Review: New Tablo DUAL Makes Cord-Cutting A Little Easier
Nuvyyo, manufacturer of the popular Tablo DVR designed to bring live and time-shifted over-the-air (OTA) TV to cord cutters, upped the ante on its whole-home TV streaming experience Wednesday by introducing its Tablo DUAL, a next-generation version that includes 2-tuners and 64 GB of built-in storage without the need to add-on an external hard drive or USB stick.
The on-board storage makes for an overall simpler solution, with fewer peripherals needed – although the device still includes a USB input for those who want to add up to 8 TB of extra storage. But Nuvyyo said the included 64 GB should be sufficient for approximately 40 hours of HD recording time.
However, 40 hours of capacity is based on using the DVR’s default quality setting of 3Mbps. This limits video resolution to 720p/30 frames per second resolution. Setting the device to record in 1080i and 720p at 60 fps will significantly reduce the amount of available storage and could require the addition of external storage anyway.
The unit also steps up the Wi-Fi capability to dual band 802.11n for fewer bandwidth snags inside the house.
The new Tablo DUAL is 20 percent smaller than the last generation, making it a little easier to store out of sight, although the original device wasn’t that big to begin with.
Read more about the Nuvyyo next-generation Tablo DUAL over-the-air live TV DVR for cord cutters after the jump:
The whole purpose of getting a Tablo is to remove expensive cable or satellite TV service subscriptions from the household budget. Of course, you are going to have to pay for the Tablo DUAL up front ($249.99 when it goes on sale June 4th) plus the cost of an OTA antenna you’ll need to connect to the device to receive signals in your area. The size and price of the antenna will vary according to your distance from the transmission towers that send OTA broadcasts in your locality.
The Tablo TV also has a program listing service, which begins after the first month trial service expires. The service offers up to 14 days of program guide listings, and will run $5 per month, $50 per year or $150 for a lifetime-of-device- account. Nuvyyo said you can still use the Tablo TV without the guide service, but the free version offers only one-day of guide data and the need to manually record programs. That will make it tough to find and schedule to record programs two days and farther out. So, most will find the paid service necessary.
Another catch is, you are going to have to live within range of the transmission towers of all of the network channels you want to get, or you might not find what you want to watch.
You can find out if you live in a reception-challenged area by going to the tablotv.com web site and typing in your zip code. This will call up a list of the stations that should be available to you and the estimated average signal strength. If a station is listed with a yellow or red signal strength indicator, there is a good chance you’ll have trouble getting it at various times of the day.
The product is designed to tie in with media streamers to supplement those Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Instant Video services with live TV channels from the major networks. One Tablo DUAL will provide access to live TV broadcasts and recordings from multiple devices equipped to download the Tablo TV app in the home. These devices include: PCs, tablets, smartphones and TVs connected to media streamers like Roku boxes and sticks, Apple TVs, Xbox consoles, etc.
The Tablo also offers one-touch recording and the ability to more easily tap into a home Wi-Fi network, although in many instances the on-board wired Ethernet port will provide a more robust experience.
As with the original Tablo TV, the Tablo DUAL doesn’t connect directly to televisions. It doesn’t even have an HDMI port. Instead it connects to the TV via a home network connection. The device can be set up in one central location and its content can be accessed by networked displays around the home or office. The best way to set up the device is to place it in a room where the reception and access to the antenna are best. In many cases the antenna might have to be mounted outside, so proximity to an accessible window could be desirable.
Tablo converts video to HTTP Live Streaming, which requires about 15 seconds for channels to load initially and puts playback a few seconds behind the actual live broadcast event. Tablo will cache previously visited channels to make it easier to jump back-and-forth between two channels, but that doesn’t extend to more than two channels at one time.
Users will also need to download the Tablo app from GooglePlay or the iTunes store and connect the device to the home network. Tablo then streams live and recorded TV to other networked devices, including streaming boxes (Roku, Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast), game consoles (Xbox Nvidia Shield), phones, tablets, computers, and some smart TVs (Roku, Andriod and LG webOS 2.0 and 3.0). It will also stream between Apple devices via AirPlay.
The device doesn’t support interpolation for 1080i channels (CBS, NBC and others) and that means that from time to time fast moving content like sports, and live video will suffer with some degree of visible judder and blurring.
Anyone living in an urban or large suburban area should be able to find a wealth of free OTA broadcast stations available to make the Tablo device a truly useful cost-cutting tool compared to some cable and satellite TV service packages.
However, the cost of the device, its program listing subscription service, an optional antenna, plus the cost of broadband service and related products and fees or rental/purchase payments through OTT streaming services add up and in the end might not save all that much over the original cable tier.
Most consumers will also find new live OTT streaming services like: Sling TV, DirecTV Now, PlayStation Vu, and new services from Hulu and YouTube TV are available to them, some of which offer local channels in certain areas at a reduced cost compared to beefy cable and satellite TV subscription tiers.
We strongly advise anyone considering the cord-cutting path to carefully consider exactly what the actual savings are going to be before pulling the plug.
Otherwise, we found the Tablo DUAL an overall easier solution to purchase, set-up and use than the early generation, and Tablo is one of the best OTA tuner/DVR solutions available today.
Cord-cutting aside, the real value of the Tablo DUAL (and earlier iterations) might be the ability to send OTA broadcast channels around the house to multiple devices and users, who might not have a remote cable or satellite box in their viewing room or easy access to an OTA antenna. If you have free broadcast stations available in your area, it’s a pity not to use them. Many of these stations also have secondary programming that doesn’t appear in cable and satellite packages.
For those who are ready, the Tablo DUAL will go on sale June 4th through the tablotv.com web site or exclusively at select Best Buy retail stores.
The Tablo DUAL used for this review was a company loan.
By Greg Tarr
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