My recommendation for the best “whole home” broadcast TV recording solution used to be the Tablo line of DVRs by Nuvyyo (Nu-vee-o), hands down. They work great, but unfortunately, they have now eliminated the lifetime channel guide subscription option, and the channel guide (the Tablo TV Guide Data Service) now requires a monthly or annual fee. I still think the Tablo is a great device and worth the cost if you watch a lot of broadcast TV, but if you hate paying a recurring fee, check out my reviews of other DVRs, some of which do not have fees.
The Tablo records broadcast TV from your TV antenna; it won’t record cable TV or streaming apps. For most Tablo models, you’ll need a Roku or other streaming player to watch your recordings. The newer models have HDMI output so you can plug them directly into a TV.
Tablo works in the United States and Canada.
What is Tablo?
Tablo is a digital video recorder (DVR) for broadcast TV. You plug your TV antenna directly into it and it records TV shows and movies. Some Tablo models have internal storage while others require an external USB hard drive to do any kind of serious recording.
The Tablo Dual has two tuners, so you can play or record two channels at the same time. There is also the Tablo Quad which can stream or record four shows at the same time.
Network-Connected vs. TV-Connected Tablos
Tablo comes in two major flavors: Network-Connected and TV-Connected. Many people (including me, initially), thought that the TV-Connected Tablo was just a regular Tablo with an HDMI output slapped on. But actually, there are some other important differences and limitations of the HDMI model that are immediately apparent!
The original Tablo (not called Network-Connected) lets you watch recordings on streaming boxes Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, and others, plus on a browser or Android or iOS mobile device in your home. If you subscribe to the Tablo TV Guide Data Service, you can also watch your recordings anywhere using your phone or other Internet-connected device, which is pretty cool.
The TV-connected Tablo connects directly to your TV via its HDMI output comes with a remote control. You can only watch recordings from other TVs in your home with a subscription to the Tablo TV Guide Data Service! You cannot watch your recordings in a browser or mobile device or Apple TV, even with the Tablo TV Guide Data Service!
To sum up, a TV-Connected Tablo is NOT just a regular Tablo plus HDMI!!!!
Which Version Should You Get and Why?
The differences I’ve pointed out make it more tricky to decide which kind of Tablo to get.
If you want the absolute best picture quality on one TV in your home at least, then the TV-Connected Tablo’s HDMI output will give you better picture quality than watching through an app. But, with this type of Tablo, you won’t be able to watch your recordings when you’re away from home, even if you subscribe to the Tablo TV Guide Data Service.
A Network-Connected Tablo gives you the flexibility to put your Tablo anywhere in your home, not just right next to your TV. This might be really appealing if you have your antenna in your attic, and you don’t want to run coax all the way to your TV. Instead, you can just put your Tablo in your attic, the watch it using Rokus (or other devices) on your TVs!
A Network-Connected Tablo also lets you watch your recordings on your mobile device from anywhere, as long as you subscribe to the Tablo TV Guide Data Service.
For these reasons, I would recommend a Network-Connected Tablo for most people. Personally, I like watching TV from my computer browser and on my phone, and I like putting my Tablo near my antenna rather than near my TV.
Network-Connected Tablo Setup
My Network-Connected Tablo was easy to set up. I plugged in power, an antenna, and a hard drive and then started the Wi-Fi setup process. I used an iPad to connect to Tablo’s Wi-Fi network, then entered my home Wi-Fi name and password (note I had to use my non-5GHz network). I also had to do two firmware updates, but that wasn’t difficult. After that, I let the Tablo scan for broadcast TV signals.
I used a ten-year-old USB hard drive I had lying around, and Tablo worked just fine with it. So for me, the hard drive was virtually “free”. If you don’t have a spare external USB hard drive though, you’ll have to purchase one, which does add to the overall cost of ownership.
Tablo did a pretty good job of finding TV signals, finding about the same number of channels as my Sony TV, although it didn’t find as many channels as my more modern Samsung TV.
User Interface: Tablo’s Killer Feature
Next, I checked out the Tablo user interface in a browser on my computer. From the get-go it was gorgeous, presenting TV shows, movies, and sporting events in a nice Netflix-style grid (if you have a subscription – more later). All of the movie and TV show artwork was there. I actually felt like I had Netflix at times!
This is Tablo’s killer feature. It makes finding new content to record really fun and easy. Just check it ever so often and pick stuff to record! I haven’t found this on other DVRs that I’ve tested so far.
Note, grid requires the Tablo TV Guide Data Service, which expires after a month and is $4.99/month or $49.99 per year after that.
To watch live TV, select that in the menu and you’ll see a program guide. Simply select the channel you want to view.
You can adjust the quality based on your network speed. I used the recommended HD 720 5Mbps and I was happy with that. You can go up to HD 1080 10Mbps though. Picture quality won’t be quite as good as raw broadcast TV, but the difference didn’t bother me. Of course, the picture quality is best on a Tablo with HDMI output connected directly to your TV.
You can pause and rewind live TV (back to the time you started watching that channel). For live TV and in-progress recordings, you will not see the video while recording, so you have to kind of guess if you’re trying to skip over a commercial.
However, on recorded programs, you will see a sped-up preview image as you fast forward.
In older versions of Tablo software, it took up to 17 seconds to change channels, which was a real bummer! This has improved with subsequent software revisions, and now it takes about 6 seconds to switch channels for me. Still not ideal for surfing, but much better!
You also have the channel guide. Most of the time, I don’t channel surf by going from one channel to the next but rather I step through the guide and only watch things that look interesting.
Scheduling a recording is super easy. Just click on a show, movie, or sporting event in any of the grids, then choose which episodes (if there are several) to record.
If you are subscribing to their directory service, you can easily record the entire season of a show (also known as a “season pass” feature), so that you don’t have to set up the recording every week.
Recording quality was great. No dropouts (other than due to reception problems) or crashes during playback. I like the fact that if you pause playback, watch other shows, and come back to your recording, it will remember where you left off. That is key!
If you want to download your recordings for viewing offline, there is an Android app called ota2GO. I have not tested it but it’s pretty highly rated in the Android store.
Unfortunately, Tablo has eliminated the channel skip feature, which actually was popular among users. Read more about it here.
The Tablo TV Guide Data Service Subscription
One big caveat here is that my review is based on using the one-month free trial of the Tablo TV Guide Data Service. This is what delivers the beautiful Netflix-style grid and cover art. After the first month, the subscription costs $4.99 per month, or $49.99 per year (unfortunately the $150 lifetime deal is no longer offered).
If you don’t want to pay, you can still get a “manual mode” which enables “access to basic recording and Live TV functionality” with one day’s worth of channel guide data but no cover art or recording by series.
After my 30-day free subscription expired, I tried out manual mode and boy did I miss the subscription! It’s easy to record one of those shows. If you want to record a show more than 24 hours out, you have to do it manually, which is a non-starter for most people.
So, even though I hate paying monthly fees, I would say subscribing is almost a “must” if you want to do any recording. The grid is so nice that it makes me feel like I have Netflix even though I don’t!
An important part of any broadcast TV DVR is the tuner, because it helps determine how many channels you can get. While the tuner in my Tablo got about the same number of channels that my old Sony TV did, it did not get as many channels as my newer Samsung TV, my AirTV DVR, or my Tivo Edge for Antenna DVR were able to get.
Specifically, it wasn’t able to pick up channel 13.4 KCOP Heroes and Icons, a Hi-VHF channel in my market (Los Angeles), while the other tuners had no problem with this channel.
This is a pretty big bummer and is something Tablo will hopefully improve. If TV signals are weak in your area, I would probably opt for an AirTV or Tivo Edge for Antenna DVR.
After owning my first (previous-generation) Tablo for over a month, I powered it down to do some tests and when I powered back up, I was unable to connect to it by Wi-Fi.
I emailed Tablo support and got a response within 24 hours, but still was not able to connect. They suggested that I call their support line, 1-844-TABLOTV (822-5688). After two rings, a support person picked up. The call went right to someone who could help me – no menus, no waiting – amazing!!
He was able to walk me through the setup process on my iPad and I was up and running again in a few minutes! A couple of tricks:
- Always start the connection process connected to your home network, not the Tablo’s network. That was one of the mistakes I had made.
- It might also have helped to delete the existing Tablo from the Tablo iPad app by tapping the “Edit” button in the upper right corner of the app.
So, although I had a little hiccup in functionality, nothing was wrong with my Tablo, and I found out that their customer service is excellent!
Where to Get It
You can get find the Tablo on Amazon:
Disclosure: Some of the links on this page are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. I test or research each product or service before endorsing. This site is not owned by any retailer or manufacturer. I own this site and the opinions expressed here are mine. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Tablo is a great solution for recording broadcast TV when you have multiple TVs, or if you want to watch on multiple devices like computers and tablets. It’s much more convenient to set up compared to running coax through your home (unless your home already has it). It’s extremely easy to use and reliable.
But, I don’t like paying monthly fees for the guide. Unfortunately, Tablo has eliminated the lifetime subscription option. Now, you have to pay monthly or annually for the channel guide, which is almost a “must” when using the unit.
- Network-connected version can record and play back on multiple TVs, computers, tablets, and phones.
- Network-connected version does not need to be near a TV; you can put in your attic next to your antenna while your TV is in your basement, potentially eliminating the need for a lot of coax cabling in your home.
- The Netflix-style grid of movies and TV shows makes discovering new content a joy.
- Can connect to your home network via Wi-Fi, in addition to Ethernet.
- The 2-week channel guide (which is virtually a requirement for recording) requires a $5/month or $50/year subscription. There is no lifetime subscription option anymore.
- Tuner is not as good as other DVRs and TVs. Has trouble picking up some channels.
For reviews of other DVRs, some of which do not have recurring fees for the channel guide, check out my DVR page.
5 to 7 Seconds seems a bit long for a channel change to me. Also it would be nice to see a comparison of the video quality in 1080 compared to direct OTA. Is it 1080i or 1080p? So is the advantage over TiVo the fact that you don’t need to run wires?
Agreed, and the channel change times were even longer before, if you can believe it. The main way I get around that is to use the directory so I’m not really channel surfing as much.
Video quality is up to 1080p. I haven’t taken photos, but just from casual observation I can say the video quality is noticeably worse than direct OTA (which is understandable due to the compression needed), but still very watchable, and not noticeably worse than cable TV picture quality.
Yes, you don’t need wires and in fact you can watch your recordings away from home on a mobile device if you wish.
HI Brian! You are so awesome helping us navigate through this non-cable world. I have the Tablo, and have had no issues watching live TV, but now that the 30 day trial is up I cannot watch live TV from the channel guide, it just takes me to the screen to manually set up a recording. Is there way to watch live TV without the subscription? Cid
I’m so glad my site was helpful!
Yes, you should absolutely be able to watch live TV without the subscription! There should be a Live TV Grid View for this:
If not there, try rebooting, or worst case, try Tablo support. They have been pretty helpful to me.
Great article about Tablo!
In my house we watch TV in two main locations. One has great reception for OTA local TV and the other doesn’t. So Tablo made it very easy and inexpensive to hide the single OTA antenna and provide OTA channels to both of those TV screens.
Being able to also watch OTA tv on any Android phone, tablet, iOS device, and computer was a huge surprise.
Thanks for sharing Howard! Totally agree!
I am currently using a TiVo Romeo. Unfortunately my home is not internet hardwired so am operating via wifi. In attempting to add a Tivo Mini I find that I cannot operate both the Romeo and the Mini connected by Wifi, Tivo tells me that at least one HAS to be connected with an ethernet cable to the router. Rather than go through the wiring difficulties and also to eliminate the Tivo subscription cost I am considering a Tablo 4 tuner so I can watch recorded programs on multiple “smart” tvs. What does one use as a remote to control the Tablo? In various discussions I have seen mention of using an iPad or iOS device. Will an iPhone work?
Keep in mind that the Tablo requires some other device, such as a Roku, to view on a TV.
In that case, it would use the Roku’s remote. I believe there is a Roku iPhone app that can serve as a Roku remote. You can also watch shows recorded by your Tablo on your iOS device or computer’s browser.
The Tablo also has a subscription, but you can buy a lifetime subscription and I believe it’s much cheaper than the TiVo subscription.
Thanks for the info. From the Tablo website I had come to believe you could connect the Tablo directly (Wifi) to a “Smart TV” without using another device. I am not opposed to Roku but don’t know much about it and thought connecting directly would work to start. Was I wrong??
What do you use as remotes? The tv remote? Universal remote? I have xfinity and 4 tvs
You would use the remote for whatever device you are using the Tablo App on. So for example, if you are using the Roku Tablo app, you’d use the Roku’s remote. If your smart TV offers the Tablo app, you’d use the smart TV’s remote.
So, to answer the question, you’d have to figure out what device you want to run the Tablo app on.
BRIAN, have 4 TVs all using Roku Ultra. The primary TV is hardwired to the Roku rather than using WiFi. Will the Tablo work with the hardwired Roku/TV?
Yes, the Tablo will work with a Roku connected to Ethernet.
Do you have any thoughts on AirTV? This is what I’m looking for : First, we watch primarily on 1 TV, have Roku’s on our other Tv’s, and have been recording to a Magnavox HDD (which is about to go caput, which is why I’m researching DVR’s). I definitely want a dual tuner, with a decent program guide (that’s free), but I don’t really want to “stream” our TV, as we watch a LOT. (I think I read that the Stream+ has a bypass to the TV input?? – – not sure I’m saying that right.) I was leaning towards the Stream+, but it would be nice to be able to stream to more than one TV. Plus I read that it’s not possible on the Stream+ to restart a program that’s recording (i.e., if you come in after the program has started recording, you can’t rewind it to the beginning while it’s still recording??) If true, that would be a pain. So far I’ve considered: Stream+, Tablo, AirTV (would be cool to watch away from home), and Fire Recast, but nothing is a perfect fit. What would you recommend for my situation? Thank you!
As you said, I don’t think there is a perfect fit.
I do like the Stream+, but you can only watch it on the TV that it’s connected to so I think that’s out.
I don’t have an Air TV, but some of the reviews I’ve read weren’t that great unless you use it with a Sling TV.
Amazon Fire Recast can be good (with some caveats), but you’d have to buy Fire Sticks for all of your TVs.
Tablo is view-able on all of your TVs using your existing Rokus or any browser, i.e., away from home too. While it’s not perfect, it might be the best fit for what you need.
I have a Vizio tv that does not have a coaxial book up. Will I be able to use this to get OTA tv?
As long as your TV has an HDMI input (it is kind of a flat connector as opposed to round) where you can plug in a Roku or Amazon Fire TV Stick, it will work with the Tablo. All modern flat-screen TV’s have this type of input.
Just remember that the Tablo requires a Roku or other streaming player to view recordings.