest ways to replace your cable TV subscription that you’ve had for years with Comcast, Spectrum or any other company. Of course, you’ll only get live channels like local NBC, CBS or FOX stations that are transmitted from broadcast towers.

Amazon was wise to not include its own Amazon Basics antenna with the Fire TV Recast. Consumers will have to do their own legwork identifying the best TV antenna that will work in your region of the U.S. Some may need a quality indoor antenna, while others will definitely need a more powerful outdoor antenna mounted to a roof or attic.

That’s pretty simple to do these days with online tools like AntennaWeb. Also, see my guide on the best indoor TV antennas.

So long as you learn how to get an affordable Internet connection like me, you can significantly knock down the price of a triple digit cable bill to something reasonable.

Amazon is well known for improving its hardware through software updates, so I’m looking forward to seeing what improvements will be made to the Fire TV Recast. Amazon has released some more specifics through a FAQ page.

Which Fire TV Recast is a better buy?

The answer will depend on how many TV viewers (and recorders) you have at home. Just remember, the 2–tuner model comes with 500GB of storage that allows you to record up to 2 shows at once and holds up to 75 hours of HD programming for $229.99.

The 4–tuner model comes with 1TB of storage that allows you to record up to 4 shows at once and holds up to 150 hours of HD programming for $279.99. Fire TV Recast does not require any additional monthly charges or subscription fees. Pretty soon, Amazon says you will be able to expand the built-in storage of your Fire TV Recast by connecting an external hard drive to the USB port on the back of the device.






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Fire TV Recast
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5 Comments on Fire TV Recast: A New OTA DVR for Cord Cutters

  1. Am I the only one that thinks most of what is going on is asinine? Every day I hear of more insanity with having multiple services, devices, complications and incompatibility with things. Not to mention costs. What we need to do is get the cable companies to get their prices in line, which only needs to be back to reasonable, even if we never get much in the area of ala carte. The cable system is what we had from the start and sure not every company gave us perfect service but overall it is better than what I have gotten with all of these more “modern” other aspects of getting tv content. And don’t tell me how the infrastructure for cable is an insurmountable cost. Not only are those just simple wiring like our old landline telephone service which seems to work just fine, these companies have upgraded massively so they can deliver us very high speed internet through them. Fibre in some areas and that is only going to continue. Where do you think most get their internet service? The cable companies are not going to let their infrastructure go away, they are alive and very well. Having to complicate things and increase cost by introducing internet as a way to deliver content that works perfectly well going through simple copper lines is insane. I believe this is mostly a money scam to shake things up and have us back to paying as much as ever, maybe more, and have us even more reliant on all of the parties involved. Cable tv was fantastic compared to this mess and we need to utilize that, at a reasonable rate. Can we spell greed and control?

  2. No, antennas and 3 channels were were what we had along with black and white tv’s. Then telecom systems started building cable systems. We got used to the simplicity of paying for services that were available for free. I’ve been using OTA and a computer to record shows for more than 10 years. BeyondTV and SageTV. I now stream some shows to watch sports. I will wait and see how version 1 plays out befor investing, but with an Nvidia Shield and multiple Firesticks throughout my home I may retire my 10 year old SageTV system and 3 HD300 clients.

    • Well said, Rick. We did get used to the simplicity of cable. And cable companies have made (and continue to make) quite a bit a money as a result of that. Sounds like you have a nice OTA setup.

  3. Where is the Amazon source for the Recast’s Dolby 5.1 sound specifications that you are showing in this article? I do not see that specification listed anywhere in the Amazon Recast website or Amazon’s FAQ’s.

  4. The Cable/Satellite providers are stepping on their own udders by making customers who want a hamburger buy a whole cow and those who wish to buy a cow buy the whole herd. In both cases they charge fees to keep the cows housed and fed. When cable first came out in my area in the 1970s it was billed as “Pay TV” and boasted that it will have “No Commercials”. What it has morphed into is far from those beginnings. You get bombarded with one mindless commercial after the next. Then you get hit with rapid fire fee, tax and surcharge increases which they blame on content providers and state and local taxing authorities.

    I got my Fire Recast 4 tuner device delivered to my door on 11/14/2018. I already had a roof mounted digital antenna that I put in in 2010. I had firetv on 4 TVs already so it was just a matter of setting up the Recast. I now have it working flawlessly and will be very shortly telling DirecTV to take their cow back. We were only eating 3 to 4 hamburgers per month but were being forced to buy a whole cow each month. Since I already had OTA local channels I didn’t need DirecTV for those and we were basically watching only 2 of the 150 channels we were paying for. It made no economic sense. With the Recast I can still skip those dreaded commercials and record content to my heart’s content. ZERO TAXES, FEES, SURCHARGES and Add-ONS.

    What was that sound? Oh! That was the sound of a cord being cut!

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