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How to Record Live TV When You Don't Have Cable
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How to Record Live TV When You Don't Have Cable

Jacob Kleinman, Gawker Media

Photo by Jens Kreuter on Unsplash

The latest craze among Millennials is the old school TV antenna-at least according to a piece last month in The Wall Street Journal . Combined with standalone services like Netflix, Hulu and HBO Now, adding a $20 over-the-air antenna to your arsenal makes cutting the cord easier than ever. There's just one problem: ditching your cable box also means losing out on DVR capabilities. Thankfully, there are a variety of devices and services that can help you record live TV without a cable box.

There are plenty of reasons to cut the cord, but it often comes down to saving money. So before we dive into your options, it's worth considering how much you'll be saving with each of them. An FCC study from 2016 put the average cost of cable at $69.03 per month, while an independent study from Leichtman Research Group put the price even higher at $103.10 per month. Depending on where you live and how much competition there is, you'll probably end up paying somewhere in that range.

That's a lot of money for DVR, along with a bunch of channels you probably never watch, but like we said, you've got options. No matter what you go with the basic concept is the same: a set-top-box that acts as an intermediary between your antenna and your TV, passing the signal along while recording live television broadcasts. However, there are a few key differences depending on what you want and how much you're willing to spend.

The best user experience: TiVo Roamio

TiVo's live TV DVR offers the best all-in-one experience if you're looking for something simple and familiar, but it's not cheap. $400 gets you a slick set-top box with 1TB of built-in storage and the ability to record four shows at once. It also features a well-designed menu that offers access to your recordings, apps like Netflix and a unified search. So even your tech-phobic parents should be able to use the Roamio without constantly calling you for help.

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$400 is a lot to pay upfront, but you'll still be saving money after going without cable for a year - or just a few months depending on your plan. You can also buy a used older version on Amazon for $132 , but that only gets you 500GB of storage and you'll have to pay an extra $12.50 to use the service (which comes included in the $400 version).

The cheapest option: Mediasonic Homeworx HW180STB 3

Mediasonic's DVR costs just $35 on Amazon with no extra subscription fees, and offers a pretty basic experience. You can record live TV and program it ahead of time, but you're limited to recording one show at a time. It doesn't offer any built-in storage, so you'll need a USB flash drive or external hard drive, too. You might already have one laying around. If not, here are a few recommended options .

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This isn't the best option (based on its Amazon reviews, you might encounter a few technical difficulties) but it's a good place to start if you're unsure about cutting the cord. And after a month without cable you'll already be saving money.

Watch your recordings on any device: Tablo

Tablo offers a few different products with the same hook: record live TV and watch it on almost any device using the company's app. The best option is the $119 Tablo DUAL OTA DVR , which features built-in storage and the ability to record two shows at once.

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The company also offers the Tablo TUNER , a USB dongle that turns your Android TV device into a DVR. It costs just $69.99 but lacks the ability to watch those recordings on your other devices.

Tablo doesn't require a subscription to work, but for an extra $4.99 per month you get some bonus features, including a 14-day TV guide menu. Without a subscription you only get a one-day guide. You can also pay $49.99 for a year of service or $149.99 for a lifetime subscription.

Other options

One of these three options should do the trick, but if you're still not satisfied there are other solutions on the market. The Channel Master DVR+ offers a nice middle-ground at $249 with 16GB of built-in storage (plus external storage support) and the ability to record two shows at once. Or you can try an HDR DVD/DVR recorder , which offers the added bonus of being able to burn your recorded shows onto DVDs. Finally, if you don't feel like buying new hardware and don't mind doing a little extra setup, you can use Plex to a record live TV straight to the cloud.

Happy watching (and rewatching).

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