TiVo revamps its Roamio OTA set-top box and drops the subscription charge

TiVo’s DVR for cord cutters just got a lot more attractive.

TiVo Roamio OTA
Michael Brown

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TiVo is refreshing its appeal to people who’ve cut cable TV with a new version of its Roamio OTA DVR.

With the Roamio OTA, users plug in any over-the air-antenna via coaxial cable and are then able to record free broadcast channels such as ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, and PBS. TiVo boxes can also stream video from Internet services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, pulling everything into one unified watch list.

The new TiVO Roamio OTA includes 1.0TB of storage, double the amount of the previous version, and can store up to 150 hours of high-definition video. As importantly, the new Roamio OTA comes with lifetime service instead of a mandatory $15-per-month subscription fee. While the up-front cost is higher at $400, compared to $50 for the subscription-based box, lifetime service pays off after a couple years of use.

The new Roamio OTA is otherwise similar to its predecessor: It can record up to four recordings at once, and it connects to the Internet via ethernet cable or 802.11n Wi-Fi. Software features includes QuickMode, which speeds up playback by 30 percent with pitch-corrected audio, and SkipMode, which jumps over commercial breaks during certain prime-time programming.

It’s still unclear whether TiVo will launch an OTA-only version of its newer Bolt DVR, which has a faster processor, faster 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and built-in transcoding to stream recordings to iOS, Android, and Amazon Fire TV devices. (Roamio DVR owners can add those streaming features with a $130 TiVo Stream accessory.)

TiVo has offered the Roamio OTA with lifetime service before, but only as limited-time promotions. The new model appears to be a permanent addition to TiVo’s lineup and will be available May 2 through TiVo.com, Best Buy, and Amazon.

Why this matters: The TiVo Roamio OTA might have earned a more glowing review from TechHive if not for the mandatory $15-per-month-forever subscription fee. With that downside out of the way, TiVo’s DVR for cord cutters is a much more compelling option. Just keep in mind that the TiVo platform is missing several key streaming services, such as Sling TV, HBO Now, Showtime, and PlayStation Vue, which means it still may not serve as the ultimate box to rule your cable-free living room.

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