Nuvvyo Tablo Quad review: Cord-cutting for the geek-minded

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As a nerd and as a cord-cutter, I can say with authority that cutting out cable TV by using an antenna DVR can get nerdy fast. There have been numerous devices that make it easier for the less tech-inclined to grasp, and the Amazon Fire TV Recast is the most successful. Then there’s products like the Tablo Quad.

Nerdy doesn’t necessarily mean bad, just that the Tablo Quad can require more tech know-how than most products. In everyday use, it does what you need from a OTA DVR: it enables you to record and watch up to four channels at once, peruse a two-week channel guide and even stream on the go. Soon, it will also be able to auto-skip commercials for you, too.

Unfortunately, you might need to become very acquainted with your router’s setup page to get it to work. And Tablo works with some devices better than others. If you’re a Mac/iOS fan it’s all good, but PC/Xbox One users get the shortest shrift with an outdated, unusable app on one hand (Windows 10) and the inability to listen to recordings with surround sound on the other (Chrome).

For experienced nerds, the Tablo Quad is a solid choice: a flexible recorder offering excellent performance both inside the home and out. Newbies need not apply.

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What is this thing?

There are two main types of digital video recorder (DVR) for cord cutters. Both connect to an OTA antenna and let you record, pause, rewind and fast-forward through TV programs broadcast for free, over the air. Traditional set-top boxes like TiVo Bolt OTA or Channel Master Stream Plus are very similar to standard cable box DVRs: tuner boxes with hard drives that connect directly to a single TV. Streaming networked DVRs like the Recast, Air TV and Tablo Quad connects to your home network rather than to a TV. This allows them to stream live TV and recordings to multiple TVs as well as to phones, tablets and PCs, both inside and outside the home.

The Tablo Quad isn’t simply the Tablo Dual with two more tuners slapped into it, it’s a new, wider design with several tweaks. For example, while the Tablo Dual offered  64GB of “onboard storage,” the Quad doesn’t come with any at all. Instead, it enables you to install your own 2.5-inch storage drive inside, up to 8TB. That’s a boon to people who don’t want an umbilical USB drive messing up their space (though it can utilize one of those, too).  An internal 1TB drive is about $40, so you should factor that into your cost. Alternately, an external USB drive of the same capacity runs $50.

At CES, Nuvvyo announced that the Tablo Quad will appear at the same time as a beta Commercial Skip feature (late Q1 2019). While I wasn’t able to use the feature as part of this review, I will update this review once I have the chance to test the feature.

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Here’s the specs:

The competition

New entrants in the past year or so have made streaming DVRs a hotly contested product category. These include the Amazon Fire TV Recast and Sling’s AirTV. All of these models perform the same task as the Tablo with the main differences being the interface and the associated costs. While both of these newcomers anticipate you will sign up for the company’s other services — Amazon Prime and Sling TV, respectively — each device’s 14-day guide will work without paying extra, something that the Tablo won’t do. Of course, if you add the cost of a $99 yearly Prime membership or the $25-a-month Sling TV subscription, the costs balloon.

OTA DVR cost comparison

AirTV Amazon Fire TV Recast Tablo Dual Lite Tablo Quad TiVo Bolt OTA
Hardware $120 $230 $140 $200 $239
Accessories ($40 HDD, $50 USB HDD, $20 antenna, $40 FireTV) $60 $60 $70 $60 $20
Lifetime subscription cost (does not include Prime or SlingTV costs) $0 $0 $150 $150 $250
Total cost $190 $290 $360 $420 $509



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