How to Choose a Whole-House DVR System

If you want to have DVR on multiple TVs in your home you have a few options.

TIVO Roamio OTA 1TB DVR
TIVO Roamio OTA 1TB DVR.

Photo from Amazon

There is a whole-home DVR solution for everyone. Whether you subscribe to cable, satellite, or TiVo, or use an HD antenna to pick up broadcast stations, there is a way to get DVR in multiple rooms of your home.

Not all of the solutions are easy and some will cost extra, but it is possible. Moreover, you may find it smarter to cut the cord and rely on streaming devices instead. Let's look at your options for getting TV to more than one room in your house.

TiVo Minis for Each TV

TiVo remains one of the leaders in DVR tech, and many cable subscribers find the monthly service plan more affordable than what their cable providers offer. When it comes to whole-home DVR, this is one of the easiest set-ups you can get.

With one of TiVo's main set-top DVR boxes, all you need to get is a TiVo Mini for each additional TV you'd like to include in your DVR package. This goes for the standard TiVo cable DVR, as well as the TiVo Bolt and TiVo's over-the-air (OTA) box, Roamio.

Multi-Room DVRs Through Your Cable Provider

Cable and satellite providers know their customers want access to content on multiple TVs. Almost every service provider offers the ability to have a single DVR provide content to several TVs in your home. Of course, you should expect to pay more for such a service. Some companies charge a nominal fee for the upgrade, but others can be quite expensive. 

In addition to whole-home DVR options, many cable and satellite companies offer the ability to watch both live and recorded TV on smartphones, tablets, and computers. So, for instance, if the kids don't need a TV in their rooms and have a tablet or laptop instead, they can still watch streaming and recorded DVR content. Some people may find that option preferable.

Multi-Room DVRs for HD Antennas

If you rely on an HD antenna for local broadcast television, there are a few DVR options that will work with more than one TV. These do require more hardware and you should have a good internet connection in your home, but this is how you would record over-the-air content from ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, or PBS.

  • Tablo is one the best options and includes a 24-hour channel guide for free. (A two-week channel guide is available for a small monthly subscription.) You will need an internet streaming device like a Roku, Amazon Fire, Android TV, or Chromecast. Also, an external USB hard drive is required for recording.
  • Channel Master is another option that works more or less like Tablo. You will need the same hardware and accessories to run it.

If you really want to record your favorite shows from broadcast TV stations, either of those options used in conjunction with your streaming device is a more affordable option than a dedicated DVR box.

Multi-Room DVRs for Home Theater PC

Windows Media Center

Windows Media Center (WMC) used to be the go-to whole-home DVR solution for home theater systems. But with the introduction of Windows 10 in 2015, the software was discontinued. There are ways to adopt the function of WMC for a Windows 10 device, but many users who have relied on WMC have simply opted not to upgrade their operating systems.

Through the use of Media Center Extenders (like an Xbox), a PC with WMC allows you to use your local network to send TV anywhere in your home. A standard Media Center system can support up to five extenders. That's a total of six TVs that can all be run by a single PC.

SageTV

SageTV is another HTPC solution that allows you to use extenders (the Sage HD-200 or HD-300) to power additional TVs in your home. Like Windows Media Center, however, the service has pretty much been replaced, but the software is available as open source. Advanced HTPC users who don't mind messing around with software and hardware may find this solution appealing.

Though more complicated than WMC, SageTV has some advantages over WMC, including support for more types of video content. One shortfall is that SageTV does not supports CableCARD tuners. That might make it difficult to record cable content without use of a third-party device.

If you are an OTA user, SageTV will work just as well as WMC when it comes to getting TV to other locations in your home.

Just Stream It

While DVR systems are widely enjoyed for recording and saving cable or broadcast content, streaming platforms like Roku, Amazon, Apple TV are getting more and more competitive, often including content that was previously reserved for cable packages.

The two holdouts for cord-cutting are local news and sports, but even those are coming around. Roku's NewsOn, for example, searches for the closest participating news broadcast in your area. And for sports, every major sports league and network station has an app to deliver games and content to streaming platforms.

All this begs the question of whether or not a DVR is even necessary anymore. Look into all your options. Note the programming you enjoy most and find out where and how that content is available. If you can stream it, why bother with the DVR?