Reviewed in the United States on September 18, 2020
This review was updated with a lower rating a few weeks after purchase and returned. I will spell out the positive and negative things I encountered in my attempts to use it. I'm not an Amazon TV expert, but I do use their FireTV products and those of many other companies. I'm no beginner at setting up and using most any TV entertainment system.
If you want a quick answer, I do recommend this Recast to those who are willing to use this device ONLY in the Amazon FireTV world of products ONLY on your home network. The Amazon FireTV world isn't for everyone and certainly not for those who want a good away from home streaming box.
If you don't have FireTV devices for watching TV you can't use Recast at all. It is only for integrating into an Amazon FireTV device system. So no Roku or Apple TV, or IPTV, etc. It can be integrated with Amazon's Alexa products to make searching for videos easier. You can also use the Alexa built into FireTV sticks too. The Recast integrates into the FireTV menu structure well. You can still put those other brand devices on separate inputs on your TVs, but they won't integrate with Amazon.
Either of the Recast models are essentially a hardware DVR with an actual computer and hard drive optimized for watching and recording Over-The-Air (OTA) TV channels. Hence it's expense. You might want to find a time when they go on sale as I did to lower your costs. This is a major investment, so I advise to research the FireTV and Recast devices via review videos both here and YT. Also be sure you know what YOU want to use it for.
If you are new to the Amazon world of TV and streaming, you will need to buy a FireTV viewing stick or cube for each TV. There's also a Fire tablet you can watch from. Then you will need a decent indoor or outdoor digital antenna with a coaxial cable for connection to the Recast box. You may also need a good quality network modem/switch with several ethernet ports and good wifi capabilities. You should pay particular attention to setting up your antenna as it will be the gateway to everything you have access to on the Recast DVR. The Recast does not record from any source but the live TV it brings in from the antenna. So placement of the antenna is VERY important.
Most of all, you will need to have a reliable fast network connection for each device. If you are paying for the lower tiers of service from your internet provider, you might want to upgrade to at least the upper/middle or top speed tiers offered. Your internet upload speeds are very important if you intend to stream away from home. Frankly, I have 300Mb/s per second internet and away from home it still sometimes stuttered and failed to connect. Away from home usage may not work well for you. The recast box will have to upload streams through the internet to your remote device through it's network connection. Usually home network providers provide much lower upload speeds as compared to faster advertised download speeds. You should get the best of both if you can afford it. Remember that your entire household will be sharing the internet speed for everything they do online.
If your home wifi is in a congested area, you should plan on using the faster, wired ethernet hookups both for your FireTV devices and the Recast box. In most cases, an ethernet wired connection is a faster and better connection than wifi. Of course, if you can't wire your recast box or FireTV device directly to an Ethernet hub because of the location you install it, you will have to use wifi. The 5GHz wifi band is usually the least congested with more channels available but has a smaller range from the modem. Then your last choice should be the 2.4GHz band. It's usually congested and only a dozen or so channels. Other people's wifi will be more likely to interfere with yours on 2.4Ghz but it has a longer range than the 5GHz.
It's also best to have installed the 2 FireTV devices you want to use with the Recast. Then install the Recast box last. It connects via ethernet or wifi to your network router/switch/modem. Only 2 FireTVs or devices will have access to the Recast box at once. If a 3rd one tries to connect to it, it will get an error message. Don't confuse the number of tuners with connections. Both versions of Recast boxes only allow 2 devices at a time to connect to them. The number of connected TVs includes anyone remotely viewing on a mobile device too.
The number of tuners pertains only to how many recordings it can record or watch at once. The differences in models is: The lower cost, 2-tuner, 500G drive model stores about 75 hours of HD videos and will connect to two devices at once. The higher cost, 4-tuner, 1TB drive model stores about 150 hours of HD videos and also only connects to two devices at once.
Sadly, there are no instructions included with recast. Just a little card saying to download the mobile app onto your mobile device and to follow its instructions. Recast can't be setup without using the mobile app. Just pitiful that Amazon doesn't have at least a 20 page or so setup guide with this. If all works as the mobile app says, its not too bad of a setup. But if you have any questions or problems with getting the mobile app to do what it says it will, you will likely have to deal with FireTV support. When I tried to contact Amazon for help, they just told me to reset the Recast device and then the FireTV device without seeming to know much about their own devices. Then they told me if that didn't fix it to click on a provided link for further assistance. That further assistance was just the automated response help pages. Pretty useless! They do the same thing with their FireTV sticks too. On my Recast, it wouldn't at first recognize my android phone or let it login from my phone. I had to blindly try several things till I finally got it to work. Then the limit to how long it worked was a few hours and back to not being able to connect to the recast box again while away from home. Amazon was no help. I deducted a star because of this.
The recast box must be installed using either apple or android phones or a fire tablet. You will download the FireTV mobile app to that device and run it. The first time you run it, it will ask several questions and walk you through setting up the Recast box and placement of its antenna. You can setup the Recast device in this app and still come back later and change how its setup without losing your other settings. Warning: The FireTV app has only a tiny subset of the commands as compared to using a FireTV stick or cube. But you have to use it to setup the box. I had lots of trouble with the FireTV app not connecting to the recast device unless I was connected at home via wifi. Then when it did connect, it would stutter, tell me the signal was bad, lock up so badly the phone had to be rebooted, and tell me it wasn't paired with the recast. I discovered after purchase that thousands of people on-line have been complaining about it since 2018 without any more help than to constantly reboot the recast, network modem, phone, etc. Same lack of support I got.
The final part of the mobile FireTV setup will scan for OTA channels available to you. This will vary greatly depending on how good your antenna placement is. You should put your antenna as high as possible and avoid mounting on metal or thick walls or doors. Windows facing the direction the broadcasting network is coming from tend to be best. The direction the antenna points can often make a difference in how many channels it can pick up. Also try to put the antenna away from other electronics that could generate interference. Sometimes this requires trial and error. Of course, if you are in a house you should put up a tall antenna outside for great reception. If after the scan, the Recast didn't see a channel you want that you know you should be able to receive, move the antenna placement and redo the scan again till it's seen the full channel listing. You can't add channel numbers manually. If the Recast device doesn't see the channel in it's scan, you are not given any options to add channel numbers to be accepted. If you have certain channels you like that only broadcast during certain times, you will need to scan when they are all broadcasting. To be honest, the fact you can't add known good channels is pitiful to trying to get this Recast setup properly. However, I can tell you the scanner of the Recast is very good at finding weaker channels. I went from picking up 21 OTA channels with my Tivo or TV, some heavily pixelated, to with the Recast and the same antenna picking up 92 channels, most of which look good! But the Recast must scan and detect them to allow viewing or recording from them.
The next thing you will likely do is lock out and hide the channels you will never want to watch. By doing this you will have a smaller, easier to navigate program guide. You can also mark your favorite stations and display a favorites shorter program guide if you prefer. Your favorites show up first in the program guide.
On the FireTV device menu, you will now have an additional menu on the top called DVR. From here you can choose to play a recording or pick one of the live TV channels. The ''live'' menu will also integrate the Recast channels and shows into it with your other live programming (like say, Pluto TV). The order will generally be organized by the numerical channel number in the guide but generally random in the other menus. You can also setup your Recast DVR settings as well.
You can now choose the program guide from several different ways on a FireTV device. (Not if you are away from home.) Or you can get there by saying "program guide" to Alexa. The program guide looks like most of those grids you see on cable tv or satellite. It shows live OTA channels and any other Live TV programming you may have installed. You can select a show for watching or recording and then tell it how you want to record it, how long to keep it, and whether one episode or the whole series and whether just the channel you are on or from all channels. You can only record Recast OTA live channels. You'll generally see about 2 weeks of programming info. But there's not any quick way I've found to set the date and time you are looking for to quickly go to a known show place and time. You'll just have to scroll and scroll to get to it. That's another area Amazon needs to improve. Once you've scheduled a show to record, it will put a little red notification icon on the program guide. The guide sometimes gives programming info that the show was created on the current date you are watching. This can mess up your recordings as it sometimes thinks everything is new episodes. If you have a guide info that's the wrong date, you may have to individually pick and record those episodes. You can also change the recording options for this series to all episodes then delete the ones you don't want. Again, crappy way their info screws up recordings of some series. I found that about 1 out of every 4 series had this date problem. If you picked a series to record, it will auto-populate the program guide with little notification icons as it finds the episodes to record. Because of having to schedule recordings directly from the program guide, its a little awkward to find interesting individual episodes or shows many days in advance. After scheduling a recording you should go to the scheduled recordings and be sure it did schedule it properly. It occasionally said it scheduled something and then failed to actually do it. Using the FireTV voice remote to have Alexa do searches was more useful for finding upcoming shows instead of scrolling in the program guide.
Recast's interface is no where near as evolved as a TiVo DVR. It is still being developed and updated they say. But lots of customers online are saying they haven't made any major fixes since 2018s initial release and wonder if the Recast is an abandoned project of Amazons. I was asking myself that same question when I was seeing in 2020 Amazon still doing the same 2018 reboot fix actions that just don't fix anything 2 years later.
One really good thing is the Recast costs absolutely nothing after purchase while others like TiVo will continue to yank money from your wallet forever unless you pay their huge lifetime fees.
I had 4 occasions I needed to contact the Recast support folks. 2 times were no response at all. On the two times they did respond, they were polite. But absolutely useless advise each time telling me how to reboot the Recast by pulling its power plug (which is actually a really bad way to do it for the DVR data health). Of course the issues I had were mainly problems with their mobile app and one issue with Recast software that I eventually figured out was just buggy and couldn't be fixed without an update they don't seem interested in doing. They don't even acknowledge frequently complained about problems even exist that have been an issue since 2018. So their support failed to be at all useful in my case.
Now for away from home viewing: The FireTV mobile app's functionality is flakey and downright unusable most times. It sometimes won't connect to the Recast. When it does, trying to watch a program means rebooting the app and sometimes the phone too several times in the show. It sometimes locks up so badly that the entire phone is down till you reboot it. Sometimes the app locks up and then will no longer communicate with the Recast box till you come home again and reconnect on the home network. If it goes looking for something it cant find, it doesn't time out but locks up the entire app instead. The only way out is to literally kill the app in the phone. It's a problem many have complained about since 2018. Then when you get the connection started, sometimes it will stutter every 3-5 seconds and buffer regardless to the quality you've selected. Usually stopping the app entirely and again restarting it lets the video play correctly the next time. Sometimes the video playing will just stop for 30 seconds or so while the audio continues and then suddenly skips the missing video to catch up. Audio and video can also sometimes be a couple of seconds out of sync. Also the more you try to skip ahead or pause or rewind the video within the mobile app, it will likely lock up. Also the mobile app has no ability to display the program guide or set future recordings. It will allow you to record only the shows in now playing, not future ones. And the mobile app shows every channel Recast successfully scanned and refuses to allow lockout channels to be removed. So many channels you'll never watch are displayed, making the scrolling of a lot of useless content tedious.
Also, whether at home or away from home, the Recast often can't delete a finished recording till you tell it to several times. Then that deleted recording can pop back up days later as if it wasn't deleted.
The hardware of the Recast device seems quite sturdy and it stays put where you set it. Because its not tied to a particular TV, it can be placed where the antenna and box are most functional. If you use wifi, it doesn't need to be really near to the network hub or the TVs. Although it has a spinning data drive inside, it's very quiet. And I sort of like the square shape of the Recast. It just simply fits into more places than a big rectangular box. The Recast box is meant to be left powered up and running all the time. The USB jack on the back is supposedly to add more drive space via an external drive. But of course Amazon doesn't tell you which drives you can use or how to do it as they don't have instructions at all. You can't copy the recorded videos to another device that I know of.
One odd thing that I sometimes see is when I select a recorded video for playing, that recorded AOK, the Recast will put up an information window first that says the recording was weak and may not play back properly. Then when I play it, it seems to be without any problems at all. So apparently, Recast does a lot to clean up it's recordings so you don't get pixelization on weak signals. I've yet to see a video it warns could be lower quality actually being lower quality.
Now another thing you should know about Recast. No matter what Fire TV or your TV or the network broadcast resolution is, Recast output is only 2 streams of 720p. So even if the OTA signal is 1080i or1080p, you will be watching only 720p output to your TV. Most OTA is either 480i, 720p, 1080i and 1080p shows. But you will only see 720p with any OTA content regardless it's source resolution. Some people with really large TVs and ones that have 2K or 4K TVs will be able to play 720p fine but may not like the noticeable difference in resolution. The compromise of 720p keeps the quality of Recast's 2 output signals high enough without introducing pixelization. Most people won't notice. But if you are wanting only hires TV shows above 720p, then Recast may not be for you. I do agree with what some have said that its about time Amazon ups their game and produces a higher resolution with better hardware. Virtually every product has been doing at least 1080p for years now except Recast.
If I was rating the Recast with just the FireTV stick I use, I'd have given the unit 4 stars. And that's mainly because its good at integrating into that FireTV World. FireTV Recast works well but you must sometimes learn how to get around its bugs. I'm not sure why 2 years after the introduction of the Recast, they still have the same bugs, especially with the mobile app. The major plus is no monthly fees for Recast and it integrates into the Amazon FireTV world where TiVo and most others do not. Also, Recast doesn't make choices on what you are allowed to record or fast forward like so many other recorders do now.
If I was rating the Recast app with the mobile application, (important to me), it would get only 2 stars. The mobile app fails frequently and is just a tiny subset of what the Recast or FireTV can do. I usually have to restart my Recast mobile shows at least once or twice every show. Of course you can return to where you left off most times. I know these issues are not related to my home network or the phone service. I use the Amazon Prime app, YouTube app, Emby app, and Netflix apps on the same phone and they don't experience the issues the Fire TV Recast mobile app does. Their mobile app needs a lot of work or to be scrapped and rebuilt from the ground up. The mobile app is just buggy programming that should have been fixed years ago.
I liked that the Recast expanded my viewing options and gave me OTA recording within the FireTV menus at home. It picked up many more channels than my TiVo or TV ever did with the same antenna. And it added Alexa capabilities to OTA viewing. And it allowed me to avoid spending monthly fees for a program guide or DVR. However, it's mobile app spoils it's ''away from home'' performance. It's needing to be upgraded to make it even useable and to utilize more of the Recast features it doesn't support. The customer support was useless.
So overall, I rate the Recast 3 stars now. I really wanted the away from home option to work. It doesn't. And at even my reduced cost of $200 for the 4 tuner unit, it's still not worth that to just get OTA recording on only my home network. So sadly after 4 useless ''reboot the device'' support contacts, I decided to return the device. So I only recommend the Recast if you use it only from your home network and with FireTV viewing devices.