Channel Master DVR+ Bundle - subscription free digital video recorder with web features and channel guide (CM7500BDL2)
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- This bundle includes: DVR+, USB wireless Internet adapter, HDMI cable and DVR+ remote
- Watch and record over-the-air broadcast programming in pure, uncompressed HD, a higher quality video than what is provided through cable and satellite operators, displaying both SD and HD video resolutions up to 1080i/1080p
- DVR+ TV connection is HDMI only, does not function as a converter box and is not compatible with older analog televisions
- Full DVR functionality and expanded storage capacity requires an external USB hard drive, not included in this bundle
- Programming reception requires an over-the-air antenna, not included in this bundle
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|Item Dimensions||—||9.6 x 10 x 1.8 in||6 x 19 x 14 in||6 x 19 x 14 in|
DVR+ from Channel Master provides the ultimate cord-cutting alternative to traditional pay-TV services. Watch and record free live over-the-air broadcast programming in crystal clear HD, including all of your favorite shows, news and sports from ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, PBS, The CW and many more. Enjoy a familiar experience with menus and program guide very similar to the DVRs used by cable and satellite operators, and dual tuners allow you to record one program while watching another or record two programs at the same time. Internet connectivity provides additional features including an expanded 14-day program guide, software updates and access to online streaming services. This bundle includes the DVR+ DVR, DVR+ handheld remote, compatible WiFi adapter for internet connectivity and high-speed HDMI cable that supports resolutions up to 1080p.
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Some exciting things appeared on my DVR when I updated it yesterday. It now has 20+ streaming channels that include Vevo Hits, Vevo Nashville, Free Speech TV, RT, RT Documentary, BBC News, ABC News, Sky News, France 24, plus a handful of religious channels, food channels, and random HSN type channels. This is pretty huge! The channels come up in HD and supplement the interface nicely. They look just like other channels in the TV guide so you can simply channel up/channel down to scan through them without much lag or buffering between them. It says on their website that they plan on adding more channels in the coming months. I have a couple of gripes though. 1) I had to create an account to view the channels on ChannelMaster's website, which took about ten minutes since it took a while to load. 2) There's no pause/fast-forward/skip functions on the stream. I think this is a very fresh approach to handling streaming content and I don't have to pay for these extra features, so regardless of whether or not I like these new channels, it seems like a great value add. I love news channels and international channels so for me this is great! You can also selectively delete these channels if you don't like them (so I deleted all the "Food" channels because frankly I don't need anything else tempting my appetite on a daily basis).
The interface seems to move zippier now and the YouTube app seems a little less clunky with the latest update (but still not an "amazing" experience).
For the rest of my review, scroll down.
Update: (11/25/14 - 5 Stars).
The manufacturers of this product are clearly working on making this box as much as a Tivo-killer as possible with the resources they have. Keep in mind there are still some limitations, you don't pay for a TV guide function like Tivo, so some of the free info isn't always perfect. For major shows though, it's always been accurate (every sporting event, every primetime show, etc), I haven't run into an issue yet.
They added two apps since my last review; YouTube and Pandora. Both are slow and clunky, but completely passable in usage. My Blu-ray player handles both apps with a little more grace and shorter loading times, so that will be my preferred streaming box for now. But if you don't have a streaming box/smart blu-ray player, it's a nice feature.
Regardless, the streaming services shouldn't be the selling point. You're buying this because you would like a DVR, but don't need cable or a cable bill.
The main interface is snappier than it's ever been. Setting recordings is just as easy as Comcast's DVR, and now that I can isolate "New" shows and not perpetually record repeats, I'm very happy with it.
The interface has slight improvements from my original review, but I can honestly say it's one of the most elegant DVR's out there. It's transparent and no-frills. Unlike Comcast (Motorola/Scientific Atlanta set-tops) ugly blue grid with pixilated fonts, the Channel Master has high-def fonts and a very logical layout.
All in all, this device has earned its 5th star with all the updates they've released. This company listens to customer feedback and has been addressing each issue systematically since the product was released. I commend their development and QA staff as they seem to be tackling the right issues in the right order. I've very glad I've purchased this product.
Original Review (8/25/14 - 4 Stars):
I decided four years ago to drop cable because both of the giants in my neighborhood (UVerse and Comcast) scared me off hard with their adjustable packages. I'm used to having to sacrifice some entertainment for it, but at $50+ a month for cable tv that I barely watch, I've been surviving on Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Instant just fine. But first run OTA shows and sports have always been a problem.
I used Simple.tv for a year, but it's slow (interface is crappy on almost all devices) and has too many caveats to make it practical (it slightly missed the mark everywhere with quality, reliability, subscription fees, slow tech support, etc.). And I refuse to pay Tivo $15 a month for a glorified TV guide subscription.
This seems to be the best DVR I can possibly get for what I needed. Just ask yourself some questions.
Who should buy this?
Cable cutters who can live without Bravo, MTV, or your politically-charged, angry, biased news channel. If you watch sports on NBC, FOX, CBS. And tend to watch shows on those networks, this is likely for you.
MAKE SURE YOU ACTUALLY GET THOSE CHANNELS WHERE YOU LIVE. The best way to test is by plugging in an antenna to your HDTV and doing a channel scan. I get every alphabet soup channel (ABC, NBC, etc) perfectly in my area with the Terk FDTV1A antenna (previously, I had the MoHu leaf, and did not get as many channels). I live in the SF Bay area, so I know I had good reception, my last apartment was in the bottom floor of a GA suburb so I understandably got cruddy reception.
Unlike Tivo or Simple.TV, this doesn't require technical experience to install. You literally plug in the HDMI to your TV, plug in a hard-drive, plug in the antenna, and turn on the device. There's a really simple setup process (basically type in your zip code to download the tv guide and scan channels) and it works just like my old comcast cable box (only without ugly and awful). It doesn't have distracting images or nonsense setting it up.
The only thing "technical" I had to know was the password to my wifi network. To my surprise (and delight) there was a software update when I turned it on, I had to manually figure this out by going to Settings -> Technical Info -> Software update.
What do you need?
Antenna - I have the Terk FDTV1A antenna. I've bought multiple expensive antennas over the years and this was by far the best working. It's up to you though... Bunny ears work at my neighbor's unit just fine.
Hard Drive - I originally used a USB 2.0 hard-drive on this unit, but I did notice it would show digital distortion (or static) from time to time while recording... which I found very annoying as I'd miss the punchline to a joke or miss the actual hit on a baseball game. DO YOURSELF A FAVOR AND USE A USB 3.0 HARD-DRIVE. After changing to 3.0 1 TB from Western Digital, no more glitches!
TV - HD TV... I have a 55" 1080P and most channels look just as good as my Blu-Ray disks.
Internet connection - If you want the "Detailed Channel Guide" like you have on your TWC/Comcast box, you need internet. My unit came with the WiFi adaptor, but if you don't have one, an ethernet cable to your router works just fine (I've tried both). Without the internet, the TV guide seems to only go for a day or two and isn't always accurate (for instance, I can never tell if an episode is a repeat w/o internet because instead of the plot description, it will just display the TV show). I highly recommend the WiFi adaptor if your TV isn't ethernet cable's length from your router.
What about the internet apps?
I used the Vudu app to rent some episodes of cable shows that I missed (Shotime Shows specifically that I miss). Seems to work pretty well (though the interface was slightly sluggish).
What's the quality?
The unit is smaller than I believed it would be. Feels very solid and worth the price tag. The images on the screen were never laggy or distorted (after using a good hard-drive). The 1080P clearly delivers.
The Channel Guide is accurate and allows me to record series, specific games, etc. The interface looks really nice and it's really simple (no confusing settings).
Rewinding/FFW, recording multiple shows at once, organizing recordings works perfectly. Everytime.
What's the downside?
High upfront cost - (Unit + Hard-drive + Good Antenna + Optional WiFi Piece). The $250 unit can easily cost you $350 or more... Still saves you in the long run (think $50 a month for the basic cable package... in 5 months, it's free). Since I'm a nerd, I already had the antenna and hard-drives. But even if I didn't, I'd spend that money again if it means never having to deal with a Comcast rep again.
Internet Apps - (really just "App") Just Vudu for now... Which is good enough the handful of cable shows I'm willing to pay a-la-carte for; but for Netflix, Amazon, etc... I have to switch over to my other inputs.
Not so smart recording preferences - THIS IS THE BIGGEST DRAWBACK FOR ME AND IS THE ONLY REASON I'M TAKING OFF A STAR. I can select "Record every episode" of my favorite show, or "Record just this episode"... So basically, I'm forced to record every episode of Modern Family on Channel 7, when I really only want new episodes and not re-runs. And since they play syndicated episodes on the same channel, I get a few entries a day (just wasting space on the hard-drive). So once a new episode does premiere, I have to sort through a bunch of re-runs to get to that episode. I feel like the meta-data should be there to only record new episodes, or only record episodes that come on at a certain time. I feel like this really missed the mark as I've never encountered this with any other DVR ever.
The remote - It's ugly and feels cheap... But it was compatible w/my TV, so I'm not too upset. All the functions are there.
Am I happy with my purchase?
You betcha! I can record sports, first run shows, watch the news live, and I don't have to pay for a Comcast or Hulu subscription? That's a pretty good deal. The quality is wonderful, and my friends don't even realize that I don't have cable when they come over to watch the game. I've had this for four months and I couldn't be happier with it. Two months from now, it'll have paid for itself. Plus I can record two shows at once! No more sacrificing Agents of Shield for Survivor (a dreadful choice I had to make while using the inferior Simple.TV DVR).
If the new software updates come out (which I'm optimistic about) to address my recording preferences issues, I'll be made-in-the-shade. There's some decent reviews for the product on YouTube you might want to check out as well.
If you're upset w/Comcast/ATT/TWC/etc., check out the OTA channels available in your area. You'd be surprised at how many channels you might get. I even get Huffington Post Live and France 24 news (I'd never watch them, but it's cool that they're there). No subscription fees, unlike the competition, made the choice easy.
Doing several Google searches brought me to a company called ChannelMaster, which has been developing set top box equipment for years, and a new product they were launching called the DVR +, a standalone, subscription free DVR+ for over the air broadcasts. Its introduction was going to be in January. I purchased one with a Wi-Fi USB plugin, along with a 2 year extended warranty.
I was invited to be one of the first (I actually ended up being the first) end users to receive a unit ahead of launch, as I live near the company. The office people were interested in learning my opinion and my experience with their device. After picking up my unit, I went straight home to plug it in.
It’s a tiny footprint. It’s about the size and thickness of the original iPad. All the plugs in the back are intuitive—two USB ports, a coaxial port, an Ethernet port, and the AC adapter. There is a single HDMI port.
Setup was a breeze. You plug it in, it searches all the available over the air channels, and that’s it. To setup the Wi-Fi is not much different from setting one up on a PS3 or Roku. You find your network, put in your password, and you’re done. The guide downloads quickly, and you have two weeks of programming.
It doesn’t appear to be compatible with every USB hard drive. An old 120GB one worked fine. Two 500GB Western Digitals did not. Another 1TB Western Digital did. It may be the age of the two 500GB drives. It appears to be compatible with most hard drives though.
I setup to program to record some TV shows. It was easy to do through the guide. The DVR is quick—scannning is fast, and you can set the quick forward or quick reverse buttons to different time spans—10 seconds, 30, 60 seconds (for commercial skipping). The picture is clean, the scanning is fast. It beats the pants off of my DirecTV Genie. You can set up to future record based on the name of the program. It will not let you distinguish between recording new episodes or reruns though.
To record all of one show, you set it to search for the text (either complete match or partial match) and any show on the designated channel with that name will be recorded. When you set to record, it gives you the option of recording only the single program or all programs with that name. If you want to just record the episode in the time slot, you'll have to set up a manual recording. This applies if like an episode of "Castle" shows on Monday evening, but then shows in rerun all weekend long.
I am well on my way to cutting the cable. Vudu is built in, and I’m told other services will be added in the near future. If that’s all integrated into this one single beautiful piece of hardware, then I can say goodbye to the dish on my roof, and hello to personalized programming.
A couple of quirks they can’t do much about. The WiFi dongle throws a blinking light on the ceiling of my bedroom at night. Some masking tape easily covers that up. The interface runs slightly slower while it’s recording. It’s noticeable but not too bad. We had to get a slightly stronger antenna than the Boxee one that I replaced with this unit. The flat antenna I bought at Costco works perfectly, and pulls in all channels clearly without tiling. My broadcasters are about 10-15 miles away, and the channels are beautiful.
In all, I am blown away at how good this device is, and am looking forward to more upgrades and accessories that this company will hopefully produce for this line of products. This is the Tivo killer we’ve all been waiting for.