The Simple.TV, In Current Form, is a Disaster

I really wanted to love my Simple.TV. The premise behind it was so simple, just like the name. The premise of Simple.TV is to essentially create a DVR server that can serve up television to any device with a web browser or a Simple.TV app. It’s just a standard tuner. No cablecard or anything like that. Also, bring your own harddrive. It can stream in HD quality to your local network or anywhere else, bridging functionality of a TiVo and a Slingbox together, except… more simple… That would be great if it worked, but it actually doesn’t work. By “it doesn’t work,” I don’t mean that it isn’t good enough. I mean it actually doesn’t work.
I really wanted to like Simple.TV. I backed them on Kickstarter, ordering two units. I live in San Francisco, but being a Los Angeles native, I wanted to install one of these in my parents’ house so I could stream Lakers games up here, and I planned to install one here. When the Engadget review came out, I thought they were way too harsh. Heck… I was so excited to receive my Simple.TV that I even made an unboxing video. That’s how lame I am!

After I unboxed it, it was time to set it all up! The process of plugging everything in is quite simple. It has a coax passthrough so if you’re already using something like a TiVo, which I am, you can pass coax into the Simple.TV and back out to the TiVo. That worked just fine. There are two ethernet ports. I believe the second one is for passthrough of ethernet, but it is labeled only as Ethernet2, and I can’t find any documentation about it. There isn’t a product manual for the Simple.TV, not even in PDF form online. There’s a power port, and then there’s also a USB port for the external drive. That’s where I hit my first snag.

I don’t want to record any TV on my Simple.TV. I have a TiVo for recording all of my shows and viewing them locally. All I want to do is stream sports. Thus, I made the assumption that I wouldn’t need a hard drive. This assumption was incorrect. Simple.TV requires a hard drive just for buffering, even if you’re only streaming live content. I’ll be fair to Simple.TV. Their site does say you need a hard drive. I wish they were explicit, though, that you need a drive even if you don’t ever plan to record shows. In any case, I’ll fully take the blame for that. I went to the local store to grab a USB 2.0 hard drive. $80 later, I had one.

Simple.TV has a web-based setup tool, and it’s actually very simple to use. Kudos to whoever designed that. Once your Simple.TV is plugged in, you literally just navigate to Simple.TV, log on, it autodetects your Simple.TV, and then you step through the process. Here are a couple screenshots.

As I said, besides not knowing that I needed a hard drive, which I fault myself for, setup was simple. Once it was all set up, I was ready to start watching some TV! When I fired up my first channel, I got the following:

Seriously? I need to install SILVERLIGHT!??! This is November 2012. In November 2011, Microsoft said HTML5 is the future, and I think everyone agrees that Silverlight / Flash are dead in the water. I don’t want Silverlight bloatware on my computer. Furthermore, the word “silverlight” is nowhere to be found on the Simple.TV website…. and there is no manual. I had no idea I needed this bloatware. Okay fine… Fair enough… I’ll install this garbage.

— [I install Silverlight] —

Okay. Now that Silverlight’s installed, let’s watch some TV! I found a random sitcom, and I navigated the web guide UI, pictured below, to watch the show.

Tuning the show I wanted took FIVE SECONDS. That was annoying, but after it tuned, the quality looked nice and crisp. NEAT! Okay. Let’s change the channel! I changed the channel, and then after some time, I got the following screen:

Sorry, but we couldn’t tune to this channel. Why not? Okay… weird… I’ll try another one..  

Loading timed out. Really? Why? How can my TiVo, which is connected to the wall through the Simple.TV, tune channels in sub-second time. And honestly, this is where my experience has ended. I give it a try every few days, and I get the same result. Am I alone? NOPE. Check out their support site: . It doesn’t look like this product is working for very many people at all. Also, if you look at most of the tickets, there are plenty of angry users, but there really aren’t too many Simple.TV employees there looking to help or make comments. What about support via Twitter? That’s weird too. The Simple.TV twitter account used to tweet many times per day. However, today is November 15, and the Simple.TV account hasn’t tweeted since November 8.

The company’s twitter is silent, and they haven’t offered any help for the people like myself who are having zero success. I feel like a child with a broken toy. I can’t even tell you if Simple.TV is good or bad… because in my estimation, it’s not finished. It’s not functional for somewhere between a large group and a large majority of users. After my experiences over the past week, I now think Engadget was being too generous. I hope the problem is just software. I hope Simple.TV can push us a software fix, and then we can all be happy. If it’s a hardware problem, I’m guessing the company is probably finished. Whatever the problem is, we would all be better off if they would start being more transparent. I hope Simple.TV makes all of these problems go away so I can write a REAL review and rave about how amazing this product is. But until they fix things and start communicating, I cannot at all recommend this product to anyone.

7 thoughts on “The Simple.TV, In Current Form, is a Disaster

  • December 4, 2012 at 11:10 pm

    Yeah I should have read the info a little more carefully. The whole “digital basic cable” thing pissed me off. Not having digital cable I did not realize they meant unencrypted QAM OTA channels only. This box DOES NOT GET ANY CABLE CHANNELS. As far as I know, there aren’t any cable providers that even use clear QAM it’s like having a beta VHS or 8-Track player. “wooooooo… hooooooo…” Or DVD-RAM or DVD-HD, remember that? I guess I was a bit shocked that it was obsolete before it even shipped. Seems pretty stupid to make a brand new product that is completely useless, but there it is.

    But ok, I’ll use it to record over the air and steam it on my Roku. WRONG. First of all if their server is not working, your box isn’t working either. It doesn’t know it’s time to start recording because it can’t phone home. Or home can’t phone it. The guide is inaccurate at best, since it’s just another copy of data from TV Guide, which has always been slightly inaccurate, that’s normal. But what’s worse is the fact that it doesn’t always record. Even if you setup a recording, it may decide not to record anything that day or just not that show or who knows. The point of a DVR is to RECORD at a set time. Period. It can’t even reliably do that. Take Jeopardy! for example. It’s on every weekday, but the Simple.TV only records 3 or 4 shows a week. It’s not a timer conflict either.

    But speaking of which. Try to watch a recorded show and the device can’t record, or halts a recording in progress. It’s not just mono tuner, it’s a mono tasker. Also unless you power it down every couple of days, the time it says it recorded a show is the same on EVERY SHOW. After a hard reboot it’s ok for a random amount of time. I think it’s because it loses it’s connection to their sever and needs to be reset. It can’t do it itself, you have to unplug it.

    As for tuning live tv, sometimes it works. needs a perfect signal, any static or a weak signal and forget it. Second, you need to do it twice per channel. On the roku or the computer, the first time it will time out, the second time it should work, as long as it’s the same channel. Once to change the channel, second time to watch the channel. Again, this will stop any recordings in progress.

  • September 11, 2013 at 1:12 am

    Lots of cable providers broadcast ClearQAM. Comcast and Charter for starters. I'm sure there are many more.

  • September 30, 2013 at 7:06 pm

    The way everything mentioned regarding Simple.TV is pretty awesome. I truly enjoyed learning how things actually works within Simple.TV. It's a great device indeed and I'm looking forward to try it out with my new Panasonic Internet TV.

  • November 3, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    i have no expected that working is operational Simple TV. I have to check and very latest features in simple TV while device made by pure materiel. I am appreciating for this post.

  • November 3, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    Looks very comfortable device for personal use at home. I love to get such type of reliable TV product can be use easily.

  • December 19, 2014 at 1:27 am

    Fast forward a few years since this article was written – it is currently December 2014 and I’ve had my Simple TV (version 1) for a year. I bought it last winter when we were displaced from our home due to tornado damage. It was a good of a time as any to ditch satellite TV, and Dish was great about letting us out of contract at no cost due to the situation.

    Honestly, in the year I’ve had the Simple TV, it has worked flawlessly 95% of the time. Both at the condo we stayed at for 6 months, and then at the house after moving back in post-construction. No glitches due to relocating or anything, well not on Simple TV’s part anyway – but my dissatisfaction with Frontier customer service is another story…

    I think the company spelled out the requirements pretty clearly in their advertising. An external USB hard drive is required, and a digital antenna, plus your router of choice and ISP. It was super simple to set up, and I love being able to access shows on my Roku as well as on PC/phone/tablet. I do wish the smart TV manufacturers like Vizio would create an app for their televisions…but there is certainly no obligation for them to do so.

    The 5% of the time where it hasn’t worked flawlessly…that’s when it fails to record a show, without warning. When I go into the scheduled recordings section of the web site, the error is always "We were unable to tune to the selected channel." So, I don’t know if it’s due to weather interference with my antenna or a server issue on the company’s end. Which is frustrating. Fortunately most of the shows we watch are also available on Hulu Plus, so I have them set to queue up on there as a backup source.

    All in all, the Simple TV is a good product and it’s definitely a good replacement for cable or satellite TV, if you are only interested in DVRing prime time shows or other over-the-air channels. I certainly don’t miss paying the inflated prices for cable and satellite.


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