Our sitch: We subscribe to Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu. So ideally, I’d love to just use Locast to watch live local news and TV for free and use Hulu and the free version of Peacock to view our favorite TV shows later on — that would round out our needs. But Locast has not arrived in our area yet — although I’m guessing it’s coming soon. Until then, I think I’m going to just switch to using my antenna with my three-year-old and reliable Tablo TV over-the-air DVR. When I’ve needed it, Tablo’s been a great solution — although we live in hilly Southern California where antenna reception can be spotty. I particularly love that you don’t have to tether it to a TV. Instead, I found the one window in my home that grabs a clear signal from many of the local TV stations 24/7. And I set it up there, placing the antenna in the window and the Tablo on the floor below it. There’s not a TV in the room. Instead, the Tablo grabs me live TV signals, records shows for me and presents it all on both a smartphone app and a smart TV app throughout my house. I can watch live TV or recorded shows anywhere in my wifi zone.
All that said, I recently jumped at the opportunity to try Tablo’s new QUAD HDMI over-the-air DVR — a model that connects directly to a television, comes with a dedicated remote and lets you watch or record up to four shows at once. That’s great if you have a larger family who records multiple TV shows at once. But after setting it up, I realized it’s too constraining for me. It needs to physically connect via HDMI cable to a TV and also physically connect via USB cable to an external hard drive. Mind you, you cannot just plug in a USB thumb drive on the back of the device. It has to be an external hard drive that it uses to save all your recordings in MPEG2 format. It has no built-in hard drive, like the previous model. And Tablo doesn’t provide one with the product. I was able to set it up to watch live TV, which is still the same great experience as on the previous model. After scanning the airwaves for channels, it automatically adds to my channel lineup grid only the ones that come in super clear and in HD (with an option to manually add the others). Ultimately though, it has to connect to one of my televisions — like a traditional DVR. I understand the logic there, but it seems like a step down from my previous Tablo, to be honest. Once it’s connected, you can still watch Tablo from the apps on other devices, as well. But for our home, it makes little sense.
Listen, I’m a big Tablo fan. And I get why people will love the new QUAD model. But I urge cord-cutters in the market for such a DVR product to look carefully through Tablo’s various models before choosing one.