5 OTA DVRs for Maximizing the Value of a TV Antenna

All of these DVRs allow you to pause, stream, and record free over-the-air television. Each unit has undergone months of rigorous testing with indoor and outdoor antennas. I watched live TV and recorded hundreds of hours of television across these units.

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Over-the-air TV is a great way to drop cable TV from your life. But an over-the-air DVR, or OTA DVR, maximizes the value of your TV antenna.

A properly installed TV antenna can get you major broadcast channels for free. ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, PBS, and a slew of sub-channels like MeTV and GRIT broadcast over the air and are up for grabs when you start using an OTA antenna.

In homes without a live TV streaming service or a pay-TV provider, 78 percent of antenna owners in the U.S. use their antenna on their most-used TV, according to a study by Horowitz Research.

When watching TV, those same viewers spend over 40 percent of their time on antenna-delivered content, Horowitz says. Another December 2023 study by Parks Associates says that TV antenna owners spend nearly as much time watching OTA channels as subscription-based streaming services.

This trend underscores the growing relevance of OTA TV antennas as a key source of entertainment, live sports, and local news.

Enter the OTA DVR. I have been using a variety of OTA DVRs for years, including models from Tablo, Hauppauge, HDHomeRun, and AirTV 2. Some of the best OTA DVRs on the market allow you to pause live TV, fast forward through commercials, record, and save programming that’s important to you.

Like with TV programming itself, every household has different needs when it comes to a DVR for your antenna. So I am summarizing my findings from a number of standalone reviews on OTA DVRs.

What has changed with OTA DVRs?

Over the years, larger companies such as TiVo have created feature-rich DVR models for antenna users. But these models come with a steeper price tag and monthly subscription fees that can add up over time.

These days, DVR makers should think twice about high price tags and subscription fees. Free television is no longer just over the public airwaves.

Roku, Tubi, Amazon, and many others are rolling out free, ad-supported streaming television (FAST channels) that only require an internet connection. So when it comes to picking out an OTA DVR, my recommendations take into account price, features, and overall value for your money.

All of the DVRs mentioned here have undergone months of rigorous testing with indoor and outdoor antennas. I watched live TV and recorded hundreds of hours of TV across these units.

The Tablo 4th Gen OTA DVR, HDHomeRun FLEX Duo, AirTV 2, Zapperbox M1, and Hauppauge WinTV-dualHD are all standouts in the realm of cord-cutting DVRs.

What about NextGen TV?

I take some hard lines on which digital video recorders merit buying versus skipping.

The latest broadcast standard, NextGen TV, is available in approximately 75 cities across the U.S. And while the promise of 4K over-the-air signals sounds exciting, the technology isn’t quite ready for primetime.

Performance can be spotty on some NextGen TV hardware. Many NextGen TV broadcasters are taking a draconian approach to locking down their broadcasts through Digital Rights Management (DRM).

For now, HD tuners are much easier to use, less expensive, and deliver excellent picture quality with 720p and 1080i picture resolution.

What to Look for in an Over-the-Air DVR

The key feature for any decent over-the-air DVR is its discovery function.

Everybody likes a nice guide for channel surfing, but having an interface that delves into guide data drives the most value because it finds upcoming TV shows, sporting events, movies, and concerts that you wouldn’t otherwise be aware of.

Once you start recording shows on a weekly or daily basis, a few other needs become apparent:

Dual or Quad TV Tuners: You should have a unit with at least two TV tuners so you can record two programs at once. Having two to four TV tuners also allows you to watch live TV and record a program simultaneously.

Storage: Internal storage is ideal, but you should have the option to add an external hard drive or flash drive (1TB or more) to expand your library of entertainment.

Recording Quality: MPEG quality recordings deliver the best possible picture resolution. It’s not essential for enjoying a TV show, but it undeniably provides a better experience.

Multiple Screens: I focus on units that let you watch live and recorded TV on a variety of screens, including TVs, smartphones, tablets, and computers.

No Fees: I try to avoid models that require a monthly fee. Most cord-cutters have moved away from expensive cable TV subscriptions, and the costs of streaming services are constantly rising. OTA signals are freely accessible on the public airwaves.

Plug-and-Play: The best models can be simply plugged in and made ready to use in a few easy steps.

Tablo (4th Generation) OTA DVR: Best Overall

Tablo’s 4th generation OTA DVR offers a near-perfect, plug-and-play experience and is the best overall choice in this roundup.

This over-the-air DVR is user-friendly for those who are not tech-savvy, and it also appeals to enthusiasts who regularly rely on over-the-air TV.

With its updated interface, comprehensive search features, and absence of subscription fees, Tablo has effectively propelled the over-the-air DVR market into the future of broadcast TV. The DVR has 128GB of internal storage and a USB port for attaching additional storage.


The Tablo 4th generation OTA DVR. (Photo credit: Jim Kimble / The Cord Cutting Report)


  • Easy-to-understand interface
  • Granular search helps discover TV shows and movies
  • Watch live TV and recordings on Smart TVs and mobile devices


  • Unable to simultaneously channel surf and watch live TV on Roku or mobile devices.
  • Compression of picture resolution when using internal storage.
  • No option to customize Wi-Fi setup within the Tablo app.

You can watch live TV in native MPEG quality, but to record with that level of clarity, an external hard drive is required. This may only matter to true videophiles. The resolution of recordings stored on the Tablo is good enough that most people won’t notice the difference.

You can use your own TV antenna with the Tablo or purchase one from the company. The Tablo 4th Generation OTA DVR is priced at $99.95 for the two-tuner model and $139.99 for the four-tuner model, exclusively at Best Buy.

The discovery feature on the Tablo 4th generation is excellent and goes a step beyond competitors with its granular genre-based and sports-based searches.

The addition of more than approximately 40 FAST channels to the menu is forward-looking and adds significant value. Programs from the FAST channels can also be recorded.

You can currently watch OTA channels through the Tablo app on Roku, Amazon Fire TV, and Google Chromecast with Google TV. Smart TVs with Android TV and Google TV software are supported.

You can watch TV on Android smartphones and iPhones (with current iOS). The parent company, Nuvyyo, promises that more Smart TVs and devices will gain support later this year.

Read the full expert review: Tablo 4th Generation OTA DVR.

HDHomeRun FLEX DUO: Best for Videophiles

Video enthusiasts who love their home media setup or relish the best picture quality from OTA broadcasts will want an HDHomeRun FLEX DUO.

The HDHomeRun FLEX DUO strikes the right balance of features, performance, and price at $109.99.

HDHomeRun units outshine competitors with their widespread device support, zippy interface, and top-end video recordings. The FLEX DUO has two internal ATSC 1.0 tuners.

HDHomeRun FLEX DUO. (Photo credit: Jim Kimble / The Cord Cutting Report)


  • Live TV & Recordings in MPEG format
  • OTA Channels available via Wi-Fi
  • Works with Plex, Emby & third-party platforms


  • Requires an Ethernet connection
  • No internal storage

HDHomeRun tuners display live TV and record programs in native MPEG quality.

HDHomeRun units require an Ethernet connection to a Wi-Fi router or mesh network and have no internal storage. You have the option of connecting an external hard drive to the USB port in the back of the device. You can also add an HDHomeRun SERVIO for 2TB of recording space.

Not everyone loves the HDHomeRun app, but I do. It’s quick and functional. The picture quality coming from HDHomeRun’s TV tuners is impressive, especially on networks that broadcast in 1080i resolution.

I use the HDHomeRun mobile app on my Android smartphone most for my day-to-day TV viewing when I am working around the house.

You can buy guide data for $35 per year or use the 24-hour guide data at no cost. HDHomeRun tuners provide a unique value proposition by working with third-party platforms, including Plex, Emby, InstaTV Pro, and Channels.

SiliconDust has been in the business of network-attached TV tuners since 2007. While its lineup and branding of products have changed over the years, the solid quality of its products is undeniable.

Read the full expert review: HDHomeRun FLEX

AirTV 2 OTA DVR: Best for Sling TV Users

AirTV 2 is a compelling OTA solution for cord-cutters who rely on Sling TV for live cable networks.

The DVR integrates cable TV networks such as HGTV and ESPN from a Sling TV subscription with over-the-air (OTA) channels into a single menu.

The Sling TV app works on just about every screen in your house, including Smart TVs, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, iOS, and Android devices. The AirTV 2, which debuted in 2019, is currently priced at $59.99 at retailers such as Amazon.

AirTV 2
The AirTV 2 is for Sling TV users. (Photo credit: Jim Kimble / The Cord Cutting Report)


  • Integrates Sling TV and OTA channels into one menu
  • No subscription fees
  • OTA Channels available across the home network


  • Limited to Sling TV app
  • Requires a hard drive for recordings
  • Robust Wi-Fi needed

The standout feature of AirTV 2 is its ability to stream OTA channels to up to two screens in your household without any subscription fees.

A Sling TV subscription isn’t required to use this service. You can watch your local channels using an AirTV 2 on the Sling app. However, Sling now offers FreeStream, which includes approximately 335 free, ad-supported television (FAST) channels. So, you could use the DVR for OTA channels and only pay for Sling TV when you need cable networks.

The setup process is straightforward. Just connect the AirTV 2 to an OTA antenna and the home network. Once configured, the device streams local channels like ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, and PBS directly to your Sling TV guide.

This integration creates a seamless viewing experience, combining local and streaming channels in one place. The device’s dual-tuner functionality allows recording one channel while watching another or recording two channels simultaneously, enhancing its DVR capabilities.

AirTV 2’s performance is solid. OTA channels consistently deliver clear picture quality, especially for HD channels.

One caveat with the AirTV 2 is that it requires a robust home network to ensure smooth streaming. AirTV 2 is an excellent choice for those looking to integrate local OTA channels with Sling TV.

Read the full expert review: AirTV 2 OTA DVR

Zapperbox M1 OTA DVR: Best for NextGen TV

The ZapperBox M1 OTA DVR offers solid picture quality for both local NextGen TV channels and the current digital over-the-air standard (ATSC 1.0). It comes in two variants, a single-tuner unit priced at $249.95 and a dual-tuner option at $274.95.

ZapperBox now supports digital rights management (DRM), enabling you to watch and record encrypted broadcast channels. It also features a user-friendly channel guide and the option to stream YouTube.

NextGen TV channels may load slowly, which can be frustrating. However, the picture quality is generally crisp and consistent. Enhanced DVR features, including a 14-day guide, require a subscription. With DRM support on your device, you can watch NextGen TV stations.

The Zapperbox M1 OTA DVR. (Photo by: Jim Kimble / The Cord Cutting Report)


  • Access to NextGen TV and ATSC 1.0 channels.
  • Easy-to-use interface with a grid-style channel guide.
  • Ability to watch live TV within the channel guide.


  • Slow loading times for some channels.
  • Some ATSC 3.0 channels may remain locked.
  • Requires an internet connection for content security support.

The DVR offers a grid-style channel guide and a window for the channel you are currently watching.

The ZapperBox connects to a single TV via HDMI and receives over-the-air channels through the connected TV input. This setup may be more limiting than other OTA DVRs like HDHomeRun and Tablo, which make OTA available to multiple screens over Wi-Fi.

The DVR can connect via Wi-Fi or Ethernet. While it’s possible to use ZapperBox without an internet connection, an online connection is necessary for an updated channel guide and to access encrypted NextGen TV stations.

Overall, ZapperBox M1 shows promise but could benefit from further development. DRM encryption implemented for NextGen TV comes off as an annoying and unnecessary obstacle.

For those new to cord-cutting or over-the-air TV, the Zapperbox M1 may not be the ideal starting point, as the current digital TV standard is more straightforward to use. But for broadcast enthusiasts eager to check out NextGen TV, Zapperbox M1 delivers reliable performance.

Read the full expert review: Zapperbox M1 OTA DVR

Hauppauge WinTV-dualHD: Best for PCs or NVIDIA Shield

The Hauppauge WinTV-dualHD stands out as the best USB TV tuner for a PC and the NVIDIA Shield Pro TV.

The jackknife-sized DVR offers a cost-effective way to transform a laptop or desktop PC into a media center with live TV and DVR capabilities. The tuner plugs into a USB 2.0 or 3 port on a PC or laptop. The Hauppauge WinTV-dualHD is priced at $79.99 at retailers such as Amazon or eBay.

Hauppauge WinTV-dualHD works with Windows PCs, laptops and NVIDIA Shield TV. (Photo credit: Jim Kimble / The Cord Cutting Report)


  • No subscription fees
  • Works with Windows PC, Plex
  • Portable


  • Requires a different TV antenna
  • Basic remote control
  • Can’t measure signal strength

WinTV-dualHD is a dual-tuner unit, allowing users to watch one channel while recording another or record two programs simultaneously. It also supports picture-in-picture viewing with its native software.

The WinTV-dualHD tuner is compatible with a range of devices, including older PCs and laptops. The tuner’s software supports as far back as Windows Vista and Windows 7.

The setup process is simple, involving connecting the tuner to a USB port and an antenna. The device comes with a small antenna. Anyone buying this USB TV tuner should use a more powerful antenna for optimal performance.

The remote control is palm-sized and basic but functional. The WinTV-dualHD software isn’t as robust as Tablo or HDHomeRun but offers a unique value-add for travelers. This tuner is portable and does not require an internet connection to watch and record TV.

For NVIDIA Shield users, the WinTV-dualHD integrates smoothly with Plex, offering a user-friendly interface and DVR capabilities. The hard drive space on your Shield stores recordings. The picture quality is impressive, especially on channels broadcasting in high definition.

The Hauppauge WinTV-dualHD is an excellent choice for those seeking to add live TV and DVR functionality to their devices without recurring subscription fees.

While the user interface may seem basic compared to the latest Tablo, the tuner’s performance and versatility more than compensate for this minor drawback.

Read the full expert review: Hauppauge WinTV-dualHD review

Elevating Your TV Experience with the Right OTA DVR

An OTA DVR can last for years and provide countless hours of free entertainment and sports when you’re ready to watch it. I personally enjoy keeping recordings of “Austin City Limits” so I can watch my favorite bands whenever I want.

When choosing the right OTA DVR for your home, you should consider how and where you watch TV. Is it just from the comfort of your living room TV? Are you watching on a smartphone while working around your house?

The latest OTA DVRs that make broadcast channels available on Smart TVs and portable devices like tablets can add a lot of value to your home entertainment setup. However, you should always consider your budget and any ongoing subscription fees before purchasing your own DVR.

Tablo 4th Generation OTA DVR– Easy-to-understand interface– Can’t simultaneously channel surf and watch live TV on Roku or mobile
– Granular search helps discover TV shows and movies– Compression of picture resolution when using internal storage
– Watch live TV and recordings across Smart TVs and mobile– No customizing Wi-Fi setup within Tablo app
HDHomeRun FLEX Duo– Live TV & Recordings in MPEG-2 format– Requires Ethernet connection
– OTA Channels available via Wi-Fi– No internal storage
– Works with Plex, Emby & third-party platforms
AirTV 2– Seamless integration of OTA and streaming content– Requires robust Wi-Fi for smooth streaming
– No subscription fees– Limited to Sling TV app
– Dual-tuner functionality– Requires external hard drive for recordings
– Compatibility with multiple screens
– Clear picture quality, especially for HD channels
Zapperbox M1– Access to NextGen TV and ATSC 1.0 channels– Slow loading times for some channels
– Easy-to-use interface with a grid-style channel guide– Some ATSC 3.0 channels may remain locked out
– Ability to watch live TV within the channel guide– Requires an internet connection for content security support
Hauppauge WinTV-dualHD– Cost-effective USB TV tuner for PCs and NVIDIA Shield Pro TV– Basic user interface compared to some competitors
– Dual-tuner unit for watching and recording simultaneously
– Supports picture-in-picture viewing with its native software

Frequently Asked Questions About Over-the-Air DVRs

Here are some common questions that readers ask when researching over-the-air DVRs for their TV antenna.

Can I use an OTA DVR without the internet?

Yes, some OTA DVRs do not require an internet connection. Look for models that directly connect to your TV via an HDMI port.

Do all OTA DVRs require a subscription?

No, a number of OTA DVRs do not require a subscription, including popular models such as Tablo, HDHomeRun, and Hauppauge.

How does an OTA DVR differ from a cable DVR?

An over-the-air DVR, or OTA DVR, only works with local broadcast channels available while using a TV antenna. OTA DVRs do not work with cable providers.

Can I use multiple OTA DVRs in my home?

Yes, you can connect multiple OTA DVRs in your home. However, you can also use one OTA DVR and watch broadcast channels on multiple screens simultaneously by getting a model that makes channels available over Wi-Fi.

Can I watch an OTA DVR in multiple rooms?

Yes, a two-tuner DVR unit allows for watching on two screens simultaneously, while a four-tuner unit lets you watch live TV on up to four screens at once.


Companies or representatives of Tablo, HDHomeRun, Zapperbox, and AirTV 2 have provided me with complimentary review units over the years for testing their DVRs. However, it’s important to clarify that this is not a sponsored article or review. These companies have no influence or control over my review process or editorial content. If you choose to purchase an OTA DVR through the links on this page, please be aware that I have affiliate relationships with Amazon, Tablo, and Zapperbox. Any commission I receive from these affiliations plays a vital role in supporting my work.

Jim Kimble is a seasoned industry expert with over two decades of journalism experience. He has been at the forefront of the cord-cutting movement since 2016, testing and writing about TV-related products and services. He founded The Cord Cutting Report in 2016, and serves as the editor.

Major publications, including MarketWatch, Forbes, and South Florida Sun Sentinel, have interviewed Kimble for his years of expertise. He gives advice on the complexities consumers are navigating with streaming options, and over-the-air TV. Kimble has been a staff writer or correspondent for several award-winning, daily newspapers, including The Boston Globe.

Why you can trust The Cord Cutting Report: I do hands-on testing with TV-related hardware and services throughout the year. Find out more about the review policy.

10 thoughts on “5 OTA DVRs for Maximizing the Value of a TV Antenna”

  1. This is all great if you live in a home. If you live in an apartment, forget about it, good luck getting over the air tv local channels. I have tried many antennas to no avail.

  2. What is your opinion of Tivo Roamio, my goal is really just to use antennae and have the option to record my shows, I’d be interested in your thoughts.

  3. Wot no iView STB3500II? I’ve had two of these DVRs for more five years, they are cheap ($35), crude (80s VCR style programming interface) but effective (native video) and work well with USB3.1 flash drives ($16) or a powered HDD ($50). The iView remote is substantial, reliable and has a smart fast forward to skip over commercials.
    Their downsides: no RF passthru (an RF splitter is required for simultaneous TV and DVR operation) and single tuner operation, no Dolby Digital audio (to avoid licensing costs), no closed captions on playback (not sure why?) and the remote is highly directional (you get used to it).
    I have checked out most of the DVRs reviewed, each has a disadvantage (transcoding, guide cost, no HDMI etc) so I’ve stuck with my iViews. There is a dedicated iView thread at the AVS Forum if you encounter problems!

  4. Thanks. I came to the same conclusion. That will be my next try. I already run Plex Media Server on a Linux server. Looks like I just need to add a Plex pass and a Hdhomerun box. We’re used to an old Channel Master DVR+ which delivers an excellent picture over HDMI, but to only one tv.

  5. I tried a Tablo Dual Lite but returned it (Amazon). The user interface is very good, but the reduced picture quality was noticeable vs straight antenna, apparently due to transcoding which the device does.

    • If the picture resolution is noticeable, then you would probably be happier with an HDHomeRun. As far as I know, that’s the closest you can get to a “straight antenna” picture.

  6. All Tablos have an internal 4 way splitter. If the cable going in is already split. You are splitting it even more. You cou ln d put an amplifier on it.

  7. I have the Tablo quad and found that the tv signal is not nearly as strong and the picture quality is not as good as I get with my television with an antenna in the house. With the Tablo the antenna is right by a window. I wished the picture quality was as good on the Tablo as it is on my TV. I think the fact that there is 4 channels in the Tablo is one reason why this is happening. I also have the same issues with the Tivo that records 4 channels.

  8. FRNDLYTV is $5.99 – $9.99 per month depending on options for 13 (they say up to 20 coming). Annual plans available: pay for 10 months 2 free.


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