Tablo Early Impressions

August 4, 2016

I bought a Tablo DVR just over a month ago and have been using it a lot. Here are some early impressions I have of the device (TL;DR I like it a lot). I will do a more detailed write up later on when I have used the device over the long term.

What Is A Tablo?

A Tablo is a whole-home DVR (Digital Video Recorder). The Tablo allows me to take TV broadcasts off the air and either stream them to a device or record them to an attached USB harddrive.

The one main differentiator between a Tablo and a Tivo (or a cable company supplied DVR) is that the Tablo does not hook up directly to a TV set. You will need another device that hooks up to a TV set to watch the video on a TV -- something like a Roku or Apple TV. Some may find this a drawback for the device, I find it very convenient. This allows me to put the Tablo anywhere I want, I am not stuck putting it in the TV stand with all the other TV related equipment (it currently lives on a shelf with server related stuff). The other benefit is that if I wanted to have multiple TVs with OTA TV service, all I have to do is get another set-top box for each TV. I don't have to run coax everywhere. Each split of the coax coming off the antenna cuts the signal in the coax by half, giving that I am 50 miles away from the broadcast tower, I need every bit of signal I can get. Also, since most set-top boxes (Roku and Apple TV and Nvidia Shield) have built-in Wifi, there aren't any extra cables to be run at all.

Because the Tablo is built as a whole-home DVR, there's no more equipment to buy if you want to watch TV on a portable device or when you're away from home. The Tivo requires a Tivo Mini ($150) per TV set. If you want to watch Tivo remotely, you'll need a Tivo Stream ($130). The Tablo will stream to any device without extra hardware. Remote streaming is built-in (though, you'll need to pay for the Guide Data to get the remote streaming functionality).


Final Thoughts For Now

The Tablo is fantastic for cord-cutting as long as you get good reception. There are definite downsides to it, like the two-channel PCM, but I can live with that. There are some stability issues, but Tablo Support has been very responsive about getting back to me when I have contacted them. So, if you have good reception (check here and here) and want to save some money each month by cutting the cable TV bill, the Tablo is a great easy way to do it.

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