Review: Tablo DVR gives users a major upgrade with its free ad-supported TV offering

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Tablo has always been a niche product, Grant Hall, founder and CEO of parent company Nuvyyo, admitted to TechCrunch. However, as more cord-cutters become frustrated with streaming services raising their prices, OTA (over-the-air) DVRs and TV antennas are making a comeback. The Consumer Technology Association reported that 36 million U.S. households own an antenna. Plus, after being acquired by The E.W. Scripps Company last year, Nuvyyo is betting on the major broadcaster to put Tablo back on the map.

The company recently released the 4th generation Tablo OTA DVR, which stands out from other generations in a number of ways. For $100, the new Tablo DVR features over 50 hours of onboard recording storage, two ATSC 1.0 tuners that deliver MPEG2 video, and a new app that makes it easy for you to stream over 70 FAST and live channels, including ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, PBS, the CW, ION Plus, Tastemade and Bloomberg Television, among others.

Tablo has previously only been an OTA product, so including FAST channels and over-the-top content will likely be appealing to many existing users as well as new consumers. According to Samba TV, 1 in 3 U.S. users are subscribed to FAST services.

In addition, Tablo lets you record FAST programming, so you can finally fast forward and skip commercials, which, to our knowledge, hasn’t really been done before in the FAST space.

Image Credits: Nuvyyo

“I don’t think there’s anything that really compares to us in the market right now,” Hall told us. “Being able to record and playback FAST channels is really a revolutionary change to the product because, before, you were stuck with a linear experience. Now you can time shift, pause live TV and do all the things you could with a cable DVR.”

Unlike older versions, the 4th generation Tablo doesn’t require a subscription fee—another major selling point for consumers. The most previous generation, the Tablo QUAD, costs $199 and requires a $5 monthly subscription, making Tablo’s new DVR the most affordable device that Nuvyyo has ever released.

Also, note that Tablo is designed to stream and record broadcast TV from antennas, so it doesn’t support viewing from cable or satellite channels like ESPN or HGTV, nor does it support streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, YouTube TV or Sling.

Image Credits: Nuvyyo

There’s also a new $130 bundle called the “Tablo Total System,” which includes a 35-mile indoor TV antenna and coaxial cable. If you own an antenna already, you should know that Tablo supports an array of antennas from manufacturers like Antennas DirectAntop, Winegard and Mohu.

We’ve been testing the bundle for a few days now, along with the new Tablo app on iOS, Roku and Fire TV. It’s also available on Android TV/Google TV and Android devices. Support for Apple TV, Samsung, LG and Vizio TVs is coming soon.

Overall, the setup is quick and easy. Simply plug an antenna into the device and connect via Wi-Fi and Ethernet. Then, download the new Tablo TV app on mobile, which tells you where to mount the antenna in your house to get the best reception and most channels possible. Tablo suggests the antenna be mounted high up on either a window or drywall to improve signal quality. The company doesn’t recommend putting an antenna on concrete or metal walls.

When using the new app, users will notice a more polished design complete with a new home screen, access to recent recordings, a 14-day live TV guide and recommendation tiles based on your favorite channels.

Image Credits: Screenshot from App Store

The Tablo TV app is separate from the Legacy Tablo app that’s for existing users with older models. The company plans to offer its new app to these users soon. However, it isn’t mandatory to switch, and honestly, we don’t recommend it. Downloading the new app means giving up out-of-home viewing since the 4th generation is unable to stream content when you’re away from home.

Users who don’t switch will continue paying for the subscription, which provides access to guide data and advanced DVR features. Subscribers who pay extra for automatic commercial skipping should also keep the old app since the new one doesn’t offer this feature.

The product itself had a complete makeover, sporting a round and sleeker design. It’s also less bulky and small enough to mount on your wall or sit nicely on a table.

Image Credits: Nuvyyo

The 4th generation Tablo also incorporates new technology—a quad-core ARM processor that is designed to be more energy efficient, Hall explained. Additionally, it’s been re-engineered to include a built-in amplifier for the antenna so you don’t have to buy a separate external one if you want to help lock in OTA channels. This can be disabled if you own an external amplifier or live close to your local towers.

Tablo has 128GB onboard storage, however, you can get more storage space if you plug in a USB hard drive (up to 8TB).

While ATSC 3.0 is becoming the new standard, Tablo only supports ATSC 1.0 for now– mainly because it’s the more affordable option. The company plans to release an ATSC 3.0 tuner next year. Nuvyyo is also working on a four-tuner version and other updates like expanding its FAST channel library and other content.

“You’ll see the whole product line refreshed with the latest technology and a lot more continuous development,” Hall added.

The new DVR is available to purchase on Tablo’s website, Best Buy and Amazon.

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