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TiVo’s Bolt OTA gives cord-cutters the 4K set-top box they’ve been waiting for

TiVo BOLT OTA For a lot of folks the idea of cutting the cord and ridding themselves of their monthly cable or satellite bill sounds great — at least on paper. The reality of going cord-free, however, doesn’t always live up to expectations. The over-the-air (OTA) receiver you’re using might only support one TV, and its on-screen programming guide may feel like a step down when compared to the set-top box you were renting from your cable provider. If you want to record broadcast programming, your receiver will need a DVR built-in. Plus, you still need access to streaming services like Netflix, or Amazon Video, which means you’ll be swapping back and forth between your OTA receiver, and another device like a Roku, or Apple TV. Then there are the issues of 4K and HDR: Unless you’ve already got a 4K capable version of Apple TV or Roku, you won’t be seeing any content at the highest resolution possible. TiVo’s latest OTA receiver, the Bolt OTA, aims to address all of these concerns in a single device.

The four-tuner, 1TB $249 Bolt OTA replaces the older $399 TiVo Roamio OTA Vox, a Digital Trends top pick for OTA receivers. It ditches the older unit’s design for the new, wave-like shape of the company’s cable-compatible Bolt Vox, a move that means you won’t be stacking any devices on top of the Bolt OTA. That may not be a problem — with over 20 built-in streaming apps like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Plex, and YouTube, the need for a separate streaming box is reduced, or eliminated.

TiVo claims the Bolt OTA is significantly more responsive than the Roamio, thanks to an updated processor, and more RAM. The added horsepower enables two simultaneous streams of live or recorded content to a compatible phone or tablet using the TiVo app.  With the addition of 4K and HDR, it’s compatible with any 4K content from 3rd party streaming services, though don’t expect 4K OTA content to arrive any time soon. It also gains the remote finder feature, something which was only available on Roamio Plus and Roamio Pro models. Just like the previous model, you can add up to 10 Bolt Mini Vox receivers in your home, as long as you’ve got sufficient Wi-Fi bandwidth, or an Ethernet connection.

TiVo BOLT OTA remote
Image used with permission by copyright holder

You may be wondering why the price of the new Bolt OTA is so low when compared to the Roamio: $249 vs. $399 is quite the savings. Ted Malone, vice president of consumer products and services at TiVo told Digital Trends that cord-cutters wanted more choice over how to pay for the TiVo service, so TiVo decided to de-couple the “all-in” subscription that was included with the Roamio, giving buyers three options for paying for the service. The all-in option still exists, and costs $249, which will give you the TiVo service for the life of the Bolt OTA. As before, if you choose to sell the Bolt OTA, the all-in service goes with it, to the new owner. Otherwise, you can choose a $6.99 monthly fee, or a $69.99 annual fee.

The Bolt OTA comes at an interesting time. Amazon recently announced its first OTA receiver/DVR, the $229/$279 Fire TV Recast. In contrast to the Bolt OTA, the Fire TV Recast doesn’t need a monthly subscription, which makes it an attractive device from a price point of view. However, it lacks many of the features TiVo users have come to expect, like a curated, automatic set of show recordings, a dedicated, voice-enabled remote control, ad-skipping, and the ability to plug the Bolt OTA directly into a TV via an HDMI cable. The Fire TV Recast, on the other hand, requires a Fire TV device in order to watch live and recorded OTA content on a TV.

Is the Bolt OTA a worthwhile upgrade over the older Roamio OTA Vox? Check back with us in a few weeks once we’ve had a chance to put it to the test!

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Simon Cohen
Contributing Editor, A/V
Simon Cohen covers a variety of consumer technologies, but has a special interest in audio and video products, like…
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