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Today’s Show:

Channel Master DVR+ Review

If you are a cord cutter you know that one thing that is difficult to live without is a DVR. You can buy a Tivo Roamio and pay a smaller monthly service but you cut the cord so you wouldn’t have to pay a monthly charge. What most cord cutters are looking for is a way to record over the air HD without having to pay any monthly fees. Channel Master has you covered with theDVR+ (MSRP $249.99). The DVR+ is a subscription free DVR that allows you to cut the cord and still watch late night network TV on your terms.

 

Features:

  • Watch broadcast programming in pure, uncompressed HD – the highest quality available<
  • Easy installation with on-screen setup wizard
  • Supports SD and HD video resolutions up to 1080i and 1080p
  • Works with all digital TV antennas for instant access to broadcast programming
  • Supports external USB hard drives (EHD) for full DVR functionality
  • Dual tuners allow you to record one program while watching another or record two programs at the same time (using EHD)
  • Records, pauses and plays back live TV up to 2 hours out of the box 4
  • See what’s on now or later with the user-friendly Electronic Program Guide (EPG)
  • Easily search for shows and set timers with name-based recording
  • Broadband connection provides automatic software updates, enhanced EPG and access to Internet video streaming services
  • Get Wi-Fi connectivity with optional USB Wi-Fi adapter
  • Supports Dolby® Digital Plus surround sound
  • Ultra-low power consumption

 

Setup:

When you take the DVR+ out of the box the first thing you notice is how thin it is. Its barely bigger than the HDMI cable that you plug into it. You can pretty much put it anywhere with little issue. To physically install the device you need to connect power, HDMI, antenna, Ethernet, and an external hard drive. Without the external drive there is little that you can do as the DVR+ comes with 16GB internally. A Terabyte drive will get you about 160 hours of HD recording. We had a spare 80GB drive which was reformatted by the DVR+ and was ready to go in a few minutes.

The physical install took about 15 minutes. You will need a network connection for the program guide or if you want to use the Hulu service. Right now that’s the only network service available. Channel Master says they will add more over time. If you don’t have a wired connection you can buy a Wifi adapter for an additional $40.

Next we fired up the unit and scanned for channels. The DVR+’s two tuners found 45 digital channels which was better than the HD Homerun but not as good as the tuner in our Panasonic plasma television. All of which are connected to the same antenna.

Twenty five minutes after taking the DVR+ out of the box we had a picture on screen and were able to record anything coming over the airwaves!

Performance:

What can we say, the DVR+ works like a DVR you would get from your provider. The program Guide is provided by Rovi (no additional cost)  which allows you to search or browse to find your programs. You can tune to a program if its currently on or you can mark it for recording. Season passes are set up based on title names, which is a little less sophisticated than say the Genie but it will get the job done.

You can setup up the skip forward and skip back lengths in the menu so if you want to skip back 30 seconds and forward by one minute you can do it. The user interface is basic but very responsive.

We recorded a few programs to the external drive. All but one recorded but that was on a channel that did not have the best reception. On channels that have a solid signal every timed based recording went off without a hitch. We even recorded two programs at the same time. Like we said, it works just like every other DVR we’ve ever owned.

We had to turn on the DVR to see if it was recording because the record light does not come on unless the DVR is powered on. Yes, the device always has power and can record even if its “off”. But we would like to see the light come on anytime the DVR is recording something.

Playback was flawless and skipping through commercials was easy. We had the skip forward set to one minute so it was usually five or six presses to get through a commercial break. Skips were instantaneous. The only drawback of a 60 second skip is that if you miss the entry point after the commercials you’ll have a lot of backing up to do so you may want a 30 second back button instead of the typical 10 seconds

 

This and That:

  • The DVR+ has been designed to work well with the Slingbox 500.
  • Current firmware does not allow you to set up a season pass that only records new shows. So you end up with some repeats that need to be deleted.
  • The buttons on the remote are very small. But you’ll be using a Harmony anyway right ;-)
  • There is no user guide so be prepared to hunt around through the menus to see what’s possible

 

Conclusion:

Up until now if you wanted to cut the cord and totally eliminate monthly fees you needed a HTPC. With the DVR+, a cord cutter can be free of cable and satellite without missing out on timeshifting. The only thing the DVR+ doesn’t have is a rich set of network apps. Although we’re sure they are already on the way!

Download Episode #624


Posted by The HT Guys, February 27, 2014 10:52 PM

About The HT Guys

The HT Guys, Ara Derderian and Braden Russell, are Engineers who formerly worked for the Advanced Digital Systems Group (ADSG) of Sony Pictures Entertainment. ADSG was the R&D unit of the sound department producing products for movie theaters and movie studios.

Two of the products they worked on include the DCP-1000 and DADR-5000. The DCP is a digital cinema processor used in movie theaters around the world. The DADR-5000 is a disk-based audio dubber used on Hollywood sound stages.

ADSG was awarded a Technical Academy Award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2000 for the development of the DADR-5000. Ara holds three patents for his development work in Digital Cinema and Digital Audio Recording.

Every week they put together a podcast about High Definition TV and Home Theater. Each episode brings news from the A/V world, helpful product reviews and insights and help in demystifying and simplifying HDTV and home theater.