The Tablo OTA DVR is a surprisingly simple device. It's a TV tuner box with transcoding hardware built in, and software that makes recording OTA content as simple as plugging in a USB hard drive.
But that doesn't meant you don't have a choice to make. There currently are four Tablo devices from which you'll want to choose. Each is a little different, and one we'd go so far as to say is niche.
Let's take a look at them.
|Category||Dual Lite||Dual 64GB||4-Tuner||Shield Engine|
|Buy at||Best Buy||Amazon||Amazon||Amazon|
This is the base model from Tablo. It's got a pair of ATSC TV tuners baked into it, so you'll be able to watch (and record) two shows at once. It'll transcode the video from MPEG-2 to H.264 and spit it out over your network to whatever devices you want. So you can swatch one channel on a tablet, and another on your smart TV via the Tablo app.
Why get this model? If you just want an easy way to record over-the-air TV and know that you won't want to watch on more than two devices at once, this one should foot the bill.
This one basically is like the Dual Lite. Two tuners, so you can watch and record up to two channels at the same time. It's got the same transcoding capability, and same networking hardware. The difference here is that this one has 64 gigabytes of hard drive on the inside, so you won't have to plug anything else into it, or buy another hard drive to record.
But here's the thing: This box is $40 more than the Dual Lite. That's an extra $40 for a mere 64 gigabytes of storage built in. That's about 62 cents per gigabyte. I'm using a 1-terabyte Seagate drive — that is, 1,000 gigabytes (OK, a bit less, but let's not get into that right now) that's going for $54 as I type this. That's about 4 cents per gigabyte.
If math isn't your thing, you're paying way too much for built-in storage with this box. Get the Dual Lite instead and buy your own drive.
Sure, two tuners are cool. But you know what's cooler? Four tuners. It's two more. This box (in addition to just looking cooler, IMHO) has twice as many tuners as the Dual Lite.
It's not inexpensive, though. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that it's ridiculously expensive give that it only added two tuners, in addition to the redesigned box. Now if it had at least 1TB of built-in storage, that'd be another story. But it doesn't.
So this one's far more functional — I always argue you should buy as much hardware as you can, and four tuners is as much as you can get right now from Tablo. But it's also expensive. It retails for $219, but we've also seen it as low as $199.
This one looks a bit different, doesn't it. Tablo built this USB dongle specifically for the NVIDIA Shield TV. (Which, by the way, is the only Android TV box we recommend you buy, because it's powerful as hell.)
Shield TV, like Tablo, accepts external hard drives just fine. And you'll need one here, too. Plug it in, plug in the Tablo dongle, and fire up the Tablo Engine app on the Shield TV, and you're good to go.
If you're already a Shield TV owner, this is definitely the way to go. Period.
The best over-the-air antennas
Who doesn't like free TV, right? And it turns out that in 2018 there's still plenty to watch — free and legal — if you've got a decent enough over-the-air antenna. For the cost of a decent meal at the Sizzler you can get an antenna that pulls in stations from dozens of miles away, piping free 1080i content straight into your TV.
All you have to do is pick the right one for you.
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