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The TiVo Bolt OTA Takes The Pain Out Of Cord-Cutting

By Jacob Green



  • Product Name: Bolt
  • Manufacturer: TiVo
  • Review Date: February 25, 2019 22:00
  • MSRP: $250 + service fees
  • First Impression: Pretty Cool
  • Buy Now
  • Hard Drive: 1TB internal
  • DVR Capacity: 150 hours of HD content
  • Tuner: 4-channels simultaneous
  • Dimensions (H x W x D): 1.8” x 11.4” x 7.3”
  • Weight: 1.9 lbs

Executive Overview

On December 26th of 2018, my household officially joined the cord-cutters club. For the first time since 1988, I don’t have cable TV (at least not in the traditional, non-streaming sense). The process has been relatively painless thanks to a high-speed internet connection, a Roku set-top box, and the plethora of streaming services that are finally creating real competition for the big cable companies. If you aren’t satisfied with your cable company’s bloated content packages and sluggish hardware, you have options. Subscriptions to Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, HBO, and Sling TV are providing nearly everything I could ever want to watch, but there are some notable omissions. If you’re a fan of local news and sports, you might not be fully satisfied with your chosen collection of streaming services. And then there’s CBS, which has decided not to play nice with streaming TV providers like Hulu and Sling. Instead, the network has created its own streaming offering called CBS All Access. If you don’t want to pay the monthly subscription fee (and if you’re willing to forego some exclusive, streaming-only content, such as Star Trek: Discovery), you might find yourself hooking up an HD antenna to capture the free, over-the-air broadcasts of CBS shows. And unless you’re willing to race to the sofa to watch Madam Secretary (and an awful lot of commercials) in real time, you might find yourself where I find myself now: researching DVRs designed for over-the-air (OTA) TV. Where better to start than with TiVo? In September of 2018, the company that first popularized and perfected the DVR introduced a new product called the TiVo Bolt OTA, which can record up to four over-the-air shows at once, and store up to 150 hours of high-definition content on its built-in 1TB hard drive.

TiVo Bolt OTA Rear view

TiVo Bolt OTA Rear View

First, the bad news. The TiVo Bolt OTA costs a substantial $250, and that doesn’t include TiVo’s service fees, which add $7 per month, or $70 per year, depending on how you choose to be billed. If you’re ready to commit long-term, you can pay a one-time fee of $250 for a lifetime of service, bringing the total cost of the Bolt OTA up to $500. If you’re quitting cable in order to save money, this might be a tough pill to swallow. And there’s no getting around TiVo’s service fees — you can’t program a recording the old-fashioned way by manually inputting a date, time, and channel. But there’s good news too, especially for all of the videophiles out there. Over-the-air HD broadcasts will often look better than their cable and satellite counterparts, which are unlikely to deliver the ideal 19.2 megabits-per-second of bandwidth, thanks to the aggressive use of video compression. For some, the improved effective resolution will be a noticeable upgrade. And the Bolt OTA is definitely an upgrade over TiVo’s previous over-the-air DVR, the Roamio OTA. TiVo's vice president of consumer products and services, Ted Malone, says that the processor in the Bolt OTA is seven times faster than its predecessor’s. And unlike the Roamio OTA, the Bolt OTA can stream content to iOS and Android devices on your home network, as well as to multi-room extenders.

Although the Bolt OTA is a 1080p recorder, its upgraded internals can support streamed content at 4K resolution from a variety of built-in streaming services and apps, including Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, HBO Go, YouTube, Vudu, and Epix. The inclusion of these streaming services may seem redundant if you already have a smart TV (or a separate streaming device such as a Roku, Apple TV, or Amazon Fire TV), but the TiVo Bolt OTA can search for specific shows across over-the-air and streaming platforms, making it easier to find what you’re looking for. For example, if you search for the ABC show Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on the Bolt OTA, the slick on-screen guide will show recent episodes saved on your DVR, upcoming episodes scheduled to broadcast over the air, earlier episodes from the current season available on Hulu, and older seasons available on Netflix, all in the same place. (According to Malone, TiVo doesn’t take a cut of non-TiVo subscription fees.) A voice remote is included, and you can use the Bolt OTA in conjunction with an Amazon Echo to allow Alexa to control playback functions. TiVo has said that Google Home will eventually be supported as well. The TiVo also features “SkipMode,” which will mercifully jump over a whole block of commercials in your recorded shows with one press of a button, saving you about 18 minutes of commercial-watching per hour-long episode of TV. The Bolt OTA includes an HDMI cable, but you’ll have to provide your own antenna to get up and running. In addition to the HDMI output, the Bolt OTA has a coax antenna input, an optical digital audio output, a 3.5mm analog audio output, an Ethernet input, two USB ports, and an eSATA port for connecting an external hard drive for additional/backup storage.

All things told, the Bolt OTA is an appealing option but it’s not the only show in town. Before I decide on an over-the-air DVR, I’ll also be looking into Amazon’s Fire TV Recast, as well as a model called the AirTV, which is designed to integrate with Sling’s streaming service.

Will the TiVo Bolt OTA justify its higher price? Share your thoughts in the related forum thread below.

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Recent Forum Posts:

AcuDefTechGuy posts on March 04, 2019 07:04
Phase 2, post: 1302470, member: 87062
Andrew, GOT better be worth the wait. Seems to be some fairly new members participating more which is a good thing, but your right seems to have slowed down a lot.
I hope GOT is worth the wait too.

But I feel better knowing that they are going to do a spinoff of GOT - I think the setting for the new show is about 10,000 years before the time of GOT. Hopefully the spinoff will be just as great and also last another 8 years.
Phase 2 posts on March 04, 2019 06:57
AcuDefTechGuy, post: 1302452, member: 26997
Yeah, by December you’ll probably get GOT BluRay as a gift.
Andrew, GOT better be worth the wait. Seems to be some fairly new members participating more which is a good thing, but your right seems to have slowed down a lot.
VonMagnum posts on March 04, 2019 00:47
I just found a TRON recognizer neon sign that looks like the one Flynn has in his little arcade apartment (although not sitting on top of the transformer). Then there's the prophesy ball and Bellatrix's dagger…. Too much junk you can buy. I just put some remote controlled hidden accent lighting in behind the chair (sits flat on the floor facing up LED ‘dish’) in the corner with the movie posters behind it. Now all the posters light up in the back of the room. I can put the TRON Neon sign on the fireplace hearth… Maybe the Christmas Story leg lamp in the back corner instead of the ship's wheel lamp I have now…
AcuDefTechGuy posts on March 03, 2019 22:39
VonMagnum, post: 1302358, member: 86028
I might look for a Harry Potter wand next….

Both my daughters have a Harry Potter wand from Universal Studio for $50 each.

Yeah, a bigger screen is great.
AcuDefTechGuy posts on March 03, 2019 22:35
Phase 2, post: 1302361, member: 87062
I just wait for GOT to come out on Blu Ray. They took so long, should be out by December.
Yeah, by December you’ll probably get GOT BluRay as a gift.
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