February 13th, 2015


OTA/DVR, Over The Air Digital Video Recording

Kathy and I have never subscribed to cable or satellite TV. We've always got our fill of television watching the OTA channels and, after it became available, Netflix first by mailed DVDs and then by instant play.

The switch to high definition digital created more OTA channels and now we receive twenty-seven different channels, more or less, depending on the reception capability of our television and its location in our house. We used a Netgear Internet box for streaming instant-play Netflix and Vudu until we got a "smart" TV last year. That television is capable of streaming those two as well as a number of others, including Amazon.

We're often faced with the dilemma of two programs that we want to watch occurring at the same time or of being too busy to watch an interesting episode. In the analog television days, we solved that delimma by using a vcr. However, the vcr was a real pain to operate and the resulting picture was not that good and was especially lacking after the switch to high definition 1080 pixel digital. I didn't bother connecting the vcr when I installed the smart TV, and we started looking for a digital replacement.

We found one we liked last summer. Our Tablo has multiple hd tuners capable of receiving four simultaneous programs and recording them on an attached harddrive for playback either while recording or later. The playback video and sound are streamed to wifi for reception by any stream-capable device connected to the router: phones, tablets, computers, and smart TVs.

The Internet browser on our television is too lame for streaming. That problem was resolved by connecting through a Google Chromecast dongle. Chromecast is designed to accept video streams from wifi and display them on a hdmi device. It also does commercial streams like netflix, vudu, hulu and amazon. The only downside to using chromcast with the tablo is the stream becomes double-buffered, first by the tablo and then by chromecast. The double-buffering makes skipping commercials problematic.

The tablo folk offer a monthly subscription service, about $6 per month, for a more convenient graphical user interface. We are happy with the simple free one that comes standard with the box. It is similar to, but a step or two above that on the old vcr. Control can be done via any device capable of a web browser (except our "smart" tv) or a tablo app.