Tablo has announced their latest over-the-air DVR and it’s unlike any of their previous models in that it connects directly to your TV via HDMI. While all of Tablo’s devices up until now have been headless networked DVRs that are accessed through the Tablo app running on a streaming media player, smart TV, or mobile device, the new Tablo DUAL HDMI OTA DVR comes with a remote and displays the Tablo interface directly on your TV. While the point of the new device is to appeal to those wanting a single all-in-one DVR solution, it does retain some of its networked capabilities, such as streaming to other devices like Fire TVs.
Like the similarly named Tablo DUAL LITE OTA DVR, the new Tablo DUAL HDMI OTA DVR has 2 ATSC tuners that allow you to record or watch 2 channels at once. Both versions don’t come with any internal storage and rely on you connecting an external USB hard drive (up to 8TB) for recording capacity. While the key difference between the two is that the new model outputs its video directly over HDMI to your TV, there are a few additional differences that are important to consider.
The new Tablo with HDMI records raw MPEG2 video, while Tablo’s other DVRs record compressed video. The advantage of this is slightly better picture quality, but the disadvantage is far less storage capacity. A 1TB drive will store about 130 hours of HD video with the new HDMI-capable Tablo, while the same drive will store up to 700 hours of compressed video with a network-only Tablo. Since the new Tablo with HDMI is storing uncompressed video at up to 18 Mbps, accessing that video from another device on your home network will require either a very strong WiFi network or wired Ethernet for both the Tablo and receiving device.
As mentioned, this new Tablo can stream video to 2 other devices on your home network simultaneously, but there are some limitations here as well, compared to Tablo’s network-only DVRs. For starters, Tablo recommends higher-end devices, like Fire TV Cubes, Roku Ultras, and Nvidia Shield TVs for accessing those streams. Streaming sticks and older devices are not recommended for use with this new DVR, likely due to more limited deinterlacing capabilities on those devices. Apple TVs, phones, tablets, PCs, and a few other devices that work with Tablo’s other DVRs are not compatible with this new one.
While some may find the aforementioned limitations and smaller recording capacity a deal-breaker for the new Tablo DUAL HDMI OTA DVR, others looking for the simplicity of a single device with its own remote that does it all a refreshing option to the sometimes confusing notion of a networked DVR. The fact that it still retains several of those networked capabilities that Tablo is best known for can be seen as optional bonuses to an otherwise very straightforward DVR.