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TiVo tries to win over cord cutters with its Bolt OTA DVR

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But can it overcome Amazon’s new Fire TV Recast?

Photo: TiVo

It’s been over four years since TiVo released the Roamio OTA, a cheaper version of its then-flagship Roamio DVR that offered TiVo’s famed TV recording features in a box specifically meant for cable-cutting customers. The rest of the TiVo line has long moved on, in the form of the Bolt family of products, and now, over-the-air customers are getting an upgrade, too — in the form of the Bolt OTA.

As the name suggests, the Bolt OTA is basically a stripped-down TiVo Bolt — there’s no cable card or cable tuners, just a jack to plug in your over-the-air antenna. Like the regular Bolt, it supports 4K and HDR (both new additions from the Roamio OTA), and the company says that it’s seven times faster and comes with three times the memory of the previous model.

The software is all the same as the Bolt Vox, with support for TiVo’s voice remote, Alexa integration, and all the same streaming services that TiVo offers. It puts the Bolt OTA in a bit of a weird place: the regular Bolt hasn’t really been updated since it was first launched in 2015; the Bolt Vox in 2017 mostly added a voice remote and some cosmetic changes. But because the Bolt OTA is meant to be the new entry-level model, it can’t surpass the existing Bolt — only meet it where it’s currently at, despite coming out years later.

The Bolt OTA costs $249 for 1TB of storage, with either a monthly $6.99 fee for the TiVo DVR service (dramatically reduced from the usual $14.99 per month the company charges on the cable Bolt), or a flat $249 fee for lifetime service.

Compare that to the base model of the Bolt Vox, which costs $299.99 for a comparable 1TB model, with an additional lifetime service cost of $549.99 — although there is a cheaper $199.99 500GB Bolt Vox, and both of those Bolt models also support antenna if you prefer. It turns out the real savings here end up mostly coming from the cheaper fee TiVo is offering for its service. Still, if you like TiVo and don’t pay for full cable, it’s not a bad deal.

Or at least, it may have been, until a week ago, when Amazon took the wraps off its own rumored OTA DVR for cord cutters, the Amazon Fire TV Recast. Now, there are a few differences between the Fire TV Recast and the Bolt OTA. Namely, the Fire TV Recast doesn’t actually connect to a TV — you’ll need to connect a separate Fire TV box or stick to your TV to get content. It can only record two shows at once, compared to the Bolt OTA’s four, and only offers 500GB of storage — at least on the base model (the pricier $279.99 matches the Bolt OTA on both those counts).

But Amazon’s solution also crucially doesn’t have that monthly service cost, which makes it a vastly cheaper option than TiVo’s in the long run. While we’ll have to put the Fire TV Recast and the Bolt OTA through their paces to see for sure, Amazon’s offering doesn’t look like great news for TiVo, and the availability of Amazon’s theoretically cheaper version is something to keep in mind for customers looking to outfit their home entertainment setup with a device of this type.

The Bolt OTA will be available from TiVo starting on Friday, September 28th.