To use channels you need an HDHomeRun tuner connected to the router.  The channel's server software can run on a PC (Windows, Mac or Linux), a variety of NAS boxes and Nvidia Shield TV. If you do not already own a desktop computer, the WD's My Cloud NAS will be the cheapest standalone option, providing both $ 140 storage and recording capabilities. The screen is slightly pricier of $ 180 (not including DVR storage), but also works like your TV box.
To capture live channels from an antenna, Channel's SiliconDust uses HDHomeRun network tuners that connect to a Wi-Fi router via Ethernet cable for streaming video across the house. HDHomeRun Connect costs $ 100 while the $ 180 Extend model adds built-in transcoding, reducing the network bandwidth required to stream live TV. (Transcoding also shrinks the size of recorded video, but the channel's software can handle this on its own for Connect users.) Either the tuner can see and record up to two programs at once, but channels can also combine the inputs from multiple tuners if you want to register more. For cable subscribers, channels also work with HDHomeRun Prime, which uses CableCARD to record unencrypted pay-TV channels, but certain DRM-encrypted channels will be out of bounds.
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You also need an Apple TV (fourth generation or higher), Amazon Fire TV device, Android device (such as shield or mobile phone), iOS device or a web browser to watch live and recorded television. These programs are free with channels DVR service. If you decide to ditch the DVR and just use channels for their excellent live TV experience, Apple TV, Fire TV and Android apps cost $ 25.
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Channel's Web Tool Loading you manage DVR settings and watch TV.
When it comes to subscription costs, channels charge $ 8 per month or $ 80 per year without lifetime experience service, making it pricier than any other airline DVR subscription. HDHomeRun's own DVR service costs an average of $ 35 per year, while Plex charges $ 4 per month, $ 40 per year, or $ 120 for the life of its DVR service. Even TiVo requires slightly less than channels with its new Bolt OTA, at $ 7 per month, $ 70 per year or $ 250 for life.
Slick software (with some missing features)
Channels are much easier when everything is in place. After installing the server software, a browser-based tool can scan for channels, set a DVR storage space, and adjust advanced settings such as cryo quality and tuner priority. You can then manage recordings via the Web tool, an iOS device or your TVs.
The software provides good control over how these recordings behave. Using the channel's web app you can set the default buffer times for recording and choose how many new or already monitored recordings to keep. You can also set these options per view on any device. Channels even support serial teams for sports teams, which is useful for when your favorite foot plays on Sunday or Thursday night.
Outside home viewing is also supported, both from the web app and on streaming TVs, although channels were having trouble detecting my router to set this up automatically. I had to strangle with the router's port-forwarding settings to make it work, but had no trouble streaming over a mobile data connection after that.
Channels provide many ways to fine-tune tune recordings.
Channels still lack a few options that give you even more control. You cannot filter out recordings from low-resolution channels, for example, and the channels of channels currently do not allow you to browse through upcoming programs. Because you have to go back to the web app. (Developer Fancy Bits says it works on a rich browsing tool that will work across all devices, but it's not yet available.)
It's also not possible to easily handle recording conflicts. Although you can prioritize programs so that your favorites are not transferred, channels do not give any warning when you have overbooked the DVR. To eradicate conflicts, you must manually scroll through the shooting plan, look for instances of overlap in each time slot.
Grid-based channel guides: The safety cover of modern DVR.
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Channels DVR shines when it comes to watching TV.
For live TV, there is a web-based channel guide that lets you filter channels by genre, watch only favorite channels, or watch only those in HD resolution. And while you can't browse each channel while live TV is playing in the background, you can record a mini-guide to turn between favorites.
With recordings, you can adjust the amount of time skipped when you fast-forward or rewind. Importantly, it offers an ad skipper for any recording that is no longer in progress.
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These dark purple bars represent all the ads you can skip.
Unlike the Plex ad-Skip feature, channels do not remove advertisements from recordings. Instead, it analyzes the video for commercial breaks and displays them as dark lines in the video prop line. When a break comes, you can double-click the remote's right button to jump directly to the end of the commercials. Although this approach means you need to keep the remote handy, it also avoids the danger of missing any actual programming if the ad detection fails. In any case, the feature feels like magic, especially if you haven't used a TiVo or other ADR DVR before. (It also highlights how many ad breaks are stuffed in some broadcast programs.)
Channels also deserve praise for the way it handles video playback on an Apple TV. Instead of using Apple's standard video player, the developers of channels developed a custom one, which can de-interlace 480i and 1080i channels for 60-frames per second playback. This makes live sports, news and talk songs look much smoother, as they would with an aerial connection over the air. No other DVR or network tuner offers this feature on Apple TV. (Like Plex, channels can also support 60 frames per second on Android TVs like Nvidia Shield and Amazon's Four TV Pendants, Four TV Cube and Four TV Stick 4K, as these devices have built-in deinterlacers. Unfortunately channels can Do not extend this option to older fire TVs, such as non-4K Fire TV jacks, because these devices are not just powerful enough.)
Between the star's video quality, surround sound support, jumps, grid guide and one numerous recording capabilities, channels can be a good option for line cutters that will have all the creative needs of a traditional DVR. But the cost – both up and down – is significantly higher than other DVR solutions, but the installation is a bit daunting, and limited device support still excludes Roku players, game consoles and most smart TVs.
As a result, Tablo's Dual Lite remains the easiest DVR compressor, and Plex still has a small edge for power users. However, if you want the best live TV experience, appreciating incoming broadcast quality on the Apple TV, or just not wanting overhead on a full Plex server, channels can only be worth paying for.
This review was updated February 21, 2019 to reflect the improvements the developer has made to the software. The reviewer's bottom line perception has also improved, resulting in a change in score from 3 stars to 3.5 stars.
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