Review: Nuvyyo Tablo Dual Lite Over-the-Air Television DVR | iLounge

Review

Review: Nuvyyo Tablo Dual Lite Over-the-Air Television DVR

A-
Highly Recommended

Company: Nuvyyo

Model: Tablo Dual Lite

Price: $140

Compatibility: Fourth-generation Apple TV, iOS devices running iOS 8.0 or later

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Jesse Hollington

As far as we’re concerned, Nuvyyo’s Tablo devices have become the gold standard for watching and recording over-the-air TV programming — if you’re even considering cutting the cord, a Tablo device should factor into your plans. The company’s original Tablo OTA DVR was a solid first entry — a simple black box that could tune in an over-the-air television signal and stream it over your home network to an Apple TV, iPhone, or iPad, and even act as a PVR to record OTA content, provided you were willing to supply your own hard drive. The company further refined this design last year with Tablo Dual, an elegant “one box” solution in a smaller form factor, with 64 GB of internal storage providing about 40 hours of recording time — more than enough for many casual users, along with features like the ability to pause live television. This year, Nuvyyo is back with Tablo Dual Lite, a lower-priced version of Tablo Dual that eliminates the internal storage while improving the Wi-Fi capabilities.

Tablo Dual Lite is virtually indistinguishable from its more expensive sibling — you’d be hard pressed to tell the two units apart except for the label on the bottom, which makes sense considering that the elimination of internal storage doesn’t require a change to the unit’s appearance. As with last year’s original Dual model, you’ll also find the power adapter, a quick start guide, and an Ethernet cable in the box. The latter of these is handy if you want to use Tablo with a wired connection to your router, but we think that most users will prefer to simply operate in Wi-Fi mode, especially considering that the Tablo Dual Lite offers one other new perk over las year’s model: 802.11ac support for high-speed streaming over Wi-Fi. This means that if you’ve got the router capabilities and 5 GHz signal strength where you’re planning to set up your Tablo, you should be able to stream full 1080p content back to your Apple TV with no difficulties at all. To be fair, we never had Wi-Fi performance issues with last year’s 802.11n model either, but we think support for better and faster wireless technologies is always a good thing.

Aside from the improved Wi-Fi, the other big difference with Tablo Dual Lite is the lack of internal storage. While we lauded Nuvyyo for creating a solution that was ready to go out of the box, the reality is that for those users who want more than 64 GB of storage and don’t mind adding their own, Tablo Dual Lite provides a much cheaper point of entry, and at the cost of external hard drives, you can add a lot more storage to Tablo Dual Lite for the same price as its more expensive sibling. As with the original Tablo, however, Tablo Dual Lite is basically just a straight tuner unless you add external storage, which is probably why Nuvyyo pretty much lists an external hard drive as a core requirement rather than an option on the Tablo Dual Lite product page. Without an external hard drive, you won’t be able to even pause live TV on Tablo Dual Lite.

However, it’s worth noting that this year Nuvyyo has a new trick up its sleeve: Cloud DVR. Although it’s still in beta, users who don’t want to deal with their own local storage can store up to 40 GB of recordings on Nuvyyo’s cloud servers (about 16 hours, depending on quality settings. Tablo Dual Lite users get a free 30-day trial of the service that they can opt into when signing up, although since the company has not yet announced pricing, it’s difficult for us to say whether this is going to be a viable option or not; we suspect that simply investing in a local hard drive makes more sense, but Nuvyyo seems to think that some Tablo users are looking for a “clutter free” option, so using Cloud DVR will certainly keep your Tablo setup much more minimalist.

However, the other caveat to keep in mind with Cloud DVR is that you’ll need a fairly solid internet connection to use it. Nuvyyo isn’t working any special magic here in pulling down streams from elsewhere — whatever you store is simply recorded from your own antenna and uploading to Nuvyyo’s cloud server using your own internet connection. Nuvyyo doesn’t say anything about recommended internet connection speeds right now, but users with either data caps or lower upload speeds will be limited to recording with lower quality settings to save bandwidth.

That said, in our testing the Cloud DVR worked surprisingly well considering what’s actually happening under the hood. All of the normal Tablo features were fully supported, including not only recordings, but also pausing and rewinding live TV, without any local storage attached at all. For the purposes of full disclosure, we should mention that we tested this on a 300 mbps symetrical fibre-optic connection, so your mileage will almost certainly vary, but it definitely shows that both Tablo Dual Lite and Nuvyyo’s Cloud DVR service are capable of handling anything you throw at it, provided you have the bandwidth yourself.

It’s also worth noting that Nuvyyo has made one very significant improvement to the entire Tablo experience since we looked at Tablo Dual last year; a major app update earlier this year delivered on long-awaited advanced scheduling and recording management features via a firmware update to older Tablo DVR models, and of course this comes with the new Tablo Dual Lite. It can’t be overstated how much of a difference this makes to the Tablo user experience, basically bringing it completely on par with most cable provider DVRs. One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is that you’ll still need to pay for a guide subscriptoin to actually use these advanced features — around $5/month or $50/year — without which you’ll basically be stuck scheduling recordings manually. As before, while Tablo is usable without the guide data, we wouldn’t recommend it — the subscription is definitely worth it if you’re using Tablo for anything more than watching live TV.

Other than the Cloud DVR, however, there’s not much else new about Tablo Dual Lite — it’s basically last year’s Tablo Dual with a much nicer price tag for those who are willing to either subscribe to online storage or supply their own hard drive, although we think there’s definitely still a place for the full Tablo Dual for more casual users looking for a simple “plug and play” solution. What’s great about Tablo Dual Lite, however, is not only that it comes in at a great price for cord-cutters who aren’t quite sure what direction they want to go in, but with the Cloud DVR trial, it still comes with everything you need to get going right out of the box, letting you start with the Cloud DVR and decide to transition to your own external USB storage later on. It’s another solid entry from Nuvyyo, and just one more reason to cut the cord.

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Editors' Note: iLounge only reviews products in "final" form, but many companies now change their offerings - sometimes several times - after our reviews have been published. This iLounge article provides more information on this practice, known as revving.

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