The Best DVRs for Cable TV and OTA

We don’t like wasting time, so we compared the best DVRs from TV providers and third parties for the most efficient use of lazy-time possible

Chantel Buchi
Aug 16, 2023
Icon Time To Read10 min read

You're probably looking for the best DVR so you can record all of your Kansas City Chiefs games or cooking and baking shows on Food Network.

We found a few DVRs that could satisfy your DVR storage needs, including smooth features that make it easy to access your recordings. Of course, there’s pricing and the fact that not every DVR is perfect, but we’ve focused on DVRs that are worth your time.

Let’s get into the details of our five favorite DVRs.

The best DVR for cable TV is the TiVo Bolt VOX

What we like about the TiVo Bolt VOX

The Bolt VOX is a cable DVR and streaming device in one, and it’s no shock the original DVR champion reigns supreme.

This DVR lets you record up to 150 HD hours of TV shows and movies. That means you can record 30 episodes of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, 10 episodes of PAW Patrol, and about 60 movies.

And with 4K Ultra resolution, you can stream your Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and YouTube. If you're like me, you like your marathon-watching weeknights after work.

A cool feature the TiVo Bolt has is SkipMode. Who doesn't love skipping commercials about cat litter or the next cool car that's supposed to get you "the girl"?

Other DVRs may have fast-forwarding, but you end up missing the beginning of the scene, rewinding, then fast-forwarding...yeah, it gets tedious.

QuickMode is great because you can breeze through a show 30% faster with audio at regular pitch. If you spaced out during dialogue or a plot explanation, you can quickly back up and catch it without re-watching the whole thing at regular speed. Plus, no helium voices!

And lastly, the fluid interface uses OneSearch. So, if you want to watch Deadpool or Star Wars: Rogue One but aren’t sure which service it’s available from, you won’t have to jump between apps.

What we can't like about the TiVo Bolt VOX

About a year ago, we didn't like the TiVo Bolt's extra fees for the DVR service. But now, they include the DVR service with the DVR itself.

So when you pay that $330 for the TiVo Bolt VOX (or six payments of $55), you have DVR service for life. 

No need to pay monthly or yearly fees! 

Who should get the TiVo Bolt VOX?

The TiVo Bolt VOX is for those who want a DVR with lots of storage space without paying for a cable or satellite TV bill or your cable provider's set-top box and DVR fees.

If you don’t want to fuss with your equipment and want something that works and will hold its value, this is definitely the way to go.

The best TV provider's DVR is the DISH Hopper 3

What we like about the DISH Hopper 3

Best TV Service DVR
DISH Hopper
pro 6 tuners
pro Voice remote
pro 500 hrs. of HD storage

The Hopper Duo is $10 per month, but paying $15 per month for the Hopper 3 might be worth it for you if you'd rather have 3x the storage space.

The Hopper Duo can record 125 hours of programming and two shows simultaneously, but the Hopper 3 boasts 500 hours of storage, records up to 16 streams, and connects all of your TVs from the main unit. That's the biggest storage space of all cable and satellite TV services.

It's a ridiculous amount, perfect for binge-watching shows like Saturday Night Live, The Kitchen, and Fix My Flip.

If you’re looking for Over-the-Air recording (free broadcast signals that can be picked up by antennas), you will need a separate USB antenna. But other than that, the Hopper 3 is good to go. It will even send signals to your Joey units (additional receivers) so the whole home is hooked up.

What really makes the Hopper jump(!) out is its special features: AutoHop, voice control, and remote finder. AutoHop skips commercials with a single button, no guesswork needed. The voice control remote means you don’t have to select and type individual letters into your search, while the remote finder is a lifesaver for anyone who has spent more time looking for the remote than watching their show.

The Hopper 3 is Bluetooth-compatible with headphones and other devices, which is nice if you want to watch TV privately. That way, if others are asleep or studying, you can still catch up on your shows.

What we can't like about the DISH Hopper 3

It’s hard to say anything negative about the Hopper 3 since it has about everything we need from a DVR. Perhaps because it’s the current gold standard, we don’t have much to complain about—except that we wish it were absolutely free.

Who should get the DISH Hopper 3?

If you’re looking for a new service with a great DVR, the DISH Hopper 3 can be a great option.

If you already have DISH, you might as well stick with or upgrade to the Hopper 3 instead of getting the TiVo Bolt VOX. If you'd like extra storage space, just add an external hard drive.

The runner-up DVR for storage is the DIRECTV Genie

What we like about the DIRECTV Genie

TV fanatics love DVRs. Who possibly has the time to watch every new show at the exact time it premiers? 

DVR is a must unless you're ready to watch Grey's Anatomy at exactly 7 PM every Thursday night or Survivor on Wednesday nights. DVRs are also great when life interrupts your flow, and you need to help someone in with the groceries or drop the kids off at practice.

Most DVRs let you set a DVR recording from your mobile app, and DIRECTV isn't any different. With the DIRECTV Genie, you can also pause and rewind live HDTV for up to 90 minutes. So, even if you forgot to set the recording before you went to work, you can still catch up.

For sports fans, instant replay goes six seconds back, so you don’t have to wait for the highlight reel. You’ve got a 30-second fast-forward button that cuts past ads, boring halftime shows, and scoreless runs.

You can record up to five programs at once with the Genie, so you can record an NBA game, an MLB game, a movie, and two TV shows all at once.

Second-best DVR for storage
DIRECTV Genie
pro Record 5 channels at once
pro 90-minute rewind
pro 200 hrs. of HD storage

What we can't like about the DIRECTV Genie

The Genie doesn’t have as much storage as the Hopper 3, but it still beats out most other DVRs. More importantly, it’s enough for the vast majority of us.

Another minor complaint is the included remote control isn’t equipped for voice recognition. While you can use a device like your phone or tablet, we’d prefer the dedicated unit to have this feature. That way, we can use our spare device to look up other things, like player or game stats—or pizza delivery services near us.

But DIRECTV's remote does have convenient buttons. Press "R" to record a show, fast forward and backward 30 seconds with the advance buttons, and skip back six seconds if you didn't catch that great Travis Kelce and Patrick Mahomes connection.

Who should get the DIRECTV Genie?

Any of the DVRs on our list could work for busy TV diehards. With 200 hrs of HD storage and a 90-minute rewind, the Genie definitely delivers.

And for sports fans, the Genie can record up to 5 channels simultaneously, so you won't miss any overlapping MLB or NFL games. On top of that, the Genie gives you real-time scores of major games with the press of a single button. 

DIRECTV for sports lovers

The NFL Sunday Ticket is officially moving from DIRECTV over to YouTube TV for this year's 2023 NFL Season.

To find more details about how Sunday Ticket will work on YouTube TV, check out our NFL Sunday Ticket review.

The runner-up cable DVR is the Xfinity X1 Cloud DVR

What we like about the Xfinity X1

Runner-up Cable DVR
X1 DVR
pro Voice remote
pro Cloud storage
pro Tons of free on-demand titles

A few things we like about the X1: we can pull up NBA games easily, find more movies from actors we like, and stream from our favorite services.

With your voice remote, you can say commands like "Turn on NBA TV," and the X1 will grant you your wish. Plus, the X1 guide gives you player and team stats, making your sports experience even more fluid.

To find more movies from Margot Robbie, just hover over a Margot Robbie movie in the guide, then click info. Here, you’ll find Series and Movie Info for more information about the actors. Then, you can even set up recordings based on your favorite actors or directors!

But of course, the DVR is what we're interested in. The X1 lets you record 150 HD hours. That's not a lot compared to the Hopper 3 or Genie, but if you don't want satellite TV, Xfinity is the best cable TV option.

Xfinity's X1 is a cloud DVR, which means you can watch your recordings on any device. You and your family can also record six shows at once.

You can stream from Peacock, Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video, and YouTube, as well as enjoy music from Pandora, Amazon Music, and iHeartRadio.

What we can't like about the Xfinity X1 Cloud DVR

Unfortunately, Xfinity's X1 DVR comes with a few fees.

Each TV box is $9 per month, and DVR storage service starts at $10.00 a month for 150 hours and $20 a month for 300 hours.

So, on top of your monthly Xfinity package bill, you could be looking at at least a $19 bill for the X1 experience. This isn't too bad, but your pricing can rack up if your kids want a set-top box in their bedrooms and if you'd rather have 300 DVR storage hours instead of 150.

Who should get the X1 Cloud DVR?

If you’re subscribed to Xfinity, we don’t see any major reason to switch to a different DVR.

If you're not subscribed, then we must say Xfinity is our top cable TV option.

While more storage and special features would be nice, the X1’s ease of use and mobile abilities have been beneficial. However, if you’re not looking to sign up for internet, too, we’d advise looking at another DVR because the functionality is severely reduced when you’re not connected to the internet.

If you want more details, check out our X1 DVR Review.

The best OTA DVR is the Mediasonic Homeworx

What we like about the Mediasonic Homeworx

The Mediasonic Homeworx is a converter box that acts as an OTA DVR when you attach your external antenna and a USB hard drive to watch your recorded live TV channels in 1080p definition. Consumers have said the OTA signal can net you about 100–120 channels when they connect their HD antenna to the Homeworx device.

With the Homeworx, you can store as many hours as your USB hard drive allows you (yes, you'll have to connect one to this DVR). Then, you can record Modern Family, NFL games, and Mickey Mouse Funhouse.

What can I watch over the air?

In our area, we found OTA networks like CW, PBS, PBS Kids, and then a handful of movie and shopping channels. A lot of people will find value in being able to tap into news networks and local sports. Couple that with the big four (NBC, CBS, ABC, and FOX), and you'll have a decent library of channels.

What we can't like about the Mediasonic Homeworx

You get what you pay for with this $27 OTA DVR device.

If you're looking to record movies to store in your DVR for months, you will need a USB hard drive. If you'd like to record more than one show at once, you'd be better off with the TiVo Bolt VOX. You'll also need a reliable internet connection, so make sure to check our list of fastest internet providers.

Who should get the Mediasonic Homeworx?

While we prefer better DVR features, the Homeworx is a great solution for people who aren’t sure they want to shell out the cash for a TiVo Bolt VOX or DISH Hopper 3 but want more than just a Netflix or Hulu subscription.

What makes a good DVR?

Everyone wants decent storage space

Capacity is measured in megabytes (MB) or gigabytes (GB)—and more is always better. 500 GB seems to be a good starting point for storage, but remember that the storage ratio compared to recording hours isn’t the same across brands. Most DVRs have an eSATA port for an external hard drive if you run into storage issues.

Always go off specified hours, even though those are only estimates by the company and will vary based on programming.

A DVR with convenient recording features makes life easier

Recording is pretty universal across DVRs: either choose a single episode or an entire series to record. This means you won’t have to set up your DVR every single week to keep up with Pardon the Interruption or The Voice—just once.

Some DVRs even automatically record recommendations based on your viewing. The DISH Hopper 3 automatically records primetime television. While this may appear helpful, it may take up a good chunk of storage without you realizing it.

Some DVRs expand your storage with cloud storage or an external hard drive, so keep that in mind as well when making your decision.

The number of shows you can record at once matters with big families

Make sure the number of recordings and watching streams covers your needs because if you have five people in your house and only four streams, someone will have to compromise.

With the DISH Hopper 3, you can get up to 16 recordings going at once (which is ridiculous). When you use additional units like the Joey, Genie Mini, or TiVo Mini, you’re increasing the number of individual streams to TVs, but rarely (if ever) do these devices add storage.

We want to be able to pause, fast-forward, and skip

While pausing and rewinding are standard, fast-forwarding is a little less common because of licensing agreements. Companies make money from ad revenue, and advertisers pay only if they see results. Thus, TV service providers agree to disable certain content from fast-forwarding.

That being said, we absolutely love it when fast-forwarding is available. Better yet, we love it when we can skip immediately to the end of a commercial. TiVo has SkipMode, and DISH has AutoHop, both of which automatically go to the end of a commercial and remove the guesswork on your end, preventing possible spoilers—or at least some frustration.

Recap: Which DVR is the best for you?

Some people might not want to fuss with a DVR, but they don’t know the power it holds. You can become the curator of a vast library of TV, control time with a remote (or even your voice), and instantly pull-up sport stats with a single button. Keep in mind, you can do all this on your couch. Future’s here, folks—it’s time to get a DVR.

  • TiVo Bolt VOX: The Bolt gives you 150 hours of DVR storage, and although it looks pricey at $330, you'll never have to worry about paying monthly for a set-top box or DVR service. You'll be able to record TV shows and movies for the rest of your life with no strings attached.
  • DISH Hopper 3: If you want the most storage a TV service DVR can give you, get the Hopper 3. It's going to be hard to fill 500 hours of DVR storage, and it can also be a blessing in disguise because your family will never have to fight over who can record what.
  • DIRECTV Genie: Perfect for really any viewer, but especially TV and sports fans. Because of DIRECTV's 200 HD hours of storage capable of recording 5 channels at once, the Genie comes in second for satellite TV. You can record all of your shows, movies, or games you'd still never fill the 200-hour DVR storage.
  • Xfinity X1: The X1 has some pretty cool features, like finding movies with actors we like, but the X1 comes with a few fees. Xfinity is the best cable TV provider, but you'll just have to budget for the DVR service.
  • Mediasonic Homeworx: The Mediasonic Homeworx is an inexpensive one-time purchase, but don't forget you'll need to provide your own antenna and external hard drive to receive as many channels as you possibly can and record your favorite TV series.

FAQs

A Cloud DVR’s storage is based on a company’s server, but it is accessible by users just about everywhere. Think of it as “off-site” storage for your DVR, which means you can switch devices and keep your library.

Most DVRs can expand their storage. Make sure it has a SATA port if you’re planning on adding an external hard drive.

OTA is short for Over the Air. In many locations, you can receive free (HD) programming—all you need is an antenna. It’s a great way to save money and still keep up on the big networks, as well as a few movie channels and family favorites like PBS.

While Over the Air isn’t perfect for everybody, fans of network TV and sports can find a lot to watch. The following DVRs on our list are OTA compatible: TiVo Bolt VOXDISH Hopper 3, DIRECTV Genie, and Mediasonic Homeworx.

Chantel Buchi
Written by
Chantel Buchi
Chantel is all about finding the best tv or streaming service to watch as many football games as possible to keep her Fantasy Football team in check. Prior to being a TV and Streaming Tech Reporter for Reviews.org, she worked for NFL Network and The Alliance of American Football. Before that, she received a B.A. of Communication at the University of Utah and an M.S. in Sports Journalism at USC. Go Utes and Fight On. Contact her at chantel@reviews.org

Related Articles

Woman using smartphone near a downtown city street
How Much Cell Phone Data Do I Need?
You need data for your smartphone. But how much? Here’s how to figure out just...
happy couple sitting on couch in trendy room surrounded by plants while watching tv
The Best Internet for Streaming
We have three fiber internet and two cable internet suggestions. We go over speeds, pricing,...
male and female sitting on a gray couch while one watches tv and one uses a laptop
Best Cable TV and Internet Bundles
We picked the top cable TV and internet providers with the best bundles based on...
Woman using a VPN for streaming on a computer
Xfinity vs. Spectrum Internet Review
Xfinity and Spectrum are two huge internet providers. We’ll compare their prices, plans, performance, and...