Or, to be more specific, Beam Bashers. Not that there was anything wrong with our service from DirecTV, having been with them since the early 90’s when they launched their first bird. In fact, when a hurricane past by a few years ago, we were watching satellite during and after the storm while cable was out for our neighbors.
But, alas, times (and viewing habits) have changed. We realized that 95% of our TV watching is programs that are available over-the-air for free. And the handful of other shows we watch are available on streaming services. Of course there was the fact that we were paying $130/month ($1,560/year) for the service; it just didn’t make sense anymore.
So I installed a Tablo 4-tuner DVR device and attached a 5TB external hard drive to it. I already had an amplified antenna on the roof from the days when DirecTV didn’t have local channels (here’s a link to a top of the line amplified antenna). The Tablo device will record and stream up to four live or recorded shows over your wired/wireless network to streaming devices like Roku (3 or 4), FireTV, or AppleTV. I opted for two Roku 3’s and one Roku 4 (for the home theater system). Additionally, you can watch on your Android or IOS device in or OUTSIDE of your home network. You can program Tablo from either the Roku app or the Android/iOS apps (the latter ways are easier & you have access to system settings).
Doing the math, I’m saving $89-$96/month — $101-$108 if we don’t keep Hulu — (after about 5-7 months of paying off the upfront costs of all the equipment). Here’s the breakdown:
$4.99/mo for the Tablo guide service (or $50/year or $150 for life; I opted for the life one);
$11.99 for Hulu No Commercials plan (though I’m not sure I’m going to keep this as we haven’t found much of anything we want to watch on it that’s not on Amazon Prime).
Say five to eight streaming shows per year (seasons) at $30/show for HD.
I did not include Amazon Prime in the calculations because I already have it for the 2-day shipping and the media is just a bonus. I also didn’t include streaming movies as we would watch them outside of satellite as well.
I did find that I had to enable 5GHz on my wireless router. The router I had couldn’t do 5 & 2.4 GHz at the same time, so several older devices wouldn’t connect. I wound up upgrading my router to a Netgear Nighthawk X6 AC3200 Tri-Band router (I have some additional security requirements so this may be overkill for most folks). You could keep your existing router on 2.4GHZ and add an additional wireless access point on 5GHz and accomplish the same thing. Another option is to use the Tablo and Rokus over wired Ethernet and then performance would be a non-issue, leaving your existing wireless at 2.4GHz.
Overall we’ve been happy with the setup. The Roku has voice search that is really cool as it searches several channel feeds for what you are looking for and presents them in a non-biased and easy to select way (I hear the FireTV search puts Amazon results up only and to see the results from other channels you have to drill down several menu options). In the next OS version 7 Search also allows you to search by Actor, Director, and another item that escapes my mind right now. My Rokus just got upgraded last night to OS 7 and they seem faster now. The Tablo is a little quirky and I wish their presentation would mimic more of a traditional guide then just the show icons. I will recommend you also get a 550VA or larger UPS just for the Tablo and antenna amplifier, so if a power outage, you can still record shows.