Top critical review
Dual Tablo So so - need work
February 9, 2019
Update 3/12/2019 - After a few weeks of use I am lowering my review to 2 stars. My major complaint is the overall performance is horrible and often so annoying I do not want to use the Tablo app. The guide can take several MINUTES to load sometimes, and live TV playback can take 20 seconds or more to start up. I called Tablo support and they suggested I download the "Tablo Preview" app. I had seen that app before and thought it was some crippled version of the app that was targeted at people looking to see what the product was all about, but that is not correct. Tablo Preview is the next gen of their app (it really should be called Tablo V2.0 Beta imho). This version does work better, but the issues with the guide populating the matrix on the screen has not been resolved. Earlier I stated that these issues were only happening with the FireStick client, but I have noticed the issue on the browser connection as well. Sometimes I get an error back saying "The Sync process was unsuccessful due to a database error". This issue is happening more and more now, in fact I cannot watch Live TV via the browser at all at the moment. I also notice that when I move from one client device to another, the depiction on the Recordings screen is different between the various clients - i.e. TV1 client reports that I have 5 episodes of Big Bang Theory recorded, while TV2 says there are only 3. Getting very frustrated and contemplating returning this thing.
I cut the cord years ago and I have been using a SlingBox connected to a friend's cable service set top box. That works well, but I figured I could setup a DVR to record content from the some 60 channels I can get off my OTA antenna setup. My client devices are Amazon FireSticks - I have one on every TV in the house.
Why Tablo: I chose Tablo largely based on these reviews here, and the fact I can put what ever storage I wanted on the Tablo, unlike the Amazon Fire TV Recast which locks you into either 500GB or 1TB of storage, and the Amazon box is a bit more expensive (well for me it was as I have hard drives kicking around already to use for storage), and since this was largely an experiment for me, I did not want to spend a lot testing it out.
Setup: Pretty easy. Make sure you have a good antenna setup. It should go without saying that the better the signal the better image and reliability all around. I am running two TV antennas (see image) into a splitter/combiner which affords me more channels and better/reliable signal quality. On the coax end of things, I have my TV antenna connected to every TV in the house via a another splitter, as well as the Tablo of course. I plugged the Tablo into my Ethernet switch directly (not using Wifi to link it to my LAN, only using Wifi for the FireStick clients). I connected a 250GB SSD disk I had kicking around for the storage. Again that is not a lot of storage but I am testing this out.
Dual vs Quad: Tablo informed me prior to purchase that the only difference between the two main models of their product is the quad has two more tuners, allowing 4 concurrent things to happen (on the quad) such as 3 users watching and 1 recording, or 2 remote users watching on tablets/phones and 2 watching at home. They told me there was no difference in the CPU between dual and quad. Since I have my TV signal going to every TV in the house via coax directly, and all I really wanted to do was be able to record while watching another show, the quad was not all that necessary for me since I can watch via coax off the air directly and let the Tablo record 2 shows for me. Of course when watching directly off the antenna like this you do not benefit from the ability to pause and rewind a show, which watching off the Tablo allows you to do.
Remote access: Access via a phone or tablet worked well for me. Only issue you need to be aware of here is you MUST Sync/Link the Tablo app on your phone/tablet to the Tablo on your LAN when you are connected to your local LAN/WiFi - you cannot do this remotely (i.e while being away from your home network). Once this is done, then the app on your remote device knows where to go find your Tablo at home for remote viewing. Remote viewing quality will be a function of the network access (throughput) availale to your phone/tablet. The settings on the Tablo allow you to configure how much bandwidth the remote device can consume when streaming.
Pros: Tablo allows you to view your OTA channels in a manner similar to how your cable company DVR works. You can record shows, pause, rewind, view the channel guide, schedule recordings, search upcoming shows, and, view all of this from your phone or tablet remotely. Image quality (the way I have it setup) is very good.
Cons: My biggest compliant is speed of the Tablo app on the FireStick. It is SLOW - takes some 15-20 seconds to launch the app. I am running the 1.3 GHz (non 4k Ultra) FireStick, so I am not sure if the issue here is the Firestick or the Tablo system itself. Scrolling through the guide, switching channels etc is lethargic - it is definitely not what I can describe as snappy performance. Again, I don't know if this is the Tablo or the fact I am using an older generation FireStick. Again scrolling the guide is very annoying since it seems to take forever to load, and you pretty much have to scroll the guide to switch channels. There is no way (that I have found anyway) to directly jump to another channel without scrolling through the guide (if I am wrong on this someone please post a comment correcting me). I believe the speed issue with the guide is in part due to Tablo pulling content for the guide from a remote host out on the Internet. Tablo should fix this so it caches more objects locally on the Tablo hard disk. They must be doing some aspect of that now but for some reason it seems slow for me. I have had one occasion so far when using my tablet in the house as a client where the session disconnected unexpectedly, with an error saying my tuner was disconnected. No one else was using the system at the time but me. Only other reason I can think this may have happened is there were two recordings scheduled at that time and both tuners were needed to service that request. Lastly, when connecting the web browser client I had the sync process report "The sync process failed due to a database error". I have no idea what cause that. I resynced and it worked fine.
Summary: Tablo is a good effort to make OTA TV signals "feel" like a cable DVR service. Lots of good features and good visual implementation. I just wish the performance on FireSticks were faster, but, as I mentioned, this might be more a FireStick resources issue (cache perhaps) than a Tablo issue as the guide and usability on my tablet, phone, and web browser clients are all reasonably snappy.