Sunday, November 3, 2019

Roku as a DVR vs. TiVo and Other CableCARD Compatible Devices with Comcast

Last modified:  November 23, 2019

You may be able to save money by purchasing your own DVR equipment instead of renting equipment from Comcast.  This is more often the case if you pay a portion of your Comcast bill or the complete bill as part of your rent or homeowners association fee.  One option is to purchase TiVo equipment or other CableCARD compatible devices.  Another option is to purchase a Roku Ultra, Roku Streaming Stick or other devices that are compatible with the Xfinity Stream App.

TiVo and Other CableCARD Compatible Devices 

This has been the traditional choice, and there are federal regulations that often allow you to spend less of your hard-earned money to watch and record content as compared to renting equipment from Comcast.  A single CableCARD can be used to allow multiple TVs in your home to have access to recordings and live TV without the additional fee that is sometimes charged by Comcast due to using multiple outlets.  If your package includes a box, you can choose to use your own equipment instead and receive a discount on your bill.  If your Comcast package does not include access to HD content when using non-CableCARD equipment without an additional fee, you still may be able to watch and record HD channels using your own CableCARD compatible equipment without paying the additional HD fee.  This HD access as described is not always the case, and the best way to determine if it is possible is to try it or ask some of your neighbors if applicable.  More details about saving money using this option can be found here.

This option does not limit the number of hours you can record since additional hardware can be purchased to save recordings.  Also, this option is very convenient when it comes time to quickly change the channel or manage recordings.  Unlike the option described below, it is possible to use a full remote with easily accessible numbers, or you can optionally use a full size or miniature keyboard or air mouse with some CableCARD compatible equipment.  On some future date, Comcast will discontinue the ability to use CableCARD devices with its services.  Since TiVo recently released a new CableCARD DVR and SiliconDust is developing a new HDHomeRun Prime, it indicates these companies believe CableCARDs will be supported by Comcast for the life of these products.  TiVos are not currently able to access Comcast video on demand, but other CableCARD compatible devices are able to do this.

TiVo Bolt VOX for Cable

Roku and Other Xfinity Stream App Compatible Devices

The beta version of the Xfinity Stream app can currently be used on Roku devices with Comcast's cloud DVR service to allow it to be used to watch and record the content included in your package.  It was previously necessary to have at least one Comcast box in order to use the cloud DVR service, but Comcast has recently made it possible to use the beta-version app on Roku devices and smart TVs with the cloud DVR service with no other equipment from Comcast.  If you want Comcast's Extra plan with only Roku devices and a Comcast representative tells you that a Comcast box is required, you can obtain a CableCARD with no charge instead without using the CableCARD.  This will likely allow you to use your Roku devices with the cloud DVR service, live TV, and video on demand.  Having only Roku devices, however, is not recommend due to the nonefficient user interface and lack of numbers on the remote that make it more time consuming to change the channel.  The Extra plan only includes 10 or 20 hours or recordings.  The full DVR service can be added to the Extra plan for an additional $10 per month, and that will enable 60 hours of cloud recordings.

There is currently no additional outlet fee for using the app on multiple Roku devices, but Comcast has indicated that the future version of the app may have a fee for additional outlets.  Also, Comcast has recently indicated here that it is no longer possible to receive HD service for most channels on a Roku device for customers that do not have HD service included in their package unless an additional fee is paid.  Many Comcast customers currently have the Digital Starter plan with HD service not included without an additional fee, and this is more often the case for customers with a bulk account.  There is speculation on some forums that Digital Starter will be eliminated nationwide and all packages will include HD for all devices, but if or when that happens, there may be additional fees to use the app at that time as described above.

Comcast customers with a bulk account will need to check with Comcast to determine how much it will cost to use Roku devices with the cloud DVR service due to bulk accounts not always matching the information on the services and pricing rate card provided by Comcast for their location.  For example, it is common for a customer to have Comcast internet service combined with Digital Starter with a bulk account even though the rate card indicates these services cannot be combined.  In this case, cloud DVR service can often be added for $10 per month.  The fees for HD access, cloud DVR service and internet service are paid directly to Comcast, and the cost for Digital Starter is paid for by the building owner or homeowners association. These fees quickly add up often making this not the best financial choice for Comcast customers with a bulk account.

Roku Ultra 4K

Popular Opinion Poll and Conclusion

A poll was posted on the TiVo Community Forum, DSLReports Forum, and Reddit asking about the two options presented above.  As of November 23, 2019, the results are as follows:

TiVo Community Forum:  14 votes for CableCARD devices, 4 votes for Xfinity Stream App devices
DSLReports Forum:  4 votes for CableCARD devices, 1 vote for Xfinity Stream App devices
Reddit:  1 vote for CableCARD devices, 1 vote for Xfinity Stream App devices

My overall recommendation after researching the two options presented above and conducting the poll is to choose the CableCARD compatible devices option.  This may vary for your specific case, but savings are possible for many people, and the user experience to switch channels and navigate recordings is much better with the CableCARD devices option.

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