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Review: Is Tablo the Answer for Aereo's Former Customers?

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Now that the Supreme Court has effectively shut down Aereo, do products like Tablo and Simple.TV hold the answer for its former subscribers?

Aereo gave subscribers streaming access to local over-the-air broadcast channels, via a remote antenna and a cloud DVR. Tablo and Simple.TV offer the same channels. The difference is that the recording and streaming are done from the customer's home.

We tested Tablo, which requires an external hard drive and an HDTV antenna, besides the Tablo box, itself. Tablo currently offers two-tuner ($219.99) and four-tuner ($299.99) models. Usage also requires a $4.99 per month electronic program guide subscription.

To install the Tablo, connect it to a router, and then connect the antenna and hard drive. The instructions specify the order. Once connected, the device will scan for available channels.

The Tablo doesn't comes with a remote; owners access it with the Tablo app on supported devices, or through Chrome or Safari browsers. We used the web site.

The interface's main screen uses tiles to display available prime time shows. It's a trendy look, but not a great one for discoverability. It's limited to prime time programs, and some shows have images while others don't. It's easier to search for shows or use the EPG. Select a program currently running to stream it live, or select any program to record one showing or all episodes. DVR controls let viewers pause or jump forward or back.

Streaming Tablo content from outside the home requires some adjustments. First, users need to access the device while on the same Wi-Fi network and turn on the Tablo Connect settings. For newer routers, it's a simple process. Older routers require port remapping, which would be a difficulty for many. Once Tablo Connect is enabled, use mobile devices on the home network to pair them. After they've been used with Tablo locally, they can connect via the internet.

Our testing with Tablo was a little spotty and occasionally frustrating. Much of the time, it worked as it should, delivering clear, watchable streams. Programs usually recorded perfectly to the hard drive, although occasionally we saw visual glitches and once a program had no audio. Playback was stronger over a home network than the internet. Depending on the channel, shows might stream well or with many visual glitches. Limiting the size of outbound streams helped a little. We didn't see an option to stream live programs to a portable device. Instead, we had to record the program and then play the recorded stream when it showed up in the recording bin a minute later.

Considering that Tablo doesn't offer pay TV channels its appeal seems limited, and considering the cost we expected higher quality. For people who enjoy broadcast TV and want to view it on-the-go, it's worth trying. For anyone else, though, it feels like a work in progress.

The Tablo interface

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