How to DVR without cable

Digital Video Recorders (DVRs) became very popular in the early 2000s as a simple solution to recording TV shows without opening a VHS and hitting the record button. However, DVRs are usually provided by cable companies and it is around this time that more and more people are cutting the cord.

Nowadays, there are OTA (Over-the-Air) channels, which stream HD content absolutely for free. They're not even B-rated channels; you can find all four major networks (ABC, Fox, NBC, CBS) and other premium channels like MeTV and PBS for free.

So the only thing missing is the DVR. Luckily, you have plenty of options for cutting the cord and keeping the DVR. This article will walk you through the different options to best suit your needs.

DVR boxes

You may remember the TiVo.

Online DVR Services

The DVR comes in handy when you want to record unique events like the Oscars or the Super Bowl. Online DVR services not only offer local channels in their packages, but also save you the hassle you would have with regular DVR hardware, antennas, etc.

Here are some of the best choices among online DVR services.


TiVo was the first to come up with a proper DVR and they are still amazing. There are two different variants of TiVo Roamio, one with 500 GB and another with 1 TB of internal storage. They work with OTA channels instead of cable. You may need to get an antenna to get a clearer signal on some stations depending on the distance between your house and the towers.

So you can get up to 50 TV channels without a cable subscription, including the main channels mentioned above. TiVo also works with streaming services like HBO, Netflix, etc. The 1TB model costs you $400, but that's a one-time price for recording and storing 150 hours of content in HD resolution at one time.

You can record 4 programs at the same time because it has 4 tuners on the back. TiVo has done a good job linking their service across the platforms, so you can also control it on your smartphone through their app and even watch things you've recorded on that app.

DirecTV now

DirecTV now offers the plus package for $50 per month with over 45 channels and the max package for $70 per month with over 60 channels. You can stream on two devices at the same time, which is good, and you can pay $5 for a third.

You get up to 20 hours of HD storage on their cloud DVR, and you can record each show for up to just 30 days. Devices that support DirecTV include Apple TV, Samsung Smart TV, Google Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, and a wide variety of Roku products. Of course, it is also available on iOS and Android devices. Additionally, you can watch through Chrome and Safari browsers.

YouTube TV

Google has come up with another successful project, YouTube TV, which offers an online DVR. You get over 70 channels including major networks like NBC and CBS for a $50 monthly subscription. The price includes 6 accounts per household, each with a separate, personalized DVR. Three of these six accounts can stream simultaneously.

The best part of this service is unlimited Cloud DVR. You can save as many programs as you want and keep them for nine months. The only downside is that this service is currently only available in the United States. For US citizens, it's great because you can get it nationwide.

YouTube TV can be watched on select Samsung and LG TVs. You can also use Google Chromecast or use the app for Android TV, Roku, Apple TV, Xbox One, iOS and Android devices. You can also watch it in your browser. Of course, since it is a Google service, Chrome is their recommendation.

PlayStation Vue

PlayStation fans are not left out, as PlayStation Vue is tailored to their needs. Their plans start at $45 per month and go up to $80. The number of channels varies depending on the price. Depending on the package you choose, you can get all the major networks and local channels, plus specialty channels for movies, sports, and news. Premium cable networks such as HBO and Showtime are also available separately as add-ons to your existing package.

You can stream to up to five devices at the same time and there's a solid Cloud DVR feature that keeps your recordings for 28 days after they're streamed.

No cable, no trigger

Ultimately the choice comes down to personal preference, but these are all great options for getting a DVR without a cable subscription. Some may be more expensive than others, but depending on what you're looking for in terms of content, recording quality, and number of supported devices, they might be worth it.

If you don't mind the higher starting price, TiVo might be the right choice for you. If unlimited storage is your top priority, YouTube TV is the way to go.

Do you already use any of these services? If not, which option do you think is best? Let us know in the comments below.

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