I placed my order for a 2 tuner Tablo TV on Sunday afternoon. On Monday, Tablo shipped my unit by USPS from upstate New York. It arrived in Wednesday’s post. While waiting for my Tablo TV to arrive, I did some reading and selected a LaCie Porsche Design portable USB 2/3 disk.
What you need
To make a complete Tablo TV installation requires the following.
- ATSC HD TV antenna, preferably external.
- Tablo TV
- Tablo TV iPad or Android app
- External USB 2/3 disk drive
- Local WiFi network for iPad/Android
- Local WiFi network or Ethernet for Tablo TV
- Internet access to Tablo to acquire the program guide
Choosing a Disk
DVR service is a moderately aggressive use of a disk drive. The DVR can spend 2 to 3 hours per day recording material and a similar amount of time playing back material. This duty cycle is more aggressive than the typical laptop/desktop duty cycle but less so than a corporate application server. It was with a little fear and trembling that I went looking for a disk to use with Tablo TV.
After some poking around on the InterWebs, I settled on a 1 TB LaCie USB 2/3 portable disk. These are the ones in the pretty package and are “compatible with Time Machine.” I’m hoping that LaCie chose wisely from Seagate and WD’s offerings and picked a disk that is suitable for several hours of continuous activity per day. Only one way to find out, have a smoke test.
Unboxing and Installation
Tablo double boxed Tablo TV for shipping. The inner box was typical of recent Apple or Nest packaging, simple graphics and thoughtful design to protect the product during handling at retail. The inner box was sized to be a snug fit in the outer shipping box so little dunnage was required. The package contained the following.
- Switching power supply
- Tablo TV
- Ethernet cable
- Quick start sheet
- 2 weeks trial use of the program guide
Cabling up is simple.
- Connect the antenna
- Connect the disk
- Connect the Ethernet
- Connect the power supply
- Plug in the power supply
The unit powers up as indicated by a blue flashing light. The light flashes at different rates during self test, program loading, OS initialization, and application initialization. Once ready, the light is solid. The behavior is similar to that of Ooma Telo so it may be a Linux thing.
The next step is to install the partner Tablo TV application on your favorite mobile controller, for me, an iPad. Once you have a blue light, start the Tablo App and select the option Connect to TabloTV. If not previously initialized, this will be the only choice available.
If your Tablo TV is on the wired network, the application will find it without fuss. If using WiFi, the connection process is a bit more complex and is similar to that for Belkin WeMo devices. The Tablo TV will advertise its own network. You divorce from your home network, connect to the Tablo network, and do the initial configuration dialogs to set the SSID and password. Then Tablo joins your home network and you have your iPad rejoin.
Once found, the Tablo App will guide you through channel identification, program guide loading, and disk formatting. Tablo TV will reformat your external disk which will take some time. Plan on this part of the process taking 30 minutes or so.
Resist the temptation to watch live TV on the first day. Tablo needs some time to complete disk formatting. Once the program guide is aboard, you can schedule recordings but give time to have the disk ready and a day to settle down. That said, I was able to schedule recordings about 30 minutes after I began installation and made my first recording at 8 PM, five hours after installation started.
Using the Tablo App
The remarks that follow apply to the iPad Tablo App. I expect the Android app will be very similar.
A menu button appears in the upper left corner of the display. Tapping the menu button opens a side bar menu. From this you can choose the following.
- Live TV
- TV Shows
Use the Live TV menu to view a channel/time matrix of what is now airing or about to air. From this, you can select a channel to watch by tapping the channel label in the left column. This will open a player window that you can use to play live TV on the device. On iPad, this view includes an AirPlay widget that allows you to direct playback to any AirPlay server on the local network. Think Apple TV or a Mac running Mountain Lion or Mavericks.
TV Shows, Movies, and Sports allow you to see the scheduled programs in these genres. Selecting TV Shows will show you a listing of each series or single episode show. Selecting Sports will show tiles for the major north American sports genres. Tapping a tile shows a list of available programs that can be recorded. Tapping a REC button picks that episode for recording. If the show is part of a series, the upper part of the pane while have a series record button. Activating series recording presents the choice to record all episodes or new episodes.
TV Shows Organization
Selecting Tablo TV’s TV Shows menu item opens a matrix showing tiles for each series or unique program appearing in the program guide data. At the top of the matrix, a tool bar lets you filter the view to show all shows, series with new episodes or new shows, series that are premiering, or shows by genre. This last button opens a genre side bar. The side bar has categories for news, talk, educational, children, consumer, reality, religious, animated, sitcom, crime drama, comedy, drama, etc. This list is sorted by number of entries in the category. A program may appear in multiple bins, for example, Magnum PI might appear in drama, action, crime drama, etc. Tapping a tile brings up the program summary and recording options.
A similar Channels option lets you filter programs by the originating channel.
Tapping the Recordings menu item brings up a matrix of shows for which recordings are available. Tapping a tile brings up a form showing the series description plus a list of available episodes. Tapping the play button at the right side of the episode tile begins playback on the local display or on the active AirPlay server.
Disk Space Management?
I missed the part of Tablo’s materials that talk about disk space management such as deleting watched programs, etc. Disk space management is currently manual. There is actually a way to delete recordings. It’s on the episode tiles appearing in the program’s entry in the recordings view. Tapping the center of the tile reveals the episode description with a delete button located below.
Work in Progress
Tablo TV is early in its development life cycle. The product launched in April 2014. Tablo’s frequently asked questions indicates that a number of product features are coming to make it possible to save recordings, use network disks, etc.