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Amazon Fire TV Recast DVR streams free over-the-air TV, starts at $230 – CNET

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This unassuming black box has built-in tuners so you can hook up an antenna and record TV shows, then stream them to Fire TV devices, phones and more.

Ry Crist/CNET

Amazon's inexpensive Fire TV sticks and streamers are already favorites of cable TV cord-cutters, but the company's latest Fire TV box demands a bit more of an investment, starting at $230. What it delivers afterward, however, is totally free.

The Amazon Fire TV Recast is an antenna DVR, designed to hook up to an over-the-air TV antenna and pull in your local, free TV broadcasts. In most areas that includes live local news, sports like NFL football and network shows from ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and PBS, among others (Note, CBS is the parent company of CNET). 

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Unlike a traditional DVR, like TiVo or the one you get from your cable or satellite company, however, it doesn't output those TV broadcasts and recordings directly to a single TV. 

Instead, it streams them to other devices, including:

That means you can watch those antenna shows, live or recorded, pretty much anywhere -- on a TV connected to a Fire TV device or on a phone or tablet running the free Fire TV app.

The Recast doesn't look like much, but that's fine because you can stash it just about anywhere -- it doesn't need to be seen or accessed to work. That's another advantage over a traditional antenna connection: you're not bound to the TV, so you can set it up in an attic or elsewhere the reception is better without having to run long antenna wires or otherwise mess with setup. It connects to your home network via Wi-Fi or Ethernet.

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That big silver connection is for your antenna.

Ry Crist/CNET

You can use it to stream live or record shows and play them back whenever you want. You can stream to up to two different devices simultaneously. Control happens via the app, either on Fire TV or on your phone or tablet, and there's a channel guide included.

This being a Fire TV device, control can also happen with Alexa. Link it with a Dot or other Echo device and you can say stuff like Alexa, open Channel Guide" or "Alexa, record 'The Good Place" into thin air. You can also issue voice commands using a Fire TV remote or Echo Show.

The fact that antenna broadcasts are free and generally high-quality makes them popular among cord-cutters. Of course live TV services like DirecTV Now, Fubo TV, Hulu, PlayStation Vue and YouTube TV offer local channels vis streaming too, but they're definitely not free, and don't offer local channels everywhere (and none of them have PBS). 

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Sarah Tew/CNET

The Recast isn't the first networked antenna DVR either. The AirTV is a $120 version made by a subsidiary of satellite broadcaster Dish Network, which also owns the Sling TV ($239 at Amazon Marketplace) service. It's cheaper but doesn't include a hard drive. Other competitors with network capabilities include Plex's DVR (in combination with an antenna tuner), Tablo (which requires a monthly fee for many features, including out-of-home streaming) and HDHomeRun. Meanwhile TiVo and the Channel Master DVR+ and Stream+ are OTA DVRs for single TVs.

The Amazon Fire TV Recast comes in two sizes. The base version has two tuners so it can record two different channels at once, while the larger version has four tuners for up to four simultaneous recordings.

Fire TV Recast versions

Price HDD Capacity Recording Hours Tuners
$230 500GB 150 2
$270 1TB 300 4

It ships November 14, with pre-orders available now. Look for a CNET review soon.