Why I bought and then returned the Tablo TV DVR

Earlier this summer I purchased a Tablo TV, one of the options for a DVR without subscription I've written about before. The Tablo TV has some interesting features that set it apart from other DVR's, but I ended up returning it after several weeks of use. Here's why I bought it and why I didn't keep it after all.

My reason for choosing the Tablo TV over other DVR's is because it can be used to stream live and recorded TV to mobile devices and computers. I intended to use the Tablo TV primarily to watch my hometown sports teams from across the country. It was about the same price as a Slingbox, but was designed to be used with an antenna rather than a cable box and also came with DVR functionality.

I set it up at during a visit to a family member's house in anticipation of the NFL season and began using the device. Right away I ran into some issues with the software. Several times my scheduled recordings would disappear or not get recorded. I also noticed playback didn't always pick up at the right spot. It's also difficult to skip far ahead in a program because recordings only buffer a few minutes at a time. (For example, you may have to wait several minutes for an hour-long program to load before you can skip to minute 45.) All of this was frustrating, but not a deal-breaker because I didn't plan to use the DVR functionality much.

The Tablo TV did work as advertised more or less. I even successfully scheduled programs and watched them from China while on a business trip. However, when I got back to the US I couldn't connect to the Tablo. I asked my family member to reset the device, but that didn't help. It seemed I would have to go through the entire setup process again, which requires connecting to the Tablo locally over wifi. This was too much to ask of my less technically savvy family member. I noticed multiple people mentioned the same problem in Tablo's support forums and I didn't want to have to deal with it continually.

So I returned the Tablo TV. It's a nice product that does some interesting things. But it can't be reset remotely if something goes wrong, leaving one of its main features potentially useless. If you like the idea of a network-connected DVR and don't mind having some technical difficulties, go ahead and get one. However, I can't recommend it instead of a Slingbox or for less technically minded users. I'll have to find another way to get my NFL fix.