Top positive review
Not perfect, but pretty awesome! (updated)
September 29, 2014
I have looked for a while for a whole-house DVR solution for over the air (OTA) HDTV. I have tried a couple of versions of the HDHomerun product and read everything I can about others like the Channelmaster DVR+, SimpleTV, and others.
I believe that Tablo has the best feature set. The older HDHomerun devices I tried were not a self-contained system. There was no recording ability built-in. You needed a separate computer to record. I understand this is no longer the case, but too late, I’m a Tablo convert now!
Reading about the Channelmaster DVR+, I could not see how to watch the recordings on another TV or tablet, at least not easily. It looks like a promising device except for that. I could be wrong but for the price it should include streaming to other devices.
SimpleTV is getting very mixed reviews, to put it mildly. I decided to skip it. Tivo's guide pricing turned me off of their system--$15 a month for a guide???? If their pricing was more reasonable I would have gone that way.
When Tablo was announced I was very interested. Self-contained system for recording, watching TV or recordings on PC's, MAcs, Roku, iPad, and Android tablets. Ability to watch on basically any device in your home, or even over the internet from a remote location.
While Tablo does charge a fee for their guide service, it's optional. The system is still functional without it. You can set up manual recordings using time and channel number, just like the old VCR days. I subscribed to the service, I think it's worth the fee they charge but again, it's optional.
I've been using the Tablo for a week now. The system is tucked into a spare room and hard-wired with an ethernet cable into my wifi router. I think that's an important factor for best performance. The more wifi connections in use, the slower they will be which can result in dropouts when viewing the streams. The main TV connects to the Tablo with a Roku 3 which connects to the nework with 5ghz 802.11n connection. No dropouts when watching Tablo or Netflix. Beautiful picture on my recordings, at least equal to my old Comcast DVR setup.
The ability to watch live or recorded TV anywhere in the house on any device is very cool. My wife has an iPad and I have an Android tablet and both work great. We are saving a fair amount of money over our old Comcast setup, about $85 a month even after you factor in the $5 a month guide service (it's cheaper by the year) and $8 a month for Netflix.
I'm now a cord-cutter and I'm happy to say the Tablo is everything I hoped for. It makes watching recordings anywhere in the house simple, and does not require a dedicated PC for transcoding and serving up streams. I have not had any problems with my Tablo rebooting or freezing or anything like that. I think having it hard-wired to the network is a big part of that.
UPDATE: 10/22/2014 I've been using the Tablo for a month now. I'm still completely happy with it. I haven't had any problems at all after getting it set up. I did have a problem with the initial setup not working with the web app, so I completed it using the Android app which worked fine.
It's very early days for Tablo still, and some people have reported some issues, such as failed recordings. I have not seen this. The most likely reasons are too many signal dropouts from the antenna, or a hard drive issue. Some folks are not happy with the Roku app. It's in a very early stage of development. Tablo has promised improvements and I think they will deliver but even as is the app is functional.
The Tablo should be thought of as a network device, not so much an accessory for your TV. For best results it should be hard-wired to your router and have a solid antenna signal. You will then need a Roku 3 or equivalent to stream it to your TV. This works fantastically well in my setup. The Roku Stick is known to have weak wifi reception and may not work well.
If you're looking for a straight DVR to connect directly to your TV like a traditional setup, you might be better off looking at the Channel Master DVR+ or Tivo Roamio OTA. Neither of those devices will match the flexibility of the Tablo out of the box though--The Tivo needs additional hardware to enable streaming, and the DVR+ can't stream at all, as I understand it. You gain a lot of flexibility if you let go of the 1980's VCR paradigm and embrace network devices like this.
Update 1/5/2015: Still love the Tablo. Tablo just announced a preview of the new Roku channel at CES, can't wait! OK, here's the key to success, I'll repeat it again. Many of the bad reviews talk about wifi problems with the Tablo. Don't use wifi--Connect it directly to your router with an ethernet cable. Using wifi for the Tablo itself doubles your chances of having buffering/lost connections. I never have issues with buffering on any of my devices. FWIW: My setup is 5 GHz 802.11N. You mileage may vary if you use 2.4 GHz or G band wifi. Make sure you have enough wifi speed for streaming HD video. If you can't already stream HD video, you won't be able to stream Tablo either. It might be worth upgrading to an 802.11AC router, if you have a laptop or tablet that supports 802.11AC.
Update 12/11/2015: ROKU updates have caused some issues. When fast forwarding thru commercials the Roku app can freeze occasionally requiring a reboot of the Roku. When this happens the Tablo is still working fine, I can connect to it with a tablet or PC and watch recordings. More frequently Roku would paused streaming and display "Loading, please wait" for 10 seconds. So following advice of others on the Tablo community forum, I purchased a Google Nexus Player on sale for $49. It works far better than the Roku for accessing the Tablo. Fast forwarding works incredibly well and starts up instantly. I still have a Roku in my bedroom so I'm hoping the Roku issue gets fixed. At this point it is uncertain whether the problem lies with Roku or Tablo. So, it you are considering getting the Tablo, at this point the Roku may not be the recommended streaming receiver. Make no mistake I still love the Tablo, just annoyed with the Roku issues. Right now the Nexus Player is working great in it's place.
Update 12/17/2015--ROKU issue fixed. ROKU issued an emergency software update that was supposed to fix lockups in one of their apps. Well, guess what, it also fixed the lockups in the Tablo app. So the problem was on the Roku side as many of us have suspected. I have gone back to using Roku 3 instead of the Nexus player and it's working great again. So thanks to Roku for fixing this issue but no thanks to them for breaking it in the first place.
Final Update 3/16/2017--This is my final update to this review; nothing has changed since the last update. Still using my Tablo every day and still love it. I still just have the 1TB WD portable drive mentioned in the comments below (I don't keep recordings after viewing them). So I've had this device almost 2.5 years and use it nearly every day. I record a lot of old movies, especially Sci-Fi from the Comet network. I will never go back to paying for cable TV. I also got rid of my Sling TV subscription. Anything I can't find OTA I stream from Amazon or Netflix.
Edited 5/28/2018: I have deleted some of my negative comments about the HDHomerun system. My comments referred to the original HDHomeruns which required a separate PC to record. I don’t want to mislead anybody if HDHomerun is a good solution for you.
Edit 9/11/2018: The last Tablo firmware upgraded added surround sound capability to the recordings. I do notice a difference on a lot of material. Tablo remains totally an “appliance”. I don’t have to mess with it at all, just record, and watch recordings as I wish.