Roamio TiVO: The Best Over-the-Air DVR Available


Hands down, the Roamio TiVO is the best Digital Video Recorder (DVR) for recording regular broadcast and Cable television available. We’ve been using video recorders of some sort since the late Seventies and early Eighties with the Sony Betamax recorder and the VHS Video Cassette Recorder (VCR). After coming out of the tape format/size battle on top, the VHS cassette went through a couple of changes before giving way to the DVD and the original TiVO DVR offered through the Cable and Satellite TV providers. With the Roamio, cord cutters join the ranks of people with the benefits of a DVR.

Roamio TiVO is Available in Three Models

The TiVO Roamio is available at three price points, with the entry level (under$200) Roamio version and the approximately $500 Roamio Pro at either end of the spectrum and the Roamio Plus sitting in the middle at about $400. Although not the only DVR option for those that rely solely on broadcast, or over-the-air TV, it is the best overall option.

Here’s the “But” …

Even the $200 entry level Roamio TiVO costs more than most of the other options and the Pro model is more than double the basic cost. The main drawback for either model is the subscription model. The “lifetime” subscription is only good for the life of your TiVO box, if you upgrade after a year or two, you will need to purchase a new subscription. There’s also the fact that Comcast subscribers only in certain areas have full access to video on demand and pay-per-view content.

Record Four (or More) Shows at One Time

This is where the TiVO options outshine their competitors. Two tuners is what most of the competitors offer, meaning record two shows at one time, or watch one and record another. The entry level Roamio allows you to record and/or watch up to four shows at once, and the other two allow up to six.

Nothing Beyond and HD Antenna is Needed

Some of the other offerings require you to purchase extra accessories, like hard drives to get full functionality. The Roamio lineup is ready to plug in to your HD antenna or digital Cable box and start recording once your set up your account. The low end unit gives you up to 500 hours of recording time, while the Plus and Pro give you 1,000 hours. All three units also come with an RF remote that allows you to place the box out of sight.

Stream to Mobile Devices Anywhere

Some of the competition allows you to stream recorded video or on-air video to mobile devices on the same network. The Roamio Plus and Pro models allow you to stream recorded and live video to mobile devices on any network, so you can watch the game while traveling. The basic Roamio gives you this functionality if you also have TiVO Stream.

Stream Streaming Sites, Too

Another unique feature of the Roamio lineup is the ability to stream online services both to a TV and to your mobile device. This includes music services such as Rhapsody, Spotify, and Live365, video streaming sites like Netflix, Hulu Plus,, and YouTube. However, TiVO still hasn’t made HBO Go and Amazon Prime available yet.

More Excellent Features in all Three Models

If the amount of storage that the model you choose comes with isn’t enough, all three models let you expand available storage with eSATA drives. Unlike most provider DVRs, all three Roamio models also have Wi-Fi built-in. 1080p video and 5.1 digital audio ensure that you don’t lose any of the video experience.

Input Compatibility is Different

Some of the available literature on the Roamio models is misleading in that the reader can be led to believe that all three models work with any type of signal input. I need to disabuse you of this notion right away. All three models are compatible with digital Cable and Verizon FiOS, but none are currently compatible Satellite, Google Fiber, or AT&T U-verse. Additionally, the entry level Roamio is the only one that works with an over-the-air HD antenna. I found this last item to be a little confusing.

The Lowdown

The initial price and total cost of ownership of these TiVO Roamio models are significantly higher than the competition. The user interfaces are cleaner and more intuitive, making them easier to use. One of the features of the interface is the ability to search all available programming options for something to watch, and you can narrow your search to title or cast members.

Photo Credit: Thang Culan