Tablo TV Liberates OTA HDTV (and crushes Simple TV)

Adam Miarka —  April 10, 2014

Final Location

Lets try this again, shall we?

If you caught my first look at the dual tuner Simple TV, you’ll know that the product fell short of my expectations. A combination of fan issues and software instability led me to question if the dual tuner was actually ready for release. The idea for a networked DVR is sound, but the execution simply failed. In the end, I returned the Simple.TV hoping future updates might resolve the open issues.

Last week, a startup out of Canada entered the same playing field. Tablo TV has made similar promises as Simple TV, an easy way to record Over-The-Air (OTA) TV signals with playback to multiple devices. And the setup is essentially the same for Tablo TV: One part Slingbox, one part DVR. Like rolling your own Aereo with a better UI and higher video quality, without those pesky regional restrictions.

tablo-setup

You connect an antenna and hard drive (or two) to the Tablo TV box, scan for OTA channels, and then start watching TV. There is no HDMI connection from the Tablo to your TV. Everything is done over a network connection and within the apps Tablo provides. Why no HDMI? You can read about that decision here.

Hardware, Features, Pricing

First, let’s talk about the hardware. Depending on the number of channels you want to simultaneously record and watch, Tablo offers two options, a dual tuner or quad tuner unit. The unit we purchased is the dual tuner model. Tablo will be releasing the four tuner model later this spring. Pricing for the dual tuner is $219, and the four tuner runs $289.

Both units have the same basic hardware specs:

  • 2 or 4 OTA ATSC Tuners
  • Dual band 5 and 2.4Ghz wireless with MIMO
  • 2 USB ports for USB hard drive storage

With wireless support, you can place the Tablo TV in another part of the house that might have better OTA reception, rather than having to connect it directly to your router. The ability to connect to the 5Ghz wireless band also allows for less interference than the usually congested 2.4Ghz band.

Moving on to software features, Tablo offers the following:

  • Watch, pause, record live TV
  • 14 days of guide data
  • Commercial Skip (30 second skip, 20 second rewind buttons on iPad/Android app)
  • Scheduled recordings (By time/date/series)
  • Stream to 6 devices simultaneously (iPad/Android app, HTML5 browser, Roku, Chromecast)
  • Remote streaming while away from home

Tablo does require a subscription for these features. Without the subscription fee, you will only be able to stream live TV and manually schedule recordings by channel, date and time. Subscriptions run $4.99 a month, $49.99 a year, or $149.99 for lifetime service. The lifetime service is based on account, not on the device. That means that if you choose the lifetime fee, you can add as many Tablo devices as you want. This differs from TiVo’s service offering, which is device-specific. Tablo breaks down the subscription benefits here.

Setup

Tablo TV comes in a nicely packaged box and includes the Tablo unit, network cable, power supply, small antenna, and setup instructions. Initial setup can be completed in a couple ways, either via a tablet app (iOS/Android) or through the web browser (http://my.tablotv.com). Connection wise, you are also able to choose Ethernet or wifi. My setup was done over Ethernet to ensure I did it correctly the first time. Once unpacked, I attached my antenna, hard drive and then connected it to my router. It was go time!

Tablo Unboxing

Upon powering up, my mind flashed back to the horrible fan noise that came from the Simple TV unit. Would this be the same? Like others, would I be destined to rip the thing open and try figure out how to make it silent?! Thankfully, no! Tablo does not use any kind of fan for cooling and uses passive heat sinks. The only sound I could really hear was the powering up of the connected hard drive.  Hey, it passed my first test.  :-)

The boot sequence on the device is very fast (under a minute). The blue LED on the front of the device pulses and the pulses become faster until it’s solid blue. This means the device is ready for setup.

I grabbed my iPad, and launched the Tablo TV app. Being on the same local network, the iPad app easily found the Tablo unit. The initial setup page also allows for wifi setup if you do not have your Tablo connected directly to your router. If you choose this route, your Tablo basically becomes a wifi hotspot for the setup period. You’ll need to go into your device’s wifi settings, connect to the Tablo local wifi, then continue on with the setup in the app.

Once you begin setup, Tablo asks that you have your antenna connected. Setup will then ask you for location information. With the iPad app, you can either manually enter your zip code, or have the app determine your location.

Setup 2

Next up is channel scanning. Hands down, I have never seen a device scan so fast for channels while providing visual feedback of the signal strength. As your channel scan progresses, it dynamically shows which channels are coming in and the signal strength for each.  Once the scan is done, Tablo TV will select the best channels for you automatically. Usually it will skip the dash 2 or dash 3 channels it finds as those are typically supplemental to the main TV station. Tablo TV was able to find all the normal channels in my area. You can also select any channel it finds that was no automatically checked. For my setup, I’m currently about 15 miles from the broadcast towers and Tablo TV easily selected the correct channels for me.

Setup 5

After the channel scan, Tablo TV asked to be updated (to version 2.1.4). This is nice as it ensures you have the latest update. Tablo also includes the changes made for the update (go communication go!). Tablo will then begin to download 14 days worth of channel guide data.

Tablo Hard Drive

The last step is formatting the hard drive. Depending on the size of the drive, formatting will take a few minutes. I used a portable Western Digital Elements drive for my review. Tablo has a nice post outlining the drives they used for testing and their recommendations.

Using the Tablo TV

Tablo TV allows playback and management from multiple devices. These devices include:

  • iPad and iPad mini
  • Android tablets (7 inches or larger with Android 4.2 or greater)
  • Roku
  • Compatible HTML5 browsers (Chrome, iOS Safari, Firfox, etc)

Although you are able to access Tablo from different devices, the user experience mostly stays the same (exception being the Roku channel). I’ll try to summarize the how the Tablo works in general, and then spend discuss any specifics within each app section below.

When launching the Tablo app, the main display defaults to Prime Time TV and offers a visually rich interface that is heavy on graphics. Instead of the typical guide view, you are presented with a grid of pictures that represents each show/movie. Tapping on any of the pictures will bring up a nice description, background photo, and options to record or playback shows depending on the section you are in. Another nice addition to the description screen is that Tablo will also split out the show details by season. So if you have multiple instances for a show, it will break apart which season it belonged to. That was a nice touch.

Tablo iPad

On the left hand side menu, Tablo TV offers up main categories for Live TV, Prime Time TV, TV Shows, Movies, Sports.  Within each category, you can even filter depending on how you want to view shows. For instance, you are able to select the Prime Time category which only shows you TV that will be on during prime time. You can then sort shows by whether or not they are new, or are by a certain genre, or even specifically by channel. Each of the main sections allows for this kind of second filtering. Although this sort of manipulation of views was jarring at first, I eventually came to appreciate how easy it is narrow down shows. Tablo TV also provides the “normal” Live TV guide view if you are more comfortable viewing shows this way.

The other two sections of Tablo are Scheduled and Recordings. The Scheduled section allows you to view all shows waiting to be recorded at a glance. Selecting any of the shows will pull up the familiar show description screen and at the bottom will be the upcoming shows. There is also a Conflict section that can be used to show any potential conflicts of shows. Fixing conflicts is as easy as selecting the show that is in conflict, and then determine the action you want to take. Tablo provides an easy visual for the choice.

Tablo Scheduling

The Recordings section displays all shows that have been recorded. Selecting a show again pulls ups the show description screen along with any available recordings for playback.

Let’s look specifically at the different ways to use your Tablo TV:

HTML5 Browser (Google Chrome)

On any HTML5 compatible browser, you are able to browse your recordings, change your schedules, watch live TV and change some settings of the Tablo TV. Depending on the size of screen you are using, Tablo will adjust the user experience. So if you are using a Chromebook to browse and watch TV, you’ll get a different experience than watching on an iPhone. Did I just mention Chromebooks? Oh yeah, Tablo has no problems serving up live and recorded shows. The web app looks very similar to native iPad and Android app, especially at the Chromebook size.  On an iPhone, the display is shrunk and not as much information is shown.   Navigation still works well.   You can even save the Tablo address to your iPhone home screen. It will save the Tablo icon so it looks like a regular app. Tablo also just put in a change to take advantage of the full screen view of Safari. That means there is no more address bar at the top and the web app feels more or less like a real iOS app.  The browser experience lets you view live tv and recorded shows. It’s easy to select the correct view you want, select the show and begin watching.

Tablo Chromebook

Android App

To be truthful, the Android app felt a bit rough around the edges. Visually it looked similar to the iPad app, and all the features seemed to match, but performance seemed to lag. With my short time with the device, the Nexus 7 worked okay if you wanted to catch up on a recorded show, but trying to use it to watch Live TV was slow. Changing channels took quite a bit of time as the device tried to load the stream. Hopefully Tablo will address some of the performance of the Android app in the near future. As for Chromecast support, the Android app does support it, but it was almost unusable in my setup (more on that below).

Roku

The Roku channel provided the most straightforward way to use the Tablo TV. The channel itself has the same look and feel as the other channels in the Roku store. When launched, the Roku searches for a Tablo on your local network.  Once found, it presents a simple set of icons for Live TV, Recordings, TV Shows, Movies, Schedule and Disconnect. Within each section you have some sorting ability. Each time the Roku screen needs to refresh the page to show the new sorted view. Playback for recorded shows was almost instantaneous and the quality of streams was excellent. There was never a time that a stream degraded or changed to a lower resolution. When a show is recording, you can start to watch a show and continue watching all the way through without having to go stop the stream and replaying from the beginning. Thumbs up for that!

iPad

To me, the iPad app provided the best combination of management, playback, and streaming. You can tell that Tablo spent a lot of time making sure the iPad quickly responded to every touch. You can swiftly move through the interface to make any changes or start any stream needed. The ability to use AirPlay to hand off any stream to an Apple TV provides a way to watch any OTA TV on the big screen. There isn’t much else to say in regards to the iPad app that wasn’t said above concerning UI. I have been enjoying using both the app and AirPlay for stream.

Tablo iPad

A word on Chromecast

From my testing, there are two ways to currently use Tablo TV with the Chromecast. You can either use the Android app or cast an entire Chrome tab in the browser. Both options did not really stand up to using AirPlay or the Roku app. I do not think Chromecast is ready for prime time just yet. After flinging a stream (whether live or recorded) to the TV, the stream eventually deteriorated with audio sync issues and overall non responsiveness, especially from the Android app.

The API for Chromecast was just released, so I expect there to be updates that might help fix these issues. But for now, if you want to rely solely on a Chromecast to stream to a TV, I would recommend against it.  As for the iPad app, Tablo has stated that it will also be receiving Chromecast support. Once it does, I will update this post.

Misc

Here are a few odds and ends that I thought were interesting, and wanted to call out separately:

  • Blue led can be turned off in the settings page. Don’t forget to hit save when you’ve toggled the setting!  :-)
  • Harmony remote can control an AirPlay stream to the Apple TV. While a show was paused on the Apple TV, I walked away to another room. My wife decided to sit down and start watching TV. She thought it was just our TiVo paused. To my surprise, the remote actually controlled the AirPlay stream! This included play/pause and also fast forward and rewind abilities. This isn’t necessarily unique to the Tablo app, but AirPlay in general. Just thought it was cool to be able to do this. Makes it easier to control a Tablo stream to the Apple TV with a remote rather than the iPad app.
  • Upon re-scanning channels, it may appear as if schedule recordings or shows disappear. This is just the guide updating the data. Eventually the channels will reappear and your previous recordings will still be in place.
  • The iPad and Android apps do a great job of syncing and providing feedback on syncing with the Tablo device. When using the web browser, it can take some time for changes to show up. If you clear your browser cache and log back in, the sync usually is fixed.
  • Tablo is very socially active. They are always answering questions on Twitter / Google Plus / Facebook and their Community site. If you have a specific feature request, submit one to their Tablo community
  • You can stream the same live channel to multiple devices. So if you have more than one person that needs access to a live channel, it’s possible with multiple devices. I tested this with one live channel streaming to four devices. Playback was perfect.
  • When looking at the Live Guide view, the channel indicator will pulse orange when the tuner is in use. It gives you a quick glance how many tuners are active.

Conclusion

If you are looking to cut your cable/satellite subscriptions and replace with an OTA tuner, you need to give a serious look at Tablo TV. To me, it is the best unit out there in terms of features, cost, and speed. The device over the past week has been rock solid and I’m continually impressed by the speed of the device, especially when streaming to an iPad or Roku. The device is responsive when you need it to be, and otherwise hides in the background waiting for the next command.  For my final setup, I moved the Tablo upstairs for the best reception. The Tablo is connected via a powerline adapter back to the router. This gives me the best flexibility to stream OTA and recorded shows anywhere in the house. I have loved using Tablo so far, and I look forward to additional features they may provide in the future!

59 responses to Tablo TV Liberates OTA HDTV (and crushes Simple TV)

  1. A couple of notes… I had a great briefing with Tablo at CES and was quite stoked with their work. They offered up a review unit towards launch, but as we got closer, I didn’t pursue it as I knew Adam had pre-ordered and is one of the best folks on the planet to evaluate this device given his experimentation and interest in the space, along with his SimpleTV deep dive. Keep in mind Adam is comparing a first generation Tablo to a second generation Simple.

    Tablo was unable to automatically configure Adam’s router, and he manually opened some ports. So this is still partially in the realm of the geek. Also, while Adam isn’t sweating it (yet), I take issue with Tablo’s pairing requirement. For me to get Tablo to work on my iPad, I’d have to take it to Adam’s house a few states over. The company needs to rethink this approach as folks flip devices, share with family members or coworkers, etc. One last fyi – surround sound isn’t passed yet, but sounds like it is likely.

  2. So, are you actually seriously considering cutting cable teevee, Dave, in favor of Tablo/Roku/Amazon VOD?

    Can you do without sports? And current seasons of FX and other basic cable series? (And I thought you were a, shudder, Showtime fan.)

  3. I’ve been contemplating it… my FiOS TV subscription is up in August and I’ll evaluate then, dependent on their packages and incentives. I don’t think I’d mind picking up the occasional FX and BBCA series on Amazon, plus SkyNews on Roku and Apple TV is quite possibly a suitable replacement for my wife’s CNN addiction. My mom’s condo association has a deal with Comcast – she’s obligated to pay for channels and services she doesn’t use, so I’d probably feel no guilt occasionally borrowing her Showtime and HBO, versus funding my own as I have. The local wing joint meets my college football needs. If I go down this path, the question is do I see if TiVo will give me the $99 Lifetime deal on a mothballed 2-tuner Premiere and stick with my Minis (who will hopefully have Amazon Instant by then) or do I cut them and Slingbox loose in favor of a Tablo (or Aereo, should they survive).

  4. You could always just use your mom’s comcast login to Xfinity on your ipad or android device. Difficult to get that on the TV, though, without a HDMI adapter.

  5. Michael Moskovitz April 10, 2014 at 10:02 am

    I would bet you a $5 Starbucks coffee card that with the inroduction of Fire TV, TiVo will never get Amazon Prime streaming video.

  6. I had it on very good authority it was coming… and this bit of intel came to me while Fire TV was in development. Of course the plan could change at any time, perhaps it has. And I wouldn’t expect as good as an experience as you might get on other platforms given TiVo’s small userbase, should it ship. We shall see!

  7. What interesting about all the new entrants into the market for OTA is that it shows that cord cutting is definitely a real phenomenon. Tivo was kind of the only option for so long and now there are a lot of new choices. I still think Tivo is the gold standard, albeit more expensive. They need to step up their game in terms of internet connectivity.

  8. I still don’t get the decision to leave out an HDMI port. I know people with just over the air TV and they would go for an OTA DVR but they’re not particularly tech savvy people. Requiring a Roku just isn’t going to work well. Your average Joe is used to turning on the TV and flipping around. They aren’t going to want to deal with Roku channels or airplaying to get their regular TV content. It’s one thing to require that on lesser used satellite TVs in the house, but on the main TV, regular non-tech savvy people aren’t going to want to deal with all this stuff just to watch the football game on Sunday afternoon.

  9. Is there any way to transfer shows to phones/tablets ala TiVo Desktop or Stream?

  10. Dave,

    I don’t think the minis will work with a 2 tuner Premiere. Don’t you need at least a 4 tuner device?

  11. Daniel, yeah I’d think both Simple and Tablo would benefit from TV output. Running headless is a big conceptual hurdle that a lot of folks aren’t prepared to make. And, duh on the 2 tuner TiVo limitation – I need my blog credentials revoked on that one.

    kickboy, good question. Is the stuff on the hard drive accessible even if they don’t yet have an actual utility to offload?

  12. The downloading vs. streaming is a good point. I almost never stream with my Tivo and nearly always download. Much easier when travelling due to inconsistent mobile data quality as well as data caps.

  13. “I would bet you a $5 Starbucks coffee card that with the inroduction of Fire TV, TiVo will never get Amazon Prime streaming video.”

    I vehemently disagree with your reasoning. I think Amazon has great strategic interest in having its video services available on as many platforms as possible, not just its own hardware. It’s the company’s DNA, which is why you can read your Kindle books on all kinds of non-Amazon hardware.

    (The only issue for Prime on TiVo is sheerly one of the size of the installed base. But, as Dave has noted, it does seem to be coming.)

  14. At this point, if you live in a city with 20-30 or more OTA networks and if you have a good ISP service, unless you are truly a sport addict, there is no reason not to cut cable. (I receive 35 stations with a Mohu Sky in the attic, 28 of which have unique content (7 duplicate the same content from different tower locations), of which I watch at least occasionally 21. I supplement that with 48 Roku channels, one of which is Nowhere TV, which in turn has a ton of channels. We never lack for something to watch.) As to sports, between OTA, MLB.TV, and ESPN3 (via WatchESPN and ISP which is a participating partner) I get plenty of sports to watch. True, I don’t get every single game, including some of the big college games, but I get plenty. I even watched the BCS Football Championship on ESPN3.

    As to Tablo v. Simple.TV, were I starting from scratch, I might well go with Tablo, but I was able to buy a single-tuner Simple with a Lifetime Premier Subscription off Woot! for $95, including shipping. It works fine and I have no complaints. To switch now, including a lifetime subscription, would cost me $370. It’s just not worth it when Simple works fine. I’m sure I can add a Simple or two off eBay to add tuners and be a lot of money ahead given my existing $95 investment in Simple.

  15. FezzikTheGreat April 10, 2014 at 3:40 pm

    Thanks for this review! My HTPC got fried over the weekends and I’ve been looking for a simpler solution to the whole OTA thing. I got my Simple.TV 2 shipped next day (as my wife cannot go without her shows) and I am so unbelievably disappointing with the product. IT IS TERRIBLE. I had on the same antenna an HD Homerun Dual and it worked flawlessly. Simple.TV was crap. Guess I’ll have to wait until the Tablo is released to the public to see if its any better.

    My main goal is to hook the box up to multiple Roku 3s and I have a few questions regarding thatL
    How is the live streaming on the Roku?
    Is the interface on the Roku full featured enough to be the only frontend for the Tablo?
    How does the trans-coding hold up when streaming to multiple Rokus?

    Thanks again for this review. I’ve been at my wits end trying to figure out what to do after my miserable Simple.TV experience.

  16. @FezzikTheGreat

    The Roku channel is functional enough for playback, but not initial setup up or show configuration. You’ll need to either use the browser app or iPad/Android app for that.

    As far as streaming to multiple Rokus, that depends on your setup. My main Roku is wired via powerline. The other is over wifi. I don’t have any issues streaming to both devices at once.

    Definitely give Tablo a try. It has been great for multi device streaming.

  17. “At this point, if you live in a city with 20-30 or more OTA networks and if you have a good ISP service, unless you are truly a sport addict, there is no reason not to cut cable.”

    Well, that certainly is the sweet spot for cutting cable. (And not a spot I live in.)

    But still, even if I did live there, I value HBO at about 50% of what I receive via the multicast. I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, working for HBO Original Programming. And unlike certain thieving citizens I won’t name, I feel compelled to support the arts.

  18. Cranky late adopter April 10, 2014 at 9:49 pm

    OTA is for people who can’t afford cable. If you can afford an AppleTV, Roku, broadband and an iPad, and want to watch TV, pay for cable. The content is on cable. Don’t punish yourself on a anti-establishment, screw the man crusade. This product is cool, but for such a tiny market, it will be gone in a flash.

  19. Thanks for the review. I never pulled the trigger on the Woot Simple TV deals, but the Tablo sounds great so far.

    While searching for other Tablo reviews, I noticed that someone ripped yours off (and messed up the grammar):

    [link removed]

  20. Thanks for the great review. I have been considering this since I first heard about it. I was curious how well it handles dropped signals/frames? Does it mess with the stream at all or is it able to recover nicely?

    Thanks again!

  21. Great review… i have two of the simple.tv 1st gen units, they work well enough… but looks like tablo may have some staying power

    One thing that i do like is the guide in the browser and pairing remotely with simpletv

    One thing I dont like is the lack of chromebook support

  22. So for recording does it always transcode the signal to H.264 (I assume from the list price they went with this codec) or can you toggle it off? The mfgr site isn’t totally clear, only mentioning an option for “recording quality” with the resulting HLS files — however those get stored on the USB drive(s)

    On my home net I’ve never had trouble channel-surfing the HDTV broadcasts through a Windows Media Center extender at 5GHz, but then again it doesn’t sport any Sling-ish features that Tablo’s touting, Live transcoding 2+ streams sounds like enough to bring whatever low-power CPU it has to its knees.

  23. Nice review. Do they have any plans to add CableCard support?

  24. Thanks Steve, I’m attempting to take care of it. :/ In the interim, I’ve removed the link so we don’t reward them for their thievery. As Chucky said, us artists need to get paid.

    And, damn if I didn’t guess Cranky’s identity before pulling up his email. CIABFH.

    imran, as they’re not even considering clear QAM, I’d say CableCARD is entirely off the table. Not to mention CC has been a complete cluster which is now exasperated by the FCC accidentally vacating CableCARD requirements a year ago (leading to reduced support).

    DaveT, yeah you want H.264 for both storage purposes and to efficiently stream – MPEG2 is far too large. And a prior configuration in my household (MCE > Xbox) did suffer due to the raw video size with stuttering, drops, etc. As I haven’t yet tried Tablo, I can’t tell you what the quality is but I wouldn’t automatically assume it’s much different/worse than the source…

  25. @Tim

    The stream recovers nicely. Even if there is interference in the reception (which at times there could be from storms, etc), the actual stream to your device/TV is constant. It looks as if you had just hooked up your antenna to the TV and it had interference.

    My wife actually commented on the quality of the picture the other night. She actually did notice it being clearer than our usual Comcast/TiVo feed. I found that interesting. :-)

  26. “OTA is for people who can’t afford cable. If you can afford an AppleTV, Roku, broadband and an iPad, and want to watch TV, pay for cable. The content is on cable. Don’t punish yourself on a anti-establishment, screw the man crusade. This product is cool, but for such a tiny market, it will be gone in a flash.”

    Really? I am one of those hated folks in the top 5%. I think I can afford cable. However, I don’t believe in wasting money and I believe (unless you are a vicarious sports addict), cable is HUGE waste of money. In the end, however, it depends on what you want to watch. I can get everything I want to watch and which my family wants to watch via OTA and OTT. The marginal value of what we cannot receive in that fashion is WELL BELOW the cost of cable/satellite.

    96 of the top 100 shows on TV are available OTA. A ton of sports is available OTA or OTT with a few notable exceptions (some of the games in the NCAA B-ball Tournament, but the final was on OTA and many football bowl games, though most that are not available live without cable/satellite can be watched almost immediately after they are over on ESPN3 for free — just use some discipline and not follow the results live and you can watch them about 3-4 hours after they are live). I was able to watch the BCS Football Championship live via ESPN3.

    I’m not screwing the man; I’m not wasting money for content which to me is not worth anywhere near the marginally value of cable or satellite. Having said that, I’m not a couch potato and don’t want my children to be. We spend a lot of free time at sports events or hiking, canoeing, kayaking, camping, live music performances, the movies, etc. We also spend a lot of time reading. TV doesn’t consume enough of our time to be worth $1,000+ year.

    The one exception I understand is for those who cannot get a lot of OTA channels, which, again, is the home of 96 out of the top 100 shows and a ton of live sports.

  27. Yeah, it’s not always about “cost” – It’s often about “value.” And then there’s new generations coming up surrounded by this technology, other distractions, and perhaps a different mindset. It kills me that to add BBCA, I have to drop to a lower tier of fewer channels (which actually raises my rate $5/mo because voodoo economics) or jump to a higher tier for $30/mo more. I just want that single channel. But the hoop jumping and cost just sours me on their whole approach.

  28. Cranky Late Adopter April 11, 2014 at 11:05 am

    @Greg L
    Buy one of these. You’re the target market for it.

    @Dave
    You’re not. Keep cable. Bundle you’re telecom services and pay the man. If you are into value, compare the programming you like with OTA (not the top 100 shows the sheeple watch) with what you watch on cable. I mean, Breaking Bad was worth the entire cable bill by itself, no? Yes you are paying for crap you don’t watch. But, cut the cord, and you’ll come crawling back to the warm embrace of Mother Verizon in few weeks. She’ll take you back, though.

  29. I had my hopes up for the Simple TV but was disappointed by the bad reviews. I had decided to got the TiVo Roamio route but now this TabloTV has me very excited. It looks like I can get more for less money. I know the TiVo has Netflix and other things but I have a Roku and Apple TV for that. With the TabloTV I will be able to easily watch live or recorded TV from my computer, Roku, iPhone or iPad without needing an extra box.

  30. Cranky, yes simplest to keep on keepin’ on. Although I’m fairly certain I’ve watched more Amazon Instant Prime and Netflix “TV” content in 2014 than cable or broadcast channels. Just skimmed the Xfinity packages from Starbucks. They have a $60 deal which includes 105Mbps and 45 channels, which pricing good for a year. Beyond HBO, it’s not clear which 45 channels and also not clear if there are cable modem rental fees. These guys just can’t communicate honestly. Which once again makes me want to cut it all off. But, of course, I probably won’t.

  31. “Just skimmed the Xfinity packages from Starbucks. They have a $60 deal which includes 105Mbps and 45 channels, which pricing good for a year. Beyond HBO, it’s not clear which 45 channels and also not clear if there are cable modem rental fees. These guys just can’t communicate honestly. Which once again makes me want to cut it all off. But, of course, I probably won’t.”

    If you are lucky enough to have multiple acceptable MSO’s to play off one another, you really can cut excellent 1 or 2 year contracts, well below the rack-rate.

    Just do a bit of homework, (like having those and/or other offers in front of you when you call), spend half an hour moving yourself up the call-chain to the ‘win-back’, ‘win-over’, or whatever that particular MSO calls their department that deals with competitive shoppers, and you can save thousands. (Just make sure you get them to shoot you off an email confirming the rates and conditions before you proceed. They don’t like to, but they will.)

    The work necessary pays off per-hour well above white-shoe lawyer rates…

  32. @Cranky Late Adopter
    “I mean, Breaking Bad was worth the entire cable bill by itself, no?”

    Or you could spend $8 for a month Netflix and watch the entire series start to finish. I too can afford cable, but I have no interest in 98% of the content. The few shows on cable that do interest me are available on Hulu, or I purchase individual seasons. Cord cutting is a real and phenomenon as evidenced by the increasing number of OTT subscribers, and the shrinking number of cable subscribers. Devices like this are only going to become more prevalent.

  33. “Or you could spend $8 for a month Netflix and watch the entire series start to finish.”

    You just couldn’t watch the current season that everyone was talking about.

    (And, of course, if you have an ISP that hasn’t successfully extorted Netflix into their should-be-illegal peering surcharge that all Netflix subscribers will end up having to pay extra for, your PQ will have problems.)

    Personally, I get a pretty decent deal on my cable bill through competitive shopping via the multiple wireline providers in my metro area, so I could afford both cable, as well as buying the current Breaking Bad seasons via Amazon VOD, sans commercials, badges, and end-credit spoilers for the next episode, along with excellent PQ. Just bought an Amazon season pass to the new Mad Men too. You’ll get that on Netflix in what, 18 months?

    If you’re lucky enough to located where you can aggressively shop around for a reasonable wireline provider package, you can have it all.

  34. @Chucky

    I was simply using his mention of Breaking Bad as an example. For reference, the final season of that show was available on Netflix 5 months after it aired, not 18. For the few shows that I really want to watch, I buy current seasons through Google or Amazon and watch episodes shortly after the original air date. I manage to survive being a week behind on my TV watching.

  35. Wow! What a nice feeling to read such an overwhelmingly positive review for a first release. The Tablo team must be incredibly thrilled to read this!

  36. ” For reference, the final season of that show was available on Netflix 5 months after it aired, not 18.”

    For reference, the final episode aired 13 months after the first episode of the season. So, 18 months seems just about perfectly correct, both for Breaking Bad and Mad Men

  37. Another kickass review by Adam Miarka, BTW, even though both the products he’s reviewed aren’t right for my particular use-case scenario.

  38. Thanks Chucky! I’ve threatened Dave to send me more things to review. Or else I’m going to start grabbing random things around the house, like our automatic cat feeder, for review. :-D

  39. I’ll be travelling up to my parents house this weekend. Will be a good test for the remote viewing features. Will report back.

  40. “@Greg L
    Buy one of these. You’re the target market for it.”

    I probably would were I not already committed to Simple.TV (which works fine for me — I’ve yet to have the problems of which others complain — knock on wood). However, unless Simple really does get simple and reliable for the masses soon, I’m afraid the company will fail and my “Lifetime” Premier subscription will prove to be measured by the short life of Simple.TV. If that happens, I may very well switch to Tablo — or something else, as I expect others to enter this space. I hope, however, to be able to wait for reviews. As it is, my investment into Simple is small and I fully expect to get my money’s worth out of it before it fails.

  41. @GregL
    I probably would were I not already committed to Simple.TV (which works fine for me — I’ve yet to have the problems of which others complain — knock on wood). However, unless Simple really does get simple and reliable for the masses soon, I’m afraid the company will fail and my “Lifetime” Premier subscription will prove to be measured by the short life of Simple.TV. If that happens, I may very well switch to Tablo — or something else, as I expect others to enter this space. I hope, however, to be able to wait for reviews. As it is, my investment into Simple is small and I fully expect to get my money’s worth out of it before it fails.
    ———————————

    Me too, Greg. Well put…. that is a concern on whether Simple.tv will stay in business with this competition and all. I have two v1 simple.tv tuners that work ok enough but their v2 unit has failed miserably. Its like they didnt even test it, and I was surprised that silicondust would let a product out their doors like that but I am happy with the v1 units well enough. If I was simple.tv I would still offer those for sale and just focus more on their software and customer support (which is not very good).

    But this Tablo is intriguing and it runs Chromebook too which is a big plus! So if simple.tv folds and our lifetime subs go away then on to Tablo… I just hate the loss of the investment if that happens

  42. You guys make me laugh. If someone else subs to cable or not has to be about as irrelevant a thing as there can be.

    I happen to live in an area that is a “cable free zone” – yes they exist and have used OTA my whole life. Satellite wasn’t even available when I moved into this home and when Dishnetwork game along I still had to use OTA if I wanted ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, & PBS as at the time Dish didn’t have locals.

    I don’ have a satellite sub now because of the value issue and the fact that with my TiVo Roamio OTA DVR I have more TV to watch than I will ever have time for. I don’t even use any paid OTT services. I do have a Roku and HTTP attached to my TV so I do use some free channels/service including Hulu, but my DSL slows way down at night so streaming is hit or miss.

    Honestly if you want to pay for TV go for it. If had a family I would likely still have satellite but for $75/mo that a lower end satellite package ends up costing I can find allot better entertainment values.

  43. Just to comment on Tablo TV – I think the concept and how this works is a great idea. For me how the OTA tuners deal with various reception issues is the most important issue with OTA DVRs. I would love to see side by side testing in areas known to have issues between the various OTA DVRs.

    Frankly this the type product that TiVo should be offering with Premieres, Roamios & Minis operating as the head end.

  44. “You just couldn’t watch the current season that everyone was talking about.””

    Sure, past seasons you get from Hulu or Netflix, current episodes you buy, commercial-free, from Amazon.

    I’ve saved thousands of dollars since the Amazon VOD store opened (2007?)

    Initially I bought a used Series 2 w/ lifetime for around $200, dropped the cable package back to ‘broadcast’ ($8/month, including all taxes) and bought whatever ‘cable’ shows I wanted from Amazon (downloaded to the Tivo).

    Then after the digital transition I was lucky enough to win a Tivo HD XL w/ lifetime from Tivo, and so bought a HDTV and dropped cable entirely.

    I’d have to buy literally hundreds of episodes of cable shows annually from Amazon before subscribing to cable would make economic sense.

    Today it’s even easier to get premium cable content – make friends with someone who has HBO/Showtime/ESPN and you can watch all those via a Roku box.

  45. Good evening, Can anyone comment about using TABLOTv to substitute only the DVR Box. It seems like is nicer to use my iPad as a DVR controller. Also replacing my DVR box for a HD box will save me $20/mo….Can I split the signal coming out from the HD box and connect to the TABLOtv ?
    I appreciate your input. Luis

  46. No Luis you cant use Tablo for cable dvr …. it is strictly for over the air (ota) antenna usage. Its a dvr for antenna

  47. “Two co-workers just cut cable… They’re not young’uns, they’re not broke. They just don’t see the value. And one of the two flipped from Cox to FiOS for broadband because he doesn’t want the fear of a cap.”

    Smart. Especially considering how they can now experience worst of breed low Netflix PQ through FIOS’s throttling. And, of course, FIOS keeps saying that bandwidth caps are something they plan for the future.

    As we both know, and as the MSO know as well, cutting cable teevee isn’t cutting cable…

  48. @Chucky

    Who peed in your Cheerios? Take a chill pill and quit worrying about the TV watching decisions of others.

  49. I cut the cable over a year ago and I don’t miss it. I’ve got more HD channels from OTA than I got with cable, plus I got multiple Roku boxes around the house for Netflix and the tons of other channels on the Roku. I also use Plex to stream media from my home server through the Roku. I don’t watch sports and I was already tired of the endless reality shows that dominate most cable channels these days, so it was an excellent move for me. I get to pocket an extra $120 each month too.

    I’m really interested in the Tablo since connecting an antenna to each TV is a pain. The house just isn’t wired for that. This device sounds like just what I need. I’m waiting on the 4 tuner version to be released and I believe I’ll be ordering. Thanks for the review!

  50. Just a heads up, Tablo announced the pre-order for their 4 tuner model. Looks like it will be shipping in June.

    http://www.tablotv.com/order-tablo

  51. I’m surprised no one has mentioned the problem with any of these ota to streaming devices. Taking the superior OTA picture quality and then losing it through a streaming device. Might be better than cable for someone, but if you’re used to what OTA can look like. This box needs HDMI.

  52. I’ve spent the last 3 days working with the 4 tuner Tablo and it is not ready for consumer use. It is buggy to the point that it is unusable. So many problems that it is almost laughable. I just finished printing a return label, it’s going back. Not sure what product you were looking at but this is terrible.

  53. miguel du perron July 11, 2014 at 11:10 am

    I’ve also had the TabloTV 2 tuner unit for the last three days and I have to admit, I’m fairly disappointed. Chrome-casting content is brutal and unstable to say the least. the app will crash at least once every time I use it. Don’t push the buttons too quickly or it will crash. Yesterday, I couldn’t even rewind live TV or fast forward after a lengthy pause. While Browsing shows you notice an unacceptable amount of lag as the app tries to doeaload all the cover art for the shows; this is very frustrating to say the least. I don’t want to have to send it back but I feel like this is a monumental failure at the moment. Very disapointed.

  54. @miquel are you using the Android app? The iOS app doesn’t seem to exhibit the issues you are having.

    Have you tried using a Chrome browser or Chromebook to access the Tablo? I have found the experience to be very speedy. I am able to cast a live or recorded channel from my Chromebook to the Chromecast without issue.

  55. I thought I would throw out here that I’m loving my 4 tuner tablo and another user and I just released a Plex plugin for the Tablo that expands its capabilities. Think DLNA , offloading transcoding to your computer, remote viewing without needing to be on the same network and a more native iphone expirence with the plex app.

  56. I am using the roku 3 and tablo works great with it. But I am having issues of the tablo locking up and not updating. Guessing it is because the unit is getting way too hot. It really needs a fan or some time of heatsink on the outside to cool it down. I stand it on it’s side to give it more surface area to cool, seems to help.
    Several program I want to record just won’t record. My wife loves wheel of fortune and the station plays just fine but cannot get it to record and the guide has trouble finding the program when trying to set it up for recording. I have another couple shows with the same issue. Shows a red Exclimation in the top right side of the box. Don’t understand why that is there when the channel works just fine when live.
    Would like suggestions on why I am having those issues. I am using a window 7 comptuer to set it up… and BTW don’t use windows explorer, it doesn’t work with the website. Just blank. Had to download firefox to even see the program listings.

  57. Ken in Houston update August 12, 2014 at 7:02 am

    If you are going to get a Tablo go ahead and get the 4 tuner version. Esp if are going to record things. You have a better chance of avoiding program conflicts. If you are watching tv only one program can be recorded, If watching two TVs nothing get recorded on the two tuner. Two annoying bugs the roku channel guide does not update it will stay the same until you exit the tablo channel and go back in and unless there is some way to begin the recording a few minutes earlier you will lose the start of each recorded program.
    Suggestion : Please make an option to just allow you to record everyday at a certain time rather than choosing off a program listing. Sure would make the unit more useful.

  58. Ken in Houston…
    I have 4 turner version…

    They released a update (all versions) and you can setup manual recordings.

  59. THANKS Sandy.
    Sure helps. The recordings were always cutting off the first 5 minutes of the show also. Have it set up manually now a few minutes ahead. Hope it works!