Cord-cutting has become a natural progression for many early-adopting smart home consumers embracing a new era of television.
While ditching your paid subscription to cable services might bring about many positives, there’s always a downside…
How about if you want to watch live TV broadcasts or record them for playback later?
Your HD TV and Chromecast might give you plenty of scope - as our recent Chromecast article makes abundantly clear - but you won’t be able to enjoy the same flexibility you’d get with the traditional cable/DVR combo.
So, what do you do if you don’t want cable but still want one to watch or record over-the-air broadcasts?
Well, luckily, the mighty Amazon comes storming to the rescue once again.
Fire TV Recast is an innovative recording solution well worth your further investigation. While this weighty black box might look uninspiring, once you’ve seen Fire TV Recast in action, you’ll be far more interested in function than form.
Today, we’ll look at how Fire TV Recast can turn back the clock on your viewing experience without forcing you to regress to the cable package you so gleefully left behind.
What Is Fire TV Recast?
Physically, Fire TV Recast is a bland and bulky 7 x 7 x 3 inch black box, the front peppered with ventilation holes. While it’s not the slimmest smart device on the market and it’s certainly no looker, does that really matter? In reality, no. You’ll be placing it where you get optimum antenna reception which is likely to be by a window so aesthetics are hardly a deal-breaker.
The device allows you to record OTA broadcasts then play them back whenever you like. Fire TV Recast gets TV signals from HD antenna then pings them to a Fire TV device over a WiFi connection.
Inside, there’s a hard drive so you can record broadcasts. In back, you’ll find a co-axial port where the antenna goes in, USB 3.0 and Ethernet ports and the power. The USB is intended for external storage but it’s not yet enabled so currently serves no purpose.
So, aside from the big black box itself, what else do you need to get going?
Fire TV Recast: What Do You Need?
The first prerequisite is an HD antenna.
You’ll also need one of Amazon’s Fire TV Stick streaming devices. Failing this, you can use Echo Show.
Download the Fire TV app for your smartphone and you’re in business.
Setting Up Fire TV Recast
Plug your Fire TV stick into your television if it’s not already in there. This is your conduit for accessing the full gamut of Amazon video content.
Make sure your HD antenna is plugged directly into your Fire TV Recast. This enables you to receive local OTA channels. Placement can have a dramatic impact on the number of channels you get so experiment and find the best spot in the house. Be patient. It’ll be worth it.
Get your chosen mobile device and the Fire TV app. Fire TV Recast itself has no user interface and there’s currently no web portal either.
Where Fire TV app previously only served as a remote for the stable of Fire TV devices, the most recent version supports Recast.
Choose Set Up a New Fire TV Recast. When all the physical connections are in place, just punch in your WiFi network details and link your Recast with your Amazon account.
Set-up takes little more than 10 minutes as Recast scans for all available channels.
The home screen on Fire TV will now show a couple new items: DVR appears along the top while Playing Now pops up a little further down. You’ll get the usual thumbnail and progress bar.
Before we look at Recast in action, a few words about the two different models…
2-Tuner Fire TV Recast
• The 2-tuner model has a 500GB hard drive.
• You’ll be able to record 2 programs at once.
• If you’re using different devices, you can watch 1 live program and 1 recorded program simultaneously. You’ll also be able to record another program as you do this.
• If you’re just dealing with recorded programs, you can watch 2 recorded broadcasts on different devices while also managing to record 2 programs at the same time.
• For live programs, you can watch up to 2 programs simultaneously, again using different devices.
4-Tuner Fire TV Recast
• The 4-tuner model has a 1TB hard drive.
• This model enables you to record up to 4 programs at the same time.
• Using different devices, you can watch 1 live program and 1 recorded program. As you do this, you can record up to 3 programs.
• The 4-tuner beasts allows you to watch 2 recorded programs if you’re using different devices. At the same time, you can record 4 programs.
• Again with different devices, you can watch 2 live programs simultaneously. You’ll also be able to record 2 programs at the same time.
Roll with whichever one makes sense for you based on functionality and the size of the hard drive. There’s no right or wrong answer here. As with every element of your smart home, being clear about your needs will lead you to a personalized solution rather than a wasted purchase.
To give you some idea of what those stats equate to in terms of viewing, the smaller model should give you something like 75 hours of recorded HD DVR. This is logically doubled up to 150 hours with the 4-tuner Fire TV Recast.
While the more expensive model allows for more leeway with recording, you’ll still be limited to watching 2 live streams. According to Amazon, this is to guarantee the highest quality but you might find this insufficient for your needs. If so, you’re better off avoiding Fire TV Recast altogether. We’d never push you in the direction of anything that would be unfit for purpose.
Limited to Fire TV Devices: Limiting For Some, A Bonus For Others…
Arguably the biggest downside with Recast is that you need a Fire TV device. It’s not compatible with anything non-Amazon such as Apple TV, Roku. Chromecast or the vast bulk of smart TVs. This is a serious limitation in our view. While you can get around this by mirroring screens, it’s not the most effective workaround since the screen needs to be on the Fire TV app throughout.
That said, if you’re already invested into Fire TV, this is not a limitation in any sense and indeed turns itself into a huge bonus…
You won’t need to keep hopping between apps and you’ll be able to perform a full range of tasks from accessing live channels and DVR settings to browsing recordings directly from the Fire TV menu on-screen.
If you’re an Amazon fan, you’ll also appreciate the ability to use Alexa voice commands with Recast. Whether you want to play your recordings, launch live broadcasts or fire up the channel guide, you can do this with voice commands.
Whether or not Amazon will eventually allow Recast to work in harmony with other devices remains to be seen but the integration and voice controls means you’re always likely to get a superior experience with Fire TV. Only you know whether this will be a positive or negative for you.
Other Limitations With Fire TV Recast
The first notable snag to mention concerns streaming outside your home. You’ll only be able to view content on an iOS or Android mobile or a Fire tablet, not a Fire TV stick. You won’t be able to download recordings to your mobile device either but this is a minor blow rather than a deal-breaker.
If you’re using Fire TV Stick 4K, you might notice some tedious image pixilation issues, a bug Amazon has come clean about but not yet fixed.
Beyond this, you might run into some snags with glitches calling for a quick restart when you get stuck on a loading screen. This is really no more or less than you’d expect from any tech and, overall, we have to say Recast TV feels far more baked in than most first-gen kit.
Frame Rate Issues
Pretty much all networked DVRs come with an inbuilt problem: consistent, smooth frame rates across all channels.
Fire TV devices struggle badly with 60 frames-per-second videos unless you go to the lengths of disabling transcoding. This will help reduce the amount of bandwidth you use. The consequence is that content tends to look choppy, particularly when you’re watching sports.
Recast, though, surmounts this issue quite neatly. You’ll get a potent onboard transcoder so channels (up to a maximum of 720p resolution) are converted to 60 frames-per-second. The addition of 5.1 surround sound lends to an overall robust experience.
An Abundance of DVR Options
Amazon Fire TV Recast comes fully into its own when recording live TV.
As you would expect, you can record entire series without needing to do more than set recording up once.
You can make a number of tweaks from adding buffer times to make sure you get the whole program in, you’ll be able to protect any recordings from being accidentally deleted, put a stop to recording re-runs and limit recording to HD or SD. You’ll also be able to set priorities.
Live TV gives you an equally flexible experience. As soon as you tune in to any live channel, you’ll get an automatically created buffer. This stops you needing to create a recording and you’ll immediately be able to pause or rewind.
Any time you hit the remote, you’ll get a guide on-screen. This is a scaled-down version that circumvents the need to minimize or close what you’re watching and a welcome touch.
On the flipside, you won’t be able to manually schedule recordings. There’s also an upper limit of one hour with buffer times. This can become problematic with sports games so buyer, beware. Avoiding ads is not an option either so you’ll have to settle for whizzing them on 30 seconds at a time. This is perhaps the most frustrating niggle of all with Recast.
Fire TV Recast: Good vs Bad
As we edge to a close today, here’s a snapshot of the leading advantages and drawbacks of Fire TV Recast. You’ll see it’s a pretty even balance so double down on what’s important to you and see how the equation stacks up before we round out with our verdict…
• You can record up to 4 programs simultaneously
• Record and stream free OTA programs TV channels with no subscription
• Set-up simple even if you’re not the biggest tech lover
• Use Alexa voice-based commands
• Streaming is rock-solid as long as you have a WiFi connection to do it justice
• Certainly not a cheap solution
• You’ll need Fire TV Stick or Echo Show along with an antenna
• Antenna placement can be problematic
• Design is unimpressive
• Not the widest selection of content
Verdict: Should You Buy Fire TV Recast?
The three main questions to ask yourself before deciding whether Fire TV Recast makes sense are these:
• Do you badly want to cut your cable?
• Are you committed and tied in to Amazon’s ecosystem?
• Do you really need to record OTA broadcasts on a regular basis?
If you’re answering a resounding “Yes” to each of these posers, then Fire TV Recast is a no-brainer as long as you’ve got the budget for it. In fact, even if you’re not already fully sold on the Amazon experience, Recast still makes a superb DVR so it’s still worth considering.
We take our hats off to the ease of set-up, user-friendly navigation and the fact you’ll have no ongoing subscription costs to contend with.
Fire TV Recast is not for everyone but then what smart home equipment is?
Come back soon as we’re limbering up for another great year in 2019 here at Smart Home bringing the best smart home news and information. See you soon!