Tablo’s Next Gen DVR Is Here

Dave Zatz —  May 31, 2017 — 25 Comments

Although TiVo may be moving on, Canadian startup Nuvyyo is doubling down on Tablo with a spiffy new network tuner. The Tablo Dual OTA DVR ($250) features a significantly smaller, redesigned fanless enclosure. But that’s not the real story here. By integrating 64GB of flash storage, all customers now start with up to 40 hours of antenna TV recording capacity. Combined with exclusive Best Buy retail availability, the company is clearly attempting to push this product into the mainstream. Beyond the aforementioned bundled storage, Tablo Dual features comparable internals to its predecessors (which will coexist) — Tablo continues to tune performance and expand the ecosystem of streaming apps capable of receiving both live and recorded over-the-air video. Plus owners can still simply expand storage via an external USB drive and cloud DVR options remain on the roadmap. To maximize the experience, most folks will want the $50/yr subscription for two weeks of guide data… which is a much more palatable number than what TiVo requires. While the ‘headless’ tuner doesn’t neatly fit into the traditional set-top DVR paradigm, like Channel Master’s solution, it certainly offers a more modern and flexible approach… that others like Channels (Apple TV) and Plex have (Android TV) similarly undertaken.

25 responses to Tablo’s Next Gen DVR Is Here

  1. Priced at $250 for only two tuners, I would have expected to get Lifetime guide data. Or at least a couple years guide data thrown in.

  2. Unfortunately, guide data is not inexpensive (Channels DVR charges $8/mo for comparison, to include DVR sw development, and TiVo charges $15/mo although often uses it to help subsidize hw but now owns the guide data) and the transcoding hardware required for this sort of solution is much pricier than the off-the-shelf parts a pure streamer like Roku can roll with. Somewhat equivalent HDHomeRun Extend hw (now also fanless) is cheaper than Tablo but doesn’t include wireless, many “good” apps, nor 64GB of storage. The periodic Roamio OTA deals (with Lifetime) represent the best OTA DVR value, but you give up some of that flexibility as there’s no Roku, Apple TV, Xbox, etc output – so you’re going to pay on one end (for a TiVo Mini) or the other I guess. I also think their positioning is that even at $250 plus $50/yr, it’s much less than cable TV and box rentals. I bet over time the original 2-tuner box is phased out and this one drops in price.

    By the by, Tablo advertises on the site (banner towards the upper right) – but the financial relationship does not extend to coverage considerations.

  3. There have been some growing pains for Tablo, but I’m pretty happy with mine. I left TiVo OTA because the rumored Roku app never materialized. The Mini is fantastic head unit, but the expandibility is extremely limited (must be hard wired) and expensive.

    I hope this new unit represents a refinement of the hardware if not a complete overhaul. The thing gets as hot as the surface of the sun, but the vents and fanless design must mean they’ve solved some of those heat issues. They also still need to refine the UI. I don’t have issues with it, but if you have a lot of OTA channels, the time it takes to load channel data and tune to a channel makes it unlikely to find mass market appeal. And finally, the accuracy and useability of the TiVo fast forwarding and rewinding through recorded shows is just unparalleled. I hope Tablo can get there one day.

  4. As far as nits, only being able to linkup say an iPhone to Tablo by being on the same network is a limitation – unlike say a Slingbox account.

  5. I’m a Storage Architect by day. So believe me, I’m not inherently anti-flash. But why? I realize we want our boxes quiet, so heats an issue but wouldn’t a 1 TB laptop drive makes tons more sense? That said, I have always wanted Tablo and this is a nice looking offering. PS Vue has gotten too good with locals in my area or I’d jump on this.

  6. Small, cool, and won’t fail compared to mechanical drive.

  7. Niche of niche, most of the cheap OTA, I won’t pay for free Tv crowd will never pay for data or a recorder. How long can companies keep selling to a market that really isn’t expanding (this includes Tivo too).

  8. @MJR – There is an ENORMOUS untapped market itching to cut the cord if there was a good, cohesive experience combining streaming services with broadcast TV. Once somebody manages to put those two together in a straightforward and polished way, there is quite a bit of money to be made.

    Nobody’s quite there yet, but it’s only a matter of time until somebody gets it right. This Tablo revision ain’t it, but they’re making progress.

  9. @Scott Lewis – In addition to what Dave said, one of the biggest flaws with the previous Tablos is that they had ZERO onboard storage aside from a small bit of flash for firmware and are basically useless without an external hard drive plugged in. And if you don’t use one of the officially supported hard drives from their list, the Tablo was so sluggish and stuttered so badly as to be unusable.

    Adding some built in storage makes the Tablo usable out of the box. It might even help with the issues caused by its extreme pickiness with USB drive interfaces.

  10. I hear Dave and Nick. I just don’t think the 1.8 and 2.5 inch drives fail that often and they can run fanless. And store a lot more. And lower that entry price.

    Also to Nick, I’m watching with interest Sling’s bundled Android streamer with a USB antenna and I understand DVR recording is coming to Android TV. I’m not a Sling user but like the direction. It’s a bit ugly for now with that hideous blue.

  11. @Scott flash is cheaper than an internal hard drive. The cost of 64GB of flash chips soldered on to the motherboard is much less than adding an internal HDD and gets about 40hrs of recording storage. A drive introduces another supplier and potentially manufacturing/assembly step well above the modest amount of flash. Customers can still attach external drives up to 8TB as they want, but now they get full functionality out of the box without it.

    Btw, native DVR support is up and running in Android TV on the Nexus Player and NVIDIA Shield (maybe some others since last time I checked.) HDHomeRun works nicely with both. There’s also a beta app from HDHomeRun that works on other AndroidTV devices and Amazon Fire Devices (if sideloaded). These are a separate apps and don’t merge in with the main SlingTV UI, but like you said, it’s been done on the AirTV box, so there’s no reason it shouldn’t be possible more broadly.

  12. Next Gen, but only 720p/1080i? ATSC 2.0?
    If there are 4K HDR cable boxes, then this isn’t really “Next Gen”.

    I’m holding out for ATSC 3.0 boxes. I know I’ll be waiting many months since 3.0 isn’t quite finalized yet.

  13. Well… AirTV sounds nice. The reality hasn’t yet lived up to marketing. We’ll see if DISH sticks with it long enough to effectively merge linear and over-the-top content. Supposedly the same experience is coming to the MiBox. We shall see.

    Bobby, who exactly is broadcasting 4K HDR content? What is recording 4K? And how much are you willing to pay for such a box? Regarding ATSC 3.0, you’ll be waiting much longer than a few months… Having said that, it would have been nice if Tablo could have claimed x% improvement in performance here but I’ve found suitable during testing (of the first gen product line).

  14. I’ll stick with my Roamio OTA as long as possible. As far as I’m concerned it can’t be beat as a DVR. I long ago gave up on Tivo’s app ecosystem and turned to Playstation, Fire TV, and Roku for my OTT services. I subscribe to PS Vue for access to cable channels that I still want, i.e. FX, AMC, Syfy, Science. For the regular broadcast channels antenna is where it’s at if you can get good reception. At least where I live in the Bay Area I see more and more antenna’s appearing on rooftops.

  15. “64GB of flash storage, all customers now start with up to 40 hours of antenna TV recording capacity”

    So Tablo automatically transcodes?

    Because 40 hours of MPEG-2 antenna TV in HD consumes a heck of a lot more than 64GB.

  16. Yes.

  17. Sounds expensive, especially for only two tuners. The last TiVo Roamio I bought, a Roamio OTA(refurb), only cost me $200 and that included lifetime service. Plus has four tuners and several times the storage. Which still wouldn’t be enough tuners if I strictly relied just on OTA recordings. Fortunately it’s just a backup to my FiOS recordings.

  18. Tablo also periodically offers deals on refurbs but, like I said above, the best “deal” has been those Roamio promotions — probably TiVo clearing inventory because they’re surely losing money. Although, once again, locked in to TiVo Mini endpoints.

  19. Bill in NC that is correct. It has to transcode because most streaming devices can not handle MPEG-2.

  20. The untapped market has left the building, OTT streaming is available for the four big broadcast networks. The OTA subchannels don’t have a lot for younger viewers, OTA dies with the boomers. Younger crowd cutters won’t find what they want OTA.

  21. OTA has its advantages over streaming. Its free. It does not count against data caps. Its not time delayed to the next day or week. It does not suffer from additional black out restrictions for events.

  22. OTA is not free, you need equipment to take advantage of it, and millions of people can’t good OTA reception. A lot of them are renters and in cities.

  23. MJR OTA is free. That you need equipment to access it does not change the fact that you are not being charged to revive it. You need equipment to watch cable or satellite too. None of my cable providers gave me my TV. They did not give me the cable box I needed in order to access it. The only consumer cable box for the U.S. market is a Tivo DVR.

    To get locals only TV from my telecommunications providers is at least $15mo. To get DVR service I have to go up to a more expensive tier which was $45mo by itself and another $20mo for the DVR (the only model they had at the time was a whole home one). Thats $65mo a month if all I wanted to do was be able to was watch and record local channels through cable. Those prices wee from 8 years ago.

    The cost of my directional UHF/VHF OTA antenna was $40, so the cost of less than 3 months locals only cable service I now get all my local channels for free.

    The $65mo minimum to get DVR through my last cable provider would pay for the new Tablo dual (by it self) in less than 4 months. To add lifetime less than 3 additional months.

    But at the moment the best deal for OTA DVR is a lifetimed 1 TB Roamio OTA for $350 from weaknees.com, less than 6mo payoff.

  24. Dolby Digital?

  25. OTA is a middle class hobby, poor people with bad/non OTA reception can’t get the so called free content. Don’t me get started on DVR costs, upfront money of a few hundred dollars is a pipe dream to many.

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