Our new friends at Tablo were kind enough to send out their Tablo DUAL 64GB OTA DVR. That’s a bit of a mouthful so let me break it down: The Tablo DUAL 64 is a two-channel at once, 64GB storage over the air (OTA) digital video recorder. The DUAL 64 records TV shows in your home, for later viewing through your home WiFi Network, on your smart TV, Tablet, iPad, iPhone, Android phone, or any streaming device which has the Tablo application (ie, Roku). It can be accessed easily in your home, or as long as you are a paying subscriber to the guide service, you can watch your shows remotely anywhere you can connect to the internet. Let’s go deeper.
What’s in the box
Not a whole lot. The Tablo DUAL 64 GB OTA DVR if the first thing you see when opening the box. Underneath the device is an AC power supply, and a LAN Cable. There is a very basic quick setup guide to show how to connect the Tablo to your Antenna and to suggest you get the app. You need the app. Everything depends on the app. The registration reminder card is important as your Tablo starts the 30 trial period with the digital guide the moment you turn on the system and pair it to your WiFi using the application. I started with a Samsung Galaxy phone for the setup and then started poking around. If you aren’t the kind of person who just randomly pushes and pokes until you feel the need for an instruction manual: the device is clearly laid out and all of the features are illustrated and explained on the Tablo Web Page. Let’s look even deeper:
The first thing you have to do with the Tablo DUAL 64 (or any of the Tablo OTA DVRs) is connect to your HDTV antenna. I just added a signal splitter then connected to the same OTA antenna I use for my entire home. The next step is connecting the Tablo to the home WiFi network. That requires the Tablo App available for free at Google Play for Android devices and at the App Store for iOS. I was also able to find the app for my Roku 3, and my Amazon Fire HD just fine (Here is the complete list of apps and compatible devices). You can also use the included LAN cable to connect directly to your router. Since I have a mesh WiFi network that can handle a lot of throughput and a lot of devices over a very large range, I used WiFi. Once you have the system set up, the devices can connect to any Tablo on the network. The Display looks the same no matter the device. There’s even a nice Video at the Tablo Website to walk you through the entire setup process.
I have been playing with the Tablo DUAL 64GB OTA DVR for about a week now. Once the Tablo DUAL scans the channels, it is very simple to pick shows from the various menus such as Prime Time View, Movies View, Sports View, or you can manually enter times dates and channels in a simple manual interface in the app. The View pages allow one to pick and record single shows, or entire series by graphic cards which match the shows title graphics. Even for movies or sports it is quite easy to find and choose shows you want to record. The subscription allows your Tablo to perform at the highest level, allowing you to program using the 24 hour Channel guide to choose, or up to 14 days of recording using the Prime Time View, Movies View, and Sports View pages. With the Trial subscription one can read about the series, access your shows anywhere you can access the internet, and access all of the numerous advanced features included in the Tablo. That Trial subscription runs out after 30 days, but that still gives you the 24 hour guide in a Live TV grid view, the Schedule View, and Recordings View. After that you will be limited to manual recording using the interface in the Scheduling screen and up to 24 hour advanced recording. You can always click on live tv to choose a show with either setup and record instantly. There are so many nested features that one should take the time to visit the website if one wants to get the full utility. Full utility is great and the $4.99 a month fee might seem a bit much for a TV guide (especially for cord cutters), but without it, you can’t do remote viewing or record more than a day in advance. It’s still useful, but not even close to as amazing as the easy recording interface with the full monte. Tablo subscriptions cover any and all Tablo devices you might have in your home and can also be purchased at $49.99 for a year, or $149.99 for a lifetime subscription. If this device fits your needs well, that seems to be the real cost saving plan.
So, I watched old moldy shows and fast forwarded through the commercials. I watched PBS shows and I watched local news shows. I recorded most of the shows at 720p, although the device can also record at 1080p, 720p@60fps using about 10 Mbps per show, 1080p at 8 Mbps per show, 720p at 5 Mbps (which I used), 720p at 3 Mbps, or low quality SD 480p at 2 Mbps per show. The videos at the highest recording rates were great and flawless no matter which device I watched. I was able to watch shows walking down the road using my phone and a 4G connection without a problem.
When broadcasting using the Tablo Connect feature, you can also choose levels of streaming from 500 Kbps, all the way to 4 Mbps or Full Quality which would be full bandwidth of the signal. I played with those settings and what really was noticeable on my phone was just the “streaming buffer” would be smaller when using the higher quality settings. In the house, and the yard, on the WiFi network, every device was quick and responsive and the application worked flawlessly. With the Subscription one can also adjust advanced recording features to adjust start/stop time, keep recordings or have them auto delete, and choose a specific channel for shows which are on multiple channels at once, like a Presidential State of the Union address.
As a bonus, if you feel that you are running low on space at any point thanks to your binge watching habits, there is also a USB port to add an optional USB hard drive to expand your storage.
Cord Cutter’s Dream Device?
Maybe. We got rid of Cable TV over 5 years ago at this house. Since then I have the best internet service in my area, as well as HDTV antennas connected to all of my TVs, and now a Table DUAL 64G OTA DVR. We stream a lot of TV and have subscriptions to various services including Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime Video, and HBO among others. Do I need an OTA DVR? Surprisingly, I’d have to say yes.
I don’t like to stay up for local news programs. I don’t always remember to watch sporting events when they broadcast. If I had to use my VHS recorder, first I’d have to dust it off. Second, it doesn’t record the Digital signals or channels, nor can it receive them so it’s been collecting dust for years. The Tablo DUAL can be accessed anywhere in my home, or anywhere else I can get internet. That’s amazing. I can watch shows, and movies which aren’t on the paid subscription channels I use, and I can watch them on many devices. I can record two shows at once which was great for recording college sports and golf at the same time last weekend. And yes, I’ve been watching the shows. On my phone. On my iPad. On my Amazon Fire, but especially, on my Smart TV in my bedroom.
The Tablo DUAL 64GB OTA DVR gives the consumer a “Cable TV” like experience for OTA HDTV with a DVR to boot. It’s sophisticated and fun to use for any member of the family. The basic system has great utility, but cannot compare to the full subscription service from what I have observed. I will be updating this story in the future after my trial subscription ends, just to explore the limited features and connectivity for our readers who might want this type of device but not wish to purchase the Guide Subscription. The Tablo DUAL is priced at about the same cost as a digital cable box or DVR and it essentially does the work of both. One bonus feature I almost forgot to mention: Many of these new devices have very bright blue LED power indicator lights. The Tablo not only has one, but: nested in the settings tab below the Recording Quality menu is a click box labelled “LED.” Click it. Light is off. I can sleep. Thank you Tablo! I am giving the Tablo DUAL 64GB OTA DVR a reserved 9.0 out of 10. I will update that rating when I’ve explored the basic access in the near future. Keep reading and keep watching for more great stories about more great tech!
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*Average price is based on the time this article was published
Tablo DUAL OTA DVR
3′ Ethernet Cable
Quick Start Guide
Watch and record up to two shows simultaneously.
Watch on up to six devices at once.
64GB onboard storage
Support for up to 8TB USB hard drive
512 MB RAM
64 GB Flash
100 Mbps Ethernet
802.11n dual band WiFi with MIMO
Height – 37 mm (1.46″)
Width – 125 mm (4.93″)
Depth – 123 mm (4.84″)
210 g (7.4 oz)
H.264 (HLS: HTTP Live Streaming)
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