LAS VEGAS -- When, the company's new over-the-air DVR, the project sounded promising, but there was little to judge it on other than some impressive specs and a slick video.
Here at CES 2014, I finally got my first chance to spend some hands-on time with the Tablo, which is scheduled to start shipping in February. To recap, the Tablo works a lot like , recording free over-the-air TV to an external hard drive, then streaming those shows over your home network to other devices, like an iPad or a Roku box.
For the demo, Nuvyyo had the Tablo app running on a number of devices, including both iOS and Android tablets and smartphones, a Windows 8 laptop, and a Roku 3. It was even working on a LG TV with a built-in browser, which is how you access Tablo on most devices other than tablets, which have dedicated apps for iOS and Android. The other exception is Roku, which has its own app and an onscreen interface, providing a more traditional TV watching experience.
The software looks slick and it's easy to record shows, search for content, and access your recordings. "Season Pass"-style recording is available, as well as other DVR niceties like 30-second skip. There's a program guide (with data from Tribune) and you can watch and pause live TV, just like with a traditional DVR. For launch, streaming is limited to in-home use, but Nuvyyo plans to implement out-of-home streaming as well.
It's all virtually identical to what Simple.TV does, but the Tablo has a few hardware advantages. A big one is built-in Wi-Fi. Simple.TV says its system requires a wired connection to ensure a better experience, but it's certainly nice to have the option of using Wi-Fi.
The other advantage is that the Tablo comes in both two- and four-tuner models, whereas Simple.TV tops at at two tuners, although you can daisy-chain multiple units. I think two tuners is generally enough given the limited channel selection available over-the-air, but it's nice to have the option to get a more robust box if you're a heavy TV watcher.
The Tablo box itself is plain-looking. Around back, you'll find an Ethernet port, two USB ports, and an antenna input. Note that you'll need to provide your own hard drive and antenna, plus there's no HDMI output, so you'll need other devices to stream your content to.
In all, the range of devices the Tablo was working with and the polished look of the apps were impressive, especially for a new product. But as good as the demo was, the real test for any DVR is how it holds up over weeks of testing, rather than minutes. The good news is CNET should be getting a review sample by the end of the month and there will be plenty to compare it with, with Channel Master and Simple.TV releasing their latest over-the-air DVR offerings in the time frame.
The two-tuner Tablo will begin shipping in February for $220, plus a required fee for guide data: either $5 per month, $50 per year, or $150 for lifetime service. The four-tuner model is set to be released in the spring for $250.