Tablo Dual HDMI review: A great over-the-air DVR for videophiles

For the by few years, our recommendation of Tablo as the best over-the-air DVR for cord cutters has come with a caveat : If you refuse to compromise on video recording quality, you ’ re better off looking elsewhere. The newly Tablo Dual HDMI is Nuvyyo ’ s first model to rectify the trouble by playing and recording local channels at native broadcast television receiver timbre. The $ 150 DVR uses an antenna to receive local broadcasts and hooks up to your television with an HDMI cable, but it can besides stream television over Wi-Fi to Roku, Fire television receiver, and Android TV devices. Either means, broadcasts look the lapp as they would with an antenna plugged directly into your television receiver, and you can play or record from up to two channels at the same time. As with other Tablo models, you besides get lots of utilitarian recording features to justify its optional subscription fee .

This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best DVRs for cord-cutters, where you’ll find reviews of the competition’s offerings, plus a buyer’s guide to the features you should consider when shopping for this type of product.

even therefore, the Tablo Dual HDMI creates some raw trade-offs not found on early Tablo models. The HDMI adaptation doesn ’ t bring with as many streaming devices—most notably, you can ’ triiodothyronine vigil on phones, tablets, or laptops—and it doesn ’ thyroxine support out-of-home stream. You ’ ll besides need a strong Wi-Fi network to stream those full-quality broadcasts. Because of those limitations, the Tablo Dual HDMI is a great option for videophiles or cord-cutters who only plan to watch on a single television receiver ; it ’ mho less ideal for everyone else.

Plug-and-play, or not

There are two ways to use the Tablo Dual HDMI. The beginning is to plug it straight into your television receiver with an HDMI cable. The device comes with its own distant dominance, and once you hook up an antenna and external USB unvoiced drive—both sold separately—you can control everything through your television receiver .tablodualhdmirear Jared Newman / IDG

The Tablo Dual HDMI has an HDMI output for your television receiver, plus a USB slot for external memory, ethernet for optional wire connectivity, and a coaxial cable remark for an antenna .
The early way is to treat it like Tablo ’ mho networked DVRs, streaming local channels over your Wi-Fi network to other devices. In this case, you would install the Tablo app on Roku, Fire television receiver, or Android television receiver. Those apps will automatically recognize the Tablo when it ’ second on the lapp network, letting you watch bouncy television and access the DVR. Either way, you ’ ll indigence to plug the Tablo Dual HDMI into your television receiver for the initial setup. And of course, you can combine the two approaches, with direct input signal for one television and streaming for others. tablodualhdminetworked Jared Newman / IDG

If you ’ re using the Tablo Dual HDMI as a network radio receiver, the setup would look something like this .
Like other Tablo DVRs, the HDMI model has two optional subscription tiers. For $ 5 per calendar month or $ 50 per year, you get 14 days of guide data, series-based recordings, cover art for television receiver shows, and the ability to browse by music genre. Tablo besides requires this subscription to stream on early devices for the Dual HDMI model. An supernumerary $ 2 per month or $ 20 per year enables automatic pistol ad-skipping on your recordings .tablohdmigenre Jared Newman / IDG

Genre-based menus are one of respective features you get with a Tablo subscription .

Direct-to-TV downsides

Of these two approaches, I personally preferred using the Tablo Dual HDMI as a network radio receiver rather of using the Tablo ’ s HDMI end product. With the direct-to-TV connection, you must use Tablo ’ s IR-based distant control, which unlike most streaming remotes requires line-of-sight to the box. And despite that IR connection, it can lone control your television ’ south bulk and exponent over HDMI-CEC. If your television receiver doesn ’ metric ton subscribe CEC for those functions, you might need a offprint remote control for volume and world power. tablodualhdmiremote Jared Newman / IDG

The Tablo Dual HDMI has its own remote control control if you ’ re plugging it directly into a television receiver .
The corner itself besides just feels a sting slow, with chunks of the television receiver guide sometimes taking several seconds to load. And because the device lives on its own HDMI input, you ’ ll need to switch inputs if you have a branch streaming device for services like Netflix. Using the Tablo Dual HDMI as a network tuner wipes off all those issues. With a Roku, Fire television receiver, or Android TV device, switching to Tablo is arsenic bare as opening the Tablo app, and most of these devices have better outback controls than what the Tablo box offers. I besides didn ’ thymine experience any guide-loading issues on streaming devices such as the Roku Streaming Stick+. The entirely catch is that you need a fast Wi-Fi connection—upwards of 18Mbps—to stream smoothly .

DVR upsides

No matter which approach you choose, though, the core DVR feel is the largely the same. And this is where Tablo very shines .tablohdmiguide Jared Newman / IDG

With a subscription, Tablo ’ s template provides 14 days of data. You can swtich between days by highlighting the date and moving left or right.

In accession to 14 days of guide data with a subscription, Tablo provides genre-based menu to help you find things to record, and you can well set up series recordings with tweakable parameters, so you don ’ metric ton waste distance on unwanted program. For example, you can limit recordings to just the latest few episodes or create one-off episode recordings. ( The only nitpick here is that you can ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate search for shows by name except on Roku devices. ) tablohdmishowscreen Jared Newman / IDG

Tablo ’ s DVR software provides lots of recording options, such as the ability to save alone a certain count of late episodes .
Along the way, Tablo besides provides lots of clues for when its double tuners are overbooked. You ’ ll see a red indicator in the television receiver guide and DVR course of study list, and there ’ randomness besides a agenda scene for looking through all approaching recordings. For any given program, you can disable a single commemorate without nixing the entire series .tablohdmiconflict3 Jared Newman / IDG

Tablo ’ s schedule position is helpful for making certain you don ’ thymine schedule more recordings than the dual tuner can handle .
Tablo ’ s playback feel is pretty decent american samoa well. With live television receiver, you can pause or rewind any show, or hit the up arrow to bring up a mini-guide. For recordings, Tablo displays a ocular preview when you fast forward or rewind, which helps with skipping over commercials .tablohdmiminiguide Jared Newman / IDG

Tablo ’ s mini usher is helpful for flipping through channels .
If you pay the extra $ 2 per month or $ 20 per year for Tablo ’ s Premium subscription, those commercial breaks besides get marked up in yellow, and you can skip over them mechanically .tablohdmiadskip Jared Newman / IDG

Tablo provides thumbnail previews to help you skip through ads, but automatic commercial markup and jump requires a higher subscription tier .
All of this may seem like board stakes for anyone who ’ s used to cable or a TiVo DVR, but you ’ d be storm how many fledgling over-the-air DVRs look out on these features. Replicating the creature comforts of a cable DVR is an sphere where Nuvyyo ’ s have with Tablo actually shows .

The price of pristine broadcast TV

Keep in thinker that all of those DVR features are besides available on early Tablo DVRs, such as the Tablo Dual Lite and Tablo Quad. You can even get some Tablo models with built-in storage, obviating the motivation for a offprint hard tug. As of now, though, the Tablo Dual HDMI is the only model that plays broadcast channels in their native MPEG-2 format. That means video looks clearer than it does on other Tablo DVRs, and all channels are adequate to of 60-frames-per-second playback. On early Tablo models, channels that circulate at 1080i or 480i will only play at 30 frames per second, which creates a choppy effect for sports, newsworthiness, and talk shows. ( All Tablo models do support smother good, so sound recording choice international relations and security network ’ t an publish hera. ) Being able to enjoy Tablo ’ s DVR features without sacrificing video recording timbre is refreshing, but there are still reasons to choose other Tablo DVRs rather. The Tablo Dual HDMI ’ s main jutting point is device documentation. Although Tablo offers apps for io, Android, Apple TV, Chromecast, Xbox One, Samsung TVs, and LG TVs along with a desktop web site, none of those are compatible with the Dual HDMI. Tablo godhead Nuvyyo says the native video recording players on those devices don ’ metric ton support MPEG-2, which means Nuvyyo would have to build a custom musician to support them. The company has not announced any plans to do sol. And because the Dual HDMI can not transcode television, it can ’ thyroxine reduce television quality to save bandwidth or storage space. You ’ ll need a strong network for streaming to the devices that the Dual HDMI does support, and your hard drive space won ’ thyroxine go as far. possibly for related reasons, the Dual HDMI doesn ’ thyroxine confirm out-of-home watch either. The other downside is that channels can take a farseeing time to load—upwards of eight seconds per impart, in my experience—as they buffer onto the hard drive. Tablo does remember the concluding channel you visited and can load it much faster, but the initial wait period is worse than Tablo ’ s early models. besides deserving noting : While most Tablo models offer a $ 150 choice for life DVR service, that ‘s not available with the Dual HDMI. Tablo ’ s other network DVRs would be better options if any of those issues or omissions are dealbreakers. differently, you can look to Plex or Channels DVR, which are trickier to set up than Tablo, but pit ( or in some cases, exceed ) Tablo on features without sacrificing television timbre.

In a arrant over-the-air DVR world, Nuvyyo would equitable offer a Tablo model that could both preserve full broadcast quality and optionally transcode video recording as needed. rather, as ahead, you ’ ll just have to decide which trade-offs you can most well tolerate. Correction: An earlier interpretation of this follow-up said that the Tablo Dual HDMI offered a life DVR service option. That choice is alone available with Tablo ‘s non-HDMI models .
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