Simple.TV: Not Quite Ready for Prime Time

One of the unmet demands in the cord cutter home is a simple DVD for OTA content, preferably cheap or free. When Simple.TV  launched its  KickStarter campaign last May it seemed to be right on target.  Simple.TV records OTA  (or basic cable) shows on a hard drive that you provide, and plays them back on iPADS, PC’s or on your TV (via Roku).

Simple.TV’s competition consists mainly of TiVo which at $20/month seems pricey for most cord cutters, or of DIY systems using MS Media Center or Plex.

Unfortunately the first reviews are in, and looks like Simple.TV is not quite ready for “prime time” (pun intended).

First this video review from  Janko Roettgers  over at at GIGaom.  One of Roettger’s  biggest complaints was that the Roku interface was “lacking” and “painfully slow” when using the live interface, to the point of being unusable.  He also said the quality was closer to SD than HD when using the Roku app.

Next this review from the editors at CNET.  CNET called Simple.TV   a “first-generation product riddled with limitations”.  Some of the limitations listed:

  • No built in wifi – needs a wired Ethernet connection
  • Need to provide your own hard drive
  • Single tuner  – only one live show at a time
Both reviews spawned plenty of comments comparing the cost of a TiVo with lifetime subscription to that of the Simple.TV.  The general consensus:  TiVo is a lot more  money but works a lot better.
So what will I do? Hey I’m a cord cutter, meaning I’m cheap. I’ll try the Simple.TV. They have the right idea, just looks like they had to rush it to market a bit to make their commitments. Hopefully they’ll work out all the bugs soon.
One more thought. If you need a Roku to make this work on your TV,  aren’t the folks at Roku thinking about something similar? If Roku could create a  special DVR in the cloud channel, similar to what Aereo has done in NYC, wouldn’t that be a fantastic solution?

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11 Responses to Simple.TV: Not Quite Ready for Prime Time

  1. Neil says:

    You need to do a bit more research…

    Tivo is no longer $20 a month. It’s $14.99 now, which – to me, anyway – makes it as affordable as Hulu Plus and Netflix. No one says you have to have a lifetime subscription to Tivo – that IS expensive. A Premiere is $99, and the monthly fee is $14.99. (also check their refurbisheds for great prices…)

    I use Tivo with an OTA antenna (ClearStream2) and it works beautifully. I get about 30 channels – including all the major networks and their subchannels. I cannot even compare the difference between using a Tivo and the junk handed out by the sat and cable companies.

    (I got my Tivo last fall when they were doing a promotion for antenna users – paid $99 for the antenna, got the Tivo Premiere free, and $9.95 per month subscription fee. Great bargain! I hope they do the promotion again…)

  2. Suijin says:

    Wifi wouldn’t be able to record 1 show and stream up to 5 to viewers at once, so no big thing with that missing. The box also doesn’t need to sit at your TV, so you are able to put it elsewhere also.

    In some form you are providing a harddrive to all these types of devices. The flexibility to add your own drive isn’t that big a concern, and you may have one around already. It is some extra cost of ownership though true.

    You can add extra tuners just by adding more devices. It would be nice to get either a discount on buying multiples or have a unit with at least 2 tuners.

    The bigger issues are not being able to at this point have multiple devices under the same subscription plan. They plan to fix this in the future.

    Another issue is not with the SimpleTV really but internet providers, they don’t give you enough upload speed to stream from the device to a remote device over the internet.

    I also don’t know whether you can stream directly to things like a Vizio TV without going through an internet browser on the TV. I assume not until someone writes the code for it.

  3. len mullen says:

    It turns out there are a lot of DVRs for OTA. I’ve looked at most of them at some level and, at this time, nothing beats an Echostar DTVPal. I have five of them. Great OTA tuner, lots of storage, zero maintenance, and intuitive — just what most cord cutters want. The DTVPal is no longer available except on ebay, but you still get the channelmaster branded version and channelmaster has released an updated model that includes internet apps. At $379, this device is more expensive than a TIVO or Simple, but there are no subscription fees (which is part of the reason people cut the cord).

    What Simple should be applauded for is distributing broadcast signal over a network. I’m sure these is something to this. HDHomeRun, Sling, and Simple are sniffing around the edges, but a box full of tuners that could be managed easily from networked apps and devices would be very appealing — if it was affordable. In the end, maybe it’s Playon or Plex that figures this out.

    I’m looking forward to what develops at Simple and Roku.

    • Greg says:

      Excellent feedback Len.Where did you buy your Echostar version? I do remember the Channel Master product and noted how it seemed to disappear from Amazon, though I have not checked lately. I totally agree that cord cutters avoid monthly fees like the plague.

      • len mullen says:

        I got mine off ebay. Just search for…

        (“CM-7000PAL”, dtvpal, “dtv pal”) dvr

        $260 (1t disk), $119, $180, $176, $189 — all purchased in 2010 and all still working fine. With shipping, the average price was $200. A total bargain.

        Today, they run about $80 more, but you can still get them and they are still a bargain.

        ChannelMaster has discontinued their CM7000Pal which was the rebranded DTVPal, but now sells a CM7400 which is amazing and reasonably priced at $380, IMHO.

        I have interest in streaming media — I have three Rokus and four SMP-N200s — and Simple.TV or HDHomerun via a Playon or Roku plugin, but the one single device that has made cord cutting painless is the DTVPal and I highly recommend it.

  4. len mullen says:

    BTW, if you amortize the purchase price over the two years we have been enjoying these, the cost is ~$8/month. Compare that to TIVO or Comcast.

  5. Suijin says:

    Can you record season passes with the Echostar or ChannelMaster units? and how good are the channel guides?

    The non-mandatory SimpleTV subscription is for those things and being able to access it remotely from outside your home.

    I don’t know that anything out there right now really fits with what I want, but SimpleTV is getting close.

  6. len mullen says:

    Not with the DTVPal DVR or the CM7000, but the CM7400 guide says this, “Record Series: This option lets you record all available instances of the program within the Channel Master TV Program Guide.”

    I have the Echostar model. I can program it to record from time start to time end once, once a week, weekdays, or everyday. You can set this by clicking a program on the guide or manually and you can manually edit timers set in the program guide. The program guide is excellent. You can navigate up to a week in advance and search. Details are provided for the highlighted program.

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