One big hurdle facing potential cord cutters is the loss of local over-the-air content like news and sports, but that problem can be solved by simply attaching an antenna to pull in all that free content. Unfortunately, what you don't get with that arrangement is a DVR to record all your favorite shows. If you're a cord cutter you're probably trying to save a little money, so a TiVo might be out of the picture. You could always build your own DVR with a spare PC, but that might be a big headache to set up. The Tablo aims to sidestep all these issues with their DVR, but you'll still need to provide the antenna and the storage.
On the outside, the Tablo is an unassuming box that slides right into your entertainment center. It has built-in WiFi and two USB ports for you to connect your external drive too. Unfortunately, you can only use one at a time, and though it has a 2TB limit per drive, Sound+Vision says even "a 500-GB drive will store about 250 hours of HD content" so it should be fine. What Tablo lacks is a HDMI cable for direct connection to your TV, which Digital Trends says is "integral" to the Tablo, that in giving you the freedom to place the box "anywhere in particular ... means it can live where the antenna needs to live."
If you want to watch content on your TV you'll need a separate player, like a Roku, Chromecast or AppleTV (via AirPlay). You can also watch recorded programming on your iOS or Android device, which can double as a remote. If recording quality is your big concern, don't fret -- CNET reports it's "excellent on the highest setting." Ultimately, Wired says that "Tablo is easy to use and good at what it does."
Unfortunately, all Tablo can offer comes at a price. The electronic program guide isn't free, starting at a price of $5 monthly, $50 for a year or you could always snag yourself a lifetime plan to the tune of $150. This may seem like a lot on top of Tablo's $219 starting price, but it still clocks in far below TiVo's cost. With Aereo's future still very much up in the air there aren't a lot of other options out there for a low-cost, easy-to-use DVR, making the Tablo an interesting device to consider. It isn't perfect, but it offers just enough to be a relatively low-stress DVR solution for aspiring cord cutters.
How It Stacks Up
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