This product is a DVR(digital video recorder)/tuner that has no monthly fee. It is capable of tuning in over-the-air(free) and cable broadcasts and recording shows to usb hard drive or usb stick. I have connected a 500GB USB drive to the 3500STBII's usb media port and installed a large UHF/VHF antenna in the attic (Get a pro to do this for you.), and now I can (with no monthly fee) record a great number of shows in HD. I primarily watch ABC, CBS,PBS and NBC, so I don't really miss cable; I can also play back any media that I can get on the drive from a computer-- photos, movies, music. This can be done via USB stick or USB drive.
Though, the coolest thing for me is the "EPG" button. Here's how it works: A lot of folks don't know that over-the-air tv stations broadcast the day's list of tv shows along with the tv actual current tv show. So, you can just go to your over-the-air tv station, hit the EPG button and select the show that you want to record in the line up of shows listed for the day. You can also set the the show to be recorded regularly.
The second coolest thing for me is pausing live over-the-air television. Phone rings; wife wants to chat a bit; mailman has a delivery-- no problem-- hit the pause button once to stop and hit the same button to get rolling again.
Is this product perfect? No. I don't like the transparent menu for some menu screens. The EPG screen is currently transparent-- as of this writing, but the main menu is opaque (which is nice). I'm hoping a firmware update will change this, and or that they change it in future versions. The plus for the transparent screen is that you can continue to watch a show/multi task while you fiddle with the EPG menu-- which is why they added this feature.
This tuner has the best reception of any tuner that I've owned. I've owned four different models. If you're getting bad reception with it chalk it up to the antenna. If you're interested in free over-the-air tuning give up on those super sleek looking tv antennas that mount over/near your tv. Unless you live within 30 miles or less of a tv broadcaster or live in a high rise, they're not going to do the job. Get a pro to install a large UHF/VHF antenna Yeah, just like the ones that many of us grew up seeing on top of houses-- they're just what you need. (There is no such thing as an "HD TV Antenna." It's VHF/UHF(almost same antenna in use since the 50s)=best HD TV Antenna.) I say get a pro for installation, because it can be dangerous-- think aluminum antenna falling into power wires and such. I put mine in the attic to avoid wind and other weather abuse, but they're downsides to that of course.
I would say that a lot of complaints here about this tuner amount to "user error," or nit-picking (like my transparent menu issue). But, come on, folks! The tv tuner alone is worth the price. Now you have a media player and dvr and huge easy-to-use remote. Five stars for that. No monthly fees for a DVR=happiness. For me this thing (along with a large UHF/VHF antenna for great reception) works well.
P.S. Sometimes I feel sorry for folks who work so hard to make products. Imagine going to school to study electrical engineering (a very challenging discipline) or computer science (another very challenging discipline) and studying more to keep current on ever-changing technology. Imagine spending months/years working on a complex product only to have it unfairly "dissed" by an ill-informed or "unwise" reviewer who doesn't take the time to even read the manual or think. Just my two cents. It seems so unfair to me. I don't know what the solution is.