HDHomeRun throws its hat in OTA DVR ring

A computer screen showing how HDHomeRun's proposed DVR might look

How HDHomeRun’s proposed DVR might look

Just when I think I’ve caught up on all of the news about DVRs for over-the-air TV, something new comes up. In this case, two somethings.

Over at Dave Zatz’s amazing blog, Zatz Not Funny!, Zatz broke the news that TiVo was pitching its service in a special email to former Aereo customers. (Or at least to some of them. I’m a former Aereo subscriber and I never saw it. But I digress.) TiVo, which purchased the Aereo’s customer list during the latter’s bankruptcy sale, offered its Roamio OTA DVR plus its Stream unit for sending a TV stream outside the home network plus its guide service, all for $19.95/month for two years. After those two years, guide service is $14.95/month, a cost that’s head and shoulders above any other OTA DVR.

I have so many happy menus of TiVo, which was my first DVR. The peanut-shaped remote felt great in my hand. The DVR filled any empty space by quietly recording shows I might like. The TiVo’s great design gave it unmatched, pioneering usability. Its monthly guide fee was a little high, but a lifetime subscription took away some of the sting.

Now the TiVo still offers a great user experience, but I can’t recommend that deal. Subtract the guide price and you’re paying only $120 over two years for hardware that’s worth twice that, but spending almost $180/year for guide data will get old fast.

Let’s turn from the original DVR to the newest – so new that it isn’t here yet. Silicondust, the makers of HDHomeRun, the amazing little OTA tuner for home networks, has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund its own DVR. Based on that Kickstarter page, the HDHomeRun DVR will allow recording to an always-on PC or a network attached storage (NAS) drive. Adding the NAS capability should reduce electricity consumption compared to, for example, my HDHomeRun-connected Windows Media Center PC.

Guide data will cost a reasonable $30/year, and Kickstarter backers at $30 or more will get a year free. HDHomeRun’s viewing apps already work great, so I have high expectations for its DVR software. The Kickstarter notes suggest that Silicondust already has most of it running but hopes use pledge proceeds to add programmers to add support for protected content. If the project gets enough support, Silicondust may also create an iOS app, filling the most obvious gap in its current ecosystem.

From all I’ve seen and heard, Silicondust is made of good people who make products that work well. All Kickstarter projects involve risk, but I think I’ll make a $30 or $60 bet on the HDHomeRun DVR.