Most people have a DVR at this point and enjoy the ability to pause live TV. That isn’t a problem with Hulu+ and Netflix, but what about the antenna feed? There are a few companies that make a DVR that you can use with an antenna, but they are a bit pricey ($500+) and they may be the way to go if you are looking for a plug and play device. But, if you are looking to get more for your money and are tech savvy, you can build your own for less than $500 and get more out of it than an out-of-box DVR.
You will need a tower PC with an HDMI output and at least one PCIe slot that is running Windows 7 Pro. It doesn’t need to be anything “high end”. If you have Windows 8 You can add the Windows Media Center pack for around $10. At the time of this writing, Windows 10 has yet to be released and the word is that Windows Media Center will NOT be included in any version. If you have a Windows 7 Pro and are prompted to upgrade to Windows 10 for free, I am advising you NOT to upgrade at this time because of this. You will need to add a TV tuner card to the PC. I used this tuner card The home version of Windows will not work. If you are not comfortable with opening up your PC there is a USB version, also. Windows Media Center is included in Windows 7 Pro. It is not included in the home versions of Windows. Windows Media Center is a great piece of software. The TV tuner card I posted comes with DVR software, but Windows Media Center is far superior. The software has a built in guide that will behave just like the guide in the cable/satellite DVR you are used to. You can find and record single episodes or full seasons just like TiVO or any other out-of-the-box DVR. You will bring your antenna feed directly to the PC with the TV tuner card. You will use the HDMI output to connect to your TV or receiver just like you would connect a cable box. Now your TV is the monitor for the PC. You will want to have a keyboard and mouse connected to the PC for some tweaks but, for the most part, you won’t need it. Most of the time, to control the PC you will use an app called Unified Remote. The basic app is free, but there is also a pay version for $3.99 that adds some very convenient functionality. You need to install the app on your phone and the Unified Remote Server on your PC. With this app and software, your smart phone becomes the mouse and keyboard for your computer.
Now that you have a PC connected to your home entertainment system, there are more things you can do with it than with a standard out-of-the-box DVR. You can browse the internet with it. There are LOTS of places that you can stream TV on the internet. Almost every network has a website that streams their shows for free.