In a slew of announcements it was easy to lose track of the Amazon Fire TV Recast – a new DVR device from Amazon that will record shows using an over-the-air (OTA) antenna and feed them to you via your Fire TV streaming player, Fire TV Edition flatscreen or Echo Show device.
One reason it was so easy to skip over was that Amazon announced both an Alexa-enabled microwave and a Wall Clock a short 10 minutes before the announcement of the Recast and another is that the Fire TV Recast is kind of complicated – it’s not really a proper Fire TV device in the way we’ve come to understand them.
That being said, once you wrap your head around what the Recast can do, it’s not an embellishment to say that the Amazon Fire TV Recast could reshape the media landscape, helping cord cutters and cord-nevers leave cable companies behind once and for all.
Amazon Fire TV Recast: What is it?
The Recast is an OTA DVR (over-the-air digital video recorder). You plug an HD antenna of your choosing into it, and then simply tell the Recast what you want it to record.
Inside, the base $230 version of the Recast has two tuners that allow it to record two shows simultaneously and a 500GB hard drive that will store those recordings. (There’s a four-tuner, 1TB version coming later this year for $280.)
To watch what you’ve recorded, you’ll need a Fire TV device (a streaming player, a TV or an Amazon Echo Show) or the unreleased Fire TV app that should arrive when the Recast does on November 14 in the US. (Amazon hasn’t announced UK/AU availability yet, but we’ll update this story when and if it does.)
Once the show has been recorded, the DVR can then stream to two devices simultaneously in HD – as long as you have the bandwidth to support it.
Of course, you don’t necessarily need to record something if it’s on TV right now: The Fire TV app will allow for live playback over Wi-Fi or cellular network. That means if you’re away from your living room during the next episode of This Is Us, you can simply pull it up on your phone or tablet via the Fire TV app.
Speaking of the app, you’ll be able to use it to find the perfect location for your OTA antenna based on signal strength. Amazon didn’t demo that during our time at their office, but it’s a smart idea that we wish had been thought of before.
Where this gets slightly confusing is that, despite its Fire TV moniker, the Recast doesn’t have any content – or operating system – on the box itself. That means you won’t be able to use the Recast to stream shows from Amazon Prime Video or Netflix and it’s not meant to replace your existing Amazon Fire TV or Amazon Fire TV Cube.
But it has Fire TV integration
So, why is it called Amazon Fire TV? Amazon has chosen the moniker, it seems, because the Recast works at its fullest extent when paired with a Fire TV device.
When paired, the Recast will add a DVR section to the Amazon Fire TV home screen that will sit alongside the On Now row. It’s here you’ll be able to find and control your recordings either with the remote or via your voice with some help from Alexa.
If you’re a PlayStation Vue or Amazon Channels subscriber and use a Fire TV device, the aforementioned On Now row will include shows and movies from those services, and even goes as far as to include them in your channel lineup alongside the OTA content.
This integration of OTA content with your existing streaming service is the pièce de résistance of the device, and one that could help Amazon rival traditional cable packages.
What Amazon Fire TV Recast is not
As we’ve said, it’s not necessarily a Fire TV device – or at least not in the traditional sense. It won’t stream Netflix or Hulu and you won’t find games anywhere remotely close to the Recast. It’s purely an OTA DVR through and through.
The Recast is also not an Echo device. Shout at it all want, Alexa suddenly isn’t going to pop up and parse your command; you’re still going to need an Echo if you want Alexa compatibility or a Fire TV Cube if you’re looking for a combination of streaming and Alexa.
It’s also, importantly, not cable: Amazon isn’t charging a monthly fee for this service – just buy a device and you’re good for a lifetime of OTA DVR streaming.
That’s a massive departure from any device like it on the market (at least from mainstream manufacturers) and puts it closer in line to some PC-based devices like the HDHomeRun and services like PLEX.
That said, the Recast also doesn’t replace your TiVO, either. Because the Recast is OTA-only, you won’t find a slot for a cable card or any way to record cable TV. That could be a problem for people tied to the idea of watching specific shows at specific times – and may make replacing the cable box a bit more of a hassle than it’s worth for a certain audience.
Whether or not it turns out to be the cable replacement we think it has the potential to be, we’ll just have to wait until November to find out.
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