One of the higher profile products to be announced at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show has been the Simple.TV. It’s a device that works as a DVR for people who don’t want to pay for cable. For $150 you’ll get a device that will allow you to watch and record free over-the-air (or ClearQAM) content. Sounds great, right? Well, maybe not after you dig into all of the details. For starters, the device doesn’t have an HDMI port. In fact, it doesn’t have any sort of audio/video output port at all. Instead you attach the device to your home network via wired Ethernet. That’s right, there isn’t any built-in WiFi here either. Once on your network you can then view the live or recorded television shows on other streaming devices that you might own. When it launches in the spring they say that it will support Roku, Google TV, Boxee, and iPad. So how much storage does it have? None. Yep, a DVR that doesn’t even include a hard drive. You’ll have to supply your own and attach it via USB. Have you seen the cost of hard drives lately? If not, don’t go looking, you might have a heart attack at how much the prices have jumped up. Even just a [amazon_link id=”B001UHWHO4″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]nice 500 GB external drive[/amazon_link] is going to cost you about $85. Ok, so maybe you’ve got a spare hard drive laying around, and may you already have a Roku or Boxee box, at least you won’t have to pay a monthly fee, right? Nope! Well, technically, you don’t have to, but if you want to actually have an electronic program guide and the ability to schedule recordings, you’ll need to pay $4.99/month. Have we mentioned yet that it only has one tuner? So you can only record one show at a time, unless you want to buy two of these (and two hard drives). All of a sudden, this simple, cheap, DVR isn’t looking so simple or cheap!
So let’s recap the total costs on the Simple.TV DVR.
|[amazon_link id=”B005CLPP8E” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Roku 2 XD[/amazon_link]||$77|
|[amazon_link id=”B001UHWHO4″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]500 GB Hard Drive[/amazon_link]||$85|
|EPG and Scheduling Fee||$4.99/month|
|Total after 12 Months||$370.88|
Let us offer up another idea. If this is something that interests you, do you already have a computer? You can buy TV tuner devices for that PC for far less money and use something like Windows Media Center for free. You won’t even need to pay for the guide data. It comes for free in Media Center. If the computer is standard desktop PC, you could get something like the [amazon_link id=”B00266P6G4″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Avermedia Duet[/amazon_link]. It’s an internal PCI Express card with two tuners, for $65. If you can’t go the internal card route, you could pick up a USB tuner, like the [amazon_link id=”B001DEYVXO” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-950Q[/amazon_link]. It’s a single tuner USB device for about $68. Or, even better, grab the [amazon_link id=”B004HO58SO” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]SiliconDust HDHomeRun[/amazon_link]. It offers two tuners, and attaches to your network via Ethernet. It’s $99 and would allow you to watch and record TV on any PC in your house simply using your existing network! If the PC isn’t directly connected to your television that won’t be an issue either if you already own an Xbox 360. Microsoft’s gaming console naively works as a Windows Media Center Extender, giving you full access to all of your media, plus live and recorded TV if you connect (through your network) to a Windows PC.
At the end of the day, all of these options require a little bit of work on your part. While we hate to recommend, the simplest DVR is definitely the one that your cable company will give you for $10/month. If you’re not willing to pay for cable though, you’re going to need to spend some cash upfront, and put in a little work to get the same sort of features.