When it comes to over-the-air TV, you can chose to go the easy way and just plug an antenna into your TV. And that's fine, but it's also pretty limiting. One antenna, one television. And that's it.
There is, of course, a better way. It involves plugging your antenna into some sort of set-top box, which then spits out that OTA signal — and the free over-the-air channels that come with it — on your home network, to be picked up by an app on any of your devices.
But that leads us to a question: Of the three major over-the-air solutions — HDHomerun, Tablo and AirTV — which one is right for you?
Here's a quick breakdown of the three options:
HDHomerun is largely the simplest of the three options. The basic Duo box has two tuners and uses your home network to share the OTA content across pretty much any device, save for Roku. There's a cloud DVR available for $35 a year (and you can set up local storage, but it's not easy). There's also a four-tuner box, another for slower networks, and one for CableCard use.
And new boxes are coming in 2018 — one with 250GB of DVR storage built in, and a six-tuner box for CableCards.
Tablo is an easier solution if you want to have a DVR with local storage. Well, sort of easier. The cheapest of the three products is meant to plug in to an NVIDIA Shield TV, and you'll plug an external hard drive into that. The full boxes — one has two tuners, and the most expensive has four — also require you to provide your own hard drive on which you'll save OTA content. Drives aren't expensive these days, but it's still an extra cost.
Tablo is not a bad box at all — but it transcodes the video stream on the fly, which means slower channel switching and lower video quality. (Tablo has made some software improvements to this, but it's still a thing.) But the box also is pretty simple to set up.
In other words, this is what you want if you just have to have easy DVR access with an over-the-air antenna.
AirTV Player ($129)
This is a crazy little Android TV box that's made by Sling TV, but also has full access to the Google Play Store. That means you can download other streaming apps.
There's a little USB dongle that connects your OTA antenna to the AirTV Player, and your local channels will appear in the menu alongside everything streaming on Sling.
Is this one for you? Only if you're way into Sling TV content and don't mind a remote control that looks like a Fisher Price toy.
The bottom line
That's how the three boxes stack up. It really is a matter of each doing its own thing different than the others. (At least until HDHomerun comes out with its 250GB DVR box.)
Which one's right for you? It all depends on what it is you want.
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