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Media Streamers

Cut the cord with Tablo's over-the-air DVR for $100

Normally $140, the Dual Lite can record (or stream) two channels at once. Plus: A rare sale on a Hulu subscription.

tablo-dvr-with-tablet

The Tablo over-the-air DVR can stream live and recorded shows not just to your TV, but also your mobile devices -- even if you're away from home.

Tablo

The problem: You're more than ready to ditch that pricey cable subscription, but you still want to be able to watch (and record) local channels. An antenna connected to your TV can deliver the "watch" part; recording will require a little extra gear.

Something like the TiVo Bolt OTA, right? (OTA stands for over-the-air, meaning broadcast TV.) Yep, but that box will run you $250, plus $7 per month, $70 annually or $250 for a lifetime guide subscription. That's $500 all-in, if you go for the lifetime option. Meanwhile, Amazon's Fire TV Recast is largely fee-free and has built-in storage -- but it starts at $230, and isn't available until Nov. 14.

Another, cheaper, option: For a limited time, Best Buy has the Tablo Dual Lite OTA DVR for $99.99 shipped (plus tax). It normally sells for $139.99.

See it at Best Buy

The Tablo is a little different than your typical DVR. For starters, it plugs into your router, not into your TV. That's so it can stream live shows and recordings to just about anywhere: phone, tablet, PC, game consoles and, of course, streaming devices like Fire TVs and Rokus.

It also requires both an antenna and a USB hard drive. The latter is easy; you can use any drive you already own or pick up something like this WD 2TB external drive for $69.99. To be fair, the aforementioned Bolt comes with 1TB of storage built in.

As for the antenna, something like this $27.95 amplified internal job might do the trick -- but the challenge could be positioning. If your router lives near a window, great -- the antenna may have an easy time pulling in channels. If it's more centrally located, now you may have to do some wiring to accommodate the antenna. (This is true of just about any OTA setup, really.) 

Even if you already have a hard drive and antenna on hand, there's an additional cost to consider: Like TiVo, Tablo charges extra for its TV-guide data, which really is essential for a good DVR experience. Your first 30 days are free; after that it'll run you $5 per month, $50 annually or $150 for life.

What I find particularly cool about the Tablo is that it can stream live and recorded TV outside your home -- great if you want to watch, say, a Sunday football game while traveling. 

Of course, the similar Air TV streamer (with add-on DVR option) is fee-free, and starts at $120. And now that services like Hulu and Sling offer live-TV streaming and recording, you may find all this to be unnecessarily complicated. To be honest, that's kind of the way I'm leaning these days.

Your thoughts?

Bonus deal: Speaking of TV, Weeds was a really great show. Actually, it was really great for the first three seasons, and then it pretty much went off the rails. The less said about the final season, the better.

Want to see for yourself? For a limited time, FandangoNow has kind of a weird deal going: Weeds season 1 HD for $1, Weeds season 2 for $2, Weeds season 3 for $3 and so on. That's perfect, too, because as I said, you're best off quitting after season 3 -- so your total outlay would be just $6.

See it at FandangoNow

Of course, the entire series is currently streaming on Netflix, so if you already have a subscription there, watch all you want. 

Bonus deal No. 2: Speaking of TV (again), Hulu is another invaluable service for cord-cutters. It's also home to some fantastic original programming, like The Handmaid's Tale and The First.

The limited-commercials plan normally runs $7.99 per month, but right now you can sign up for Hulu for just $5.99 per month (for the first year). The offer is good for new and returning customers, not existing subscribers.

See it at Hulu

I have to say, I now consider Hulu an essential part of my TV-watching life. It's the only place, for example, I can watch Rick and Morty. And The First? I've been binging hard on that grim but compelling show.

The commercial-free subscription still runs $11.99 per month.


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