Recast User Switching to Tablo

I am a new Tablo user looking for an alternative to the Fire TV Recast that I have been using for a few years. Given the Recast has been discontinued, and I’m sick of the lack of software updates/support from Amazon (certainly won’t be any more now), I figure I need to do something.

I am a fairly experienced OTA TV “enthusiast”. Not that there has been any decent content lately, but I am still determined to make it work “well”, both for live viewing and recording. I have invested in very good OTA equipment/cabling/etc. feeding 4 TV’s (direct coax drops), the Recast (coax), and now the Tablo (coax). I use a Televes Ellipse Mix amplified antenna, and a Televes Avant X multiband filter/amplifier headend for my in-home coax distribution system. I know exactly what transmitters/virtual channels are available in my area and where they are (directionally). All of my selected transmitter RF signals are filtered/balanced/amplified prior to distribution in my home. Signal strength to each tuner is excellent/even, and s/n ratio is above 30dB on all but 1 transmitter, which is around 28dB. (As measured on my high-end Sony Bravia TV). I can very easily compare things like tuner performance on the various devices, and specifically compare the Recast and the Tablo side-by-side.

My home network includes 300Mbps fiber internet service/router, and a Cisco business class 26 port PoE switch. Almost everything in my home is hard wired Cat6 Ethernet (except cell phones, iPad, etc.). All 4 TVs of varying manufacturers have Amazon Fire TV Fire Stick 4K’s running on dedicated Ethernet cables back to the Cisco switch. All report about 90Mbps test speeds via the Fire TV Stick network utility (all Fire Sticks are 10/100 Mbps Ethernet connections), and have no trouble streaming HD movies without any stutter or delay. The Fire TV Stick on my main TV is the latest gen 4K Max version. The others vary, so I also can make some comparisons between Fire TV Stick versions.

I purchased a 4-tuner Tablo about 1 week ago, and now have it running (along with the Recast) on my home network. So far, I have been able to get it configured and working on all 4 TV’s (Fire Sticks) with very little fuss. In fact, despite all the horror stories I’ve read, it was very nearly “plug and play”. A pleasant surprise! Here are some of my observations so far, as well as comparisons to the Recast (in no particular order):

  1. My wife and I both like the Tablo Fire TV app interface much more than the Recast. The only downside is it a separate app (just like other streaming apps such as MAX, Disney+, etc.), where the Recast interface integrates directly with Fire TV ecosystem. But, once in the Tablo app both the live grid and the recording operations are more modern and pleasant experiences than the Recast IMHO. Also, where the Recast has always had problems with its recording (e.g. reliable scheduling of series recordings), so far the Tablo seems much more reliable in this regard. The Tablo also does a much nicer job of presenting content options, “season premiers”, etc. more like some of the better streaming services. Overall, it’s a slicker interface than the Recast.

  2. The Tablo runs pretty hot. My understanding is 55C is typical under load (4 tuners actively working??). I have checked a number of times with an infrared thermometer, and even “doing nothing” the Tablo base easily gets to 55C. The highest I’ve “clocked” is 57C. To be overly cautious, I set a spare USB computer fan next to it on the shelf, plugged that into a spare iPhone USB charger, and the Tablo temps are now much lower. I just checked it, and it was 35C.

  3. The Tablo tuners (from an RF perspective), seem to be much better than the tuners in the Recast, as well as better than at least 2 of my TVs. I conclude this by comparing OTA stability/quality across all of my platforms, and noting that the Tablo seems to deliver (subjectively) better picture quality. My brother, who is also in the process of converting from Recast to Tablo in his home, makes the same observation. He is a bit of an audiophile, and also thinks the Tablo sound is somehow better than the Recast through his high-end home theater system. So, when the Tablo “behaves”, it seems to deliver a high quality picture and sound. But, it doesn’t always behave …

  4. I see regular blue message screens from the Tablo app stating something like “Failure to decode audio …” or “Failure to decode video …”. The audio message often appears after launching the Tablo app. Hitting either “Retry” or “Cancel” seems to do exactly the same thing … clear the screen and move on to normal viewing behavior. The video message appears less often, and randomly during Live TV feeds (maybe once in 1-2 hours viewing). Again, hitting either “Retry” or “Cancel” seems to do exactly the same thing … clear the screen and move on to normal viewing behavior.
    I suspect this is Tablo’s way if indicating it gagged decoding something from the OTA video feed … presumably due to a weak signal. However, I have very strong signals and high s/n ratios (above 30 dB), so this is puzzling to me. I think what is happening is the Tablo device and/or app struggles to handle occasional random errors in the digital stream. These can occur for any number of reasons … in my case I find almost all of them originate somewhere between the original broadcast towers in Salt Lake City, and the numerous “repeaters” on mountaintops before the transmitters in my area (Southern Utah) receive the relayed transmission. Of course, there can be (and have been) some local issues that have temporarily interfered with transmission/reception.
    It’s worth noting that none of my 4 TV’s (of various ages/manufacturers) behave this way when watching OTA TV directly on their respective tuners from a direct antenna feed (via coax). They may “jump” or show misc. pixilation issues or drop audio for just a brief moment, but then they return to normal viewing behavior without my intervention. Also, the Recast sometimes briefly displays an annoying message overlay that says “weak or no signal… blah blah blah”, which disappears and normal viewing resumes (most of the time). Oddly, I see this message on the Recast even when the picture and sound seem perfectly fine.

  5. During live TV viewing, the Tablo audio/video sync seems very sensitive to little signal “blips” (digital trash), and easily gets out of whack. Sometimes this can be remedied by exiting back to the Guide and reselecting the same channel, sometimes it can be remedied by exiting the Tablo app back to Fire TV and reloading the Tablo app, and sometimes it requires a cold restart of the Tablo itself (unplug). None of my TV tuners exhibit this behavior, and only very rarely does the Recast do this. Once again, it seems the Tablo hardware/software struggles to handle errors in the data stream and quickly recover to continue normal viewing.

  6. The Tablo system occasionally freezes Live TV video with the spinning blue circle for less than a minute, then continues on “normally”. Perhaps some sort of buffering but no real reason I can find based on the network performance.

  7. Only once (so far) has the Tablo randomly crashed to a black screen during OTA TV viewing. In this case, I had to do a cold restart of the Fire TV Stick to get everything working. The Recast has never crashed any of my Fire TV Sticks in several years of use. The Tablo app randomly exits back to the Fire TV for no apparent reason. Maybe a dozen times in the first week of viewing a few hours a day. Re-entering the Tablo app is usually “normal” afterword. The Recast rarely just crashes back to Fire TV.

  8. So far, the Tablo has reliably recorded about a dozen programs, and the few I have watched have been … dare I say … flawless. No issues with stuttering, spinning blue circles, or whatever. I have yet to see any of the issues noted regarding watching live TV recordings. Maybe I just haven’t yet watched enough Tablo recordings.

I think if I had one overall impression at this point, I would say the Tablo is close to an attractive replacement for the Recast, and it seems to have the potential to be considerably better. However, it’s just unreliable and unpredictable enough to still be a bit frustrating. I hope the Tablo folks continue improving the basic function (watch and record live TV) and reliability (handle the trash better) first and foremost, before trying to add too many more bells and whistles. It needs to be solid and stable!

I am sure I will learn more with more use. Perhaps others deciding whether to switch from Recast to Tablo will find this long post useful. Feel free to respond with other relevant experience and comments.


Interesting observations, thanks for the detailed account of your experiences!

One comment, try turning your Tablo upside down. Getting the Tablo case heat vents on the top of the Tablo has made a big difference here. I use the touch system to test for overheating, and the top of the Tablo (now the side with the heat vents :-), is just warmish feeling instead of hot. The surface that was the top and is now the bottom, is just a little warmer than it was, a worthwhile tradeoff for me.

No fan needed, hope that this helps.

It sounds like you’ve been through a lot of this type of stuff before, so my question/comment might be completely irrelevant. If so, just ignore it. :-).

You were noting that you have really good antenna reception. Have you tried switching the Tablo’s built-in amplifier to the opposite setting of what it is now to see if that helps? I’m sure with your great setup any amplification on the DVR’s part might be too much and cause problems.

I enjoyed your input despite never having dealt with a Recast before. You seem to have made a case to switch whereas others have shared why they wish to stay on the older system. Everything takes some getting used to and being used to something else for a long time can make other devices feel awkward. Thanks for sharing!

Thanks for the great feedback! I’m envious of your elaborate setup. I’m stuck with an indoor Mohu Leaf antenna, but get surprisingly good results with it on the 2-tuner 4th gen Tablo even with the internal amplifier turned off.

I have been through several OTA DVRs over the years, including TiVo Bolt, Recast, AirTV I and AirTV II and in my opinion, the Tablo 4th gen is far superior, even with some of the stability issues as you mentioned. The tuners are definitely more sensitive. I can easily pick up all the major broadcast channels in my area with the Tablo while all the other DVRs I tried had issues with at least a few channels using my indoor antenna.

The user interface is exceptional and definitely the best I’ve seen. Tablo is actively working on the issues and has rolled out several updates with fixes over the last few months. It does seem to be slow go, but for now, I’m sticking by them. Every release has been an improvement.

I have taken the Tablo 4th gen internal 10dB amplifier into consideration in determining how it is connected to my system. It is currently on, which by my figures gives me about -25dBm at each of the 4 Tablo tuners. My understanding is anything from -5 to -30 dBm is considered a “very strong” signal to an OTA tuner. Greater than -5dBm is considered problematic for some OTA tuners.

The Avant X output level is set to -26.75dBm at the “Test” port where the Tablo is directly connected. The 2 connectors and 10’ of coax from the Avant X to the Tablo knocks off 1dB or so. The Tablo then applies a 10db amplifier, and then splits that signal 4 ways to the 4 Tablo tuners, which knocks another 7.5dB from the signal. So …

 -26.75dBm - 1dB + 10dB - 7.5dB = -25.25dBm
 Avant X     cable  amp   4-way = Tablo tuner signal

Perhaps my math is wrong somewhere, but this is my understanding of how RF signal strength works. For comparison, my 4 TV tuners each see around -24dBm +/-, and the 4 tuners in the Recast see about -21.75dBm each.

My Sony Bravia diagnostics reports the internal Sony AGC (Auto Gain Control) is at about 25% with the incoming coax signal at -24dBm. It is actually still adding some gain (in essence 1/4 of full internal amp gain, whatever that is) to this incoming signal before the internal tuner. All of my other TV’s display fine, and they see similar signal levels at the incoming coax as the Sony. Same for the Recast tuners.

However, I have nothing more than rudimentary signal level indicators (bars or dots or %) on those other devices, so not much real data other than “5 bars” or “4 green dots” or “95%” signal or whatever. Still, I think my distribution signal levels are strong, but not too strong. I have even temporarily reduced the output of the Avant X by 10-20dB, and not seen any “improvement” in any of my devices as far as picture quality, reduced artifacts, etc. I conclude my signal levels at each tuner are fine.

Probably more data than you bargained for, but like I said, I’m a bit of an “enthusiast”.

I’m probably too OCD to just turn the thing upside down to improve cooling. Like putting a coat hanger on an old TV for an antenna. (Dating myself now.) Anyway, I had the USB fan and the iPhone dongle, so I “fixed” the cooling issue that way.

Definitely more data than I bargained for. I’m not saying your math is wrong or right. In mine and other users experiences, sometimes that built-in amplification left on has given poor recordings.

It’s up to you to flip that toggle to find out. Sometimes the simplest solution is the best.

BTW, I would think that blowing a fan on the Tablo would also blow some degree of dust into the equipment, shortening its life.

Actually worked for a large networking vendor… These devices are built to run hot. It’s running “hot” isn’t a Tablo issue. It’s an OCD issue, like you mentioned. A lot of current devices run at a high temp. The chipsets can handle it.

Just going to keep it real… you have overengineered your setup. Not knocking it, but just saying.

I’ve run and maintained a cable TV / internet RF plant for a while… It sounds like you’re coming in too hot. Do you have an RF signal meter? How much signal do you have coming into from your OTA Antenna? With the 4way and 2way, that’s a 10db drop. If you’re coming in super hot from the Antenna itself, 10db will not hurt that bad. Even a 10-15db AMP would work better.

I would bypass the amp / splitters, direct connect to the Tablo, and test it out. Then work your way back. Hell, even turn off the Tablo Amp… You’re just jamming an RF signal down everything’s throat.

Again, I think you’re coming in too hot… because you have to balance the RF signal coming in. It’s like opening the oven door and feeling that heat hit you in the face. You’re turning your face is like the device not grabbing the signal. You have to bring in enough signal so the RF turner feels comfortable to “work” with the signal. That’s when you hear RF cable engineers say they “balanced” the plant, that’s they mean. It’s a 2 way street. They both have to shake hands.

Also, in the RF world, you can use unbalanced splitters. Not all tuners are built the same. (when I said jamming RF signal down everything’s throat) Some are weaker and some are stronger. You can use an unbalance splitter to push more signal to a weaker tuner. This happens quite often, more than you think.

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While not an expert in the OTA TV RF world, I have had to read and learn and try/fail a lot on this topic. I have tried multiple antennas, amplifiers, splitters, etc. over the years, as I am in an area where OTA TV is quite difficult (many mountains/hills and low power repeaters/translators all around). There are reasons why I have ended up with a rather robust setup. I’ve replaced cables, by-passed amps, turned things on/off, direct connected from antenna to TV via a separate cable hanging down the side of the house, etc. Also, I learned where all the towers are geographically, and what RF frequencies and virtual stations are available from each. I can even tell you what technical data on are wrong for my area. :slightly_smiling_face: Again, not claiming to be an expert, but no novice, either.

My RF “meter” is a Sony Bravia that happens to have a pretty robust signal diagnostics utility. It does not tell me signal level, but it does tell me s/n ratio, which is generally the critical metric for getting reliable digital signal decoding. It also shows the %AGC (internal amp auto gain control level) from 0 to 100%, which is helpful for gauging whether this particular TV’s tuner is getting “what it needs”. If I see “AGC% 85%” I know the TV is trying to compensate more for a low incoming signal level. If I push more signal down the coax, the AGC% decreases accordingly, telling me the TV is not requiring as much internal boost. The AGC% is currently around 25% +/-, which I reason (without it showing actual RF level numbers) means the TV is mostly happy with the incoming signal level on its coax drop.

(I should note that I would dearly love to have a proper RF signal meter, but decent entry level meters are $400-500, and nicer ones exceed $1,000. Commercial units are many $1,000s. Not practical for me.)

I do know my signal levels at the output of the Televes Avant X, since that is something I can set through the software interface. I am also not concerned about the antenna feed into the Avant X, as I am using a Televes amplified antenna that the Avant X is designed to DC power and be compatible with. From within the Avant X desktop software, I can see the antenna input signal is in an acceptable level range, as the Avant X A/D section would not digitalize the RF signal otherwise. All of the magic in this device then happens in the digital world. After that, the output D/A convertor takes it back to RF. I then set the output level of the Avant X in dBmV, so I do know exactly what it is. Since I want to work in dBm, I know that dBm = dBmV - 48.75 at 75ohms. From that point, I can calculate the RF levels arriving at each tuner by accounting for the dB +/- from connectors, cabling, and splitters as I have already shared in a previous post.

The acid test is that every TV tuner in my house is fine at the levels I’m sending. So is the Recast. Jury is out on the Tablo, but the picture is perfect so far except from 1 “bad” transmitter (FOX). I have turned off the Tablo internal 10dB amp. No change. I have reduced the output of my Avant X by 10dB, then 20dB. No change (except the Sony signal diagnostics shows an expected increase in the AGC% with the reduced incoming signal level).

Again, another long post. Sorry. I do appreciate ideas/suggestions on these forums, and I do try many to see if there are improvements. I post what I’ve done so others can see that and perhaps learn from it, or conversely educate me where I am screwing up. All good either way.

Quick add …

If anyone from Tablo monitors this post, or anyone else knows, what range of input signal level is the Tablo designed for? Preferably in dBm.

This is a very hard spec to find on any OTA gear. All I have ever found is -30dBm to -5dBm at the tuner is considered “strong”. More than -5dBm is problematic for some tuners.

Also, I’m assuming there is an internal 4-way splitter in the 4-tuner Tablo. Normally a 7.5dBm debit. Then there is the internal 10dB amp. Only “on” or “off”. A line diagram of all of this with acceptable dBm levels noted would be so helpful.

Here is my “dumbed down” line diagram of what I think the Tablo RF section looks like. What should the red values be? What should the diagram really look like?

I just found this in an article on the Tablo website …

Very interesting. This is very different than what I have seen on other OTA technical websites, which is where I got my -30dBm to -5dBm range for a strong RF signal to “typical” TV tuners. While it seems my other devices are fine with -25dBm or so to their tuners (which is on the low end of my previous “benchmark” range), Tablo’s tuners like a much lower signal level. Seems odd, but OK. Maybe they are just more sensitive tuners.

I dropped the output on my Avant X test port by -10dB from -26.75dBm to -36.75dBm, added a -6dB attenuator in-line to the Tablo, and turned off the Tablo internal +10dB amp. This is a total signal level reduction of -26dB, reducing the Tablo tuner RF signal input from about -25dBm to -51dBm. This now falls in the top of the “strong” range on the above Tablo RF signal chart.

I did a rescan on the Tablo and all appears ok with the same transmitters/virtual channels. So far, live TV on the Tablo looks unchanged at this much lower RF signal level. I will continue testing at this new level over the next few days to see if anything changes (trash, drop outs, buffering, whatever).

I appreciate KimchiGUN’s comments about setting up “unbalanced” signals to make each individual device happy. It never occurred to me that there would be such a difference between different TV equipment. It sure would be nice if there were these types of specs on each one, so these differences would be obvious to advanced users. Instead, it all seems to be internet research along with trial and error.


I just wanted to circle back one more time on the topic of signal levels for the Tablo. I now have a proper signal meter, and have confirmed all of my signal levels throughout my system, starting with the Televes amplified roof antenna, down to the Televes Avant x signal processor, and finally out to the Tablo coax input, are appropriate. Nothing is being “overdriven” in the signal chain. My detailed measurements for just the Tablo inputs are as follows:

Note these figures do not include the additional 7dB-ish loss through the Tablo internal 4-way splitter. Accounting for that additional loss, the 4 internal Tablo tuners should each be seeing -55.6dBm to -53.4dBm, with all s/n ratios above 30dB except one channel at 29.3dB. This should be an “on spec” signal feed into the Tablo device, given the chart I posted previously from the Tablo technical website indicating appropriate signal levels for their device tuners at <-50dBm. Any adverse behaviors exhibited by my Tablo should (hopefully) not be the result of an improper input signal.

I did check the ATSC 1.0 spec, and it indicates tuner sensitivity should be -83dBm to -5dBm. I’ve seen other references (credited to Televes) of -70dBm to -35dBm. Another website publishes this chart:


Regardless, my Recast, as well as all 4 of my home tuners, seems to be fine with higher input levels. For example, here are my levels for my Recast:

Again, these figures must be reduced by another 7dB-ish to account for the Recast internal 4-way splitter. That suggests the Recast tuners are seeing -31.7dBm to -30.4dBm. I can show similar figures for my other 4 TVs.

In short, the Tablo tuners seem to be much more sensitive than the other tuners in my system. I’m not sure if that is “good” or “bad”, but it does point out a difference that may be important to someone switching from the Recast to the Tablo. Also, it has already been pointed out by many (including Tablo) that the Tablo internal amp should be turned off unless otherwise truly needed. I am a believer, and mine is off.


They might be Sony tuners and you would need to direct all tuner questions to the manufacturer.

We have been running the Tablo for about 2 weeks now, and after a rather long trip down the signal strength rabbit hole, I have a few additional thoughts on the comparison to the Recast it is replacing …

On the live TV side …

After all of my work making sure I have the “right” signal levels going to the Tablo, I must report that the random “glitchy” behaviors have really not improved. The Tablo is definitely functional and “watchable”, and I still think it delivers both better picture quality and better picture “stability” than the Recast. However, I still get the occasional blue message screens warning “Failure to decode audio …” or “Failure to decode video …”. I really don’t think these messages are useful, since the Tablo simply moves on to “normal” operation after I hit “Retry” or “Cancel”. The worst part is these messages seem to require user intervention/acknowledgment, rather than being informational and just going away by themselves.

The Recast also displays random “Weak signal …” messages, but they are overlayed on the bottom of the screen for a few seconds, then disappear. Also, there is no evidence of a “weak signal” or unresolved data errors being displayed on my new signal meter, nor is there any observable effect on the video or audio quality being displayed by the Recast (or the Tablo, for that matter). At least the message goes away by itself on the Recast.

It seems like the Tablo would be improved if the algorithm deciding to display these messages had a higher threshold … like maybe if whatever is being detected is really going to interfere with the viewing experience vs. just detecting a technical issue that does not seem to be important to the user. Maybe such notices belong in an error log file.

Other little operational issues are still there in the Tablo, as well. The occasional spinning circle (buffering), the little “blip” that happens to send the audio out of sync, etc. The Recast seems to do less of this.

On the DVR side …

My wife and I now have 21 programs set to series record on the Tablo, and have watched several hours of complete programs (including commercial skips, rewinds, lots of random remote control button pushes, etc.), and the Tablo has been very solid. I’ve already noted we like the interface better, and this is true for DVR usage, as well. The presentation of recordings and episodes is very nice. The best thing is, we have yet to note any missed recordings or other technical issues such as problematic playback.

There is one glaring issue with the Tablo FireTV app (maybe not other variants?). It does not have a true series recording manager that permits management of ALL scheduled series recordings. Any scheduled series recording that does not have a scheduled episode in the 2-week guide essentially disappears from the user interface. Also, it appears that there is no way to modify or delete a scheduled series if there is no scheduled episode within 2 weeks. There are other strange behaviors associated with the lack of a true series recording manager.

There needs to be a way to see and manage ALL scheduled series recordings, and series recording settings need to be preserved regardless of whether or not there is an episode coming per the current guide. When shows are finished for the season, or delayed by more than 2 weeks, I should not have to completely find and reschedule them over again. If a show is cancelled, I should be able to delete the scheduled series recording. Seems like a big oversight in functionality. (BTW, there is no series recording manager on my iOS version of the Tablo app, either).

Anyone who has used the Recast probably knows that one of its major drawbacks is glitches with series recordings. This has never been fully resolved by Amazon, and now probably never will be. There have always been issues with skipped recordings and other DVR related annoyances with the Recast. Too bad the Tablo FireTV app also has deficiencies in this critical functionality. Hopefully, they will fix this in the near future.

I have 2 Tablo 4th gens and still have and use my Amazon Recast. The one advantage the Recast has though is it does not stutter, freeze and reboot on recordings and live TV. Yes it’s one main issue is it will sometimes fail to schedule a recording when a series is set. It will also sometimes lose connectivity for some unexplained reason. However I don’t think there are the same issues with a Tablo NOT working because the Tablo servers are down either. That is a biggie!

Have you confirmed this is indeed the case? Or will they just pop back up when there is a new episode scheduled to air in the next 2 weeks? Seems like display issue vs actual issue so it would be good to know if it’s an actual issue that will result in missed recordings.

And how will you know if there are missed recordings if the scheduled programing is not displayed. Unless you spend all your time watching all the shows on all the channels to see what might be missed.

I have a test case coming up later this week with the program “Ghosts”. Next episode is Apr 4. If the scheduled series recording is still active, the Tablo should pick it up 2 weeks before that and redisplay it as a scheduled recording.

Even if it works that way, it still needs a series manager as things should not “come and go” like that.

CRG might be too new a user to have seen it, but I can say for certain that some shows that were no longer listed at one point, did start recording again when the show started airing again.

But to not be able to cancel a show when it’s unable to be scheduled is… well, it’s stupid.

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