One of the most difficult parts of transitioning away from cable is selecting the correct ecosystem of products and streaming services for your entertainment needs. This can be difficult to navigate for those new to cord cutting as new pricing and options are announced daily, and not all services are available on all devices.
If you’re trying to decide between a Tablo DVR and the TiVo Roamio OTA for the antenna DVR portion of your cord cutting ecosystem, hopefully this cost and feature comparison will be helpful.
Tablo and TiVo take a fundamentally different approach to delivering Over-the-Air TV.
Tablo is a whole-home network-based DVR that connects to your home network to deliver TV signals to all of your devices inside or outside your home. This allows Tablo to deliver live TV and recorded content to a multitude of mobile devices, computers and popular HDMI streaming devices like Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Android TV.
TiVo takes a more basic approach, connecting directly to a single TV via HDMI. If you want to extend your viewing to a second TV, a TiVo Mini is required. Any streaming to other devices requires a TiVo Stream unit.
Tablo supports customers in both the United States and Canada, whereas TiVo is limited to the US.
Long story short, if you want to watch OTA content on a single TV, TiVo might be for you. If you want to watch OTA content anywhere, anytime and on any device, Tablo is your best bet.
Now let’s get into the nitty gritty details.
Tablo OTA DVR and TiVo Roamio OTA both offer 4-Tuner units. The number of tuners determines the number of live TV channels you can watch or record at once. If you rarely record multiple shows at once, you may want to consider a 2-Tuner Tablo DVR for additional cost savings over TiVo. You should also know that with TiVo, a tuner is used each time a TiVo Mini is being used on the network.
TiVo Roamio OTA includes 1 TB of internal storage, but additional storage can be added with a compatible hard drive connected via e-SATA.
Tablo does not come with onboard storage and instead allows the user to purchase an easy-to-find USB connected external hard drive of any size. If you’re the type to hoard movies and TV series to re-watch later, you can choose a massive 8 TB drive. If you’re the type who deletes shows immediately after viewing, you can choose a cost-effective 500 GB drive.
Another advantage of not having onboard storage is that the hard drive is one of the most common failure points for DVRs. With Tablo, you can simply plug a new drive in and have it formatted and ready to go in minutes. With TiVo’s internal storage, any failure will require you to work through the warranty process to repair or replace the entire device, or DIY at your own risk.
When the TiVo Roamio OTA was launched, it was priced at $50 plus a $15 monthly subscription with no lifetime option which meant over time, what was a cost-effective DVR became increasingly expensive. They’ve now bundled a lifetime subscription with the unit at a cost of $400 which means the cost of a lifetime subscription for the device is now $350 with no monthly or yearly payment options. A subscription is required for use with the TiVo and it is tied to the device, not you, so if your unit has an issue or you want to upgrade at some point an additional cost will be incurred.
Tablo doesn’t actually require a subscription if you want to use its basic interface and don’t require out-of-home streaming. However, to enjoy a full 14 days of guide data as well as all of the premium features, it is recommended. Unlike TiVo subscriptions which are tied to a particular device, Tablo’s subscription is tied to a user which means the subscription can be transferred to a different device or applied to multiple devices at any time. Tablo also offers monthly and annual payment plans for those who would prefer to avoid larger upfront costs.
TiVo Roamio OTA connects to a single TV via HDMI. Support for additional TVs requires the purchase of a TiVo Mini ($113). If you have many TVs you’d like to support in your home, the costs can add up quickly.
On the other hand, since Tablo is a network-connected DVR, it can stream to all of the devices in your home. To watch content on big screen TVs, Tablo relies on popular HDMI streaming devices many consumers already own like Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV and Android TV. These devices are cost effective (most are under $100) and also provide access to thousands of streaming channels and apps whereas TiVo’s native streaming support is limited to only 8 services.
Out-of-Home and Mobile Device Streaming
TiVo does not provide any native out-of-home or mobile device streaming capabilities. Streaming to iOS and Android smartphones and tablets is supported with the additional purchase of a TiVo Stream ($130). TiVo also warns users that some content may be blocked from out-of-home streaming.
Even without a subscription, Tablo will stream to mobile devices including PCs and MACs within the home. With a subscription, out-of-home streaming can be done on all supported devices except for Roku and has no content or geo restrictions.
Other Key Features
Both DVRs offer season pass recording with a subscription as well as the pausing and rewinding of live TV. TiVo does offer automatic commercial skip on some more popular shows whereas Tablo offers fast-forward previews on all completed recordings to make fast forwarding through commercials easy.
Starting May 2nd, the TiVo Roamio OTA with lifetime service included will be priced at $400. This is all that is required to support viewing on a single TV, but as previously mentioned, streaming support requires the addition of a TiVo Stream at $130 and support for each additional TV requires a TiVo Mini at $113 each. To offer a comparable solution set to Tablo with support for 2 televisions, the total cost is $643. If your family wants to support additional TVs, additional proprietary hardware is required which can quickly increase the cost.
The Tablo 4-Tuner OTA DVR is priced at $266, but requires a USB hard drive for storage (approximate cost $55 for 1 TB). A lifetime subscription is recommended at a price of $150. Support for viewing on a big screen TV requires a supported HDMI streaming device and for this calculation we’ve used two newer model Roku 2 devices. The total cost for the combined solution is $597. Total cost could be less if choosing a 2-Tuner Tablo, if you already own supported streaming devices, or if you opt for a different subscription tier.
The best OTA DVR choice for you is highly dependent on the content you like to watch and the devices you prefer to use as well as the capabilities of your home networking setup. In order to maximize your cord cutting savings, it’s critical that you research all of the available options and understand the ‘fine print’ of each offering.
If you have any additional questions as you compare Tablo and TiVo and make choices for your cord cutting ecosystem, don’t hesitate to drop us a line via email, Facebook or Twitter. We’re here to help!
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