New competition for Tablo: FreeCast

It seems to have a lot of the same features as 4th-gen. Tablo DVRs and also has 4 tuners, two of which they claim are ATSC 3.0/1.0 ones. Its hardware seems to be a SiliconDust HDHomeRun and seems to be compatible with HDHomeRun units you already have, if you can run its app: Requirements for the FreeCast app

(I was sent adverts for FreeCast from and within the last few hours.)

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$199 plus shipping and (*requires paid TV guide service for DVR recordings)

Not sure if I’m reading this right, but it looks like $6.99/mo for the DVR Guide service

No, that fee is for the optional Value Channels subscription.

Why no Roku support?

Why no Roku support?

Wait a second… it is like Tablo.


So, how much is the “Paid TV Guide service for DVR Recordings?”

I was wondering about that also. I couldn’t find that information anywhere. I’m wondering if you have to subscribe to a Silicon Dust or HD Homerun subscription. Their advertising seems to be deceptive as to what the actual costs are.

I like the networking feature, but can’t get excited about only 2 ATSC3 tuners, when they give you 4 for the ATSC1. Seems to me buyers of this box would want to be ready for the future, but 2 tuners is not enough IMO.

When ATSC3 is fully distributed, you’ll find yourself short of tuners and will need to buy the brand’s successor device with more (at least 4) tuners for ATSC3. Or another, less expensive device with fewer tuners, to back up the 2 tuner model, but then I imagine you’d be paying 2 monthly fees, to enable recording on 2 devices. Nickel & dime. Marketing.

It is my hope that ATSC3 will make OTA broadcasters up their game, making a 4 tuner model almost a necessity, at least for me. For my money, $150 or more should really buy you at least 4 tuners. But OTA/DVR base models will still be 2 tuners, for some years yet. Here we have a ATSC3 2 tuner for $200 and addl roughly $100 (incl tax etc) per year so you can record.

BTW I thought Roku was the big seller in streaming capability, so it’s curious that this device is not Roku compatible.

Don’t mean to state the “obvious”, but could it be DRM related?

Also, Roku’s native handling of MPEG2 AC3 (ATSC 1.0 generally) I know at least Plex DVR wise, at 1080p, is an experimental option. It has worked ok for me, but maybe not something that works all that universally across all Rokus in all situations (?)

While “old”, it’s still very true that Mpeg4 (h264/aac) rules, as that’s supported pretty much everywhere. There’s a reason why the OG had success with regards to client availability.

Even today, we’ll see the “better” AV1 being more universally supported (video wise) over the more common H265 (HEVC)… likely. Why? Money. I know people have spent a lot of time/effort on HEVC, but I think we’re looking at AV1 longer term as far as device ubiquity. We’ll see.

ATSC 3.0 went with audio codec (AC4). While it might be “better” audio wise, that patent encumbered Dolby codec isn’t as universally supported as the older patent encumbered AC3. Of course, if there’s a movement to AV1, doesn’t answer the audio codec question (usually AAC or Opus, so maybe ok there).

Their site says they support:
ATSC content is compatible with AppleTV, Google TV, Fire TV, Sony, HiSense (non Roku), TCL, LG, Samsung 2020 models +, Android (mobile / tablets), ChromeCast, iPhone, iPad, Mac, Chrome, Firefox, Safari.

If you want the answer to whether the ATSC 3.0 DRM/A3SA specification works with widevine on the above devices it might be on the SD customer forum.

Right? The only reference I found to the (Paid TV Guide service for) DVR recordings was the link that I posted: “Optional Value Channels” subscription which states "

  • Free, unlimited DVR to allow you to record and rewatch your favorite shows, movies and events"

Just found this as well when searching for DVR on their Support Page:

Reading a bit this seems like a white-label SD FLEX 4K that has had the Freecast Home channels added on top, similar to the streaming channels added with the Tablo 4th gen. Feels a bit sketchy to me to be honest.

I found this statement at the bottom of the Device Requirements page:

Antenna DVR requires additional service cost from Silicon Dust. It also requires a compatible HD HomeRun box.

So, yeah, it sounds like it may require a SiliconDust DVR subscription to actually make recordings from your antenna.

This sounds like it could be great, but they are shooting themselves in the foot by not making it very clear what all of the costs are.

While Roku is very popular, it is limited in what features it has available for app developers (which is why it does not have a web browser). I expect it does not support one or more capabilities needed for this FreeCast app.

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