One of the best things about being a cord cutter today is the sheer variety of services, gadgets, and technology available to help you escape the clutches of cable TV. However, navigating the variety of options can be daunting, especially for new cord cutters.
If you’re trying to decide between a Tablo DUAL OTA DVR and a Silicon Dust HDHomeRun tuner the for the Over-the-Air (OTA) TV portion of your cord cutting setup, this product and feature comparison will help you choose the network-connected OTA TV device that’s right for you.
Table of Contents
1. Overall Tablo DVR and HDHomeRun Comparison - TL;DR
2. Hardware, Tuners, and Network Connections - Hardware Comparison Chart
3. Streaming Live OTA TV and Recordings - Streaming Comparison Chart
4. Live TV and DVR Features - Features Comparison Chart
5. Subscriptions - Subscription Chart
6. Apps & Device Support - Apps Chart
7. Customer Support - Support Chart
Overall Tablo DVR and HDHomeRun Comparison
Tablo DUAL OTA DVRs and Silicon Dust HDHomeRun tuners both connect your TV antenna to your home network to deliver Over-The-Air content, but how the products work, their features, and supported devices are very different.
In general, here’s what you need to know…
Tablo DUAL OTA DVRs are an easy-to-use, hardware-based solution designed for streaming and recording OTA TV via multiple devices both inside and outside of your home. Live TV and DVR functions don’t require a subscription, but advanced features are available with one.
Silicon Dust’s HDHomeRun products are networked TV tuners. In order to function as part of a DVR solution, they need to be connected to an always-on computer, OR select Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices, OR an NVIDIA SHIELD gaming system. They also require companion software to be installed and configured on these devices. All recording functions require a paid subscription to their DVR service.
TL;DR – Tablo DUAL is a DVR, HDHomeRun is just a tuner. If you want an all-in-one box to watch and record antenna TV on any device, Tablo is right for you. If you’re tech savvy, are already running a home theatre PC (HTPC), and don’t mind using PC-based DVR software, you might want to consider HDHomeRun tuners.
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Hardware, Tuners, and Network Connections
Tablo OTA DVR hardware comes in three varieties:
All models can connect to your router via Ethernet or WiFi which enables you to put your antenna and Tablo wherever you get optimal OTA reception. The new Tablo DUAL OTA DVR also includes onboard recording storage.
Tablo OTA DVR hardware costs between $219.99 US and $299.99 US, depending on the model.
Silicon Dust’s HDHomeRun tuners come in two varieties intended for OTA TV:
- HDHomeRun CONNECT
- HDHomeRun EXTEND
Both offer two tuners. Both models connect to your home network via Ethernet only.
HDHomeRun tuners cost between $99.99 US and $179.99 US, depending on the model.
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Streaming Live OTA TV and Recordings
Tablo OTA DVRs were designed from the ground up to make it easy to stream both live and recorded TV on all of your favorite screens both inside and outside your home.
In order to support smooth streaming on the widest variety of devices, Tablo takes the broadcast TV stream (MPEG-2) from your antenna and uses a process called transcoding to turn it into a video format called HLS.
Transcoding digital TV (MPEG-2) into HLS format has several benefits including:
- Smoother Whole-Home & Remote Access Streaming
Tablo offers several video quality setting options (between 2 – 10 Mbps) which makes it easy to stream video across most home networks without buffering. It also offers remote streaming quality settings to ensure smooth streaming to supported devices outside of your home network using Tablo Connect.
- Broader Device Support
Mobile devices and some streaming media set-top-boxes like Roku require HLS format video feeds and do not support the native broadcast TV stream (MPEG-2).
- Smaller Recording File Sizes
By transcoding the video, Tablo recordings can be as small as 1 GB/hour of TV which means you can record and save more of your favorite shows on your hard drive
Silicon Dust’s HDHomeRun CONNECT does not transcode the raw digital TV stream, which means you must have a VERY strong home network capable of handling the 12-18 Mbps MPEG-2 video it delivers.
The more expensive HDHomeRun EXTEND does offer multiple transcoding settings for in-home streaming to limited devices, but does not stream programs or even allow you to set recordings outside of the home.
There are two benefits to delivering a direct MPEG-2 stream: support for multiple audio streams including 5.1 surround sound, and channel surfing. Tuning to a live channel when transcoding the video requires a short delay of 12-20 seconds and it's difficult to deliver multiple audio streams.
If you're looking for an MPEG-2 solution that supports 5.1 sound, check out Tablo ENGINE!
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Live TV and DVR Features
As we mentioned above, Tablo OTA DVRs are purpose-built for streaming and recording TV from your digital antenna. Tablo apps feature a live TV grid guide that displays programs airing now and over the next 24 hours.
A Netflix-style guide for shows airing over the next 2 weeks, easy-to-use recording features including series record (ALL or ALL NEW), and auto-extend for live programs like sports, are available to subscribers.
Tablo’s manual recording feature (date/time/channel) and fast-forward preview thumbnails which make it easy to skip commercials, are included for free.
Silicon Dust HDHomeRun tuners require a subscription to their DVR service just to record. Series recording is available, but the software cannot differentiate between NEW episodes and reruns. Advanced features like fast-forward thumbnails are not available.
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Tablo Guide Data Subscription and HDHomeRun DVR Subscription
All Tablo OTA DVRs come with a 30-day trial of the fully-featured Tablo guide data subscription, so users can evaluate the advanced features and extended guide data access (14 days vs. 24 hours) it offers.
After the trial, most opt for either a flexible monthly subscription ($4.99 US), the savings of an annual subscription ($49.99 US), or the one-time payment of a lifetime subscription ($149.99 US), depending on their needs. Without a subscription, users can continue to watch live TV and record OTA TV content with Tablo antenna DVRs.
Silicon Dust HDHomeRun tuners require a full year’s subscription ($35 US) to access extended guide data and ANY recording options. There’s no option for those who prefer to go month-to-month, or who want the long-term savings of a lifetime subscription. There is also no free trial period that gives you the opportunity to ‘try-before-you-buy’.
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Comparing Compatibility: App and Device Support
The biggest advantage to a network-based OTA TV solution is the ability to support multiple devices instead of just a single TV like traditional OTA DVRs.
Tablo OTA DVRs support viewing of live TV and recordings as well as the ability to set and manage recordings via free and easy-to-use Tablo apps on smartphones and tablets, as well as most streaming media set-top-boxes, Smart TVs and gaming systems.
Silicon Dust HDHomeRun tuners offer primarily live TV playback through a mix of free branded apps and third-party apps which may require an additional purchase. Scheduling and playback of recordings requires a subscription and is available on a limited number of apps including iOS, Android, and Windows.
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When it comes to technology products, customer support can be the intangible secret sauce that can make or break your experience. Sometimes you just NEED to talk to a real, live person!
Tablo offers support via email, phone, live chat, community forums, and social media. Our gurus are based in our Canadian HQ office and are happy to help with questions about Tablo OTA DVR hardware, apps, and the larger Tablo cord cutting ecosystem including your OTA antenna, HDMI-connected streaming devices, your home network, and more.
Silicon Dust offers support primarily through email, social media, and community forums. They do not offer phone or live chat support.
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The best OTA TV solution for you is highly dependent on your needs, what fits with your existing or planned cord cutting setup, and your level of comfort with tech. In order to choose wisely, it’s important that you research all of the available options and understand the ‘fine print’ of each option.
If you have any additional questions as you compare Tablo OTA DVRs and Silicon Dust HDHomeRun tuners and make choices for your cord cutting ecosystem, don’t hesitate to drop us a line.
We’re here to help!
(This article was updated August 23rd, 2017.)
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