Product Reviews

Review of Tablo DVR for HDTV Antennas, 4-Tuner with Wi-Fi

Tablo Antenna DVR
Recently, I purchased the Tablo DVR (model # SPVR4-01-NA) for over-the-air (OTA) broadcasts, as I was very excited to "cut-the-cord" on cable.  The beginning of the journey was very exciting and I actually enjoyed tinkering with all of the components required for this lifestyle change.  However, as you'll read below, this enthusiasm and excited slowly faded to that of frustration and significant disappointment.

The real tragedy is the great potential that Tablo has.  There is buzz of excitement on the web about the potential of what Tablo brings to this growing culture of cord-cutters.  But given my experiencing 2 bad units in a row, it appears that the manufacturer Nuvyyo has some serious quality control issues.  Add onto that the extremely slow process of simply getting channel guide data updated and the constant buffering problem (I saw a lot of complaints about both issues on the web), and it appears that Tablo simply just isn't quite ready for prime time.

I'll start off by listing pros / cons:


  1. User Interface (UI).  The UI for the streaming app on mobile devices is great.  It is actually probably the best I've seen and is very easy to navigate.  Users can browse available shows via genre, channel, and several other options.  Individual shows or show series can easily be scheduled to be recorded.
  2. Whole house solution.  Although unconventional (as most good ideas are), utilizing the Wi-Fi connection of the home in order to distribute content is actually ingenious.  It also allows customers to grant access to additional TVs to the Tablo at a relatively cheap one-time cost - compared to the various other options that require either a significantly higher one-time investment or a small re-occurring fee forever (which defeats the purpose of cutting the cord in the first place).
  3. Network connectivity.  Unit offers flexibility of built-in Wi-Fi connectivity (no need to purchase proprietary dongle like with some competitors) or hard-wired Ethernet connection.
  4. Streaming on mobile.  Given all of the buffering issues that many customers (including myself) have complained about when watching live TV or recorded shows on their TVs, I usually found that streaming live TV or recorded shows on mobile devices worked flawlessly.
  5. Disk space.  Newly released model (Tablo DVR for HDTV Antennas, 4-Tuner with Wi-Fi, as of this writing) allows flexibility to connect a comparatively large hard drive to the Tablo unit.  I had a 5 TB Seagate Expansion USB drive connected, which is way more space than any of the cable providers will give you with their set-top boxes.
  6. Free trial.  Tablo support was willing to repeatedly extend my 30 day free trial for receiving the program guide data.
  7. Remote access.  Although I never took the time to setup, I think that providing remote access to a user's Tablo while away from home is a huge plus.  This was a feature that I loved when I was with AT&T Uverse.  There would routinely be a scenario where some show was coming on before I got home and I forgot to set it to record but I simply went into the app, and set it up with no worries.


  1. Default options.  When using the Tablo streaming app on an Amazon Fire TV stick (don't know if app on Roku works the same) and you select a recorded program (or program series if more than one episode was recorded) to view, the default is to initially display the program/series with the "Delete" option highlighted.  I can't understand the thinking in that design - why would that be the first option given to a program that the user chose to record? The option to delete should be made a little less intrusive.
  2. Quality control.  As mentioned earlier, I had 2 bad units in a row.  The first was dead on arrival and the 2nd unit had something loose rolling around in the case (maybe a screw) and then just stopped working after some time.  Perhaps I should've sent the 2nd unit back immediately but I was so anxious to get it up and running after I saw that it "seemed" to work that I just continued with it.  But I have to question the quality control measures that are in place given that one customer receives 2 bad units in a row.  But this is when ordering through Amazon is even more advantageous because whereas most major brick-and-mortar retailers only give 7-14 days for return of electronics, Amazon gives 30 days.
    • Granted, the bad units could be a result of improper shipping on either the part of Tablo manufacturing center or Amazon.  However, given that I have yet to have an issue with previous electronics received from Amazon, I would have to say that it is unlikely an issue with Amazon’s shipping process.
  3. Points of failure.  (1) Although the praise given in point #2 above in "Pros" is warranted, the various components that make up the infrastructure of the solution can also be viewed as "points of failure".  For those not familiar with this term, it simply identifies components of a system or process that "can" potentially be a problem that prevents all subsequent components or process steps beyond that "point of failure" to likewise fail.  For instance, if you have a home alarm system that is tied to a typical land line in order to notify the police when the alarm is activated, your phone line is a point of failure because if the land line is not working, the alarm system becomes very limited.  (2) Also, as a sub-note, if a home already has many Wi-Fi enabled devices in the home, this solution can put a significant strain on your connectivity.  Remember, we're distributing high definition video to any device in the house that asks for it.
  4. Support.  For US-based customers, the support is located in Canada, which presents a slight time zone challenge, depending on what US time zone you're located.  This is not a major issue, as customers still have support options such as a US toll free telephone number as well as email, which I found consistently got responses in less than 24 hours.

But I'm a believer in "if you don't learn from the pain, then the pain was in vain".  So what can Nuvyyo do to turn this product around?

Here are some suggestions:

  1. Create a model that has a USB 3.0 input interface.  That can only speed up the data transfer rate between the reception of both live and recorded TV to the hard drive, thereby improving performance (this might require a processor upgrade on that unit to handle the faster transfer rate).  Traditional fire-wire 800 interface should be the minimum connection but that is an antiquated interface that has been replaced by USB 3.0 (which is faster than fire-wire).  Maybe (just maybe) this might solve (or at least improve) the buffering problem.
  2. Find a way to bypass the total dependency on networks to update your channel guide.  I have several analog TVs in my home with digital-to-analog converter boxes on them and I instantly get program guide data over-the-air (OTA).  I can even scroll and see the lineup for upcoming shows for several days.  Tablo should be utilizing this data and by doing so - eliminate a very annoying problem for those customers who only see a partial guide.
  3. Implement an automatic customer escalation process whereby someone who had a horrific experience, such as myself, would deal only with Tier 2 support, whose job would be to more aggressively and rapidly respond to customer complaints.  Note that this should be a different team than Tier 1 (not just the same technician from Tier 1 who marks the customer's case as "escalated").
  4. Develop a progressive beta team that quickly incorporates "power user" customers into its beta plan so that they can quickly test out proposed solutions for the most commonly reported problems by customers (such as buffering). If customers are left to solve these types of crippling problems on their own via user forums, which could potentially kill a product.
  5. Add an HDMI output interface.  Most users will install their Tablo beside the TV that they watch the most.  Adding an HDMI interface would allow the "main" TV to bypass the home network, thereby 1) reducing the chance of buffering while watching content, and 2) reducing the load on the home network, and therefore possibly reducing the chances of buffering on other TVs and devices in the home.  Also, for those customers who only have 1 TV, this just makes sense.
  6. As part of the guide data for shows on your streaming app, add a recommendation based on genre, actors, etc.  This would enhance the user experience with your solution.

It's been said that everyone who buys a Microsoft operating system is an unknowingly beta tester because their OS's are always released with many bugs.  But if a company is not as big or established as Microsoft is, it cannot afford to build its reputation that way.

Perhaps Tablo will be "there" in about 12-24 months if aggressive research, customer collaboration, and innovative thinking occurs.  But I'm afraid that if drastic and swift changes in all sectors of this product (conception, testing, QA, production, etc.) aren't realized, Tablo will join the ranks of many other ideas that were destined for greatness but fell to mediocrity and the notion of "the idea that could have been".

I hope that you relay my thoughts and feedback to those in management and development who truly care about saving this product and helping it to reach its true potential - which I think could become the new "TiVo" that the purist cord-cutters are anxiously awaiting.

Final analysis - I give the Table 2/5 stars.

Hope that if you are on the cord-cutting journey, you find a solution that meets your needs.  If you do, please share your experiences.

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