[This is part of a series on The Connected Home. To see other articles in the series click here.]
I’ve been using the Tablo OTA DVR from Nuvyyo for a little over a month now and have come to some conclusions about it. I cut the cable TV cord (see ya, Frontier!) about two months ago and immediately began looking for a DVR solution for over-the-air content. I considered some of the cheapo $50 Amazon offerings but none of them seemed like a good solution. Most used old school VCR type recording schedules – just set the channel and time and hope your show is one then – and/or had little app presence. I really wanted to be able to watch content anywhere – my phone, Fire TV, Android TV, tablets, etc. I settled on the Tablo OTA DVR because it ticks all of the boxes for a modern DVR system – with the noted exception of HDMI out. But does it live up to its spec sheet? Read on to find out.
The actual physical box is much smaller than I anticipated. I was pleased to find such a small footprint on the Tablo. Of course, there’s no internal hard drive so that helps keep the physical size low. The DVR is an unassuming black box with a silver logo on the front. There’s also an LED that can let you know when a program is being recorded. The sides are blank slates and the back has all of the connection ports you’ll need. There’s a coax input, network port, and two USB connections. There’s a quality feel to the materials but that’s not so important as this device typically just sits on a shelf somewhere. The unassuming Tablo fit right in on my TV cabinet. It doesn’t stand out which is good in this case.
Setup is a breeze. First, connect a digital antenna (I used one like this from Amazon) and a USB drive. Then connect to your internet router and install the Tablo app from the Android or Apple app stores. The Tablo supports wired and wireless connections. Power on the box and the app will walk you through the setup process. You’ll create a Tablo account, identify your geographic area, choose your channels, and set some other initial options. As part of the setup process the Tablo will perform an update and download guide information for your area. I was able to be up and running in about 20 minutes, including the guide download and update. The process was smooth and very modern.
Nuvyyo includes a 30 day trial of their guide service with the purchase of the DVR. After the trial the guide data runs $5/month, $50/year, or $150/lifetime. Or, you can pay nothing and see one day’s worth of guide data at a time. In my experience thus far the guide data has been spot on. The Tablo keeps 14 days worth of guide data loaded at any one time. From the guide screen you can choose programs to record or watch live TV. The Tablo will record new shows only, one time, or all. The system is a simple grid but it works very well.
Program info is present for all of the shows I’ve checked. That includes program and series summary info and high quality graphics. The detail and care that’s gone into providing accurate and beautiful guide info is really appreciated. It’s obvious that Nuvyyo cares about providing a quality product.
One of my favorite things about the Tablo OTA DVR is the amount of customization it offers. There are options for recording quality, startup section, streaming quality, duplicate control, live recording extend, and more. You can also choose whether content is available to stream across the internet.
Video recording and playback is the main attraction with any DVR and the Tablo doesn’t disappoint. Nuvyyo offers two and four tuner models which allow for simultaneous recording of up to two or up to four programs. I setup video to record at HD 1080, 8 Mbps. I found this to provide an excellent balance between size and quality. Since programs are recorded from a broadcast signal you’ll typically see the best possible quality.
The Tablo gives you plenty of options for watching your recorded video. The one option you don’t get is to watch video directly from the Tablo. Everything must be streamed because there is no video output from the box itself. I initially thought this would be a problem for me but it turned out not to be. Nuvyyo has developed apps for all of the platforms that matter so getting access to your content shouldn’t be an issue. Apps are available for Android, iOS, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Roku, and Xbox One. At home I tested watching video on the TV through the Fire TV, Android TV, and Android via Chromecast apps. All were similar, offering access to live and recorded content. You can also modify the settings on the Tablo from any of the apps.
The quality of the recordings is excellent. The picture is always crisp and the sound is clear. Picture quality is largely dependent on the strength of the broadcast signal received and the quality of your antenna but it is nice to know that the Tablo can handle encoding the video without any issues. Subtitle data is captured as well and can be enabled during playback.
One of my favorite features is the ability to easily stream your content over the internet. Just enable to option in settings, set the quality of the stream, and then access your content from the Tablo app from anywhere in the world. I configured streaming at the highest quality setting and the picture looked great on the receiving end. Videos start quickly and reliably.
At $181 for the two tuner model (at the time of writing) plus the cost of an external hard drive the Tablo isn’t cheap. Add in the guide data subscription and costs escalate even more. However, it is a full featured DVR and streaming video solution. One that does its job and does it VERY well. If you’re a cord cutter, though, and looking for a DVR solution to replace your cable subscription you may be able to justify the costs. The Tablo will offset some of your savings at first but in the long run is a good solution for the convenience it offers. Nuvvyo has done an excellent job with both the software and hardware – a rarity in this day. With apps available for every major TV platform – another rarity – Nuvyyo is committed to its customers.
If you can afford it you will likely be pleased with the Tablo DVR. It’s breadth of features and availability make it an excellent product and one that I can recommend.