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 and soon-to-be cord cutters.
If you’re trying to decide between a Tablo OTA DVR or the new Amazon Fire TV Recast for the Over-the-Air (OTA) DVR portion of your cord cutting setup, this product and feature comparison will help you choose the network-connected OTA DVR device that’s right for you.
Table of Contents
1. Tablo DVR and Amazon Fire TV Recast - Overall Comparison (TL;DR)
2. Hardware, Tuners, and Network Connections - Hardware Comparison Chart
3. Streaming Live OTA TV and Recordings - Streaming Comparison Chart
4. Apps & Device Support - Apps & Device Comparison Chart
5. Additional Considerations
Tablo OTA DVR and Amazon Fire TV Recast Overall Comparison
Tablo DVRs and Amazon Fire TV Recast both connect your TV antenna to your home network to deliver Over-the-Air content, but how the products deliver video and their supported device ecosystems are different.
From its inception in 2013, the Tablo brand has focused on an open-ecosystem approach, providing the best Over-the-Air DVR functionality on the widest variety of internet-connected devices. It even allows 3rd parties to develop tools for power-users using the Tablo API.
Tablo DVRs’ video recording and playback functions have been tuned to maintain crisp video quality while maximizing recordings storage space.
All generations of Tablo OTA DVR products continue to be supported and improved via app and firmware updates with funds generated from its optional TV guide data subscription.
The Amazon Recast, on the other hand – despite being a product of a massive multi-national company - is a new entrant to the Over-the-Air DVR space. Its goal is to deliver live and recorded local TV to its slate of streaming devices, televisions, tablets, and smart displays to the exclusion of competing products.
Recast’s video recording and playback functions are tuned to deliver video effectively to Amazon’s own products, but it is not compatible with the most popular brands of Smart TVs and streaming media devices, nor computers or gaming systems.
Amazon Recast’s recording storage is limited at this time, and not particularly efficient.
TL;DR – Tablo OTA DVRs are the best way to watch live and recorded Over-the-Air TV on any device, anytime, anywhere.
However, if you’re a devotee of the Amazon ecosystem and all the devices in your home are running an Amazon operating system, you may wish to consider a Recast.
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Hardware, Tuners, & Network Connections
Tablo OTA DVR hardware comes in two dual-tuner models (Tablo DUAL LITE and the Tablo DUAL 128GB) and two quad-tuner models (Tablo QUAD and Tablo QUAD 1TB).
All network-connected Tablo OTA DVRs can connect to your router via Ethernet or WiFi to enable optimal placement of your TV antenna for signal reception.
The Tablo DUAL 128GB and Tablo QUAD 1TB provide onboard storage, but all Tablo DVRs, including those with internal storage, support up to 8TB of expandable storage via USB hard drive.
Tablo OTA DVR hardware costs between $149.99 US and $239.99 US, depending on the model.
(NOTE - Tablo also offers a TV-connected OTA DVR, Tablo DUAL HDMI which features its own remote, for those who prefer a more traditional set-top-box DVR.)
Amazon offers two different models of Recast: a dual-tuner variant with 500 GB (75 hours) of onboard recordings storage and a 4-tuner with 1TB (150 hours) of storage.
Neither model offers expandable storage although Amazon has announced this feature will be enabled at a future date. Both models can connect to your router via Ethernet or WiFi to enable optimal placement of your TV antenna for signal reception.
Fire TV Recast is priced at $229.99 US for the 2-tuner model, and $279.99 US for the 4-tuner model.
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Streaming Live OTA TV & Recordings
Both the Tablo OTA DVR and Amazon Fire TV Recast use a process called ‘transcoding’ which takes the native MPEG-2 video from the TV antenna and turns it into a streaming-friendly file format called HLS (aka H.264). Both also support passthrough of 5.1 Surround Sound.
The main difference between Tablo and Recast is when and how transcoding is used, which has a major impact on basic functionality.
Tablo OTA DVRs transcode every incoming Live TV stream to your choice of five video quality and bitrate settings, up to 1080 (720p @ 60fps) at 10 Mbps.
This has several benefits including:
Recast, on the other hand, stores all video streams to the hard drive in native MPEG-2 format. During playback, live and recorded TV streams are transcoded on-the-fly to match network conditions at a maximum of 720p @ 60fps.
While this does have its benefits – especially for those with flaky home networks – it also has a few downsides:
- 40% larger file sizes for recordings, which means less recording space on Recast vs. Tablo on a similar sized hard drive
- On-the-fly transcoding requires A LOT of processing power, so every Recast device is limited to 2 concurrent viewing streams, regardless of whether you have a 2 or 4-tuner model
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Compatibility Comparison - App and Device Support
Device support is probably the biggest difference between Tablo OTA DVRs and Amazon Fire TV Recast.
As mentioned, the Tablo brand is committed to an open ecosystem approach with 14 apps, across 8 operating systems, supporting 12,000+ internet-connected devices.
Tablo will continue to support the wide variety of streaming media players, Smart TVs, mobile devices, PCs, and gaming systems that cord cutters already own – including Roku, Apple TV, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Xbox, and many more.
On the other hand, Amazon has consistently proven to be much less open.
They have restricted access to content from perceived competitors and designed products to specifically promote their own services and technology. While this is smart from a business sense, it can prove frustrating to cord cutters who want to watch what they want, when they want, and on the device they want.
With Amazon Recast, users will be limited to viewing on Amazon devices including Smart TVs, Fire TV streaming boxes and sticks, the Amazon Echo Show smart display, and mobile devices via its app.
Recast does not support competing streaming devices like Roku, Apple TV, Nvidia Shield TV, nor does it support competing Smart TVs from Roku, Samsung, LG or Android TV, nor PCs or gaming boxes.
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There are a few other factors to consider when comparing Tablo OTA DVRs with Amazon Fire TV Recast including, TV guide data, out-of-home TV viewing, streaming service integrations, and availability.
- TV Guide Data
At no charge, Tablo OTA DVRs provide 24 hours of high-quality TV guide data and basic manual recording functions.
A full 2-week guide and advanced features including one-touch series recording are available with an optional subscription which is tied to you and not a specific device. Pricing is $4.99 US/month, $49.99/year, or $149.99 for a lifetime subscription.
Revenue from this optional subscription is used to defray the cost of guide data, and to fund the development of new features for all users via Tablo firmware and app updates.
It also funds free live technical help (via phone, email, and social media) from our support team located at Tablo HQ.
Amazon Fire TV Recast includes 14 days of TV guide data with the purchase of the device.
- Out-of-Home TV Viewing
Tablo OTA DVRs allow you to watch live and recorded TV as well as set and manage recordings from anywhere in the world.
This subscription-required feature is called Tablo Connect and can be used on most Tablo-supported devices, including Amazon Fire TV.
Out-of-home viewing via Amazon Fire TV Recast is limited to iOS and Android mobile devices and does not support setting recordings for programs airing in the future, nor deleting completed recordings.
- Streaming Service Integrations
One of the key reasons for the Tablo brand’s open ecosystem approach is that it allows cord cutters to access live and recorded TV on the same device they use for access to their streaming TV subscriptions. Whether it’s a mainstream service like Netflix, YouTube, or Sling TV, or a more niche option like Crunchyroll, you’ll never have to switch remotes or inputs on your TV. It does not, however, aggregate that content within a single guide or app.
Amazon Fire TV Recast will also allow you to access any app available on the Amazon store using your Amazon Fire TV remote. This, of course, doesn’t include a native YouTube app due to their ongoing spat with Google. Recast however goes one step further for subscribers to live Amazon Channels and PlayStation Vue, integrating guides for this content into their Live TV grid.
Neither Tablo nor Recast can record content from streaming services.
Tablo OTA DVRs are available online at tablotv.com and via retail partners in the United States and Canada, and in-store in the US via Best Buy, Frys, and Microcenter. TV guide data is available for both Canada and the US.
Recast is available via Amazon.com and in-store at Best Buy in the United States. It is not sold in Canada.
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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, it’s important that you research all the available options and understand the ‘fine print’ of each option.
If you have any additional questions as you compare Tablo OTA DVRs and make choices for your cord cutting ecosystem, don’t hesitate to drop us a line.
We’re here to help!
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