Tablo: The Best Broadcast TV DVR For Most People

by | May 24, 2018 | DVRs and Converters

My recommendation for a “whole home” broadcast TV recording solution is the Tablo line of DVR’s by Nuvyyo (Nu-vee-o). Note, these DVRs work with a TV antenna; they won’t record cable TV. For most Tablo models, you’ll need a Roku or other streaming player to watch your recordings. The newer models also have HDMI output.

What is Tablo?

Tablo is a small black box, kind of like an oversized Roku, that you plug your antenna into. The Tablo Dual Lite requires an external USB hard drive (which you have to supply) to store your recordings (unless you use their cloud recording feature, which will have a fee so I didn’t review it). The regular Tablo Dual has 64GB of internal storage, so no external drive is necessary (but I’d still recommend one if you’re doing a lot of recording).

Tablo Dual Lite rear panel
Connectors from left are antenna coax, USB, Ethernet (optional), and power.

Tablo connects to your home Wi-Fi or wired network.  If you have Internet access, you probably have a home network, and if you have Wi-Fi, you definitely do.  Tablo transmits live TV and your recordings to other devices on the network such as computers, tablets, smartphones, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Chromecast, and now, Xbox. With one Tablo, you can play live TV and your recordings back on any of these devices. Thus, you can use one Tablo to watch recordings on all of your Internet-connected TVs and devices.

Both Tablo Dual models have two tuners, so you can stream or record two channels at the same time, or record one while watching another. There is also the Tablo 4-Tuner model which can stream or record four shows at the same time.

Where’s the Tablo Remote Control?

Many folks have asked me what kind of remote control the Tablo uses. The answer is, there is no Tablo remote control for the regular (non-HDMI) units. You’d use the remote for whatever device you’re using to control your Tablo. The Tablo with HDMI does come with a remote control.

To clarify, in order to make and view Tablo recordings, you can control it through the Tablo app running on a streaming box or smart TV, or a browser on a computer.

So, if you’re using a Roku to view your Tablo recordings, you’d be using the Roku’s remote to control the Tablo app. If you’re using a smart TV, you’d be using your TV’s remote. If you’re watching on a computer, you’d use your computer’s keyboard and mouse. If you’re using a Tablo with HDMI, it comes with a remote.

Which Version Should You Get and Why?

For most people, I would recommend the Tablo Dual HDMI. That has two tuners (so you can watch one show while recording another), and HDMI output so you can connect it directly to a TV if you choose. Plus, it comes with a remote.

If you want to be able to record multiple shows simultaneously, you can get the Tablo Quad Dual HDMI.

If you don’t plan to connect your Tablo directly to your TV, (for example, if you want to put your antenna in your attic or skylight), you can save a few bucks and get a Tablo without HDMI. But, you don’t get a remote control with these, and the savings is not that great.

The specific model I test in this article is the Tablo Dual Lite for $136 (without HDMI). This is the lowest-cost Tablo model, but it requires an external USB hard drive sold separately. These are not hard to come by; you can purchase one at almost any computer/electronics store, or you might already have an old USB hard drive lying around (as I did).

If you want to get up and running without an external hard drive, there is a cloud recording option, but that has a fee, so I wouldn’t use that personally. Or, you can get the Tablo Dual (without the “Lite”) for $170 with 128GB of internal storage (approximately 80 hours of HD recording, according to the manufacturer). That might sound like a lot, but power users can easily exceed this, which is why I recommend the Lite version.  You can still attach a hard drive to this version though.

Benefits

The most obvious benefit is that you can make and playback recordings on any TV in your home that is attached to one of the compatible set-top boxes. It’s a whole-home recording solution!

But, I was surprised to find that I also enjoyed watching TV on my computer’s browser and on my iPad. That was something I did not expect! In effect, it turned my computer screen into another TV. This could be great if you have people fighting over TVs in your home. Very cool! Note, you can’t do this with the Amazon Fire TV Recast DVR!

Another benefit is that if you have multiple TVs, you only need one antenna with Tablo, and you don’t need to buy separate antennas or run coax cable all throughout your house to get broadcast TV. Tablo does it all wirelessly with one antenna!

Finally, you can put your Tablo and your antenna anywhere in your home, as long as it’s in Wi-Fi range. It doesn’t have to be next to your TV. You can put it in your attic, where it can get better reception, or in a closet, just as long as the antenna is somewhere with a good line-of-site to the stations.

Tablo Dual with hard drive
Because the Tablo does not physically connect to your TV, you can put it in a more hidden location, like a closet.

Setup

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 the 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 good job of finding TV signals, finding about the same number as my Channel Master DVR+. That was good news.

User Interface

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!

Tablo Movies
Tablo movie guide on Windows browser ($4.99/month subscription)

Note, this is based on using the Tablo channel guide subscription which expires after a month and is $4.99/month. More on this later.

Live TV

To watch live TV, select that in the menu and you’ll see a program guide. Simple select the channel you want to view.

Table Channel Guide
Tablo live TV channel guide ($4.99/month subscription)

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, and it’s still better than satellite or cable TV picture quality.

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 5 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.

Recording

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.

Tablo on Roku 3
The Tablo app on Roku 3

The Subscription

One big caveat here is that my review is based on using the one-month free trial of the Tablo channel guide. This is what delivers the beautiful Netflix-style grid and cover art. After the first month, the subscription costs $4.99 per month, or you can pay $150 for a lifetime subscription.

If you don’t want to pay, you can still get a “manual mode” which enables “access to basic recording and Live TV functionality”.

After my 30-day free subscription expired, I tried out manual mode and boy did I miss the subscription!  In manual mode, you get a channel guide that only goes 24 hours into the future. 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 bit more work.

So, even though I hate paying monthly fees, I would seriously consider subscribing at five bucks a month or $150 lifetime. The grid is so nice that it makes me feel like I have Netflix even though I don’t!

Customer Service

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:

Tablo Dual Lite DVR
Tablo Dual Lite DVR

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.

Conclusions

I am a huge fan of Tablo. It’s 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.

My two major complaints have been vastly improved in the software.  Changing channels is much better now. You can now see video while fast-forwarding recordings, but still not live TV.

I also am not crazy about paying monthly fees for the guide.  But, it’s so nice that it just might be worth it if you watch a lot of TV, and there is a lifetime option which is a good deal.

These shortcomings are not show-stoppers. I love my Tablo!

Tablo Advantages:

  • Can record and play back on multiple TVs, computers, tablets, and phones
  • Does not need to be near a TV; can put in your attic next to your antenna while your TV is in your basement
  • Easy to use interface and channel guide with movie poster artwork
  • Can use Tablo as an alternative to wiring coax cable throughout your home

Tablo Disadvantages:

  • Requires a streaming box like Roku, or a smart TV to use, unless you buy the Tablo with HDMI, which you can connect directly to a TV.
  • Tablo Dual Lite requires external USB hard drive (sold separately or use one that you already have)
  • Requires Wi-Fi or wired home network (most people with Internet access have this)
  • You don’t see video while rewinding or fast-forwarding live TV (but you do for recorded shows)
  • Channel tuning speed is much improved but still takes 5-7 seconds
  • The “nice” channel guide (which is virtually a requirement for recording) requires $5/month subscription or $150/lifetime.

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Brian Shim

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chris
chris
3 years ago

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?

Brian
3 years ago
Reply to  chris

Hi Chris,

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.

Best,
Brian

cidfoto
cidfoto
3 years ago

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

Brian
3 years ago
Reply to  cidfoto

Hi 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:
https://www.tablotv.com/blog/can-i-use-tablo-without-subscription/

If not there, try rebooting, or worst case, try Tablo support. They have been pretty helpful to me.

Best,
Brian

Howard Roark
Howard Roark
3 years ago

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.

Brian
3 years ago
Reply to  Howard Roark

Thanks for sharing Howard! Totally agree!

Best,
Brian

David Delker
David Delker
3 years ago

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?

Brian
3 years ago
Reply to  David Delker

Hi David,

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.

Best,
Brian

David Delker
David Delker
3 years ago
Reply to  Brian

Brian,
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??
David

Nanci Akemon
Nanci Akemon
3 years ago

What do you use as remotes? The tv remote? Universal remote? I have xfinity and 4 tvs

Brian
3 years ago
Reply to  Nanci Akemon

Hi Nanci,

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.

Best,
Brian

Murray Speer
Murray Speer
3 years ago

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?

Brian
3 years ago
Reply to  Murray Speer

Hi Murray,

Yes, the Tablo will work with a Roku connected to Ethernet.

Best,
Brian

Sylvia T Stone
Sylvia T Stone
3 years ago

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!

Brian
3 years ago
Reply to  Sylvia T Stone

Hi Sylvia,

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.

Best,
Brian

Geraldine Wallis
Geraldine Wallis
2 years ago

I have a Vizio tv that does not have a coaxial book up. Will I be able to use this to get OTA tv?

Brian
2 years ago

Hi Geraldine,

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.

Best,
Brian

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