Wierd troubleshooting challenge: Constant buffering on playback, but live is fine...which solution to try first?

Hi, been using my new Tablo for a couple weeks, and am trying to troubleshoot this problem. My main problem is that playback is unwatcheable due to buffering, and yet LIVE TV through Tablo is perfect. So before I just start buying a lot of new gear I’d like to narrow it down to the root cause. My system is detailed at the end.

-Live TV thru tablo on TV (with chromecast), no buffering at all.
-Live TV thru Tablo to Android phone, same… no buffering.
-Playback, streaming to android phone, it’s ok most of the time… but I occasionally see momentary digital breakup. Not a big deal, I guess… but I don’t see that at all when watching Live, or when watching live direct from antenna to TV.
-PLAYBACK, casting from phone to chromecast on TV (or even to laptop) I get constant buffering. It’s unwatchable… buffers for 15 secs, plays for 5, buffers again, etc. And HERE’S THE KEY POINT… it seems to occur only when there’s any kind of signal variation from the TV station transmitter. (I’ve tested live TV direct from antenna signal strength, and those signal variations coincide exactly with the buffering issues.)

I’m starting to think that it may be related to how Tablo handles signal strength variation coming from the antenna. Yet it’s a good tuner and a great preamp. Or maybe the hard drive. Or the Chromecast (I’ve read all the issues on that, but if that’s the problem, I don’t understand why Live is good and playback sucks). More info…

When watching playback from a live channel (direct to TV, no Tablo in-line), there are occasional reductions from “full strength” (10 bars on signal meter) to about 7 bars, maybe sometimes 4 or 5 bars. These are quick, lasting about half a second or less. Since I’m not right near the transmitter, that’s to be expected. My TV handles that fine, as it’s designed to do… I never see it. Tablo handles that fine on Live TV. So why only on playback? If you have to have a constant 100% signal for Tablo to work, then I need to send it back pronto… I’ll never get that where I live.

I’ve read here that Chromecast can be a problem, and I need to get another streaming device anyway so I’m thinking about getting Roku 4, hardwired. Or maybe Nexus Play. But I’m not sure if that will solve the problem, since Live streaming is fine.

I could buy a different hard drive. But I formatted it in Tablo, it’s a good drive, had very little use until now, no disk errors, etc.

I appreciate any help. This cutting of the cord is getting a little expensive! But of course it will be worth it in the long run.

PS I have over 35 years as a professional TV director/producer so you could say I’m pretty technically competent, and I’ve tried all the obvious things.

My system:
Tablo hardwired to router (tried different ethernet cables, no change)
Chromecast (version 1)… about 4’ from Wifi router, solid 5bar/100% signal measured on android app
Netlink WRG614 v9 It’s wifi G
Android Moto X phone running lollipop
Hard drive: 500GB WD 3200H1U
Winegard HD7084P Antenna with Channelmaster 7777 preamp
Digital 1x2 splitter (splits signal to TV and Tablo. I tried with no splitter, just tablo, no change)
I have no other 2.4Ghz traffic, no kids in the house anymore, microwave off, no 2.4 phone, etc. So a new router doesn’t seem like the first solution.

OP here… correction to my post, now I DO get issues when watching Live TV through Tablo, on the phone, or Chromecast. It’s not buffering per se, but it “skips” a lot and has some digital breakup… it’s not a solid stream. And this is all while my direct-from-antenna TV is rock solid, constant 10 bar signal strength. Hmmm… the plot thickens.

First, I wanna say your Chromecast gen 1 is not helping.
I have both gen 1 and 2, and neither one seems to be powerful enough for reliable streaming.
They’re nice for flexibility, like when staying at a hotel, but not really good for main streaming use.
Others may disagree, it’s just not for me.
Recommend in order:

  1. nVidia Sheild TV (pricey, missing Amazon Instant Video)
  2. Google Nexus Player (missing Amazon Instant Video)
  3. Roku 2 (2015 model)
    The Roku 2 (2015 model) has the same hardware as the Roku 3, but it’s a bit cheaper.
    The Roku 4 has better specs, but early batches have had problems with the newly introduced cooling fan.
    They tend to be noisy.

Next, I suspect your hard drive is causing some, if not all, of the issues.
I had similar issues when using an old hard drive I had laying around.
Additionally, the Tablo would occassionally report the drive was disconnected.
Rebooting the Tablo would temporarily work around that problem.
Invest in a new hard drive.
Even if you don’t keep your Tablo, you can use the new drive on a computer.
I use this one on two different Tablos with great success:

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Hi. I’m in general agreement with R’s suggestions except I think immediate replacement of HDD would be premature. I would go with replacing Chromecast with Shield or NP. I made that very transition from CC to NP and it proved to be a game changer.

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I’d try larger hard drive first. Your problem sounds like mine when I had a small disk. I’d also get a NP which have been around $50.

Thanks for all the suggestions. I have a 1 year old 500GB solid state drive so I’ll try that, if no joy I’ll try a new 1 or 2 TB one. I agree that the chromecast could be an issue, especially the V1 version I have. I still don’t get why live TV is so much better than playback since Live TV is essentially buffered, but if the HD is the problem then that makes sense.

On the streaming boxes, a few more questions:
-are any of you getting Dolby 5.1 from Netflix with your streaming box, if so which box and does your receiver decode Dolby Digital Plus? Apparently most streaming services now use DD+ due to its compression/lower bandwidth… but I’ve read that many people have issues with Netflix , trying to get Dolby 5.1 on older AVR’s. My older AVR doesn’t say it will decode Dolby Digital plus nor does it have HDMI inputs (and I have no way to test if my AVR will decode DD+ even though it’s supposed to be backwards compatible with D 5.1). there are cheap converters that will strip out the Dolby audio from HDMI and pass it to the AVR via optical or coax digital audio, so I could add that. Or just keep using my PS3 which does 5.1 perfectly on Netflix.

The Shield seems OK, but it’s tied to Android TV, fewer apps, 4K is of no interest to me (it’s not the game changer HD was, public slow to adopt, content slow to arrive, bandwidth issues, requires faster ISP plans, not to mention a new 4K TV) and the current games selection is weak. And as this entire market is changing and developing rapidly, i’d rather replace a $50 or $100 box in a couple years than take a chance that the $200 Shield will prove to be a major player. Nexus Player is Wifi only, so that’s out… hardwire is best, and my Home Theater is just 4’ from my router so that’s a no brainer.

So I guess it’s the Roku 4 for me…I like the platform agnostic approach of Roku… I don’t like to be tied to a particular company or platform. And Roku seems to have more apps and get faster roll-outs than platform specific boxes. BTW Roku 4 has apparently solved the fan issue… seems like it was a bad batch, and they’re replacing any units with that problem for free.

Again, thanks for the ideas… I appreciate it!

Most people add on a usb hub + ethernet/usb adapter for hardwiring the nexus player. Alternatively, upgrading the router to something with wireless AC - that wireless protocol is a real game changer.

I know Roku fixed their initial issues with the launch of the Roku 4 but I’m pretty sure there is no hd audio passthrough with that device. Regarding the shield, its easily the best performer on the market right now. I don’t own a 4K tv and I rarely play games and I still have 2 of them. Its the snappiest device on the market, has HD audio passthrough, and Nvidia has been quite active with development of the device. You’ll see people recently complaining about the late update of 6.0 but those people probably weren’t around or forgot how many updates Nvidia pushed last year (most feature filled based on consumer requests).

Roku definitely wins out on agnostic content, but it definitely underperforms relative to the shield or apple tv.

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What are the settings of “Max Recording Quality” at under Tablo’s settings?

It’s weird that live TV is fine casted but playing back casted recordings is troublesome. I was thinking that maybe there’s a network bottleneck somewhere but since live TV is fine…

That WRG614 is pretty old in tech terms, even if it’s in the same room. A theoretical max of 54 Gbps really won’t mean much if the performance of the router itself is subpar. Is there anything else connected to this network (other than what you mentioned)? Still, if live TV is OK, it’s odd. I would think the Tablo isn’t doing anything differently other than just slinging the same data, only already recorded?

Two things to try are another external drive as others mentioned or maybe try another router. The latter can be problematic since it requires getting to know a new router, plus if you already have a network set up, you’d have to configure it all again. Still, if it can potentially stop the issue you’re having, it’s worth a shot. You have nothing to lose but time and…uh…money. :slightly_smiling:

I have an older Sony AVR that could never decode DD+ all that well from Netflix either. It’s certainly serviceable but sometimes it’s a little distracting (especially over the center channel, where you really notice it in dialogue).

I’ve had two Chromecast 1st gens for some time now and never had any issues with them streaming HD content from my Tablo. I have a pretty good wireless router (a Netgear Nighthawk R7000, so maybe that helps, as well as maybe the configuration of my network. (Every device, wired and wireless, has a reserved IP address. There’s a total of 16 of them.) The furthest-receiving Chromecast is about 20 feet away through walls. There’s even a big metal filing cabinet in the way (if going in a straight line) and I still get all the WiFi bars.

Nexus player you can use otg cable and use it wired. It supports wireless AC. Have to sidelo ad some Android apk because the development didn’t mark it Android tv compatable.

Thanks that’s good info. Yeah, I know that router is old. I think I’m going to try this approach, in this order, and will reprot back so others can learn from my experience:

  1. Already ordered Roku 4 this morning. I needed another streamer anyway so will try that first.
  2. Will also try spare hard drive. Also I’d opened a Tablo support ticket last night, they’re suggesting I try a Tablo reboot, see if any change, then disconnting hard drive completely, reboot, try without. I didn’t know it would even work without the HD… sounds like a good idea to potentially exclude the HD from the equation.
  3. New router. thinking about the TP-LINK Archer C7 AC1750 Dual Band. It’s a little old, i think about 1 year, but that Nighthawk looks good too… always been a fan of Netgear.

Thanks again for sharing your experience.

Yeah, I don’t have any problems streaming Netflix or anything directly from my phone to the Chromecast V1… always works great. But then again, it’s all about protocols and codecs and other stuff I don’t understand so I won’t rule it out just yet.

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Oh, forgot to answer your question… settings are 720/3Mbps… recommended if buffering issues. Initally it was 720/5… but no change when dropped to 3.

Tablo will let you do 1 live stream without a hard drive. Detaching the hard drive and trying a stream will help you to see if it’s the hard drive that’s causing the isssue.

Lots of Tablo users are running the C7 and enjoy it. A newer, good quality router is one of the most important pieces of the puzzle for cordcutters.

As for Tablo vs. Netflix… Since it’s not live, Netflix has the luxury of creating multitudes of versions of the same video at different bit rates. If it detects that your network doesn’t have enough bandwidth, it just automatically switches to a lower quality version of that video.

Since Tablo is live, we don’t have that luxury. Even if your network can only support 2 Mbps, the video is sent/recorded at 3 Mbps (at your particular setting) which means you’ll get buffering.


You really can’t go wrong with any router designed to handle high wireless bandwidth with multiple streams (the TP-LINK included).

Thanks for the info. Yeah, as veteran video Producer/Director I udnerstand how Netflix streams, so I hear you on that. And yeah, maybe I’ll try a new router too. But gotta try that HD test first.

I don’t think anyone has suggested to play it on a desktop or laptop yet. If it plays well there, then you know it is an issue with whatever you have hooked to your tv. If it has buffering issues then it is something with your network or the tablo.

I’m having very similar Buffering issues, too. Live TV has occasional problems, but Recordings become almost unwatchable. New 2TB Hard Drive connected last week, new Roku 4 hooked up this week, and Tablo connected via 3-foot ethernet cable to the router in the same cabinet. Antenna pulls strong signal from major network affiliates. Router is 2-channel multi-band D-Link (A,B,G, and N). Tablo recordings buffer terribly through the Roku 4, two Roku 3s on separate televisions, iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV (using mirroring from an iPad or iPhone). At times we get 2 minutes of recorded show, buffers 5-6 times, finally shows a few more minutes, then starts the repeated buffering yet again. We have literally watched MORE minutes of “Loading…Please wait” than the 30 or 60-minute recorded show! Everything except the router is less than 1 year old. The router is 2 years old. I’ve scoured these forums for answers, and so far all I see is test this, test that — all of which I have done.

@Papertrumpet - It sounds like there might be some type of issue within your network. Maybe a bad cable or a switch is making things funky.

Perhaps the closeness of the Roku and the Tablo could also be a problem… We’ve heard anecdotal evidence that moving them a bit further apart can reduce interference.

Our support team is always happy to help you troubleshoot.

The Roku 4 (newest of our 4 Roku devices but buffering issues on ALL) is one whole floor away from the Tablo and the Router. Tablo and Router are about 5 inches apart on a short ethernet line. Buffering today seems worse than ever. Cables checked for problems, but seem to be no kinks or cracks anywhere. As to switch, are you referring to the router itself?

Update - Perhaps good or perhaps aggravating, the problem seems to be intermittent. One test already made is accessing our WiFi with several other devices simultaneously. It’s difficult to tell if this also causes the buffering, because sometimes it buffers badly and other times it does fine when there’s other traffic on the router. The other devices do not seem to suffer lag or other issues whether we are Live TV or a Recorded show from the Tablo. We have Charter Communications internet service, with up to 100 mbps (sorry if that sounded like a commercial, because I do NOT work for Charter! It’s why we cut our cable to being with).

re: Wi-Fi The problem with Wi-Fi is that there as SO many different things that can interfere with your consistancy that you do not see in a “speedtest”- Microwave Ovens, Smart Devices, The neighbor’s wireless, etc. I always recommend for ANY streaming device to make whatever connections are feasible wired in order to minimze miscellaneous interference and inconsistencies.

There are some wifi analyzer apps out there for free, but the sneaky issues (Like non-802.11 signal type of interference) usually require the paid stuff to track down…