Over the past few weeks I’ve had the opportunity to test out and review Tablo’s $179.99 Over the Air DVR Tuner, and there are certainly a lot of things to like, as well as some minor hurdles.
One thing I’ve noticed that a lot of people are attempting to do is cord-cut, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try it myself. Currently I still have Verizon FiOS, however in my guest bedroom, when people come over, they are stuck using the Roku I installed. While its great, what if you’d like to be able to watch live tv, especially with the Olympics in full effect? Rather than call Verizon for a new box and an additional cost in my budget, I stumbled across the Tablo DVR System, which has its own quirks, has mesmerized my houseguests, and saved me quite a bit of money!
Essentially, the Tablo DVR System is made for those of us who want to cord cut, but what is not said in the grand scheme of things is that you will have to actually purchase your own hard drive, as well as a TV antenna in order to made the Tablo work the way it should. Now you can easily purchase a TV antenna from Amazon or Best Buy, but hard drives with the Tablo depend on compatibility which will store all of your HDTV media.
So I’d personally stick with Western Digital since most of their hard drives, as well as Seatgate’s, seemed to work from my testing. After formatting your hard drive to make it compatible, you should be all set to go. It’s worth mentioning that the Tablo supports up to at least 4TB, which is enough for about 600 full hours of recorded material, which is standard to FiOS low-tier plan which costs $69.99 monthly.
Here are some additional specs of the Tablo system:
Tablo DVR Hardware Features
• 2 or 4 OTA ATSC tuners
• RAM 512 MB (2 Tuner), 1 GB (4 Tuner)
• Flash 1 GB
• WiFi included – 802.11n dual band 2.4 and 5Ghz with MIMO
• 2 USB 2.0 ports for flexible USB HD storage
• Bluetooth 4.0 for future applications
• No remote — controlled by tablet app
• Bluetooth 4.0 (for future applications)
Tablo Control Apps
• Native iPad tablet app for iOS 7+
• Native Android tablet app for Android OS 4.1+
• Web-based app for PC/Mac, smartphones
• Roku channel app
Tablo Electronic Program Guide (EPG) Subscription Features
• 14 days of guide data
• Rich cover art
• Series and episode synopses
• Schedule recordings by time, episode or series
• Schedule full series recordings
Size & Weight
• Height: dual tuner – 36 mm (1.42”), quad tuner – 39mm (1.54”)
• Width: 174 mm (6.85”)
• Depth: 116 mm (4.57”)
• Weight: dual tuner – 366 g (12.9 oz), quad tuner – 410 g (14.5 oz)
Physical Box Contents
• Tablo Digital Video Recorder
• AC adapter (100-120V, 50-60Hz)
• Ethernet Cable
• Quick Start Guide
Being a first time cord-cutter, and seeing these things develop over the years (such as HBO GO, and even ESPN starting to discuss options for us who chose to take a stand against outrageous two year plans and hidden taxes and fees that come with cable providers) has even made me want to put more money in my own pocket, rather than give it to the companies who could care less.
Saying that to say this: the Tablo DVR System is a lot like what you would expect from an OTA System.
The look of the Tablo is about as simple as they come. It’s a black box about the size of a Kindle Fire, and works as your main stationary for getting your cord-cutting underway. The box itself doesn’t come with a remote which I thought was pretty odd. The reason I say this is because if you have guests who come over, you are prompting them to download the Tablo app in order to do anything. Luckily for those of you who have a Roku or Chromecast there are internal. There are no buttons on any side of the device, other than the back of it, which house all of the ports that you need, which are the power cord, antenna connection, two ports for your hard drives, and an Ethernet cord to connect to your home network. Now while the Tablo does actually connect to your Wi-Fi, beware, the setup itself is not simple, so hopefully you did not throw away your instruction manual, or else you will be watching a pretty long tutorial on how to actually set up via a YouTube clip.
Configuring the Tablo seemed easy when actually looking at the simple 7 step process of downloading the app, plugging in the antenna and hard drive and just powering it on. The issues arise when you realize that you’ll need that extra antenna to actually get things set up after the fact. After downloading the Tablo app in the app store and initializing a setup, you’ll need to bring up your Wi-Fi settings, which will show up as “Tablo-xxx”, with the x’s symbolizing whichever unique number used.
After you’ve connected to your Tablo App itself, you will be prompted to check for local channels. This obviously will only work if you have the antenna you purchased separately, or else you will not receive any channels. Tablo will do the rest of the work for you as it skims through and gathers up all of the channels it can broadcast. If you’re having issues with this, you can always contact Tablo’s customer support within their normal business hours.
Once you are completely finished with the setup process, you’ll need access to a TV guide program, which you will have to pay for after Tablo’s trial expires in a month. After the 30-days, you can still get access to a guide which will set you back $5 a month, although a bit limited. The companion app actually goes to show you a display of either prime-time or live shows, as well as new and updated programs that are available to view. Although I only get about 12 channels, when you add in that I have Roku (after installing the Tablo Roku channel) with Netflix and Hulu attached, thus being able to have HD channels without paying for them, makes this a perfect companion to a Chromecast or Roku stick. This really came in handy when I recorded “2 Broke Girls” and the Washington Redskins preseason game on Thursday.
Now I was expecting the quality to be bad at 720hp, but the feed showed up beautifully, compared to my living room’s Verizon FiOS DVR. Just like most DVR’s, you can watch the shows on up to six devices, which comes in handy when I need to be able to catch up on television at work (and who doesn’t get tired of YouTube at work when they’ve blocked things like Netflix and Plex?).
Overall, I enjoy the Plex, and it’s certainly a great device to have for a guest bedroom, or if you decide to not have to pay a premium just for the additional box most cable providers make you purchase. Granted, you’ll have to buy your own antenna, and the device doesn’t come with a remote, but after setting up the Tablo properly it functions just as it should. The iOS App does take getting used to, especially with its connectivity problems the first few times, but once your internet and smartphone cooperate with it, it’s seamless streaming and high definition recording for you and your family to enjoy.
Source: Manufacturer supplied review unit
What I Like: Being able to record an entire series of shows, as well as streaming them from multiple devices is awesome.
What Needs Improvement: The initial setup is pretty clunky, and the need for an external purchased antenna instead of including one is an overthought.