The best OTA receivers for 2022

In an age of streaming media, one might think that the days of recording our favorite shows through a hulking DVR box are over. That’s not necessarily the case. While streaming devices and smart TVs keep us connected to our Netflix and Hulu accounts, today’s leading OTA receivers are sleek, can store up to hundreds of shows and movies, and some models can even connect to the Internet.

We’ve spent a lot of time setting up OTA antennas, installing receivers, and generally tweaking these systems to get the most out of them. We believe the Tablo Dual Lite is the best OTA receiver for most people, but we do have some other suggestions in case it’s not right for you. Each offers very specific strengths, and one just might be the perfect fit.

Nuvyyo Tablo Dual OTA DVR angled to the right.

Ted Kritsonis/Digital Trends

Tablo Dual Lite OTA DVR

The best OTA receiver

Pros

  • Versatile approach works with streaming devices
  • Easy to set up
  • Dual OTA tuners
  • Optional premium services for upgrades

Cons

  • No built-in storage
  • Switching channels is a little clunky

Why you should buy this: With rock-solid Wi-Fi and support for tons of devices, this OTA DVR does it all.

Who it’s for: People with existing smart TVs or streaming devices like Apple TV, Roku, or Chromecast.

Why we picked the Tablo Dual Lite:

For starters, the Tablo Dual Lite is super easy to set up and use. Its app-based interface is clean and simple, and after a quick scan, it lets you pick which of your available channels you’d like to add to your guide instead of assuming you want them all. But the Tablo’s key advantage is its ability to be placed anywhere in your home, whether that’s near your TV or router. Unlike other receivers, which need to be connected to your antenna, hardwired to your router, and in some cases connected to your TV, the Tablo only needs an antenna connection and power. In fact, it has no TV output at all.

Instead, Tablo streams your OTA channels to your TV via a compatible media device, like an Apple TV 4th generation or a Roku. If you have the right smart TV, you may not need an external device at all. Here’s the full list of compatible devices, which is extensive and offers something for almost everyone, with the exception of PlayStation console owners.

With two OTA tuners, the Tablo Dual Lite can receive and record two different channels simultaneously, but you’re not limited to two devices. Depending on the speed of your home network, up to six devices can watch content simultaneously. Given how many of us watch content on our phones and tablets, that’s a lot of potential screens powered by a single receiver.

The Dual Lite doesn’t come with any built-in storage (Tablo sells a 128GB version if that’s what you want), but this adds to its flexibility: You can decide how much storage you want by simply adding your own USB hard drive. Some kind of storage is required, however, even if you decide not to record shows.

On its own, the Tablo will give you 24 hours of guide info and the ability to record and livestream any OTA content you can receive. For a subscription fee of $5 per month, you get 14 days of guide info, advanced recording features (like the ability to start a recording two minutes earlier or later), and a must-have feature for frequent travelers: Remote-view capability for access to the entire system from anywhere with a decent internet connection. You can add Tablo’s Premium Service for $2, which enables the platform’s automatic commercial skip feature.

The Tablo’s interface is composed of a mix of the traditional on-screen channel guide and curated “suggested” content, sorted by genre, making it easy to see what’s on tap. If you’re the impatient sort, though, channel changes may prove frustrating since, unless you’ve got a very solid Ethernet connection, there’s a pretty notable lag as the Tablo tunes in to the new channel and starts up the stream. There’s also no way to keep watching one channel while you surf the guide for something else…but that’s a minor quibble for the features that you get.

Tablo Dual Lite

Tablo Dual Lite OTA DVR

The best OTA receiver

The MediaSonic Digital Converter.


MediaSonic Digital Converter Box

The best budget OTA receiver

Pros

  • A strong budget model
  • Multiple connection options
  • Handy remote included

Cons

  • Requires external hard drive
  • ATSC onlly

Why you should buy this: You want to experience a simple OTA receiver, complete with recording and multiple hookups, but don’t want the major investment of a Tivo or higher-priced OTA box.

Who it’s for: Those that want to experience the benefits of an OTA receiver while shopping on a minimal budget.

Why we picked the MediaSonic ATSC Digital Converter Box

If you’re looking to get yourself nudged over into the world of cord-cutters and OTA receiver ownership, but aren’t willing to drop the heavy dough required of a robust Tivo interface, the MediaSonic ATSC may be more up your alley.

In terms of hardware, there are multiple connections to get you started. Once linked into your home’s antenna coaxial connection, you can output video to practically any TV in the home thanks to the box’s HDMI, coaxial, and composite video outputs. The included remote will net you all of the basic functions you’ll need to enjoy your recordings (more on that below), complete with play/pause, rewind/fast-forward, and an option to program your favorite stations into the clicker.

For recording purposes, this is where the “budget” handle certainly comes into play. Don’t expect the automatic recording of content across multiple tuners that you’ll find with some of the heavyweight OTA receivers on this list. While the MediaSonic is capable of 2TB of storage, that’s off of an external hard drive (USB 2.5 and 3.0 with MBR formatting). As the product name suggests, the MediaSonic is also only capable of picking up and recording ATSC signals, so apologies to our NTSC hopefuls.

When all is said and done, though, you’re simply not going to find a cheaper way into OTA viewing and recording. While the MediaSonic ATSC Digital Converter Box may lack streaming apps and an intuitive user experience, it’ll definitely get the job done.

Mediasonic ATSC Digital Converter Box

MediaSonic Digital Converter Box

The best budget OTA receiver

Amazon Fire TV ReCast

Riley Young/Digital Trends

Amazon Fire TV Recast

The best OTA receiver for Fire TV owners

Pros

  • Perfect for Fire TV users
  • Built-in storage
  • Models available with up to four tuners

Cons

  • Loses most of its advantages without Fire TV

Why you should buy this: It integrates perfectly with Fire TV devices and doesn’t require any ongoing fees.

Who it’s for: Fire TV owners who want to add free over-the-air TV viewing and recording to their media choices.

Why we picked the Amazon Fire TV Recast:

If you’ve already taken the first step toward ending your dependence on cable or satellite by buying one of Amazon’s excellent Fire TV media streamers, you should seriously consider going all the way with the Fire TV Recast. It is designed to augment the Fire TV’s already very comprehensive set of streaming apps, like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney+, with free local TV and a DVR.

The Fire TV Recast can live almost anywhere in your home as long as it can connect to a power source and your antenna’s cable, making it much easier to place your antenna where it can get the best reception. The Recast then uses your home Wi-Fi network to transmit both live TV and your recordings to any Fire TV devices you have at home. You can also access the content from a mobile device using the free Fire TV app.

Because the interface is handled by your existing Fire TV device, it’s clean and easy to use. If you own any Alexa-enabled smart speakers like an Echo Dot, you can control the experience with your voice, just as you can with other Fire TV functions.

The best part of the Fire TV Recast is that there’s no additional fee for any of its features. Simply plug it in, set it up using your existing Amazon account and that’s it. It comes in two versions: A 2-tuner 500GB model and a 4-tuner 1TB model, which means there is a Fire TV Recast for almost any budget or household size.

However, it’s not as clever as a TiVo: There’s no automatic recording of shows you might be interested in, no ability to skip ads with a single click, and it only works with Amazon’s Fire TV streamers. But these are minor drawbacks to what is otherwise a perfect OTA DVR upgrade for those in Amazon’s media ecosystem. And while the REcast isn’t exactly cheap, you can equip each TV in your home with access to its live and recorded content for just $30 (or less) with the new Fire TV Stick Lite.

Amazon Fire TV Recast

Amazon Fire TV Recast

The best OTA receiver for Fire TV owners

The Sling Media AirTV 2.

Sling Media AirTV 2

The best receiver for Sling users

Pros

  • Great Sling TV support
  • Versatile OTA streaming options
  • Dual tuners

Cons

  • Requires external hard drive

Why you should buy this: It’s a versatile OTA model that plays well with the Sling TV app

Who it’s for: Sling TV users, who using AirTV, Roku, Fire TV, or Android TV, those willing to add an external hard drive

Why we picked the Sling Media AirTV 2:

The AirTV 2 bears some similarities to our Tablo Dual pick, with the same sort of inherent flexibility that allows you to stream local channels over your Wi-Fi, work alongside other devices like a Roku or Fire TV, and, of course, record your live local channels … as long as you’re willing to attach your own external hard drive.

But this model has another trick: It’s especially friendly with Sling TV, and can seamlessly integrate with your Sling TV, showing your local OTA channels along with the streaming Sling channels, so you get everything in one spot. That’s similar to what the Fire Recast does, but you don’t need an Amazon subscription for this integration, so it could be a great fit for those who’ve already cut the cord and are using Sling.

The model can manage two live TV shows at the same time or record them both as necessary, and categorize recordings in a number of ways, including single episodes or as part of a series. The Sling compatibility also means you can download the Sling TV app on your smartphone, and then access your live TV feeds directly from your mobile device.

Of course, the AirTV 2 doesn’t have so many advantages if you aren’t using Sling. But it can still help you record and view your live shows as long as you have a set-top box as well as an HD antenna. That makes it an excellent option for adding some HDR to your cable-free home TV setup.

Sling Media AirTV 2

Sling Media AirTV 2

The best receiver for Sling users

Plex and HomeRun device.

HDHomeRun Connect 4K Plus Plex Live TV

The best OTA receiver for ATSC 3.0

Pros

  • ATSC 3.0 support
  • Designed to work via Plex server
  • 4K support

Cons

  • Requires a subscription to save video
  • In-depth Plex management

Why you should buy this: It makes Plex even more powerful and supports ATSC 3.0

Who it’s for: DIY aficionados with a dedicated Plex server, a fast local network, and a desire to be on the leading edge of OTA TV.

Why we picked the HDHomeRun Connect 4K Plus Plex Live TV:

ATSC 3.0, or NextGen TV as it’s also known, is the latest and greatest version of free, over-the-air TV. When it’s fully adopted, we’ll see all of our favorite TV stations start to make content available in 4K resolution, with HDR video, and even Dolby Atmos for immersive surround sound. For a deep dive into its many benefits, check out our full ATSC 3.0 explainer.

It’s got four tuners (two that can do ATSC 3.0 and 1.0 and two that only do ATSC 1.0) so you can watch and/or record up to four channels simultaneously.

Speaking of recording, the HDHomeRun Connect 4K has no built-in storage, so if you want to record, you need to sign up for SiliconDust’s HDHomeRun DVR service — a $35 per year subscription that lets you save programs to a NAS drive, or a PC, and watch them from a variety of supported devices.

However, we think that Plex Live TV is a more flexible option. Plex is an incredibly full-featured media server platform that organizes and lets you watch all of your music, TV, movies, and photos on just about any device you can think of. When you subscribe to the Plex Pass service ($120/lifetime), you get Plex Live TV, which can use the HDHomeRun Connect 4K as a live TV source. The beauty of the Plex integration is that your Plex Media Server is the DVR, so no additional storage is needed.

Unfortunately, much more than with TiVo or Tablo, your Plex Live TV and DVR performance will vary based on your hardware and network. Because Plex clients don’t natively understand MPEG-2 video, which the HDHomeRun Connect 4K distributes from OTA signals, they must be transcoded to the H.264 format. Mac and PCs can handle this task effortlessly, but if you run Plex on a NAS drive, like the WD My Cloud Mirror we used for testing, you may find limited support for your Plex clients.

The channel guide view can display up to two weeks of program info, if available for your region. Channel changes are similar to the Tablo: There’s a distinct lag as the new stream gets going, and there’s no way to watch one stream while hunting for another.

Spending $200 on the HDHomeRun Connect 4K and. say, a one-time cost of $120 for a lifetime Plex Pass, is not a bad investment when you consider it puts you way ahead of the ATSC 3.0 curve — especially if you’ve already got lots of Plex-enabled devices around the house and a dedicated Plex Media Server. But if this doesn’t sound like you, or the thought of setting up a Plex server and using it to watch TV leaves you in a cold sweat, you should probably look at our other picks.

SiliconDust HDHomeRun Connect 4K

HDHomeRun Connect 4K Plus Plex Live TV

The best OTA receiver for ATSC 3.0

Frequently Asked Questions

How does an OTA receiver work?

An OTA (over-the-air) receiver works in conjunction with your home’s TV antenna to provide you with an experience closer to a cable subscription. Once your antenna is lined in, OTA receivers allow you to record over-the-air programming, sometimes across multiple stations at once. Many OTA boxes can store up to 500GB or more of recorded shows and movies, just like a cable-DVR package. Advanced OTA receivers even have access to streaming apps like Netflix and Hulu.

Will ATSC 3.0 improve reception?

Yes. Once broadcasters are beaming signals in 4K with added HDR support, the picture we’ll see on our TVs should be noticeably improved, especially compared to older ATSC broadcasting. Like most major tech advances, though, the format has arrived before hardware has fully caught up. It may be a while before ATSC 3.0 is standard in every OTA receiver home.

Do Smart TVs have a built-in antenna?

Not quite. While certain smart TV brands can connect you to free programming through Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connections, OTA signals are only captured by an external antenna that requires a connection to your home’s TV (or compatible OTA receiver).

What’s the latest version of OTA broadcasts?

ATSC 3.0, officially known as NextGen TV, is the next version of over-the-air HDTV broadcasts. With support for 4K resolution, HDR, and Dolby Atmos, it’s eventually going to replace the existing ATSC system. The rollout of ATSC 3.0-compatible OTA receivers has been slow, but they’re beginning to show up now, and we expect to see more soon.

Do I need a certain antenna for OTA receivers?

Getting the most out of your OTA setup really begins with your antenna. The kind you buy and where you place it will determine how many channels you receive. Digital Trends has a comprehensive guide to selecting the right antenna for your home, which we encourage you to check out before you commit to an OTA receiver. And don’t worry — any antenna that you buy today will work with NextGen TV when it’s time to make the switch.

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