*** UPDATE - The latest recommended device list can be found here. ***
Over the last few years, the streaming media set-top-box market has exploded and cordcutters have more choice than ever when they're looking to add internet connectivity to their TVs.
As the holiday season approaches, we wanted to provide an overview of the streaming media set-top-boxes Tablo currently supports so you can choose the best streaming device for your needs.
Roku offers a series of set-top boxes that provide access to Over-the-Top content provided in the form of ‘channels’. Because Roku is content-agnostic, it offers the widest variety of channels (over 3,000+ by last count) of any streaming media box including services like Netflix, Hulu Plus, Sling, Amazon Video and more. This means you can enjoy all of your favorite content from one interface, using one remote.
To access the Tablo channel, Roku customers can simply go to the Video & TV section of the Roku Channel Store and search for 'Tablo'.
The Tablo channel on Roku allows you to navigate menus with a remote and provides access to most screens and some filters. Additional filters and sorting options are planned for future channel updates.
The current generation of Roku units (Roku 1, 2, 3 & 4) have been tested for Tablo compatibility.
For the best experience, we recommend Roku 3 or Roku 4 as these models, paired with a solid home network, should enable you to stream Tablo content at full recording quality. Both 2015 versions of these devices offer integrated voice search for some apps and the Roku 4 additionally supports 4K content from other apps.
Roku also sells the Roku streaming stick – a dongle-format version of its set-top-box. While some Tablo customers use this model successfully, some of our testing has revealed the Wi-Fi antenna on the Streaming Stick doesn’t always offer enough power to provide seamless streaming of programming from Tablo.
(UPDATE - May 2016: Roku has recently released a newer version of the streaming stick with improved WiFi and much more processing power. Our early testing and reviews from Tablo users are very positive so it's definitley worth a look if you're hoping to save some money. The updated 2016 stick has a black colored body, vs. the older stick which is purple so make sure you're purchasing the correct one!)
Roku classic models (Roku SD, Roku HD, Roku XD, and Roku XD|S) lack the horsepower necessary to stream Tablo content and therefore are not recommended.
Roku can be purchased directly from Roku as well as from major retailers.
Amazon Fire TV
Amazon Fire TV is an Android-based set-top-box that has become very popular since its launch in the spring of 2014. Just like Roku, it offers 'apps' that allow you to access content from a range of sources including Amazon Video and Netflix. It comes in both a set-top-box as well as a stick form factor and includes a remote which makes it ideal for living room viewing. The latest 2015 versions of both the Fire TV box and stick offer voice search which is intergrated with some of the major apps as well as support for 4K content. There is also an optional gaming controller for use with the box-style model.
There are a few advantages to using Tablo on an Amazon Fire TV. Firstly, the app includes access to all of Tablo's screens, including settings. It is also enabled for Tablo Connect, our out-of-home streaming feature which means it's a great option for those who travel or have vacation homes. Finally, being a newer product, it does offer one of the fastest chipsets available in a set-top-box format. (The 2015 Amazon Fire TV is even faster!)
Still some users prefer Roku as its ecosystem of available channels is more mature and wide-ranging but new apps are being added to Amazon TV all the time.
To access Tablo via Amazon Fire TV you'll need to load the Tablo app on to your Amazon Fire TV. A link to the app is available here.
Amazon Fire TV is avaialble directly from Amazon.com.
Set-top-boxes running Android TV have been growing increasingly popular as well. Google's hockey-puck shaped Nexus Player (UPDATE - this has been discontinued as of May 2016, but newer devices are expected to arrive on the market later this year) probably offers the best price/performance mix at the moment. If you want a box that offers both cordcutting and gaming capabilities with top-of-the-line performance, Nvidia's Shield's system is your best bet.
Much like its competitors Roku and Amazon Fire TV, these units feature remotes (the Nvidia's is an add-on but is sometimes bundled) to make navigating on big screen TVs easy.
The app for both of these streaming media boxes is virtually identical to that of the Amazon Fire TV and provides access to all of Tablo's screens. These streamers are are also Tablo Connect-ready.
The Android TV advantage over Amazon Fire TV is that many existing Android apps are also compatible with these platforms.
To access Tablo via Android TV set-top-boxes you'll need to load the Tablo app on your unit. A link to the app is available here.
Android TV boxes are available from a variety of sources both online and in stores.
A note on generic-brand Android-based set-top-boxes: while their price points may be attractive, Tablo does not officially support these devices due to hardware and software limitations but Tablo's Add-On for media player software Kodi is an alternative way to get Tablo content on these devices.
Over the last few years, Apple TV has lost market share to Roku, Amazon and Android-based streaming media devices because it only opened development of apps to a small number of 3rd parties. This limited many 3rd party apps to using Airplay - a function that beams content being played on iOS phones and tablets to the big screen using the Apple TV. While it works, it's not an ideal situation as it requires multiple pieces of hardware.
This fall however, Apple announced a new and improved Apple TV - one that offers the fastest processor available in a set-top-box today and supports an app ecosystem like its competitors. Tablo now has a native app for 4th Generation Apple TVs (the one with the black remote). You can read more about that app here.
The combination of Apple's powerful hardware and beautiful UI makes the new Apple TV an excellent streaming set-top-box choice for Tablo fans. It should be noted though that Tablo's app for Apple TV is new and currently lacks some of the more advanced functions available via other streaming devices, including Tablo Connect. Over the coming months we will be working towards adding additional screens and sorting options so stay tuned!
Tablo supports a wide variety of streaming media set-top-boxes. We hope the guidance above will provide a good start to helping you choose the best option for you and your family.
As you continue your research, please consider the following factors:
- The content you want to watch
Make sure your favorite apps/channels are supported on the device
Streaming very high quality content (1080p - 4K) requires both a good quality network and a streaming box with a high-performance processor
Some set-top-boxes only offer connections via HDMI or WiFi, so if your TV does not have an HDMI input or you are planning on connecting your streaming box via Ethernet you may have to reconsider your choice
- Model year
Set-top-box manufacturers are constantly offering newer models with better processors and more features so make sure the model you're picking off the shelf is the one you expect to recieve
- Stick vs. box
While their lower prices make it tempting to pick a stick-style model over a box-style model, sticks generally offer lower performance hardware than their set-top-box cousins
We all like to save money so keep an eye out for sales and take advantage of price-matching policies when possible so you can get the best quality streaming media box you can for your budget
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