Channel Master DVR+ review: Over-the-air recording that’s a bit too basic

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The Channel Master DVR+ is among the least-sophisticated ways to record broadcast TV from an antenna. The interface is crude, recording options are limited, and playback is tied to a single television.

That’s not to say a simplistic approach is without merit, especially in a market full of overly complex products. But Channel Master’s $249 box is a bit too bare-bones for setting up and managing recordings, and its additional streaming features are a waste of time. It’s only worth considering if you’re unwilling to spend a little more.

Plug and play

The DVR+ is a slim slab of plastic that connects to your television over HDMI. Plug an antenna into the back, go through the guided setup process, and Channel Master will scan for over-the-air channels, adding guide data based on your zip code. The box also has an ethernet port for internet-based channels (more on that later), an optical audio port, and an IR extender port.

channelmasterrear Jared Newman/TechHive

You’ll need to buy a $39 wireless adapter if you want to add Channel Master’s DVR+ to your Wi-Fi network; otherwise, you’ll need to hardwire it.

Channel Master’s basic $249 DVR+ has just 16GB of storage, and requires an external hard drive for full DVR functionality. If you’d rather avoid the clutter of an external drive, $349 gets you a model with 1TB of built-in storage, but that’s an uneconomical option given that external 1TB drives cost around $50 these days. Both models have two USB jacks and a dual tuners—meaning you can record or watch two programs at once—and there are no subscription fees for recording, scheduling, and TV guide data.

The remote control is a basic IR blaster with lots of buttons, just like you’d expect from a cable box. You can program it to control your television’s volume, power, and input switching, letting you safely stow your TV remote away. (There’s no on-screen setup for this; you must consult the manual for instructions and pairing codes.)

Although the DVR+ lacks animations or transitions as you scroll about its menus, the hardware loads channels and moves through menus efficiently. And because the box is getting direct antenna input, there’s no noticeable drop in picture quality compared to plugging the antenna into your television.

Words and more words

There are two ways to navigate the Channel Master DVR+: You can open an onscreen menu to access the TV guide, DVR list, settings, and search; or you can just press the remote’s DVR and Guide buttons. Either way, the interface consists entirely of text, with none of the rich cover art you get from other systems, such as TiVo and Tablo. The channel grid looks a lot like what you’d find on a cable box, and the DVR menu is a staid list of show and movie titles.

channelmasterrecordings Jared Newman/TechHive

The Channel Master DVR+ relies on somewhat primitive user interface.

On some level, the no-frills approach is refreshing, even if it’s an adjustment coming from the slick software of streaming boxes such as the Roku or Amazon Fire TV, and Channel Master does handle the basics well. The DVR+ automatically buffers live TV for pausing and rewinding, and you can instantly record whatever you’re watching with a button on the remote. You can also start watching a recording while the show is still in progress.

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