Is TiVo Roamio OTA a True Cable TV Alternative?

An In-Depth Look at the TiVo Roamio OTA

TiVo’s newest offering is targeted directly at Cord Cutters

Tivo Roamio OTAThe TiVo Roamio OTA is the company’s first device engineered specifically to be used as a cable television alternative. Lacking a cable card, the Roamio OTA is designed to allow for a less costly way to record and watch your favorite OTA programming, all while taking advantage of the famous TiVo interface.

So how does the device stack up against its TiVo DVR brethren? Let’s take a look!

Tivo AlternativeLooking for a Tivo Alternative? Check out the Channel Master +,  Tablo, or (simply) learn how to BUILD YOUR OWN OTA DVR.

The TiVo Roamio OTA features a surprisingly complete set of features to enjoy.

The Roamio OTA is complete with a 500GB hard drive, and  a built-in Wi-Fi adapter. Combine that with 1080p recording capability and popular video service integration like Netflix and Amazon, and you will begin to see that the Roamio OTA’s features stack up well compared to other popular TiVo models such as the TiVo Premiere.

With so many features, you’ll be surprised at just how affordable the actual Roamio unit is priced.

Focusing on the DVR’s initial cost only, the Roamio OTA knocks it out of the park! For about $50, you’ll get the sleek device along with a remote control. The TiVo Premiere, for comparison, costs about $140 when purchased new. Both sport multiple tuners (4 for the Roamio OTA and 2 for the Premiere) which allow for plenty of recording opportunities. Both feature an internal hard drive with capacity for at least 45 hours of HD programming (about 75 hours for the Roamio OTA). So what’s the catch?

TiVo subscription costs could be the downfall of the Roamio OTA.

Despite a low initial cost, the Roamio OTA requires a monthly fee of $15. Regardless of the company’s tendency to include a lifetime lump sum payment option for most products, TiVo has omitted the possibility on this device. So what does that mean? Let’s do a quick comparison. The lifetime service pricing for the Premier is $499.99. So after you purchase the device, for about $640, you could be using your new Premiere without fees for the life of the device. The Roamio OTA’s $50 price point, combined with its $15 subscription fee, will exceed that cost in just over three years. When viewed in this light, the true costs of TiVo’s first OTA DVR becomes crystal clear. And it is for this reason, I cannot recommend the TiVo Roamio as a legitimate Cable TV Alternative.

*** 8.28.15 – Update: This is no longer true. Tivo Romeo OTA now offers Life Time service for $399. This changes everything. Look for a new post that takes a completely different stance on if this device should be considered a true cable TV alternative. what is expressed in this article. Read my new post on this topic to get the latest and greatest info: RECORDING OVER THE AIR TV CHANNELS – A TIVO ROAMIO OTA REVIEW – New pricing & new features: Time to take a 2nd look at Tivo Roamio DVR

Most TiVo devices retain their value, so how does the Roamio OTA stack up?

The Roamio OTA, with its lack of lifetime subscription, holds its value much more poorly than other TiVo DVR models. On the other hand, a used Premiere can be sold for about a third of its original value, or more depending on the lifetime subscription. Why is this? Well, the Premiere features a cable card, which expands its customer base exponentially when trying to flip the device. Add the possible lack of subscription fees for the new owner, and you’ll see why other TiVo devices can offer you a better return on your investment.

So is the TiVo Roamio OTA a good option for you?

It will depend upon your personal needs, but, in general, there are much more efficient options. Inside of the TiVo catalog, options such as the Roamio Plus or Premiere will allow all of the functionality without the necessity of nagging fees. Escaping the TiVo market, there are options such as the Channel Master DVR+ that eliminate monthly fees, albeit with a slightly more difficult setup process. If you are looking for a cheap device for OTA recording and the pricy recurring fees aren’t an issue, the TiVo Roamio OTA could be a great choice due to its full set of features and easy-to-use interface. For everyone else, however, there  are better options out there.

Additional Resource

If you have a Media Center PC and are interested in building your own OTA DVR – check out “Using a TV Tuner Card to build a PC based DVR for Recording OTA Free TV”. If you want to learn more about what Tivo Alternative options out there, click here to read their full product list overview. To see a full list of OTA DVRs, and to figure out which model is right for you, read Recording Over-the-Air Channels with a Set-top Box.

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TiVo Roamio OTA


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