April 18, 2024
Tablo TV retail box.

Tablo OTA tuner/DVR

MSRP $99.00

“The most recent Tablo field is your best option for watching free, over-the-air TV.”


  • Slimmer than earlier fashions
  • No additional subscription prices
  • Simple setup
  • Wired or wi-fi
  • 12GB of storage included


  • Not obtainable on Apple TV, sensible TVs

Streaming is the undisputed way forward for video. Full cease. However there nonetheless is a spot for old style, over-the-air video. That’s, free TV. Sure, it’s historic. (There’s likelihood in case you’re youthful than 50 that you just’ve by no means really seen it in motion.) Sure, it requires a simply little work to get going. Sure, it has far fewer channels than the live-streaming companies.

However over-the-air tv has one main benefit for the foreseeable future: It’s, and can stay, free.

Tablo is likely one of the main producers of OTA (once more, that’s over-the-air) tuners and DVRs. And it’s mixed the 2 with its fourth-generation machine. Is it price messing with within the first place? Or price getting it quite than the competitors?

There’s a shocking quantity of issues to speak about right here. Let’s do it.

Tablo TV fourth-generation box with the LED lit.
The fourth-generation Tablo field, which lets you watch over-the-air TV on a number of units on your house community. Phil Nickinson / Digital Developments

First, some context

Lengthy earlier than internet-based video, lengthy earlier than satellite tv for pc and even cable, the one option to watch TV was to take action over the air. Your TV would have an antenna protruding the highest of it. That antenna would obtain broadcasts flying by the air after which present them on the display.

In that sense, issues haven’t actually modified all that a lot all these a long time later. The printed networks — suppose ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC within the U.S. — nonetheless shoot out reveals over the air and can proceed to take action for the foreseeable future, underneath the auspices of the federal authorities (the identical goes for radio, since mainly all we’re speaking about is radio indicators). For those who purchase a brand new tv at present, you’ll discover that it nonetheless has a “tuner” constructed into it that lets you scan for over-the-air channels and watch them as you’d watch anything.

The extra issues change, the extra they keep the identical.

ClearStream Fusion over-the-air antenna.
Antennas are nonetheless a factor, and are a good way to look at reside TV totally free. Phil Nickinson / Digital Developments

What’s completely different within the twenty first century is that televisions now not have antennas constructed into them. You’re by yourself there. However that’s a comparatively straightforward carry. You may get an antenna (and amplifier, which most likely comes with the antenna) and fix it to the TV by way of the coaxial connection, after which scan for channels. Antennas are comparatively cheap, are straightforward to arrange, and are a one-time value. That permits you to watch free, OTA tv on that one, single tv.

We are able to do higher, although. And that’s the place merchandise just like the Tablo — and its largest competitor, HDHomeRun — are available.

Over-the-air tv isn’t new by any means. Nevertheless it’s nonetheless an excellent possibility.

Tablo is a tuner, similar to the one inbuilt to your TV. Solely as a substitute of being constructed right into a TV, it’s a standalone machine that then shares that OTA tv sign over your house community so it may be used on greater than only a single machine. Or, actually, Tablo is a number of tuners that do all that. The essential mannequin has two tuners, so you may watch one factor whereas recording one other. Or you may watch reside on a number of units on the identical time. There’s additionally a four-tuner Tablo popping out in early December that’s obtainable for preorder now. And the fourth-generation Tablo comes with onboard storage so you may file that over-the-air content material.

One different essential preface: This newest Tablo machine works with Roku, Amazon Fireplace TV, Android TV, Google TV, iOS, and Android. It doesn’t but work with Apple TV — nor can you employ AirPlay on a cellphone or pill to beam issues over to a tv. Samsung, LG, and Vizio TVs additionally will not be but supported. We’ll replace this text if and when assist is added. However in case you’re not utilizing one of many supported streaming units we’ve listed, don’t trouble with Tablo simply but.

That’s the lay of the land right here. Let’s get into the machine itself.

Tablo TV setup

I’m not new to the world of Tablo. However issues have modified considerably over time, beginning with the design itself. Earlier generations of Tablo units have been bit larger and will take customary 3.5-inch hard-disk drives, which you’d most likely present your self. That was useful for these of us who had additional drives laying round, however not a lot for regular individuals.

Now? The fourth-generation Tablo appears to be like precisely what you’d need this type of factor to appear like in 2023 and past. It’s a lot smaller, formed like a 1-inch-thick disc that’s about 6 inches throughout, and it’s roughly the identical dimension as a Nexus Participant from almost a decade earlier than.

Tablo’s in-app setup course of is superb.

Take it out of the field and also you’ll discover the ability cable and a bit run of Ethernet cable, with the latter being a pleasant inclusion, although we’ll talk about its usefulness in a second. There’s additionally {hardware} for mounting the Tablo to a wall, which apparently is sufficient of a factor that individuals may do this Tablo included anchors and screws.

It takes no time in any respect to arrange the {hardware}. Plug within the energy cable. Plug within the antenna. (Tablo gives the choice of buying with or with out an antenna, which is good. If you have already got one, you don’t get additional e-waste.) And in case you occur to have your house community router in the identical location as the place your antenna cable terminates, you should utilize Ethernet to attach the Tablo to your house community and save the slight trouble of hooking up over Wi-Fi. (It’s utilizing Wi-Fi 5, by the way in which, or 802.11ac.)

Screenshots on the iPhone of the Tablo setup process.

From there, you’ll use your cellphone or pill to truly undergo the setup course of. There’s not so much to say right here — it labored nicely sufficient for me on an iPhone. However you’ll wish to be sure to use the brand new Tablo app, and never the legacy app for the older {hardware}. You’ll additionally must have an account with Tablo, however that’s easy sufficient. Simply observe the directions and also you’ll be good to go.

One hiccup with the setup course of within the app is that it took almost 10 minutes to obtain information information. That’s a hell of a very long time to be sitting on one step of a course of. Possibly that lag was an aberration for me. Nevertheless it’s what I noticed. (And it’s a reminder that you just’ll want to take care of an web reference to Tablo for that information information to replace within the background. However on condition that you need to have this factor in your community within the first place to look at something anyplace, that’s doubtless not a problem.)

It’s price spending a while within the settings part first. And you are able to do so from both a cellphone or pill, or within the TV app. There’s so much price taking part in round with in there that can make your total expertise higher, from channel choices to LED settings (it’s brilliant!) and exterior storage.

Extra on Tablo

Utilizing Tablo

I’ve had over-the-air TV obtainable for years. I principally have used it as a backup in case my streaming service has points, or if I simply wish to see if the OTA sign is of higher high quality than streaming.

The Tablo home screen on a TV.
The Tablo expertise in 2023 is night-and-day higher than in earlier years. Phil Nickinson / Digital Developments

This new technology of Tablo differs from the previous one in numerous methods. Greatest is that inbuilt storage is now customary. It was an possibility earlier than, however now it’s desk stakes, which is the way in which it ought to be as a result of it makes recording lifeless easy.

The opposite main distinction is that there now not are any added charges or subscriptions for extra characteristic or TV information information. That was once a factor, and I’m glad to see it gone. It felt like I used to be being pressured (or no less than nickeled-and-dimed) into paying for greater than I wished — 24 hours of free information was greater than OK — and it simply left a foul style in my mouth.

The Tablo live guide as seen on a TV.
The Tablo reside information is likely one of the better of any trendy digital service. Phil Nickinson / Digital Developments

And since the older Tablo units have been transcoding the video format on the fly, it led to a a lot slower reside expertise, the place channel flipping was painful. The fourth-gen Tablo does MPEG2 natively, so issues are good and speedy this time round. No complaints of lag from my finish.

I hesitate to even point out any of that in case you’re utterly new to Tablo. Dragging up the unhealthy previous days doesn’t do anybody any favors. Nevertheless it’s positively price a point out in case you’ve skilled Tablo previously and have been interested in giving it one other go. Issues are night-and-day completely different now, and for the higher.

The Tablo TV live guide as seen on an iPhone.
The Tablo reside information is superb on a cellphone, too. Phil Nickinson / Digital Developments

Nowhere is that extra obvious than within the app expertise. It’s not excellent in that there’s nonetheless so much happening, however I’m fairly comfy in saying that Tablo has one of many nicest reside guides I’ve utilized in any streaming product, particularly when it’s on a TV and never only a cellphone or pill — although it’s superb on each. Whereas it doesn’t essentially conform to the UI of no matter platform it’s on (spare me your indignation, purists), it’s rather well accomplished. It’s busy, maybe, however nonetheless very readable, and I’ve had zero lag within the scrolling and animations.

Tablo has among the finest reside guides of any streaming video app.

And that’s essential due to the whole lot else that comes subsequent. As a result of the information is so navigable, it’s extraordinarily straightforward to determine the place to search out reside channels, and the place to drill right down to particular reveals or recordings. It’s very self-explanatory, particularly in case you take my recommendation and pare again the variety of channels you permit seen.

A show listing for The Price Is Right on Tablo.
Present listings (and Drew Carey) look nice on Tablo, each on a TV and on a cellphone. Phil Nickinson / Digital Developments

Present listings are properly accomplished, too, not that you just’re going to spend so much of time them. However that solely stresses the significance of at-a-glance-experience.

Recording reveals is straightforward — simply inform it to file. That is one other time when it’s price flipping by the settings, as a result of there’s an possibility to increase recordings past their scheduled size. That’s essential for issues like sports activities. And taking part in again recorded applications was solely intuitive, and speedy sufficient, with playback starting inside 5 seconds.

Two tuners? Or 4? And extra storage?

We talked about beforehand {that a} second model of the fourth-generation Tablo can be obtainable with 4 tuners in early December. It’s no less than price excited about before you purchase as a result of the variety of tuners on board dictates what all you’re capable of do.

Two tuners is okay. 4 is healthier.

Two tuners means you may watch two reveals on two units on the identical time. Or watch one present whereas recording one other. For those who suppose you’ll ever want greater than that, you’ll wish to go for 4 tuners. There’s a $40 distinction between the 2 (when not discounted). Whether or not that’s price it’s your name.

The rear of the fourth-generation Tablo, with connections for power, Ethernet, USB-A, and coax cable.
The rear of the fourth-generation Tablo has ports for energy, Ethernet, USB-A, and coaxial cable. Phil Nickinson / Digital Developments

Tablo comes with 128GB of onboard storage (you get to make use of most of that, however not all, after all). Tablo says that ought to be good for about 50 hours of recording. If that’s sufficient in your wants, nice. However in case you want extra, you may add an exterior exhausting drive, as much as 8TB. That’s a couple of 6,000% p.c in capability, in case you go all the way in which. Simply make sure to use a correct HDD and never a solid-state drive or flash storage.

What about Subsequent Gen TV?

On the threat of main us all down a fairly severe rabbit gap, we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out that we’re speaking about ATSC 1.0 in all of this. With out getting too far into the weeds, that’s a broadcast customary that enables for video at 1080p/1080i. And theoretically, it’s on the way in which out, to get replaced by ATSC 3.0, or Subsequent Gen TV. Amongst different issues, Subsequent Gen TV permits for 4K decision, together with assist for HDR and Dolby Amos audio.

Tablo doesn’t do ATSC 3.0, however that most likely doesn’t matter.

To place it merely, Subsequent Gen TV has been a little bit of a debacle. Whereas it’s really obtainable in quite a lot of cities, ATSC 1.0 goes to be obtainable till no less than July 17, 2027. And it wouldn’t shock us to see that date prolonged additional given that almost all televisions being shipped at present don’t embrace an ATSC 3.0 tuner. Complicating that even additional is that Nuvyyo, the maker of Tablo, is owned by the E.W. Scripps Firm, which operates a bunch of broadcast stations and a few networks. So that you’d suppose that if Subsequent Gen TV was an enormous precedence, we’d see it on this fourth-generation Tablo.

It’s a large number, and Tablo isn’t but participating in that mess. Not less than not but. A PR rep advised us that work on the fourth-gen Tablo started “at a time when key parts of the ATSC 3.0 customary with respect to recording and playback of DRM applications have been nonetheless undefined,” and that the price of ATSC 3.0 parts additionally was an element. The rep additionally stated that “we’re nonetheless actively working in direction of a product that’s totally compliant with all ATSC 3.0 necessities by our participation in requirements teams and inside our labs.”

For those who simply should have a product like this with ATSC 3.0, you’ll must snag a way more costly HDHomeRun Flex 4K. The identical goes for if you wish to get your native OTA TV whilst you’re away from dwelling.

Different drawbacks

We talked about on the prime that the fourth-generation Tablo, on the time of this evaluation, doesn’t work with quite a lot of units. It’s acquired the main ones lined, to make certain. Nevertheless it’s nonetheless going to be a nonstarter for fairly a number of people. That’s not the one hurdle you may come throughout in case you’re trying to make the leap.

The shortage of Mac or Home windows apps is also a little bit of a letdown. Once more, whereas live-streaming companies additionally can be found in internet browsers, it’s good to have the choice to look at on a pc if you would like. We’d wish to see that potential added in some unspecified time in the future.

There’s additionally nothing in the way in which of extensibility. That is one other area of interest characteristic, however a comparatively massive promoting level for Tablo competitor HDHomeRun is that it really works with Plex, each for reside TV, in addition to recording. HDHomeRun additionally permits for administration of its {hardware} by way of an online browser or command line. That’s very nerdy and doubtless superfluous, but in addition only one other thing it will probably do this Tablo can’t.

None of that’s large. Nevertheless it’s simply one thing to notice in case you’re making an attempt to determine between the 2 units.

Must you purchase Tablo?

Once more, I’ve been a longtime consumer of HDHomeRun, principally due to the aforementioned lag brought on by transcoding within the previous Tablo bins. This new technology of Tablo takes care of that concern. And the software program is significantly improved.

The fourth-generation Tablo TV box.
Phil Nickinson / Digital Developments

That’s to not say that Tablo is a few magical option to pluck free over-the-air TV from the sky and beam it onto your TV. You’re going to should perform a little work. You want an antenna (bear in mind, open air and up excessive is healthier than indoors and down low). It is advisable know which course to level that antenna so you may get essentially the most channels the place you reside. You want to have the ability to get that antenna to the Tablo field. And also you want to have the ability to get the Tablo field into your house community, both over Wi-Fi or Ethernet.

So there’s a bit little bit of a carry. I feel it’s price doing, even when solely as a backup. Nevertheless it’s one which doesn’t require extra subscription charges. Simply the preliminary expense of {hardware} and time.

However do all that — and perceive that the NextGen TV factor is type of lurking within the background — and the fourth-generation Tablo field goes to serve you very nicely.

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