Tablo review: A complete over-the-air DVR solution with just a few flaws

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Tablo is an old hand in the nascent business of whole-home, over-the-air DVR.

The $220 box from Ottawa-based Nuvvyo records free broadcast channels from an antenna and streams the video to phones, tablets, PCs, and TV devices. The Tablo hardware first launched in 2014, and Nuvyyo has been refining its software and expanding to new platforms ever since.

Thanks to those refinements, Tablo is the most straightforward solution yet for watching over-the-air TV on all your devices. Still, it falls shy of broadcast DVR perfection due to some performance issues and missing features.

Chain of command

Tablo comes in two flavors: The $220 two-tuner model lets you watch or record two channels at once. The $300 four-tuner model allows four simultaneous recordings or live streams from a single antenna.

tablorear Jared Newman/TechHive

You’ll need to provide your own USB hard drive to record the TV shows and movies you record with the Tablo DVR.

But that’s not all the hardware you need. You must also connect an external USB hard drive and an antenna to the box, which then connects to your router over Wi-Fi or ethernet. And because Tablo doesn’t connect directly to the television, you also need another device—be it a Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV device, Apple TV, or Chromecast—to receive streams through Tablo’s apps.

Despite all those links in the chain, Tablo is fairly simple to set up. Once you’ve plugged everything in, Tablo’s mobile app guides you through the process of connecting to your network, formatting your hard drive, and scanning for broadcast channels. You can then start watching live TV or setting up recordings as Tablo pulls in guide data.

Tablo doesn’t require a subscription, but freeloaders only get a one-day channel guide and manual recording. Full DVR service costs $5 per month, $50 per year, or $150 for life. It includes 14 days of guide data, series-based recording, out-of-home streaming, cover art, and various ways to filter the program guide.

Pick your platform

Tablo’s greatest asset is its broad device support. Currently, Tablo offers apps for iOS, Android, Fire tablets, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, LG WebOS smart TVs, Xbox One, and the web. There’s also an add-on for Kodi, a popular media center program for home theater PCs and cheap devices like Raspberry Pi.

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