Channel Master is probably best known for the CM-7000PAL OTA DVR, which was better known as the Dish Network DTVPal DVR when it launched back in 2008 to coincide with the digital broadcast transition. It is still out there, still available direct for $304.99 as a basic OTA ATSC DVR. (Amazon is actually more at $342.43.) It is a very basic unit. A dual-tuner DVR that records up to 130 hours of SD or 30 hours of HD, it relies on the free guide data encoded in PSIP for ATSC broadcasts. It is more like a digital VCR really, with recordings by time and channel or set from the limited guide. No ‘Season Pass’ style features, searches by title, etc. But it is a simple OTA DVR with no service costs after purchase and that’s all some people want, but more and more cord cutters are looking for something with more to offer and the CM-7000PAL is a bit long in the tooth.
So Channel Master is launching a new box, the Channel Master TV, aka CM-7400. This new model moves Channel Master a bit further up market. The biggest change is the addition of networking support, with Ethernet as well as built-in 802.11b/g/n WiFi. Note the three antennas you can see in the image gallery are for the WiFi, not ATSC, you need an external ATSC antenna. WiFi support something they can claim over TiVo. While the CM-7000PAL is a dual-tuner ATSC-only DVR, the CM-7400 is a dual-tuner ATSC & clear QAM DVR. No CableCARD, so you won’t be recording any encrypted digital channels, but you’ll be able to record any digital channels your cable provider sends in the clear. Note that it is digital only, so no analog cable support. It has a 320GB hard drive, which they claim provides up to 35 hours of HD recording, or 150 hours of SD.
Taking advantage of the networking support the CM-7400 includes Vudu support. No Netflix, no Hulu Plus, YouTube, etc. So none of the more popular services you might expect, but Vudu. That includes Vudu’s movies as well as Vudu Apps. Vudu Apps gives the CM-7400 access to a number of services, such as Pandora, Flickr, Picasa, Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, Daily Motion, etc.
It still relies on the free guide data included with broadcasts to populate its guide. The new box claims“Advanced search features, schedule recordings, and parental control settings”, but it isn’t very specific so it isn’t clear how much of an improvement it is over the old box. However, as you can see from the image gallery, the UI is new and much improved.
The unit has two USB ports, which the documentation indicates can be used to attach a USB mass storage device, but there is no indication of what it would be used for. I’m presuming accessing media files, such as photos, for display. The unit does have an eSATA port, but the docs indicate it is for possible future expansion and not usable today.
The Channel Master TV CM-7400 is available for pre-order direct for $399.99, shipping in November. The dedicated ChannelMasterTV.com site has not yet gone live. If you’re curious you can check out PDFs of the Product Sheet, Brochure, or Quick Start Guide.
So, a worthy upgrade from the CM-7000PAL, but would I recommend this instead of a TiVo Premiere? No, I would not. The Channel Master TV is $399.99, while the TiVo Premiere is $99.99. Channel Master makes the argument that the TiVo requires monthly service, while the Channel Master TV does not, but that’s only half-true. First of all, you can currently get monthly service for just $9.99, instead of $19.99, if you use antenna only. So that would give you 30 months of service on the TiVo until you’ll have paid the same as the Channel Master TV. But that’s still not what I’d do.
No, I’d spend $99.99 on the TiVo Premiere (really less on Amazon and other sites) and buy product lifetime service, which is $499.99 for new subscribers, so $599.98 all paid for. Yes, that’s $200 more than the Channel Master TV. But for that $200 you get support for Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant View, Blockbuster On Demand, YouTube, Music Choice, and web videos. TiVo lacks Vudu, but for cord cutters these other services, missing from the CM-7400, offer a lot more choices, especially in TV content. TiVo also offers Pandora, Rhapsody, and Live365 music streaming, and photos from Photobucket and Picasa, as well as other services. And TiVo will stream video, music, and photos from devices on your LAN. Offers an official app for iOS (iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch), with one coming for Android, as well as third party apps for iOS and Android. Online scheduling support, season pass management, etc.
Speaking of Season Passes, that’s a basic feature of TiVo that is a huge advantage. TiVo has Season Passes, Wish Lists, Suggestions, etc. And TiVo has a detailed 14-day guide, with much more information and a longer span than the free guide data. These are all features you won’t find on the Channel Master TV, and I think they’re easily worth $200. Though you can cut $100 off the difference if you get a unit with MSD pricing, where lifetime is $399.99. You don’t have an active TiVo on an account to qualify? Do you know anyone with an active TiVo account? They can get MSD, and lifetime is tied to the unit, if they were to happen to pass it on to someone else. I’m just saying.
So for $100-$200 more than the Channel Master TV you can have a TiVo Premiere DVR with nothing more to pay – just like the Channel Master unit. Only you’ll have all of the advanced features of the TiVo software, and access to much, much more OTT content, which is key to cord cutting. And if you ever decide to go back to cable the TiVo is ready, just add CableCARD – the Channel Master TV can’t do that.
If cost is the overriding factor you can’t argue with the fact that the CM-7400 is the lower cost option. But, in may ways, you get what you pay for. You’ll pay less, but you’ll get less in the way of features and functionality. Channel Master’s one big edge over the TiVo Premiere is the built-in WiFi, but it is easy enough to add WiFi to a TiVo with an adapter or external bridge. They also have a few apps, through Vudu Apps, that TiVo currently lacks, but TiVo has a number of web video channels not included in Vudu Apps. So I’d call that a draw. The TiVo does require a broadband or phone connection for guide data, and you really want to use broadband as it is required for all the OTT features. But if you don’t have broadband why would you use the CM-7400 anyway? You may as well go with the cheaper CM-7000PAL if you just need an OTA-only DVR with no additional bells and whistles. And without broadband that’s all the CM-7400 is too.
The CM-7400 looks like a solid product, but I’d still have to recommend paying a bit more for TiVo.
Via CNET Crave.
EDIT: Additional information has come to light on the CM-7400, which I think makes it even less appealing. I covered it in a new post.
The Channel Master press release announcing the Channel Master TV:
Streaming Web Content and a Subscription Free DVR.
Tired of paying for cable? Channel Master offers a new subscription free HDTV solution.
Mesa, AZ–(September 12, 2011)- – Channel Master has developed Channel Master TV™, the most advanced subscription free HDTV solution available. Channel Master TV enables free over-the-air HD broadcasts while adding full DVR functionality including the ability to pause, rewind and record live TV. Channel Master TV also allows users to store and manage personal media content, plus access OTT (over the top TV) web content through VUDU™, delivering On Demand Movies and TV shows and more right to the TV.
Consumers think they need a cable provider to enjoy HDTV, most are unaware the highest quality HDTV is available over the air for free. Channel Master TV gives users access to free, live, over-the-air broadcasts via an antenna (purchased separately). As a subscriber of basic cable or satellite, you pay a monthly subscription fee for major network broadcasts including ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX and other cable-only provided channels. Based on regionality, Channel Master TV allows you to watch these channels on your digital or analog TV without monthly fees. In most major networks this amounts to more than 30 free stations.
Channel Master TV has also integrated DVR functionality that allows you to pause, rewind, and record live TV. With service providers (like cable or satellite), or TiVo®, you pay for this functionality. With Channel Master TV, you have all the same integrated DVR functionality without paying monthly fees. The Channel Master TV has a 320GB HDD; storage hours vary based on the format of the content but are estimated at up to 35 hours of HD recording and up to 150 hours of SD recording. Users can also schedule recordings and watch one program while recording another. The onscreen Electronic Program Guide (EPG) with Picture in Guide offers search features and parental control settings.
“This is a one-of-a-kind solution,” stated Channel Master VP of Marketing Joe Bingochea. “No device today offers integrated web content, free broadcast TV and DVR without a monthly subscription.”
While 90% of American households have some form of subscription television service, many of them are not happy with their pay TV service. The prevalence of DVR usage shows that consumers don’t adhere to broadcast schedules. They are ready to move from a linear/live TV to an all on demand solution ensuring they get to choose their content whenever they want to watch it.
“The average pay TV subscriber in the US pays approximately $74 per month,” added Bingochea. “Consumers are often left feeling like they are paying for far more than they are getting, or even need. With Channel Master TV, consumers have the luxury of choosing what they want, when they want it.”
If users already have a Broadband data plan, the transition to the Channel Master TV solution is simple since many of the parts they need are already in the home. Channel Master TV has partnered with VUDU to deliver the largest online HD movie library right to the home. In addition to day of release titles, VUDU also offers network specials and series. Through the integrated VUDU application, users gain access to a wide range of Internet services including streaming video, music-on-demand, photo browsing, social networking and much more.
Also available on Channel Master TV is a growing list of OTT content such as AC360, Mike & Mike, MTV news, Associated Press, and more. Users can even manage their personal content such as pictures and play saved videos, music and more.
“Channel Master has catered to over-the-air users for over sixty years and has learned from our customers that they do not like monthly subscriptions. We now have the best solution for the way people want to watch TV today,” concluded Bingochea.
Channel Master TV has an MSRP of $399 and a full one-year warranty. It will begin shipping on November 1. For more info visit www.channelmastertv.com.
Channel Master TV will be unveiled and demoed on Wednesday, Sept. 14th, from 6:00 to 9:00 pm at the PepCom Holiday Spectacular Event at the Metropolitan Pavilion in the Chelsea district of Manhattan.
About Channel Master
Established in 1949, Channel Master has evolved from a trusted terrestrial antenna manufacturer to a leader in the production of set-top boxes, home networking accessories and digital media devices that connect consumers, businesses and service providers with a multitude of content. Access to streaming off-air HDTV channels, streaming media, movies on-demand, stored digital content, music and more is possible from Channel Master. Today, Channel Master has Channel Master TV, the most advanced subscription free HDTV solution that enables consumers to access free over-the-air broadcasts with DVR functionality in addition to web delivered content and Apps all from a single user experience.