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Hands-on with Tablo, a DVR that streams over-the-air TV nearly anywhere

Many streaming-savvy DVRs either lean heavily on cloud services or are linked to traditional TV -- neither of which is ideal for cord cutters trying to lower their long-term costs. Nuvyyo is promising what could be a more affordable option with its upcoming Tablo DVR. The upcoming, partly crowdfunded set-top box streams both live and locally recorded over-the-air broadcasts to seemingly any internet-capable platform, including Android, iOS, Roku players and web browsers. In theory, it's as cheap and convenient as internet-only video while delivering the wider content selection of traditional TV. We've had hands-on time with a Tablo prototype that suggests the company has at least latched on to a good (if imperfect) idea -- read on to see what we mean.

For a start, the Tablo device and its apps are flexible in both the way you record media and where you send it. There should be dual-tuner ($200 estimated street price) and quad-tuner ($250) DVR models shipping around late January, both of which will have dual-band WiFi, Ethernet and two USB ports for external hard drives. The mobile clients will send video to nearby TVs through AirPlay and Chromecast adapters. While there's no current plans to release native apps for Windows Phone or other platforms, they may not be necessary when the web app is mobile-optimized and streams over HTML5. The company is exploring DLNA support that would make it easy to send video to consoles and smart TVs.

Handson with Tablo, a DVR that streams overtheair TV nearly anywhere

We had the opportunity to try early versions of Tablo's iOS and web apps (the Android version is a month behind, Nuvyyo founder Grant Hall says), and they suggest that viewers will have quite a lot of control. The client not only divides movies and TV shows in its programming guide by channel and genre, but breaks out special content like sports; you'll know when to expect a big game. You can even keep an eye out for show premieres. It's possible to limit whole-series recording to truly new episodes, too. Video quality is good even on the 2-3Mbps internet stream, and the apps are generally polished and responsive despite their unreleased states.

What catches exist with Tablo rest more in the costs than anything else. You'll need to bring your own storage; while Nuvyyo may offer a model with a built-in drive based on feedback, the existing design doesn't include anything. Downloads also won't be available on launch, but they should be coming within a few months of the initial release. You'll likely want to pay for a programming guide subscription after the first year, too, unless you're content with manually scheduling recordings by channel and time. However, Nuvyyo hopes to undercut the pricing of DVR and streaming services that rely solely on the cloud. While subscription pricing isn't final, Hall hopes that it will be around $5 per month or $50 per year -- roughly half of what you'd pay for some streaming-only solutions.

Some will likely be frustrated by the lack of cable TV support (something Hall would like to change), but Nuvyyo is really more of a hardware-based competitor to cord-cutting tools like Aereo and Hulu Plus. It's expensive up front, but may cost less in the long run. It also works in-home without an internet connection, and it avoids the arbitrary waiting time for content that you see through some providers. At the least, Tablo could be a tempting alternative to Simple.TV given its more powerful hardware and a feature set that's less dependent on remotely located services. If you like the concept, you can make a pledge at the source links today.