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The cheapest TiVo yet caters to cord cutters by recording over-the-air TV

Today, TiVo unleashed what may be its most compelling device yet, the Roamio OTA DVR. Aimed squarely at the cord-cutting crowd, the Roamio OTA captures and records free broadcast HD signals, bundling in a suite of streaming apps such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant, Hulu Plus, Pandora and Spotify. Best of all, the box is TiVo’s most affordable ever, ringing up at just $50, with a $15/month subscription fee to get at all of TiVo’s programming extras. There’s just one catch: The Roamio OTA is a limited-edition product — at least for now — so if you want one, you’ll need to act now, and you may have to do a bit of searching, as it will only be available at select Best Buy stores in select markets.

TiVo apparently isn’t certain there’s a big enough market for such a product, and, quite frankly, it has strong relationships with cable companies such as Comcast, so it probably isn’t looking to single-handedly usher in a new generation of TV watchers. But with products such as the Tablo,  Simple.TV, and Channel Master DVR+ on the market, it’s easy to understand why TiVo might want to dip its toe in the cord-cutter pool. Simply put, no other OTA DVR solution offers anything close to the rich user experience TiVo has spent the past decade developing. Plus, TiVo has the manufacturing chops and tech patents to put these together with a modicum of effort. Why not give it a shot?

The OTA DVR sports four tuners and 500 GB of built-in storage for up to 75 hours of HD program recording. Need more? There’s an eSATA port on the back to expand storage to whatever capacity the user likes. But perhaps more important than the hardware is TiVo’s software which, among other attributes, allows users to search across multiple VOD platforms for various shows and movies — a huge plus for those not interested in browsing around for hours trying to figure out which service offers their favorite show.

Unfortunately, if you want the ability to stream your Roamio OTA recordings to a mobile device, you’ll need to add the $130 TiVo stream, which not only transcodes recordings for streaming in or out of the home, but allows downloads for viewing when not connected to the Internet. The Roamio OTA is also compatible with the TiVo Mini for playback on other TV’s in the home.

So far, this is the most comprehensive OTA DVR system we’ve seen. It seems a shame that TiVo seems a little non-committal, but if the public turns out in droves to pick this device up, it’s likely we’ll see it more broadly distributed in the very near future.