When it comes to picking an OTA DVR, a couple of stumbling blocks remain for would-be cord cutters.
That said, the Tablo Dual Lite is a compelling choice for its simplicity and price. The Dual Lite is just as powerful as the new Tablo Quad, but costs about $70 less.
It’s been a little over a year since Tablo Dual Lite debuted. There has been a number of software updates in recent months that makes the Dual Lite worth revisiting. They include a commercial-skip feature, and an expanded channel guide support for Roku.
During my three weeks of testing, I watched live TV and recordings on a Roku TV, an Amazon Fire TV, my Android smartphone (Razer Phone 2) and a Nebula Capsule II projector, which operates on Android TV software.
Tablo has another capability that makes it pretty appealing. It takes OTA broadcasts and makes them available on your home WiFi network. You use the Tablo app to watch live TV or recordings on a streaming device, smartphone or tablet.
You don’t need to pay for an extra Tablo box if you want to watch your channels on a second television. Just download the Tablo app to your Roku, Fire TV or whatever you use for a streaming device. Your channels and recordings are all there.
A Tablo doesn’t need to be near your television, or WiFi router. You can put the Tablo in a spot where you get the best antenna reception instead. Tablo isn’t alone with its ability to make free live TV available over a home WiFi network.
Setting up the Tablo Dual Lite is pretty easy because you’re connecting just a few things into the back.
The Tablo app is self explanatory as soon as you open it up. A blue column on the left side of the screen details your choices: Live TV, recordings, upcoming Prime Time events, TV shows, movies and sports.
The live TV section shows a channel guide familiar to anyone who has ever used a cable or satellite box. I used this for casual channel surfing.
The really nice thing about this interface is that you can quickly drill down on what shows are available on a channel by channel basis. So if you know you favorite TV show is on NBC, but you’re unsure of when it’s on, no worries. Tablo will let you filter prime time shows by channel. Same goes for sporting events and shows that are premiering.
There is a lot to watch, and being able to search by program or channel makes it easy to quickly track down what you want to record.
Being able to fast forward and rewind to a particular point in a show is simple to navigate because of the preview thumbnail that shows you where you are at in the recording.
Once I started watching live TV, I kept on cruising through a smaller version of the channel guide to see what else was on. Just press the up or down button on your remote to get the mini-guide to pop up on the left side of the screen.
Overall, I was very happy with the picture quality of my recordings and live TV. Tablo added support for Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound about a year ago. And the audio piping through my sound bar was excellent.
I was really impressed with Tablo’s mobile app. Being able to watch OTA TV in my backyard with a smartphone is a true pleasure.
Tablo’s mobile app is polished and delivers a high quality image that’s bright and clear. I had zero issues with stutters or lag. It’s great to be able to catch up on the weather, news or a ball game when I’m outside grilling or away from a TV.
One other cool thing: While testing out the Tablo Dual Lite, I was also reviewing a new portable projector called the Nebula Capsule II. The Capsule II operates on Android TV software. So I figured, what the heck, let’s see if I can watch some OTA channels on the projector.
I tuned into Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals and felt like I was out on the town somewhere catching the game. Being able to watch free, live television on a 100” screen is on par with drinking free beer. It’s really that good.
For most people fleeing from cable TV or satellite TV, a Tablo Dual Lite is an excellent piece of hardware for watching and recording live over-the-air channels. Being able to watch live TV on a smartphone, iPad or even the right projector will add a lot of value to your entertainment setup.
If you’ve already figured out how to connect your TV to a Roku, Fire TV or Apple TV, adding a Tablo will be just as easy. Probably easier.
The channel guide is self-explanatory. And if you decide to subscribe to Tablo’s channel guide , it will reveal movies, TV shows or sporting events that you may not be aware of otherwise.
Roku users:The Tablo really feels like the perfect fit for Roku users. The Tablo app was responsive and took only seconds to pull me into the main menu. Once I started watching TV, I forgot that I was actually using a streaming device and DVR. That’s really the biggest compliment I can give to a piece of hardware. If you’re not distracted by the hardware, then you’re really enjoying your TV.
The Tablo Dual Lite has advanced quite a bit in the last year thanks to a number of software updates. Commercial skip, the in-picture channel guide and 5.1 surround demonstrates that Tablo is investing in customers who already own their devices. I’m impressed with any company that continues to improve a product that I already own compared to one that’s trying to sell me new hardware every year.
The Dual Lite gives you flexibility and some potential cost savings (by allowing you to) decide how much storage you want by adding your own external hard drive. I ended up using a hard drive that I had around the house, and so far, I don’t plan on unplugging it or the Tablo Dual Lite anytime soon.