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Summary:

The DVR is back – and this time, it’s all about cord cutting: Simple.tv wants to get consumers to ditch cable with its DVR for over-the-air broadcast content that can be streamed to Rokus and iPads. But how well does the device actually work?

simpletv featured

Simple.tv is a DVR for cord cutters that streams over-the-air broadcast content to Rokus and iPads. But how well does it work? Check out our review below:

Show notes for this episode:

  • The Simple.tv device costs $150, and a subscription to its programming guide costs an additional $5 a month. More info on the device can be found on the Simple.tv website.
  • Simple.tv is a single tuner DVR, meaning that you will only be able to record one show at a time. The company plans to add the ability to support multiple Simple.tv devices within the same network in the future.
  • To learn more about over-the-air broadcast and DIY DVRs, check out our new e-book Cut the Cord: All You Need to Know to Drop Cable, which is now available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iTunes.

Are you looking for a DVR for your cord cutting set-up – or do you prefer to just get your content from Netflix and Hulu? Please share your thoughts in the comments, get in touch with us on Twitter (@cordcutters) or email us at cordcutters @ gigaom.com.

  1. This is an excellent example of using commodity hardware AND signal to create a mobile experience that isn’t overly complicated. The website does a great job of explaining the setup.

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  2. Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu do it for me.

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  3. Too much to buy and set up..cloud dvr please

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  4. They aren’t shipping yet, are they? So this review was done on a beta unit with beta software, I would assume. I agree that the Roku interface is lacking, but then again most every Roku service is in the same boat. Apparently no one wants to spend the time to create a killer Roku video app. I would have loved to see a full screen program guide on Roku.

    The real power with Simple.TV will be seen when they have multiple tuners enabled. I’m not so concerned with live TV so long as I can have reliably have 4-6 shows recording at once. If the unit works better with recordings, then I’ll just watch shows delayed and skip the commercials. Nice to see that it’s close to being ready, though! Some of the other things like the advanced menus, etc can be added later through software, so that’s not a big deal for me.

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    1. They started shipping this week.

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  5. So does that mean you were testing a beta unit with beta software or no?

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    1. Not necessarily, I’ve hear from someone else that just received their box and the setup was a little painful since it couldn’t be done completely from the SimpleTV and they had to switch between the box and the website during setup.

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  6. I really continue to be confused by what you consider to be affordable compared to a TiVo. A TiVo Premeire DVR (with hard drive) costs $70 at BestBuy. The subscription costs $400 (assuming you know someone who already has a TiVo). So the total cost of a TiVo solution w/out montly subscription fees is $470.

    Compare that to this box solution:
    $100 Drive
    $150 Simple.TV
    $50 Roko
    $300 Total

    Yes that’s less than $470. But not that much less and you still have a $5/mo subscription fee. In less than 3 years, this solution ends up costing more than a TiVo solution.

    Of course, the big advantage to this is that you can install this DVR on multiple TV’s for only the marginal cost of a roku box.

    One more point, TiVo’s montly subscription is now $15/mo, not $20.

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    1. Ok. That came off more critical than I intended. Just meant to suggest that the “more expensive” TiVo option isn’t really that much more expensive. And it works. I guess I just get a little irritated that people think that TiVo requires a monthly subscription when it doesn’t. And the cost of the lifetime subscription does a pretty good job of covering most of the hardware that you’d have to buy and assemble if you’re doing a homegrown DVR.

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      1. dullgeek, it’s a fair point that TiVo can be cheaper if you buy into a lifetime subscription – but that’s some serious commitment… and actually something Simple.tv is offering as well. A Simple.tv device complete with lifetime subscription costs $300.

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      2. Not sure I comprehend the statement: ” I guess I just get a little irritated that people think that TiVo requires a monthly subscription when it doesn’t”. I thought Tivo is pretty much a doorstop if you do not have a subscription i.e. no ability to record, setup schedules, etc. Has this changed?

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      3. @Janko:

        So let’s compare lifetime to lifetime.

        $70 TiVo Premiere
        $400 Lifetime Sub
        Included Hard drive
        Included HDMI out
        $470 Total

        $300 Simple.TV
        Included Lifetime Sub
        $100 Hard Drive
        $50 HDMI out (via Roku)
        $450 Total

        I’m not seeing the dramatic price difference that you’re seeing.

        Now let’s compare monthly to monthly

        $70 TiVo Premiere
        Included Hard drive
        Included HDMI out
        $70 Total Upfront
        $15 Monthly Subscription

        $150 Simple.TV
        $100 Hard Drive
        $50 HDMI out (via Roku)
        $300 Total Upfront
        $5 Monthly Subscription

        The upfront difference is $230. The monthly difference is $10. So for the first 23 months, TiVo is cheaper. After that simple.tv is cheaper.

        Couple this with your conclusion that simple.tv has a *LOT* of functionality gaps, and I’m just not seeing how you so easily dismiss tivo as a cost effective DVR for cord cutters. When I cut the cord (July 2010) I spent a year trying to find a more cost effective DVR than TiVo and couldn’t find one, as a result I went with TiVo as my solution. I am still looking for a fully functional alternative to tivo that costs less than tivo, and haven’t yet found one. And it surprises me that you seem to come to very different conclusions on this topic.

        @Awara: Tivo does require a subscription. They offer two subscription options: monthly at $15/mo or a one-time lifetime subscription which normally costs $500, but if you know someone who already has a Tivo you can get it for $400. IMHO, the lifetime subscription is really the way to go. Because if you search ebay you’ll see that used tivos with lifetime resell for much higher prices than those without lifetime. Which is to say that if you ever resell your tivo, you can recoup some of the amount you put into the subscription cost. If you pay monthly you can’t ever recoup the subscription costs.

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    2. or TIVO subscription may be 9.99 if you are only using it for OTA and not taking advantage of the cable features!

      besides a one time outlay for lifetime service is totally worth it and a far superior experience and ease of use.

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  7. For most folks, Tivo + Lifetime = $650. ($499 for subscription +$150 for Tivo). $300 + $59 per year for service after = 6 years until it costs more than Tivo.

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  8. Can Tivo stream wirelessly to your mobile devices in network and out of network? Do you have access to Tivo material recorded on a hard drive if you want to edit the file or convert to a different format?

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    1. tivo stream (150 bucks one time on top of your tivo and subscription) allows you to stream content to the iphone iPad and let’s you donwload it to the device for on the go watching… (no sling box type experience yet)

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    2. It can’t stream directly (you have to buy a Tivo Stream, which just came out and is WAY overpriced) but you can download shows from your Tivo Premiere via the Tivo desktop software (which is free) or via other third party open source software and then convert it for whatever use – archive on a HD, burn to DVD, convert and watch on portable device/phone.

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  9. Still a TV ripoff. Still have to buy another box.

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  10. I considered both tivo and simple.tv. I wanted a dvr that could be used on 3 tv’s plus a couple of PCs and an ipad. One simple.tv + 3 rokus + HD drive gets you there. With Tivo i’d have to buy 3 dvrs and they would be independent of each. And then more money to stream to other devices.

    Where are you seeing a new tivo for $70? The price I see for the low end tivo is $149. And that unit only will record 75hrs of HD. A $100 HD buys 1TB, simple.tv can record ~400hrs with this much storage.

    My biggest hangup with simple.tv is the single tuner. But I already have an antenna feed going to each tv so essentially I have multiple tuners that way. I figure if I really like the simple.tv box then in a few months once they start supporting ganging units together for more tuners I’ll pickup another unit.

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    1. Have you looked at getting an HD Homerun with multiple tuners? It’s cheaper than the Simple.TV box, requires no subscription and you can output to a Roku device if you don’t have your TV’s connected to a computer.

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