Tablo vs. Plex Live TV & DVR

Does anyone have experience with both Tablo and Plex Live TV & DVR? Plex just had a sale on their lifetime subscription so I bought it yesterday and started tinkering with Live TV & DVR. I have an old Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-950Q which is technically not supported by Plex but it seems to work fine. My initial thoughts using this for only a few hours:

  1. Setup: Plex is much more difficult to setup from both a hardware and software config perspective so if you are looking for simplicity stick with Tablo. If you want more flexibility/control and are willing to tinker with the setup then you can give Plex a whirl. Winner: It depends…
  2. Interface: This is a tough one as I am so familiar with Tablo. I think I will become equally familiar with Plex. One thing I think Plex is missing is star ratings for Movies. Winner: So far Tablo
  3. Quality: Early indications are that Plex has a better picture quality but that can be dependent on a lot of things such as my default for Tablo is 720p/5Mbps. Winner: Unsure but I suspect Plex
  4. Commercial skip: I just turned it on with Plex and have not yet seen the results. I am very pleased with Tablo’s commercial skip. Winner: too early to tell but I suspect Tablo
  5. Cost: This is tough so I will just mention a few points. For Tablo, you need the Tablo, an HDD, and maybe a standard or premium subscription. With Plex you need a Server, a tuner, and a subscription. The server can be many different things (I’m using an old Linux PC) but most NAS devices will not support Live TV & DVR even if they can be a Plex Server. Winner: There are too many variables depending on your setup but for me moving forward, Tablo will cost me $20/year for Commercial skip and Plex will only cost me whatever hardware improvements I may make such as an ATSC 3.0 tuner.
    Early personal conclusion: I will stick with Tablo for the foreseeable future but I will tinker with Plex as a possible ATSC 3.0 solution but who knows what is on the horizon for Tablo and ATSC 3.0?
    Anyone else out there have any experience/thoughts?

For #3, keep in mind that unless you are using a HDHomeRun Extend the comparison isn’t apples to apples. The Tablo converts on the fly during recording in order for the recording to be playable on more devices right away. Tuners besides the Extend record raw MPEG-2 so the quality will be higher as it’s not compressed.

“on the fly” when watching live TV it is trans coded and written to disk, then streamed as with any recording. (not with tablo connect and with cloud or lite 64, “internal storage” is used)

I’ve got Plex, Channels DVR and Tablo. I had a Tablo before I tried Plex DVR (Live TV wasn’t a thing with Plex then). The experience was not good. I eventually split Plex DVR off onto a server of it’s own to try and make the experience better. I eventually gave up and tried Channels DVR. What a night and day difference. Only uses HDHomeRun’s but wow how it uses them. Support and feature set was/is much better than Plex as well. It has become my primary DVR for stuff I want to record and keep.

Tablo via Roku is still my number one for viewing Live TV and DVR stuff that I’m going to delete. I love that it just works and I don’t have to mess with it. If they had an official ‘downloader’ that worked the way I wanted I probably could eliminate Channels DVR but it works so well for what I use it for. Turned Plex Live TV/DVR off. Just wasn’t worth the hassle and wasn’t progressing where I thought it should be. I use Plex to view my Blu ray and DVD’s as well as Channels DVR programs as Channels doesn’t have a Roku client.

The only thing that I can think of that Plex has over Tablo is multi-user and their remote access. Tablo’s remote access is easy but limited. Tablo’s multi-user doesn’t exist.

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I also have and use both. Probably the biggest advantage to Plex DVR is number of tuners. I’ve tested with 8. Also the fact that it is integrated with Plex. Also, if I’m remote and on a foreign host, all I have to do is “login” and presto, instant remove live TV (no pairing problem). Plex DVR EPG is free with Plex Pass. I’m already a “lifetime” pass holder… so there’s that as well.

But my “go to” DVR is the Tablo for most things. It’s a bit more reliable, files don’t take up as much room. But maybe it’s because I didn’t have Plex DVR to begin with? Also early Plex DVR had a lot of problems. Should I be using Plex DVR more now that it is better? Not sure. In many ways, it goes to show you that releasing a poor product early can sort of hurt you down the road. I still play around with Plex DVR though. But it’s not where I schedule shows that matter.

With that said, I’m pretty sure that if 6+ years ago Plex DVR existed, I might have never bought a Tablo (but that’s just a guess).

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I’ve been putzing around with Plex DVR on and off for the last several weeks. As soon as I get over one hurdle another pops up. I will continue to play with it but that’s just me having some fun experimenting.

My appreciation for the Tablo team has grown as I now better understand some of the decisions they needed to wrestle with and the efforts they needed to make to develop such a simple product that just works across multiple platforms. I know some people have problems but I believe the vast majority of those issues are related to the user’s HDD, network, or antenna/reception problems and not the Tablo itself.

If you want to invest a lot of time and money on hardware and setup you can build a pretty sweet Plex DVR system but in some ways it will fall short of what Tablo can do. I have come to the definite conclusion that if you just want something that simply works out of the box, stick with Tablo.

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I don’t believe I ever got to Plex, I do recall fighting with MythTV (similar, yet different). “Back then” the struggle was creating the scan tables for the DVB-T tuner cards. Transitioning between version 3 and 5, and trying to find documentation that worked.

Plex, goes beyond just OTA TV, and client/server setup, which I believe why I never went that direction. If I had fast enough internet, I probably wouldn’t be screwing around with all this so much. [of course I would!!]


Good luck and I hope a day comes soon when you have the customized HTPC OTA DVR / Media Center you control at will! with your thoughts!

Just beware “Monsters From the Id”, a reference from Forbidden Planet - Forbidden Planet Official Trailer