Ottawa-based DVR maker Nuvyyo has given its flagship Tablo device a complete make-over: The company unveiled a new version of its 2-tuner network-connected DVR Wednesday. The new device comes in a smaller housing, and now packs on-board storage to get users started without the need for an external hard drive.
Tablo’s DVR, which is scheduled to go on sale next week, is once again squarely aimed at cord cutters — and this time around, the timing may just be right for it to succeed.
When Nuvyyo first introduced the Tablo DVR back in 2013, it was one of the first companies to reinvent the DVR with a cord cutting bent — and the idea behind it wasn’t always easy to explain to consumers used to traditional cable boxes.
Tablo’s hardware didn’t plug directly into a TV, but instead streamed live and recorded programming to Roku, Chromecast, Fire TV and other streaming boxes as well as mobile devices. What’s more, Nuvyyo didn’t build any recording storage into the original Tablo, forcing users to instead add an external hard drive. And Tablo was from day one squarely focused on over-the-air television, recording programming from networks like ABC, CBS and NBC, but not offering access to any cable programming.
That made Tablo by definition a niche product, and in fact stopped some competitors dead in their tracks. Simple.tv, which tried to sell a very similar product, struggled with hardware problems and eventually gave up on its retail business. TiVo, which has been looking to release its own networked DVR for some time, reportedly recently decided to kill these efforts.
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However, Nuvyyo soldiered on, and proceeded to roll out and refine a number of apps for key mobile and connected TV devices. And as cord cutting picked up and usage of streaming devices grew, the idea of a network-connected DVR started to make a lot more sense. Instead of forcing users to switch inputs on their TVs to change from Netflix to DVR recordings, Tablo’s apps make it possible to consume all of that content through one’s favorite device, be it Chromecast, Apple TV, Fire TV or Roku.
What’s left is the hardware — and this is where Nuvyyo took a big step this week towards turning Tablo into more of a mainstream product. For one thing, the new Tablo looks more like a Roku or an Apple TV, and will take up less space than its predecessor.
But the bigger improvement is the addition of onboard storage. The new Tablo packs 64 GB of internal storage. That’s around 40 hours of recording space, according to Nuvyyo, but less if you decide to record HD content at the highest-quality settings. In other words: It’s not a lot, and habitual DVR users will likely find themselves in the need of adding additional storage via the USB port.
But it’s enough to get casual users started. A brief test by Variety this week revealed something else: Thanks to using flash memory instead of a traditional hard drive, Tablo’s new DVR is the quietest device of its class. Without any cooling fan and other moving parts, there is literally no noise at all. Which may be enough to convince users to opt for a 128 GB or 256 GB flash drive if they choose to add more storage.
During that brief test, the new Tablo DVR also proved itself as a reliable and easy-to-use DVR, save for a few hiccups during the initial setup. An electronic program guide made it possible to subscribe to shows and seasons, just as one would with a TiVo or cable DVR.
The device warned when it detected scheduling conflicts, and it offered some basic storage management for that ever-growing number of unwatched episodes. And thanks to Tablo’s mobile apps, recordings were also accessible on the go — something that’s still not the norm with many other DVR solutions.
However, all of that comes at a price: The new Tablo, which packs two tuners to simultaneously record two shows, will cost $250 when it goes on sale at Best Buy at the beginning of next month. Users who want to make use a 14-day program guide need to pay an additional $5 per month, with rebates for annual and lifetime subscribers. Those fees may be enough to turn off some cord cutters.
Then again, live streaming services like YouTube TV that offer access to live broadcast feeds start at $35 per month, and won’t even let you skip over commercials. Sling TV on the other hand charges consumers $5 per month just for DVR functionality, on top of its monthly streaming fees.
Compared to those services, Tablo increasingly looks like a good deal for anyone who can’t live without a DVR for local sports and other broadcast TV, but doesn’t need all those additional cable channels.