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Top 5 DVRs of 2021

CableTV.com researched five DVRs that will add maximum flexibility to your minimum-activity moments.

Best overall

DISH Hopper 3
Price: $15/mo.
Storage: 500 hrs.
Tuners: 16

Best third-party DVR

TiVo EDGE for Cable
Price: $395.99
Storage: 300 hrs.
Tuners: 4

Most storage

Cox Contour Record 24
Price: $29.99/mo.
Storage: 1,000 hrs.
Tuners: 24

Best included DVR

DIRECTV Genie
Price: Included with service
Storage: 200 hrs.
Tuners: 5

Best OTA DVR

Amazon Fire TV Recast
Price: $199.99
Storage: 150 hrs.
Tuners: 4

Do you love TV but don’t have a schedule that lets you watch your favorite shows when they air? You need a DVR.

For those looking for simply the best, we recommend the Hopper 3 from DISH. But if you don’t want a TV contract, then the Amazon Fire TV Recast is your best bet.

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Best DVRs

Compare top DVRs

Swipe Left to See All →
ModelPriceSimultaneous
recordings
HD storageDetails
Best overall
DISH Hopper 3
$15/mo.16500 hrs.
Best third-party DVR
TiVo EDGE for Cable
$395.99 + $14.99/mo.6300 hrs.
Most storage
Cox Contour Record 24
$29.99/mo.241,000 hrs.
Best included DVR
DIRECTV Genie
Included with service5200 hrs.
Best OTA DVR
Amazon Fire TV Recast
$199.994150 hrs.
Good for cord-cutters
Tablo Quad OTA DVR
$179.994Up to 4,000 hrs. (external)

Data effective as of post date. Pricing and features are subject to change. Not all offers available in all areas.

Okay, pause whatever you’re watching so we can go over our best DVRs for 2021.

Those of you who don’t mind paying a little extra for high storage capacity and lots of simultaneous recordings, will like the DISH Hopper 3 (500 hours, 16 recordings).

If you don’t mind paying a lot extra for those meaty features, and you live in Cox’s service area, get the Contour Record 24 (1,000 hours, 24 tuners).

If you don’t care for fees, DIRECTV’s Genie stores 200 hours and records five programs at once, and comes included with your TV plan.

The TiVo EDGE for Cable has a high purchase price, plus monthly service and CableCARD fees—but great storage and recording capability. It also has the benefit of flexibility, for those of you who prefer the freedom of no-contract TV plans.

If you’re a cord-cutter, you’ll appreciate the Amazon Fire TV Recast’s reasonable pricing and storage.

If you want more storage, the Tablo Quad OTA DVR is the same price—but you’ll have to buy separate external drives. And OTA DVRs record only the channels you can get with your OTA antenna.

For a deeper look at our picks, see the individual reviews below.

Best overall: DISH Hopper 3

Price: Starts at $15/mo.
Storage: 500 hrs.
Tuners: 16

Pros

  • 4K Ultra HD capability
  • Commercial auto-skip
  • Mobile viewing and control
  • Multiview sports bar function
  • Netflix and YouTube app integration
  • Voice control with Alexa

Cons

  • Required DISH subscription
  • Monthly fee

If you’re a TV fanatic, the DISH Hopper 3 is the most satisfying thing since the Breaking Bad series finale. DISH’s device stores an impressive 500 hours of HD storage, and allows you to record up to 16 programs at once.

Pro tip: Only the Cox Contour Record 24 beats those stats—but it’s twice the price of the Hopper 3. We’ll discuss DISH DVR fees in a sec and the Contour 24 in its own section.

The Hopper 3 also has Alexa integration for hands-free control of your Hopper 3 and any Joey extenders you might have for your other TVs. Other modern must-have features include commercial auto-skip, integrated streaming apps (Netflix, YouTube, and more), and a voice remote.

You know what else? You don’t have to be home to enjoy your DISH programming. The DISH Anywhere app lets you download your Hopper 3 recordings to your mobile device for offline watching on the go.

If there’s something we don’t like about the Hopper 3, it’s the $15 monthly service fee. But these are growing more common with cable and satellite TV providers, so it’s not that bad. But maybe ask your wallet what it thinks about the fee.

Obviously, we’re sold on the Hopper 3 (hence, it’s our pick for best overall). But if you need more deets before you fall in love with the DISH DVR, we’ve got a full review dedicated to it.

See DISH plans

Best third-party DVR: TiVo EDGE

Price: $395.99 + $14.99/mo.
Storage: 300 hrs.
Tuners: 6

Pros

  • Live, recorded, and streaming TV in one device
  • No storage limit on recordings
  • Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision
  • Voice remote
  • Flexibility (works with any cable TV provider)

Cons

  • High 1-time charge plus monthly subscription
  • No satellite TV or fiber TV compatibility
  • CableCARD requirement ($2–$4/mo.)
  • Inability to record from streaming apps

With the TiVo EDGE, you can record six shows at once and save 300 hours of HD TV and keep your recordings until you delete them.

That’s not all. The TiVo EDGE allows you to watch programs faster with QuickMode, skip commercials with a single tap, and control it hands-free with the included voice remote.

Guess what? There’s more: The EDGE even allows you to download, manage, and stream DVR recordings with TiVo Online or the TiVo app.

One drawback is that you’re paying a lot upfront to buy the EDGE. Also, TiVo charges a monthly service fee of $14.99, and you’ll need to rent a CableCARD (for decrypting signals) from your provider for $2.00–$4.00 a month.

The two fees combined are equal to or higher than you’ll pay for DVR service through your provider—but the freedom and functionality make the EDGE a better value in the long run.

And you can save money with an annual TiVo subscription for $149.99—a 20% discount. Or, if you’re a gambler, you can drop $549.99 on TiVo’s All-In subscription, which spans the life of the device and is transferable if you decide to sell your EDGE.

We recommend the annual sub. It’s a guaranteed 20% discount, whereas the lifetime sub won’t even start to show its value until your TiVo EDGE lasts 3 1/2 years.

Finally, remember that EDGE works only with cable TV. You won’t be able to use it with fiber or satellite TV providers. And, although the EDGE also has streaming app integration (Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Netflix, Pandora, Peacock, YouTube, and more), it will not record that content. And you’ll need separate subscriptions to use the apps.

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TiVo holiday deal alert! Now through Dec. 28, 2020, you can get an amazing deal on the TiVo EDGE for cable if you buy directly through TiVo.com. Check it out:

  • $150 off the TiVo EDGE for cable
  • Discount on TiVo service plans ($5 off monthly, $50 off annual, or $150 off All-In)
  • Free shipping and free returns
  • 30-day money-back guarantee

Most storage: Cox Contour Record 24 DVR

Price: $29.99/mo.
Storage: 1,000 hrs.
Tuners: 24

Pros

  • Most storage and tuners
  • Live TV fast-forward feature
  • Mobile management and viewing via Cox app
  • TV show and movie recommendations

Cons

  • High monthly fee
  • 1-yr. storage limit on recordings
  • No out-of-this-world features
  • Required Cox Contour subscription

Are you a glutton for TV? Us, too! How does 1,000 hours of HD storage and 24 simultaneous recordings sound? That’s whatcha get with the Contour Record 24 from Cox.

What’s the catch? It’s gonna set you back $29.99 a month. With Cox’s Contour TV plan ($69.99 a month), you’ll be paying $100 monthly. That’s pretty expensive for 140+ channels plus DVR service.

But the heart wants what the heart wants. And maybe your heart likes to pig out on TV. So if you can afford the Contour Record 24, go for it. After all, 1,000 hours is at least 500 movies.

Except there’s one more catch: you can keep your Contour DVR recordings for only one year. To us, that makes the $29.99 DVR fee much too high. For that price, you should be able to keep recordings indefinitely.

But if Cox is the only provider in your area (or the only one left you have tried and found wanting), we recommend going with the Contour Record 6 instead.

The Record 6 has 250 hours of storage and 6 tuners (so you can record six programs at once), and it’s $19.99 per month. (That’s still high, but we are talking about Cox being your last resort.)

See Cox plans

Best included DVR: DIRECTV Genie HD DVR (HR54)

Price: Included in service
Storage: 200 hrs.
Tuners: 5

Pros

  • 4K Ultra HD compatibility
  • Live TV restart for select shows
  • Multiview sports bar function with NFL SUNDAY TICKET
  • Picture-in-picture viewing

Cons

  • Required DIRECTV subscription

If you’re nervous about extra monthly fees, the Genie from DIRECTV will grant your wish for an affordable DVR. DIRECTV’s packages each come with a Genie DVR included in the price.

The Genie can record only five shows simultaneously (the lowest number of any DVR on our list), but it has a respectable amount of storage optimized for HD and 3D content.

Sports fans will enjoy how the Genie interacts with NFL SUNDAY TICKET. You can program your DVR with a “mix channel,” which allows you to watch up to eight live sports programs simultaneously.

For the 4K HD lovers, DIRECTV offers additional Genie Wireless Minis that can deliver 4K HD movies and shows on up to four TVs without the clutter of cords.

So stop dealing with a dated DVR to save money. The Genie will grant your wish for dynamic TV at no extra cost.

For more on the Genie DVR, check out our full review.

See DIRECTV plans

Best OTA DVR: Amazon Fire TV Recast

Price: $199.99
Storage: 150 hrs.
Tuners: 4

Pros

  • No subscription fees
  • User-friendly on-screen guide
  • Voice control through Alexa

Cons

  • Fire TV Stick requirement
  • No commercial-skipping feature

If you’re into antenna-TV instead of cable TV, that’s okay—our feelings aren’t hurt. And more importantly, you can still get a DVR to record your local channels, like ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, PBS, and The CW. Of all the over-the-air DVRs out there, we recommend Fire TV Recast.

To use the Fire TV Recast, you’ll need an HD antenna and a Fire TV Stick. Sorry Roku and Apple TV fans, your streaming device is no good here.

Other than the restricted device compatibility, the Fire TV Recast comes close to being the dream OTA DVR. It has a beautiful on-screen guide and no subscription fees. It even works with Alexa through the Fire TV voice remote or Amazon Echo.

The Fire TV Recast can also rewind and pause live TV. It doesn’t have much of a commercial skipping feature, though. You’ll have to jump forward 30 seconds at a time, which might wear out your thumb during three-minute commercial breaks.

There are other good OTA DVRs out there if this one doesn’t scratch your itch. Tablo and TiVo Bolt OTA each have their own fanbases.

But even if the Fire TV Recast isn’t perfect, we still think it’s an excellent alternative to TiVo and Tablo thanks to its mobile compatibility and lack of subscription fees.

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Good for cord-cutters: Tablo Quad OTA DVR

Price: $179.99
Storage: up to 4,000 hrs. (external drives)
Tuners: 4

Pros

  • Incredible storage capacity
  • Recordings that don’t expire
  • 5.1 surround sound
  • Roku compatibility

Cons

  • Ability to record only live broadcast channels
  • External hard drive requirement
  • Subscription requirement for guide, advanced features

The Tablo Quad OTA DVR holds up to 4,000 hours of HD content, and it’s $20 cheaper than the Amazon Fire TV Recast? Why honorable mention and not best overall?

It’s the storage. The Tablo Quad has no internal storage, so you’re gonna have to buy an external hard drive. A 2 TB drive starts around $57.00 and will store around 300 hours of HD content—but you can go all the way up to 8 TB if your appetite for TV is hearty.

What the Tablo Quad does have is four tuners (so you can record up to four shows at once), out-of-home streaming, Roku compatibility, and no expiration date on recordings. So it’s a pretty sweet machine, but you’ll pay more out of pocket because of the external hard drive requirement.

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What to look for in a DVR

DVRs with lots of bells and whistles are neat, but the core of any DVR is that it can record multiple shows and keep those stored long enough for you to enjoy them.

And except for TiVo, most DVRs work with only one TV provider. Make sure the DVR you want comes from a provider that services your area.

Simultaneous recordings

Human beings might not be good at multitasking, but DVRs are. Depending on how many tuners a DVR has, it can record several shows at once and even let you watch something at the same time.

Most DVRs include at least four tuners, which means you can record up to four shows simultaneously. Some old DVRs might have fewer, though, so check that feature if you’re not going with one of our top five DVRs.

Pro Tip: You can’t beat the Hopper 3 for this feature. It can record sixteen shows at once, which is perfect if you have a huge family that can never agree on a show—or if you happen to be a professional TV watcher.

Storage

Want to hang on to your favorite shows longer? Going for more storage space can help with that.

With enough storage, you can keep hundreds of HD episodes on your DVR for a rainy day. With too little storage, you’ll have to either part with those shows sooner or settle for lower-quality SD recordings.

To avoid either of those nightmarish outcomes, aim for a DVR that has at least 1 TB of storage. That will hold about 150 hours of crisp HD video and save you from having to delete old recordings very often.

And if your TV appetite demands that you have all the shows, the Tablo Quad OTA DVR uses only external storage—up to 8 TB hard drives, or 4,000 hours of HD content.

Storage space vs. hours of storage

You may have noticed some discrepancies above where certain DVRs have the same storage space but different hours of HD storage. One reason for this could be differing video compression software.

Video compression software takes the video you saved and encodes it to be much smaller. When you want to play it, the program will decompress the video for viewing. It’s basically just a more efficient way of storing video.

Area availability

Most providers offer their own DVRs. If you want a DVR we recommend, check to see that its provider is in your area. The reliable features of the Contour Record 24 won’t help you much if you don’t live in a Cox service area.

Want to see which providers from our top five DVRs are in your area? Enter your zip code below, and we’ll let you know.

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Final take: start recording

So there ya go: five DVRs that you can be proud to add to your entertainment center. Obviously, despite its $15 monthly fee, we prefer the DISH Hopper 3’s high storage, 16 tuners, and assorted bells and whistles.

We also dig the features and functionality of the DIRECTV Genie, TiVo EDGE for Cable, Amazon Fire TV Recast, and Tablo Quad OTA DVR, Same goes for Cox’s awesomely overpowered (and overpriced) Contour Record 24.

Good luck in your search for a DVR box that rocks.

Related articles

To learn more about some of the cable and satellite TV providers whose DVRs we recommend here, check out our full reviews.

Our methodology

Each year CableTV.com sizes up all of the DVRs out there—so you don’t have to—and picks the top five based on features, storage, and user experience.

We also update the list regularly to account for changes in price and product availability. (If you wanna return the favor, we could use help choosing what to have for lunch tomorrow. Burritos? Tacos? The struggle is real.)

Best DVR FAQ

How much does a DVR cost?

Different circumstances call for different DVRs. Here’s what you’ll pay for the most common ones:

  • TV provider DVRs ($0.00–$29.99/mo.): If you use your provider’s DVR, expect to pay $4.99–$29.99 per month (the average is $15.00). One exception, DIRECTV, doesn’t charge for its Genie DVR.
  • Third-party DVRs ($100–$500, plus fees): Buying a provider-compatible third-party DVR could be cheaper than renting in the long term, but monthly service and CableCARD fees could reduce your savings.
  • Over-the-air (OTA) DVRs ($180–$500, plus fees): Same deal as above—you buy this DVR outright, and have the same fees—but these DVRs work only with OTA TV antennas.
  • Cloud DVRs ($0.00–$20.00 a month): Livestreaming providers and some cable and fiber services offer cloud DVR service for a fee ($5.00–$10.00/mo. is the average).

How can I record over-the-air TV?

To record over-the-air (OTA) TV, you’ll need an OTA antenna (we recommend the Mohu Leaf) and a compatible DVR (we like the Amazon Fire Recast and the Tablo Quad OTA DVR).

How can I record streaming TV?

Most livestreaming TV providers offer a cloud DVR, which you can schedule to record your favorite shows.
Philo and YouTube TV let you keep an unlimited number of shows for a limited period.

Hulu + Live TV, fuboTV, and Sling TV have limited storage, but you can keep shows as long as you like.

How does TiVo work without cable?

TiVo EDGE connects with an HD antenna (sold separately) which receives OTA signals.

OTA DVRs like this are handy for recording shows on locally broadcasted channels—no monthly payments necessary.

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