For those unaware, Tablo is a line of network tuners with subscription-based DVR capabilities. Without the subscription, Tablo is an inexpensive way to stream over-the-air antenna television around the home to a smart phone, Roku, etc — especially if getting in on their frequent refurb deals. By adding a subscription, one gains the complete program guide to support full-featured DVR capabilities along out-of-home streaming.
Overall, Tablo is a solid solution and one we’ve recommended over the years. But for folks who’ve invested in Tablo hardware that haven’t been satisfied with its capabilities, the Channels DVR beta can repurpose those tuners for a new and different experience. For example, while Tablo’s $2/mo commercial skip has been sunset, this feature remains alive and well on Channels (and was always superior to Tablo). Or Channels’ ability to download recordings directly into its own mobile app for offline (think Airplane) viewing, versus resorting to 3rd party Tablo software and a possibly convoluted process.
Channels DVR does require additional elbow grease vs Tablo, as the software must be installed somewhere in one’s home. But the options are plentiful. I used to run Channels from a NVIDIA SHIELD Pro but now a Mac Mini similarly handles hosting duties in the background. One could also throw it on a spare Raspberry PI or existing NAS. Like Tablo, Channels requires a subscription — running $8/mo or $80/yr. However, given the beta nature of this support and the potential that Tablo could inadvertently (or intentionally) cut Channels off I’d suggest going with the free trial followed by monthly.
For those starting from scratch with Channels DVR, HDHomeRun hardware seems superior for this purpose – given quicker channel tuning and presumably additional developer capabilities, given the HDHR’s generally open nature.