So you’re ready to cut out your cable subscription and start using an HDTV antenna, but you still want to be able to DVR your favorite network broadcasts. What do you do?
The obvious answer is to get a TiVo OTA, but it costs about $350 with lifetime service, and only has 1TB of non-expandable storage. The Tablo DVR is a worthy competitor, and is only $188 right now for a four-tuner box, albeit with a few caveats.
The most obvious difference between the DVRs is that Tablo doesn’t actually plug into your TV over HDMI. Instead, it streams its contents over Wi-Fi to apps on your mobile devices or smart TV dongles. That’s a little bit fussy if you’re just trying to watch Jeopardy on your big screen TV, but awesome in that it basically turns your tablets and phones into portable live TVs themselves.
Unlike TiVo, Tablo also lacks built-in storage. You’ll need to plug in a USB hard drive to save your shows, but chances are you already have one laying in a drawer somewhere, and this setup makes it much easier to upgrade your DVR later on.
And while Tablo will provide some basic functionality for free, you will need to pony up $5/month, $50/year, or $150 for a lifetime data subscription, which is significantly less than TiVo, but still not nothing. That subscription unlocks features like automatic series recording, a more interactive programming guide, and crucially, the ability to stream content around the world, rather than just on your home Wi-Fi.
So in the end, Tablo isn’t actually that much cheaper than the TiVo OTA, but it’s probably better suited for the way most people watch TV these days, and today’s Amazon deal is the best price we’ve seen on the 4-tuner model.