Fire TV Recast: is it still worth buying for cable cutting?

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Among Amazon’s vast array of Fire TV devices, the Fire TV Recast looks like the ugly duckling.

This over-the-air antenna DVR was launched nearly three years ago and has received almost no significant software enhancements since then. In interviews, Amazon subtly indicated that Recast hasn’t been a big hit with cable cutters and that some of its features have become more difficult to access in Fire TVs. latest interface update.

But with the Fire TV Recast selling its week at a steep discount—BuyDig has it for $ 114, down from its original $ 230 – and more discounts likely to come around Black Friday, the Recast is worth a last look to see if it’s still a worthy investment.

Fire TV Recast explained

Fire TV Recast is similar to other networked over-the-air DVRs, such as the Tablo dual / quad, AirTV Everywhere, And DVR channels. However, it doesn’t have its own HDMI output; as such, it does not connect directly to the TV.

Instead, set up recast in an area with strong antenna reception and use your Wi-Fi network to stream video to other Fire TV devices, such as the new one. Fire TV Stick 4K Max. In this way, a single antenna and a DVR can power multiple TVs throughout the house. (It is necessary to provide your antenna.)

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A rough sketch of how Fire TV Recast works.

The basic model for sale via BuyDig this week It has 500GB of storage, great for recording around 75 hours of video, and can play or record up to two live channels at the same time. Amazon also sells a model with 1 TB of storage that can tune in to four channels at the same time, though it isn’t currently on sale at a discount. Both models support external USB hard drives, so you can add more recording space over time.

Unlike Tablo, Channels DVR and Plex DVR, the recast has no subscription costs. But it also has a big drawback: you can only stream video to Fire TV devices, iOS devices, and Android mobile devices. If you prefer other streaming TV platforms, like Roku, Chromecast, or Apple TV, Recast isn’t a place to start.

How is Recast holding up today?

It’s been a while since I’ve dusted off the Fire TV Recast review unit that Amazon sent me at the end of 2018, so I was curious to see how the experience held up.

The setup, done via the Fire TV mobile app, didn’t go so well this time around. Although the recast seemed to connect with my Wi-Fi router from about four feet away, and even appeared online on Amazon device management website, I was unable to connect via my iPhone, Android phone, or Fire TV devices. After an hour of reboot and reset, without the help of the recast anemic support page—I was able to connect via Fire TV Stick 4K Max and Pixel 4A 5G phone, but my iPhone refused to connect.

At least the basic viewing experience still works quite well. Recast channels appear directly within the Fire TV Live Guide, which itself gained more prominence in Amazon’s latest interface update. From Amazon’s channel grid, you can view over-the-air channels from Recast together other live streaming sourcesand you can both filter the list by source and mark channels as favorites.

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Once connected to your Wi-Fi network, Recast brings over-the-air channels into Live Guide on Fire TV devices.

That level of integration extends to the rest of Amazon’s home screen. Live channels appear in the “Recently Watched” section at the top of the screen, and shows you’ve recorded appear in the search results. You can also use Alexa’s voice commands to play a specific channel over the air or switch to your DVR.

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You’ll also see recently watched channels on the Fire TV home screen.

The DVR options also remain solid. You can add buffer times to each recording, keep only a certain number of recent episodes, and limit the recordings to a specific channel. Recast automatically allows you to pause and rewind live TV and you can watch recordings while the show is still in progress.

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Recast’s batch recording options can help you make the most of your storage space.

However, the problems that previously made Recast imperfect have continued to consolidate in recent years. Amazon never corrected the pixelation of the image I mentioned in my original review – it’s still present on the Fire TV Stick 4K Max as well – lending a strong tint to stills. Amazon doesn’t help skip the ads at all either. There is no automatic commercial detection, like what you find on Tablo, Plex and Channels DVR, and you don’t even get a visual preview when fast-forwarding your recordings.

Some changes to Amazon’s interface have also made the Recast experience worse. The DVR menu, which once had its own home screen tab, is now buried within the live tab, where you need to sift through several lines of unrelated content to reach it. Amazon has canceled its mini guide as well, so you can’t browse live channels without shrinking the live video down to the thumbnail size.

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Amazon offered a mini guide for recast users, as pictured above. Now he’s gone.

These could all be reasonable trade-offs for a no-subscription DVR costing just $ 114 at the time of this writing – at least if you’re all-in on Fire TV streaming players – but it also points out how Recast has become an afterthought in the lineup of Amazon.

How long will the recast take?

Given that the recast is already three years old, it is reasonable to ask whether it is nearing the end of its support term.

I don’t think it’s a big concern if you are satisfied with the product as it is today. like me written last weekAmazon now guarantees at least four years of security updates for its products, starting with the last time they were available for sale on Amazon.com. This gives the recast at least until 2025 for the core patches.

And while Amazon could potentially decide to stop providing TV guide data to Recast owners, that seems unlikely to me too. Amazon already provides the same guidance data for antenna users on its Fire TV Edition smart TVs, and the impact of Recast’s users on Amazon’s bottom line is likely a rounding error. Plus, those users are firmly rooted in Amazon’s ecosystem, viewing its ads on the home screen and potentially making additional purchases.

Don’t expect Fire TV Recast to improve over time. Last March, I asked Sandeep Gupta, Amazon’s vice president and general manager of Fire TV, the status of the recast, and he didn’t exactly paint a bright future for the product. He noted that users are now largely leaning on streaming services, making over-the-air TV less important than it once was, and said Recast had some technical barriers to entry.

“Overall, people feel more comfortable downloading an app and being able to access live content, rather than trying to set up something like a recast,” Gupta said at the time.

Amazon deserves some credit for making a whole-home antenna DVR in the first place, but ultimately it’s a niche product category best left to smaller gamers like Tablo, Channels, Plex, and AirTV. This may explain why it now appears on BuyDig, a site known for eliminate aging products—Less than half the price.

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