Update on the Tablo device for OTA watching and recording

It’s been 11 days since I first wrote about the Tablo, a device to which I’ve gotten quite attached.  It’s only been out for about a year and those who got a Tablo before me, had to work through various firmware updates and a hardware learning curve of sorts (that is, which hardware works best and what kind of set ups works best).  I kind of expect these sorts of things with new technology which is why I usually wait. In this case, I did not discover the Tablo until some rough spots were smoothed out.  Lucky me.

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Relocating the Tablo to the First Floor

In the photo above, I’m showing the Tablo moved to the first floor from the second floor because I actually got worse antenna reception upstairs. I’ll discuss antenna placement in another post. That is a subject in itself.

I was sweating at the thought of moving the Tablo, thinking I might have to set things back up again, but since I was having trouble with most channels pixelating, I knew it had to happen. So, on Tuesday after work I just did it.  This meant moving my one Ethernet adapter, which really needs to go directly into a socket to work effectively, as opposed to going into a strip.  I would need a longer Ethernet cable for it to reach a direct socket and didn’t have one so I plugged it …into a strip. Why not try it?  I saw the light indicating it connected and when I turned on my TV, it had no problem finding the Tablo, as if nothing happened. However, whenever you move an antenna, it should be re-scanned for channels.  Much to my delight, it found 27.  Nine of them, are HD and the rest are standard digital (SD).  I added the ones I wanted (all but the shopping networks).

After the scan was complete and saved, I turned on my main TV and it had no problems connecting to the Tablo, but I noticed it was very slow.  When I tried watching one of the stronger channels, it buffered some 15 times for the first 7 minutes.  The cause of this was that one Ethernet adapter being plugged into a strip.  Wednesday after work, I used a longer Ethernet cable to plug the adapter into a socket, directly.  That was the end of the slowness and buffering.

Tablo Guide

I mentioned previously that I purchased the subscription to the Tablo Guide, which offers an interactive grid for 14 days at a time.  From this grid you can see what to watch and set recordings.  The Tablo even allows recurring recordings for regular programs. So, if you like “NCIS,” or “500 Questions,” or “I Love Lucy” you can just choose “record all” and Tablo takes it from there and stores it on the hard drive attached in set up.

The Tablo Guide looks a little different on each device with the Roku getting an updated app that is available “preview mode” right now.  When it comes out of Beta, I’m hoping it has features as I see on another TV in which an Amazon Fire Stick is attached.  This is how we watch Tablo, by accessing the app through a device of some kind – a Roku box or stick, Fire TV or stick, Apple TV,  IOS and Android phones and tablets, Mac and Windows computers and laptops, etc.

Here are some images of the guide.

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The Tablo Guide as it appears in the Tablo Preview App in Beta.

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This shows what happens when I click the highlighted movie. Because it was not on, the “watch” option is not there. This is the beauty of Tablo is you can record upcoming programs seen in the guide.

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This shows several options available. I decided to use “Record All” so any time “Everybody Loves Raymond” is on this channel, it will record. I’ll have a collection on my hard drive.

Switching over to a TV in a room visible from my kitchen where I spend a lot of time, I have a cheaper Fire Stick.  Any stick, be it Fire, Roku Stick, or Chromecast, will work slower than a box.  But, once it gets going, it’s good.  I like the way the guide looks on Fire and I’m hoping the guide on Roku will function similarly when it is out of Beta.  If not, they should move it in that direction as there are lots of interactive choices – both for viewing and choosing recordings.
I’ve left the sidebar menu up so you can see all the options.  I’ve highlighted movies and when I go in there, it’s almost like going through Netflix on a computer to look at movie options. These are movies that are coming up within the next two weeks.  Upon clicking one, it shows me when it will air, and if there are multiple air times it shows them.  Now, I scrolled through this list which went on for many pages

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Here is what I see after entering the TV section. Like with movies, it shows me all the movies coming up.  Depending on the device used, there are different viewing options, from alphabetical to genre and by channel.  I find it easier to log into Tablo on my mac to schedule recordings and look for conflicts.

With a 2-Tuner, I can only record two things at the same time, or watch something and record something simultaneously, or someone else could watch a different channel in another room.  I kind of regret not getting the 4-tuner as I have run into conflicts while recording.

Here too, in the TV tab, I’m showing one page of probably a few dozen options.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a brand new episode of the hottest program on a major network, or if it’s an oldie like Adam-12, you can record single or recurring session from here.

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This is hard to see, but it is the sports tab.  You don’t necessarily get pretty pictures. It’s not that hard to see on the TV, but the image is unclear here. One thing I regret is no local baseball since MLB has a contract with cable companies. This needs to change because while I’m choosing to ditch cable TV for personal reasons rather than financial, there are many people who simply cannot afford cable.  They ought not be deprived watching a ball game on their TV once or twice a week.  There is some hockey, but I don’t know if local hockey will be available.

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Working with Tablo Support

image1-3I had one issue with my Tablo Guide that prompted me to inquire about the problem.  I get a set of channels related to ION (31-1, 31-2, 31-3) and they are strong channels in my area.  But, they were not showing up in the guide.  I was able to watch them on the iPhone by just clicking the channel. I could not record anything (there was a work-around to record manually, but I wanted to see what was there without hunting it down on the web. I’m not familiar with these ION channels and what they offer, but if it’s available, I want it in my guide.  I know Qubo is a kids channel. You see a snapshot here from the Tablo app on iPhone.   I contacted Tablo support and after sending my zip code, I got a response back within 3 hours letting me know that those channels were added to the guide and I should expect to see them within a few days with a refresh.  So, if you have a Tablo and see  blanks in the guide on good channels, don’t remove them, contact Tablo support.

I’ve seen others struggling with different things in Tablo and one thing I noticed is that the support team is responsive to the point of offering to remote log-in to correct problems if need be.  I appreciated the fact that I got an email from a somebody, whom I could send a reply to, if I had additional need to communicate.

UPDATE: Tablo support had this issue resolved very quickly.

Recordings

Below is an image of scheduled recordings. Those with a (1) are how many episodes it will record.  Those with a clock are recurring. Note also the Conflicts tab. That allows me to easily look, at least on the iPhone, for conflicts that a 2-Tuner can’t deal with so I can choose what is not going to record to resolve it.  One trap I’ve gotten into was having a recurring program record, while a moving was recording, and then trying to watch the local news.  That’s where the number of tuners becomes an issue, especially in a multiple person household.

As you can see, I have an interest in the Turner Classic Movie kind of stuff even though they were well before my time. I was excited to find some oldies I did not usually see on cable TV.  I do have interest in contemporary stuff, but no time to follow it all.  The original NCIS is a program I have enjoyed in the past, and may record.  But, quite honestly, I’m just not into a lot of it any more.  I’m a Foyle’s War kind of a person and with my $4.99 subscription to Acorn TV app through my Roku, I get all seasons and episodes (some or all of it may be on Netflix or Prime, but Acorn has a lot of other stuff I find edifying).  Now, who would have known I could record the old classic, “The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!”  I haven’t seen it in a long time, so we’ll see if I still think it’s as funny as it thought back then.  It carries a 4-star rating. I see it carries a 4.5 star rating at Amazon where it is only available by disk.

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One thing I should point out is that OTA TV generally does not have the more recent movies, like those that have come out in the past year or two.  But, that’s why people have Netflix, Prime, Hulu, etc.  With TV programs, you get the same thing on network OTA as you do through cable, if you can get a good signal.

Here are some recordings I did in the past week, some of them test cases with different channels.

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Clicking on any one of those (the ones with pictures) will provide detailed information (scrollable to read the full description).

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Whether you like primetime network viewing, or prefer to lay back with some oldies, the Tablo is a great way to go. But, as I said in my original post, do your homework before investing.

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