OTA DVR could be worthwhile investment for cord cutters
Streaming and cord cutting are becoming more common. In some cases the two go hand in hand. For this reason we took a look at the Tablo a device that combines over the air TV with streaming devices. As more people look into the idea of walking away from pay TV services they must take a look at the services they receive from the cable company in their “bargain” bundle. One feature that a lot of people enjoy very much is the DVR. People weighing the cost benefits of dropping cable ask me often “can you have A DVR without cable?” Having long since replaced VCR’s (Kids that’s the thing we watched movies on and recorded with before DVDs and Blu-ray) with the cable box based recorders, the end of cable seems like the end of that function entirely. This is not the case. Despite poor reporting by some outlets cord cutters can in fact record shows digitally for later viewing with OTA based DVR’s.
Is this a service like Tivo or a piece of equipment like Roku?
Tablo offers a subscription service priced at $4.99 US/month, $49.99 US/year, or a lifetime subscription for $149.99
Does Everything I need come in the box? No
The Tablo only comes with part of what you will need to get started.
Included in the box are:
- A network cable
- A power supply
- The Tablo unit itself
- A simple start guide
You will need to supply
- A wireless router with an open network port to connect the Tablo
- A Portable USB hard drive
- An iPad with IOS 7 os or later, an Android device
or a laptop/PC to use as the control for the video interface
Apps for Tablo
There are Tablo apps for Roku, iPad 2 and above, Android tablets 7 inches or bigger running Android 4.1 and higher and a web based app. There is also a Plex app for Tablo available on
the site but the company does not provide support for it. Find the one you need here.
Is there a remote?
There is no physical remote. Like a Chromecast you are expected to supply the controls through your own devices and use their free app.
Hook up all of the equipment as the instructions suggest.
1. Connect an Antenna to the Tablo
2. Connect the network cable to your router (the device also supports WI-Fi.
3. Plug in the USB Hard drive
After the physical set up is done it is time to dive in to the software side of things.
1. Download the Tablo app to an IOS or Android device on the same wireless network OR use a computer preferably a laptop and navigate to http://my.tablotv.com/
*If you are going to access the Tablo and set up with a computer you must use either the Safari or Google Chrome browser.
2. Follow on screen instructions.
(Make sure there is nothing of value on the portable hard drive before you format it)
When the Tablo scans your local channels it will also indicate the signal quality you receive on them.
Once the Tablo is done scanning the local channels it will download a schedule guide for the channels that you have installed to the lineup.
Next You will likely be prompted to upgrade the software. Give the Tablo permission to do so.
*Note: If the interface gets hung up while syncing unplug the Tablo, plug it back in and start the process over. Once synced if the program guide does not populate after 2 minutes or more refresh the page on your browser.
Once the program guide loads subscribers can scan through their favorite shows and choose which ones to ask the Tablo to record. The device will set up to record which ever shows you chose when they air.
If you would like to record shows that are on at the moment you can do so by accessing the live TV Grid. From the live TV grid you can record current programs by selecting them and choosing record.
Live TV through Apps
One of the the most helpful features of the Tablo is the ability to view Live TV through its apps. Its Roku channel (To add Tablo channel Click Here) allows users to access all of the channels that the antenna can receive. The antenna actually operated far better and clearer when using the Tablo. What this means for Tablo users with a 4 tuner unit is that if that is a family has one antenna but a Roku in every room then multiple people will be able to view HD quality live TV channels (up to 4 at one time) without the need for antennas hooked to each TV or even worse a splitter with multiple wires. You can also watch live TV a computer. It is like having a sling box. The playback on both the Roku and computer was perfect. The apps will also let users choose shows to record ahead of time. Roku owners are not the only set-top users who can stream OTA TV on the big screen. Apple TV owners can send video from an iPad to the set top box. Tablo is also Chromecast friendly. Users can cast video from both their Android devices and their computers though the web based version uses the still less reliable Beta screen casting feature. In our test we experienced buffering when sending video from a
laptop to the Chromecast. Either way the device provides users with many options for TV viewing both on TV and via a myriad of wireless devices.
The functionality that allows a user to view live HD TV through devices like an iPad, Roku or compatible Android device reminds me very much of what Aero provided. The key difference of course is that the DVR and antenna one uses is actually present on location (and the lack of injunctions). But the performance of the antenna in conjunction with the unit was impressive. There were no pauses or skipping on any of the channels I sampled, which was all 24 that I installed. It must be noted that the antenna on its own has its up and downs. A representative from Tablo told me that the DVR does not have an amplifier or anything that implicitly boosts the signal from the antenna and explained that the likely reason I saw a better performance was due to the tuner in the unit was likely less sensitive then the one built in to my television. Some of the channels the Tablo picks up officially have fits throughout a broadcast affected by weather and other factors like digital noise. In the case of the Tablo I could not even tell I was using an antenna.
The Tablo fills a very important function that would otherwise be lost without cable. Its ability to increase the stability of an over the air antenna to cable like performance (though not an officially advertised feature) was a major surprise to us and a pleasant one. I would recommend mounting the device out of view as the antenna wires can crowd a good home theater set up. Considering that it is controlled via wireless devices over your Wi-Fi network there is no need for line of site. The need for a portable hard drive is somewhat hidden cost as is the need for compatible set-top technology. I get the impression that Tablo expects its buyers to have already committed to an over the top solution before hand. If one does not want to purchase a set-top device there is always the option to connect a computer to the TV via an HDMI connection.
Purchasing a Tablo
Want one click here to order from the Tablo home or its partners here.
Price: For the Unit $219.00-$299.00 depending on features