The Tablo 2-Tuner DVR offers a balance of price and flexibility. Tablo also sells a $300, four-tuner version, but the cheaper two-tuner version should suffice for many families.
A blue LED power light on the Tablo 2-Tuner DVR’s plain black box lets you know when the unit is on. The Tablo is outfitted with dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi, plus an Ethernet jack for making a wired connection to your network. There are also two USB ports on the back and an antenna input.
The two tuners let you record two shows at once and recorded programs from one Tablo can be viewed on up to six devices simultaneously. You can stream to Android and iOs mobile devices, plus Amazon Kindles.
The DVR we tested requires that you supply the antenna. However, Tablo also offers a slightly pricier two-tuner model with an integrated dual-antenna array, designed primarily for those living in urban areas since reception is limited to about 25 miles.
The Tablo doesn’t come with built-in storage, but you can buy a 1TB external hard drive for as little as $50. Tablo will work without its program guide, but we recommend paying for it—$5 per month, $50 annually, or a one-time fee of $150 for a lifetime subscription—as it greatly increases the usability of the DVR. The guide gives you access to 14 days of programming and the ability to set up recordings by series (every episode of a show) or season, or to record just the new episodes of a show. It will also auto-extend live recordings and let you filter recorded content into a number of different “views,” such as Prime Time TV View, Movie View and Sport View. The subscription guide includes metadata so you can receive cover art and story synopses.
The Tablo 2-Tuner DVR differs from many of its competitors in that it doesn’t connect directly to your TV; in fact, there’s no HDMI output. Instead, the DVR connects to your Wi-Fi network and streams to devices such as Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast and Roku on your home network. It can also stream to mobile devices such as a smartphone, a tablet, a PC or a Mac loaded with the Tablo app. As a result, Tablo doesn’t need to be in the same room as the TV.
With the paid subscription there’s a also a feature called Tablo Connect, which works like Slingbox, letting you access recorded shows via the Internet when you’re away from home.