Reviewed in the United States on December 1, 2018
***AUGUST 2019 UPDATE** Its been 9 months since it was released and Amazon just doesn't seem interested in improving its Fire Recast device. Its no better and in many ways, is actually worse than it was when I first bought it. Because Amazon has no desire to listen to its some of their earliest buyers of its device, I'm forced to remove yet another star from my review. While the device may be "good enough" to satisfy cord cutters who watch & record OTA TV at a bare minimum, I definitely can't recommend it for frequent recordings or playback. For that, TiVo is still the best personal DVR around and and they keep making improvements for a better device. For example, just deleting a show on the Recast is a major pain -- most DVRs (including Cloud DVRs included with many streaming subscriptions) you can immediately delete the program you just watched without having to end the playback, but with the Recast, you have to actually exit the program and return to the menu, press the options button, select Delete, confirm delete and then wait for what seems like forever for the show to delete -- and thats IF it deletes. When I'm watching back several episodes, after the 3rd or 4th deletion, the Recast hangs up. I then have to unplug the device and wait for it to start up before trying to delete the show again. Most of the same things I complained about 6 months ago are still problematic today -- Recorded shows from the same series still display in reverse order so you have to scroll all the way to the end in order to start playback with the earliest episode recorded, they still haven't figured out how to display the entire contents of a show's description or how to view info about the show you're watching while you're watching it (again, most DVRs care capable of this) -- Like I said it just doesn't seem like Amazon has any interest in improving its Fire Recast device its pretty much an "As Is" device meaning, what you get now is what you'll have next year.
**NOV 2018** When I cut the cord a few years ago, one of the first things I bought was a TiVo. I wish it didn't require a monthly subscription, but I'm willing to pay it because I love everything my TiVo can do. When I saw Amazon's Fire Recast, I was intrigued but not seriously considering it - if I were going to spend more than $250 for a new DVR, I'd buy the latest Roamio OTA which doesn't require a monthly subscription. On Black Friday, the Recast was on sale AND Amazon gave me the opportunity to buy it in 5 monthly installment payments so I took advantage of the offer & pulled the trigger. I've had the Recast for about a week now and here are my thoughts.
Its very simple to setup -- connect your antenna to the box & using the Fire TV app on your phone, connect the box to your home wi-fi network, scan for OTA channels & after a few minutes, you're ready to go. Because the Recast doesn't need to be connected to your TV, you can place the box wherever you get the best antenna reception even if thats in another room or on another floor. The Recast works seamlessly with an existing Fire device such as the Fire Box, Fire Cube, Fire Stick or Fire Tablet. It just becomes another line item on your Home screen & there's a new menu option called DVR. There's a channel guide (accessible on your TV only) w/2 weeks worth of programming so you can set your DVR in advance. You can access your OTA channels' live broadcasts or your DVR recordings on any TV connected to a Fire device & logged into your Amazon account. The picture looks good. I don't think its as crisp & clean as the TiVor or when the antenna is connected directly to your TV, but it might be my antenna or the placement of it, so I'm not ready to fault the Recast just yet.
Here's where I think the Recast needs to improve:
1. There needs to be a way to monitor the DVR's space. I bought the larger Recast which has 1 TB of space or approx 150 hrs of HD recording. Since not every recording is in HD, its impossible to guess how much space you've used. No where does it tell you how much space you've used up or how much you have left.
2. Playback needs to be a little more simplified & controlled. You can play, pause, rewind & fast forward, but you can't restart. There's no "instant replay" (usually a preset 10-20 second jump back), no slow-mo. There's no way to get programming info while you're watching the recording.
3. When you record multiple episodes of the same series & then want to watch them back it defaults to the most recently recorded episode rather than the oldest. Most people prefer watching TV episodes in the order that they aired so they need to be listed in reverse order (oldest to newest) to solve this problem.
4. There's no autoplay. When one episode ends, the screen just pauses & waits for you to make a menu option. It WILL start playing the next episode IF you hit the FF 10 second button on your remote which means autoplay is possible.
5. Season/Episode numbers need to be included in the Guide. They appear in the descriptions of your recorded shows, but not when you're scrolling through your program guide. This is pretty basic information thats included in onscreen guides of most live TV apps like TiVo, PS Vue, DirectTV Now. The info that the Recast provides is pretty minimal.
6. You're not prompted to save or delete when a recording ends & once you delete a recording thats it - its gone. TiVo sends deleted programs to a Recently Deleted folder so it can be retrieved if it was accidently deleted (or you change your mind), while most of the Cloud DVRs used on live TV apps prompt you with an "are you sure" message when deleting a program from your DVR. At the very least, deleting a recording should be a 2-step process to prevent mistakes from happening, with a prompt asking if you're sure you wanna delete & informing you its gone forever if you say yes.
7. While you can watch live TV & recorded programs on your mobile device, you don't have as much access as you do on your TV. For starters, there's no guide. As you scroll through your OTA channels, you see whats currently on. You also have access to your recordings, but they're all listed individually in the order they were recorded. In other words, series recordings aren't grouped together so you'll have to skip around and scroll if you want to watch several episodes of a particular series recording.
My biggest complaint about devices like the Recast is that you still need internet to watch TV. Part of the appeal of cutting the cord for me was the freedom of watching TV for free without having to rely on anything or anyone else. If the internet goes down, I can still watch & record live TV. I can watch all the movies I've recorded. I can binge watch my fav shows. Thats not possible with the Recast. If the internet goes down, you have to disconnect the antenna & connect it to the TV before you can watch & if your Recast is in another room, you're out of luck. Then again, what I do like about the Recast is that unlike TiVo, I can watch live TV & my recordings on any of my TVs (as long as I have a Fire device connected to it) or my phone or tablet. While you can do this with TiVo, you need another device like TiVo stream or a SlingBox for it to work. Its almost as if Amazon can't decide if they want this to be considered an internet streaming device or an OTA DVR. For example, there aren't any channel numbers, but cord cutters and people who watch TV using an antenna and no internet know channel numbers are important. The Recast relies on the network names for identification which is more like live TV apps like Sling, PS Vue or Direct TV Now where channel numbers aren't necessary.
While I don't think the Recast is too complicated or difficult to use, its not the most user friendly & its interface needs lots of improvements to even consider competing with TiVo. Still I don't regret buying it, but its not something I'd lay down close to $300 for all at once. It needs to work like a nearly $300 device & it just doesn't yet. Like my title says, its a good start but its no where near ready to seriously compete with TiVo. I give it 3.5 stars, but obviously half stars aren't an option so its rounded up to 4!
**UPDATED REVIEW** 3+ months later
So I've been using the Recast for a little more than 3 months now & while there have been some improvements, there are still some considerable issues & glitches which have caused me to lower my initial rating of 4 stars to 3.
1. One of the things I originally mentioned was no way to monitor available space. This has been corrected & you can now view how much disc space remains on your Recast device. This is helpful, but what isn't helpful is that it's just a broad overview. It doesn't show how much disc space individual recordings use or how much space is bring taken up by a series recording. I realize every recording is different -- a 1 hr series recording broadcast in HD will take up more space than a 1 hr series recording in SD -- but they should break it down by recordings, displaying just how much space each of your recordings uses up.
2. Another issue was auto-play. This is still a big hit or miss. I have several series programmed to record & multiple episodes of those series saved. When I watch the playback of those recordings, sometimes the playback flows immediately from the end of one episode to the beginning of the next but sometimes the screen just pauses & there's nothing but a freezeframe on my screen, which means I need to hit the back button & find the next episode I want to watch or delete the episode that just ended (but that involves even more menu manipulation which I'll get to in a minute). There's no rhyme or reason why sometimes this works & sometimes it doesn't. It makes no sense. At the very least, they should add a setting to the Recast options whether or not you want auto play enabled or disabled so that its at least consistent.
3. A new problem I've discovered is the unwanted deletion of programs. There's a setting in the options where you choose he max number of shows to save to the DVR. There are 3 options -- 10, 15 or 20 and you MUST select one. Its unclear what this even means. Its obviously more than 20 episodes overall, so it must be 20 episodes per series. As I mentioned above, I have several series programmed to record. One of those series recordings has saved every ep thats aired so far & there are currently more than 30 eps of that program saved. Another series recording only saved 20 eps & once it got to the 21st, it automatically deleted the 1st ep I had recorded. Because I didn't notice this until the 23rd ep was scheduled to record, I lost eps 1 a& 2 of a series I was trying to save in its entirety. This was rather infuriating, especially considring the DVR settings for both programs are identical, but I went in & changed the protection setting for the 2nd series, which will hopefully work & allow every ep to be saved. It makes no sense why one series recording has saved more than 30 eps while another will only keep 20 & appears to be just another frustrating glitch.
4. When viewing a program's description, its cut off & there's no way to fully view it. You can see this in the photo I've attached. There are 3 dots indicating that the text continues on, but there's no way to view the rest of it. When you select the episode from the row on the bottom, it just starts playing the episode. You're also unable to view program details when watching a recording other than the name of the series/episode & the date it was recorded.
5. The Recast is advertised as having 4 tuners, but other than for recording purposes, there's no way to take advantage of the four separate tuners. Although I can program the DVR to record 4 programs simultaneously, I can't watch 4 programs (or 2 or 3) & move back & forth between them. If there's a way do this, its not obvious. There's no 'Swap' option or 'Last Channel'. I've tested this out multiple times, bouncing back & forth between 2 programs airing at the same time on different networks. As soon as I change the channel, I lose the ability to rewind or restart the second program. What good is having multiple tuners if you can't take advantage of it by watching more than one program at the same time?
6. When a program ends, it would be nice to be prompted whether or not you should delete or save the recording. Instead, the picture just pauses & you have to actually back out of the recording & hit the options button in order to select delete this recording (and thats only if the auto play feature doesn't kick in). The user interface is still pretty clunky & not really practical. It involves a lot of clicking around, hitting the back button just do the simplest of DVR commands. The Options command is pretty limited (see photo shared), like why does it say 'Earliest Available' when watching a recording instead of something more common like Restart or Play from Beginning? 'Earliest Available' makes sense when watching live TV, but not a recording. It just shows that it's still pretty unclear whether the Recast's main purpose is supposed to be as a DVR or if its supposed to be an improved way to watch live TV. The lack of a Save or Delete in the Options menu is a pretty good indication of the improvements that are still needed & that there's still a long way to go before the Recast is even considered a close competitor of the TiVo.