Show Playback Thumbnails While Recording Live TV

I use my DVR a lot for sports time shifting.

For instance I’ll start recording a live football game and start watching it about an hour after it starts.

When I use the Roku Tablo app to watch the recording starting at the beginning I don’t see any thumbnails so I can’t gauge when commercials or long time-outs are done. You are literally fast-forwarding blind. Even the presented time stamp granularity only shows down to a minute to that’s useless for assisting the “guess.”

This is a big flaw in time shifting–the very thing DVR’s were created for. Every DVR I’ve owned (Tivo, Cable, and MythTV–which even skipped commercials automatically) has had this capability.

Am I just missing a checkbox somewhere?

This is a possible deal breaker in an otherwise excellent plug and play device.

FWIW, The device I’m using is the most recent four tuner model of Tablo and it’s fully up-to-date with its firmware. As is the Roku application.




You’re Watching Live TV or a ‘Tape Delay’ Recording
Fast Forward Preview thumbnails are created once recordings are completed by re-processing the recording using one of Tablo’s tuners. That means in-progress recordings as well as live TV will not have this feature.

That means in-progress recordings as well as live TV will not have this feature.

So consider this an urgent “Feature Request”.

I guess I’m specifically asking that it be added since it’s a critical piece of functionality. Consider this as feedback from an experienced DVR customer who is being asked by other potential customers whether they should select Tablo over other competitors in their cord cutting goals.

Simply saying “we just can’t” isn’t going to solve a clear product feature deficiency. The fact that problem is explained in your FAQ’s clearly indicates it’s considered a real problem by customers.

From your link:

“Fast Forward Preview thumbnails are created once recordings are completed by re-processing the recording using one of Tablo’s tuners . That means in-progress recordings as well as live TV will not have this feature.”

This strongly suggested it’s a design issue.

If you need an extra tuner to post-process video after a completed recording simply allow me to reserve a tuner to perform this process in parallel on certain target recordings. In both cases your device’s software needs to reserve an extra tuner and needs to decide when this happens. The logic is already there in some form to solve this problem.

The idea that the tuner does the post processing seems odd to me. It indicates an under-powered System on a Chip (SOC) was used and the firmware is exploiting a function associated with the tuner that should be provided by the device’s SOC rather than stitched into the live TV data pipeline. I don’t think any of the other devices use that approach.

I’m actually trying to help here…Not just complain.

There are other market incentives to getting this fixed e.g.,


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You just need to understand that the Tablo is much different from every other DVR except the new FireTv DVR. It is designed to be used on any streaming device, so the limitation is the immediate transcoding of the signal.

When the Tablo was first deployed, there was no thumbnail view at all. I applaud the developers for finding a way to make it work at all, especially on all clients.

I do get a little ticked off when someone claims a feature is a “critical piece of functionality”. Displaying live tv is critical. Being able to record shows on multiple tuners is critical. Displaying thumbnails is a “nice to have” feature, but far from critical.


I haven’t used a TiVo in a while but does it provide thumbnails on currently recording content?

Yes. It always has. Even back in the old original one I owned that used a dial-up modem line for updates and guides.

I don’t recall if it used thumbnails or just showed the video full screen. I think it’s the later.

As far as I can tell Tablo is the only DVR that doesn’t allow it. Spectrum’s DVR (the cable I’m “cutting”) does. So does the Sling DVR service. Tablo’s choice to directly transcode the MPEG2 video stream is no-doubt the issue. For me the benefits of this are wiped out by omitting one of the most essential features that DVR’s were created for in the first place.

In many ways the Tablo ticks all the right boxes for a DVR but missing a preview feature during LiveTV is huge miss and something that shouldn’t be a surprise to Tablo.

If you need a beta tester, sign me up!


I do get a little ticked off when someone claims a feature is a “critical piece of functionality”.

Please don’t get ticked off when a long time user of DVR’s brings up expectations from using other products over the years. My guess is that you don’t work for Tablo who I should think would want to hear actual customer feedback.

IMHO, as a long time DVR user, this is essential and has never been an issue until I purchased the Tablo. I simply assumed it had this function. Like a car has a steering wheel. I was shocked when watching a sports event that it didn’t work.

You just need to understand that the Tablo is much different from every other DVR

No it isn’t. It works like every other one I’ve had. It sells into the same markets. Freeware MythTV did all of this over a decade ago.

My desire was to simply buy a commercial product that would do the essentials that Tivo, MythTV and Spectrum does. Tablo almost gets there but replaced the steering wheel with a set of pliers to steer the car. That’s more that a minor oversight.


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Quite honestly it sounds like Tablo just isn’t the solution for you. For MY needs, the trade-off of having the MPEG2 transcoded by the Tablo so that it can easily be played on a myriad of devices is well worth it since very little of my viewing is live and by the time I watch stuff (generally the next night at the earliest) everything has been processed.

I get your point regarding sports events as a specific use case, but rather then coming in and demanding features as if you are the king of DVRs, you might consider being a bit less aggressive.

The great thing is there are other cord cutter products you can try that might meet your needs better. Good luck with them.

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I have absolutely no need for what you are demanding, and I suspect few here do. Suggest you move on to Tivo, MythTV or Spectrum. btw what is “piers”?

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Tablo IS much different than other DVRs. Tablo can perform playback on many other devices that are not under the Tablo family tree. (firetv, roku, appletv, browsers, mobile devices)

I have had Tivo and Directv DVR, both of which need something from the same device family tree once they set up the network aspect of the DVR. (Tivo minis, directv receivers) Never tried MythTV, but wasn’t that confined to full blown computers? (windows linux apple) And as of right now, the Firetv Recast will work with Amazon products within the home and a few mobile only sources (android ios). Who knows what it will look like…still waiting on release.

Would thumbnails be a really nice feature for live tv? YES.
Maybe that might pop up in the future, but I wouldn’t count on it.

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btw what is “piers”?

Misspelled “pliers”.

My reactions were in reaction to aggressive or dismissive statements from posters.

I do get a little ticked off when someone claims a feature is a “critical piece of functionality”.

This was a poke in the chest if you will. So was this:

but rather then coming in and demanding features as if you are the king of DVRs,
you might consider being a bit less aggressive.

I’m not demanding. I’ve posted this under “Feature Request” with an actual competitive viewpoint along with some details. What I got was push back from fans and nothing from the company itself.

Other’s here may perceive my detailed desires as banging on a product you love and support if it’s missing a feature. This can be a real problem with having product users provide company support.

I think it’s a great product as well. I want it to have some parity in the market as well.

I guess my question is…

Is this a place that Tablo employees actually listen too?

Or is it just used by fans to fend off requests that don’t match the device’s adopted culture.
Is praise the only allowable posting?


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You do get someone from tablo to respond to your inquiries. You also get a ton of community feedback to help alleviate those inquiries for tablo support. This forum can be a great place to get some questions answered.
Sorry if we hit it off the wrong way. Everyone here wants to have a good experience with tablo and we all try to help when we can.
Welcome to the community.

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I apologize for any confusion on my part as this felt like a poke as well. This a community of customers and while we are indeed generally supporters of Tablo, if you spend some time looking at posts you’ll see most of us have no problem being critical of certain Tablo decisions or issues. One thing I don’t think you’ll find is much criticism about is how the previews work. Tablo is very interactive with their customers and tends to prioritize items that will provide the most benefit to the largest number of users and your situation is a very specific use case.

To me it seemed very aggressive for your first post in this community to come across as you expecting Tablo to cater to your specific wishes when there are clear FAQs available that explain that benefits AND limitations of the product.


Yes, the employees that support the Tablo are very active on these boards.

Sorry if we hit it off the wrong way.

I appreciate this reply a lot.

I’ve worked for 40 years as an electrical engineer on embedded computer products that are not unlike Tablo for computing power. We always wanted feedback for our products. It’s a very fast and dynamic market. It’s not good to tell new customers to simply go-away so they aren’t a bother when providing feedback.

I want Tablo to turn all those MythTV, etc, users into Tablo customers. I personally know four people who would switch today but for this one issue. They all run MythTV but would rather not hassle with it the technical aspects of maintaining it.

Personally, perhaps to the chagrin of a few here, I won’t ditch the Tablo product yet because there isn’t a direct replacement that doesn’t cost a fortune to assemble.


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Feedback is great. Suggestions are great. But to say something is “critical” when it hasn’t existed for the five years the Tablo has been around doesn’t make any sense. If it was that critical, this product would have died years ago.

The Tablo is a fairly unique DVR. It’s #1 feature that no other DVR that you mentioned has, is that it can be used on practically any streaming device, computer, and phone on the market. That comes at a cost, which is slow live tv channel surfing and no thumbnails on live tv.

It is still an amazing product, but it depends on your needs. If your goal is to watch live tv a lot on it, there are honestly better products out there. But if your goal is to watch recorded shows anytime, anywhere, there isn’t a better device.

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I read whatever post that is new not really looking at the forum directory. That is MY BAD, I will work on it.

Let me just say that the Tablo has come a long way since I have had it (2+ years). Are there things that would make it a better experience? YES. You just happened to miss the most recent customer survey, which Tablo takes very seriously. I hope you stick around to suggest improvements not only on the forum but on that survey as well.

I’ll reiterate good evidence of its need…

The Tablo FAQ.

If something ends up in a FAQ it generally means you’re getting lots of questions about it and felt a need to go on record about its absence. Subsequently, the FAQ is then referenced as the answer to other folks asking about the missing feature in the forum.

Each request that ultimately caused the FAQ to be created and referenced was from a highly motivated individual that was bothered enough to literally ask. I’m suggesting that isn’t even close to the total desiring it since most people are generally not that motivated. Where this all eventually resolves is when a competitor arrives with the said feature and people chose brand X over Y.

Someone suggested, as a guess, that nearly no-one wants the feature. I’m saying that the existence of the specific Tablo FAQ that deals with that issue indicates that the contrary is likely true. Probably the solution is tough enough that it would displace other priorities. I understand that just fine. But it doesn’t mean the feature isn’t needed.

This is the way we viewed FAQ’s for products: as strong indications of something missing in the product.

At this point I think I’ve added all I can.

A final appeal…

Tablo, please consider the massive amount of cable cutters now coming to the market with specific expectations of what a DVR is and what you’re missing. Clear advantages are needed to mitigate reducing your sales when the big boys soon come in. Amazon can sell an overall less capable device and still slaughter on assumed mind share thereby eating deeply into Tablo’s market.


Clear advantages appear to mean little.

Hordes of people are married to either the Amazon ecosystem or the Apple ecosystem. Zombies even sleep in front of stores waiting to trade in the current model of phone for an even more expensive new model.

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While the thumbnail view is great for anticipating when to hit play, for live TV it would sufficient to show full screen frame-slice. DirecTV DVRs do this, and when you hit play, it jumps back 5 seconds or so to account for human reaction time. Since this does not require any post-processing to support, it could be implemented entirely in the smart client. No thumbnails needed for live TV…just frame-slice.

I guess this request should be directed at the Tablo app developers for the Roku and AppleTV etc. steaming clients.