Cord Cutters: Channel Master — a DVR for cord cutting


The Channel Master TV is a new DVR that squarely targets cord cutters who don’t want to pay any monthly subscription. But is the device worth $400? Check out our take on it:

Show notes for this episode:

Do you miss your cable DVR after you’ve cut the cord? Have you replaced it with something else, or are you still looking for the perfect solution? Let us know in the comments, get in touch with us on Twitter (@cordcutters) or Facebook or email us at cordcutters @



The channel master is fatally flawed. You have to choose between over the air tuning OR QAM tuning. So if you want to use the box as a dvr for your basic cable subscription and get HD over the air tuning with an antenna then you are SOL. If they had two inputs then I wouldnt be returning my unit. Buyer beware.


So a question for the Tivo owners out there? Is the Tivo recordings still a proprietary format? If it is how do you use your recordings on more than one TV? I want to cut my cords but the multiple TV issue has me stumped.

Mike E.

If you’re a system builder, definitely build your own HTPC. If you’re not, you should consider either a small-form PC or a laptop with HDMI out (Woot constantly has them on the cheap, this is the route I went). Much better deal, plays everything, no hassles.

Kris B.

Yeah, you can build a DVR using MythTV (Free) and have a much better system. I bought my second hand pc for $70 shipped, added a video card with svideo and hdmi for $20 shipped (vdpau/hw accelerated for HD content), and bought a wireless infrared keyboard for $30 shipped. Tuner cards are cheap, so for about $200-$250 you can have a system that has terrabytes of storage and works much better.


At $400, they are charging a premium price for what looks like a pretty rough around the edges product. The user interface looks pretty bad, and the lack of netflix/hulu/etc. really makes this device an expensive, one trick pony… I’d check back in a year and see if they improve. I’d second getting a TiVo for a turn-key solution.

I just bought a $400 i3 based Windows 7 computer (TV tuners and wireless remote/keyboard extra) and am rolling my own HTPC – I’d have to say that it’s nowhere near a turn-key solution, but it is infinitely flexible.


I cut the cord from DirecTV in July 2010. There was no way I was going to do this without a DVR. I went with TiVo.

Contrary to popular belief, I have no monthly fee! TiVo offers a lifetime subscription option which eliminates the monthly fee. Yes, this is more expensive upfront. But I was paying $60/mo to DirecTV. It only took about 10 months to recoup the cost of the TiVo + lifetime subscription.

Of course, if you aren’t willing to shell out $600 up front, then TiVo offers a $100 DVR + a $10/mo subscription for antenna users ($20/mo for everyone else).

TiVo has access to Netflix, Amazon VOD, Pandora and YouTube. And it’s an awesome DVR. I’m thinking of adding a Logitech Revue to my setup. Combined with the TiVo, it addresses your “major deal breaker” with Google TV – it allows it to work with OTA HDTV.

I am surprised that you haven’t talked about TiVo in this blog as an option.


Yeah, TiVo has the $10/month promotion for antenna-only use ( or you can get lifetime for $500 ($400 if you know an existing TiVo owner and have then buy the service, then transfer it). And the TiVo Premiere is $100 – and it has WAY more features.

Break it down – let’s call the $50/year fee $4.17/month. So $400 + $4.17x = $100 + $10x, or $300 = $5.83x or x = 51.45. That’s 51.45 *months*, or 4.29 years, before TiVo catches up to the cost of Channel Master TV and starts to cost more – with the monthly option. If you go lifetime on TiVo it is $200 (or $100 if you use the trick) more up front. But after four years Channel Master starts costing more, and just keeps going up year to year for the guide data.

So if you expect to use the box for more than four years – go with a TiVo on lifetime. If you expect to use it for less than four years you could go with a TiVo at $10/month – though personally I’d still go lifetime because a) you don’t have payments to deal with and b) you have equity in the box and when you do decide to replace it it will have some value on the used market (aka eBay) while a used monthly box is basically worthless.


My bad – turns out the $10/month deal from TiVo for antenna-only users ended on 11/15/11. I’d still recommend TiVo, just with the lifetime option.


I looked at this a couple of months ago when they announced it and concluded that you’re better off buying a TiVo Premiere with lifetime service, which comes to a total of about $600. Since this box is $400, and the guide is $50 a year, you break even in four years. But the TiVo gets a 10-14 day guide, and support for Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, Blockbuster OnDemand, YouTube, Music Choice, web videos, Pandora, Rhapsody, Live365, and more. And if you ever decide to go back to cable it is ready for it – it does antenna and analog & digital cable. And it just has better features as a DVR.


Only 2 tuners, according to their web site. Other DVRs are now doing 4 in the high end ones (someone mentioned a 5 tuner DirecTV one too).

Note, # of tuners is not JUST for shows actually “at the same time” (timeslot wise), it’s also for overlapping shows because the networks don’t follow their own official timeslots.

Zach Holbrook-Deye

I have used the Channel Master 7000 and the over the air TV guide went 7 days out on most of the big 3 channel. So do they limit it only to 2 days even though it’s provided free?


This box doesn’t use the OTA guide, it was too problematic and just didn’t work for a number of users. They use the WiFi connection to supply the guide data.


After I cut the cord several months ago, I did miss the DVR. So I went to a second hand PC shop (PC outlet in San Antonio, TX :) ) and bought a cheap small form factor pc, a dell optiplex. I upgraded the hard drive, and bought a few usb tuners. I use MythTV, and it works great. It also serves at my media server. I just need to figure out how to get my harmony remote to work with it.


I did miss my DVR. So I went out to a second hand PC shop and bought a cheap small for factor PC for about $120, a dell optiplex. I upgraded the hard drive to 2 TB, an HDMI video card and installed windows 7. I use windows media center as the DVR. It works pretty well. I just need to figure out how to get my harmony to work with it. Since then, it is now also serving as my media server, and a boxee. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Jeff Putz

I’m still using BeyondTV to record over-the-air TV, software I bought from Snapstream, more than six years ago. All I needed was a couple of USB tuners. They still provide the guide data for free.

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