Tablo 4th Gen OTA DVR should have better picture quality than previous Tablo models — Plus more new info

Tablo just announced the next generation of its networked over-the-air (OTA) tuner and DVR earlier this week. One thing that immediately appeared in comments was concern over the device’s picture quality, since previous Tablo models were often criticized for downgrading the incoming broadcast before streaming it to devices. Jared Newman from TechHive recently interviewed Nuvyyo CEO Grant Hall and learned a lot more about the Tablo 4th Gen, including details about how and when it does and doesn’t transcode video which suggests video quality complaints may be a thing of the past when it comes to the new generation of Tablo DVRs if the device is used a certain way.

Just as the Amazon Fire TV Recast does, older Tablo models transcoded the video broadcast in real time before delivering the content to streaming devices. This meant that the native MPEG-2 broadcast was usually downgraded slightly, resulting in worse video quality compared to what you would see if you plugged an antenna directly into the tuner built into your TV. This was done to avoid issues caused by poor WiFi networks, since the transcoded video required far less bandwidth than the uncompressed MPEG-2 broadcast. This is why HDHomeRun tuners, which don’t transcode video and are, therefore, regarded as having superior image quality, don’t offer WiFi and require a wired Ethernet connection.

Unlike past Tablo models, the new Tablo 4th Gen will not transcode video while watching live TV and, instead, stream the native MPEG-2 video to devices like Fire TVs. This means that the live video quality from the Tablo 4th Gen should be the same as the quality you would see if you connected your antenna directly to your TV. This does, of course, mean that both the WiFi connection to the Tablo and the WiFi connection to your streaming device are solid with enough speed to handle the full-quality MPEG-2 broadcast, assuming you’re not using an Ethernet connection at all.

There is, however, an instance when the Tablo 4th Gen will transcode the broadcast video and that’s when it is recorded content to the built-in 128GB flash storage. In that instance, the full-quality MPEG-2 broadcast will be saved as an H.264 video at a maximum of 30 fps in order to reduce the video size and achieve its rated 50 hours of internal 128GB storage. Thankfully, Nuvyyo kept video enthusiasts in mind and made it so that the Tablo 4th Gen records and streams the full-quality MPEG-2 broadcast if an external hard drive is being used. That way customers can avoid transcoded video altogether if they’re willing to provide their own sufficiently large storage drive. While it can vary greatly based on the content itself, internally stored transcoded H.264 video will use about 2.5 GB per hour of video, while externally stored full-quality MPEG-2 video will use about 8 GB per hour of video.

For those upset that there are only two tuners in the Tablo 4th Gen, Nuvyyo plans to convert more models to the new hardware methodology, so you can expect to see a four-tuner model in the future. The company is also still planning to release an ATSC 3.0 device as well, but that won’t arrive until next year. They wanted to get a low-cost device on the market first, before releasing more expensive models. Be sure to read Jared Newman’s article for additional information about Nuvyyo’s past, present, and future Tablo hardware, as the products are going through a lot of changes.

  1. Roy says:

    I still think I will hold out for the ATSC 3.0 model, hopefully it will provided the same features and capabilities. This might be the Recast replacement we’ve been hoping for…

    • Chris K says:

      Has anything been announced yet? I was thinking about grabbing the HDHomerun ATSC 3.0 model. I’m using an older HDHomerun now and it’s fine, but I have no particular brand loyalty either way.

    • Rik Emmett says:

      The ATSC 3.0 committee added DRM that bricked 3.0 network tuners recently. Tablo was going to release a full throated 4 tuner 3.0 DVR last year, but aborted because of the DRM tyrants.

  2. Jeff W says:

    I picked up one yesterday. At a $99 price point, I felt it was worth playing with it. Especially since one never knows what new indignities Amazon will foist upon recast owners.

    • Kevin H says:

      Hi Jeff, I was thinking of doing the same thing but since you have already “beat me to the punch” could you give me/us a quick update on your initial thoughts of the new Tablo’s performance? Thanks

      • Jeff W says:

        I did experience the same freeze others noted during the initial setup. Closing the app and reopening got me past that. I did find an issue with bad guide data. Given that I’m about 35 miles from NYC, I was a little surprised that they had the channel assignments wrong for all of 2.x. Given that 2.1 is CBS-NY, one of the flagship stations of CBS network, I found it odd. I know Tablo is a niche product, but bad data for a primary network station in a TV market that’s home to 30 million people makes it a bit suspect.

        • Terry says:

          I also tried closing the app and restarting it with no success. I even deleted and reinstalled it. I tried using a different cell phone and even a tablet with no luck!!
          On top of that, my Amazon Fire device wouldn’t progress beyond the, ‘register’ device screen. The tech support was horrible and they said they would email me within 24 hours.
          Well the email I received said that they closed the ticket!!

          • Verde says:

            I added the Gen4 to my network last week. I never got the wifi connection to take so I connected over Lan. Once connected the set up went smoothly. I have a mesh wi-fi and Tablo states that they can have problems with a mesh.
            My bigger problem was positioning my digital antenna to pick up the 4 major network here in Miami.
            Now guide data lags on the 115 total channels it covers.

  3. Terry says:

    I bought the Gen 4 version at Best Buy this week and it froze up during setup. During my call to their “tech support ” people they were clueless on how to resolve the problem. I believe the new, ‘improved’ device isn’t ready for release.
    The next day I received an email saying they closed the support ticket!! I returned the device to Best Buy….

    • George Thomas says:

      Mine froze during installation. I simply closed the app, reopened it and it picked up where it froze to finish and there have been no problems.

  4. Matt says:

    FireTV Live TV integration would be awesome

  5. Robert says:

    I bought an HDHomeRun 4 K 2 1.0 2 3.0 tuners it works like a champ mine is hooked up to a Wineguard 8200 u it has some issues as I’m using the app through a ChromeCast picture quality is absolutely excellent. I’m just praying it has all the security protocols I do pick up WKRG mobile 105.1 as of yet I haven’t even checked the 4 k

  6. Terry says:

    I have a ZapperBox and they just announced that they will soon be ATSC 3.0 certified and they will push the update to current users as well. It may not have all the bells and whistles of Tablo but at least it works!!

    • Rik Emmett says:

      All the 3.0 channels in my area are transmitted from one lighthouse station and aren’t any better than the 1.0 counterparts. Not going to pay extra to receive these channels.

  7. Sandra says:

    The new Tablo does not work outside home. It streams within home. Very disappointing. I will continue to use my Tablo Quad unit until this is updated. They say the older units will be updated with the new software however don’t know if that function will be removed.

  8. Buzz 59 says:

    I have had this installed for a couple weeks now. Be sure to use the latest Tablo TV to install. Simple hookup to my attic antenna and router in the bsmt. No issues with the initial install. Tablo has updated the software and firmware once already. So they are actively addressing issues. Some buffering the first weekend. Since updates, little to no buffering. Picture quality is great live and streaming. I have an Atsc 3.0 tuner in my Sony so I didn’t need that in a DVR now. App works fine on Android phone and Roku. Also tested on Google tv.

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