It’s not much of a secret that you can get free TV by using an antenna to pull in nearby signals. But if you have an NVIDIA SHIELD, you can supercharge that experience by adding live TV to the SHIELD itself—and, for a small monthly fee, even add a full guide and DVR capabilities.
What You’ll Need
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To do this, however, you will need one additional piece of hardware (aside from the SHIELD and an HD Antenna, that is): the Tablo Tuner. It’ll set you back $70, which may not make it worthwhile to some users. But if you want to add DVR and guide capabilities to your otherwise free TV experience, it’s really the best way.
So, before you get started, here’s a list of everything you’ll need:
- An NVIDIA SHIELD (obviously—either the 16GB or 500GB model will do, but if you have the 16GB version, you’ll also need an external hard drive of at least 50GB)
- An HD antenna (here’s how to find the right one for you)
- The Tablo Tuner and the Tablo Engine app
- A Tablo subscription ($3.99 per month or $39.99 per year). This is optional, but you’ll need it if you want the guide and DVR features.
With that, you’re ready.
Setting up the Tablo Tuner and Tablo Engine
Before you do anything else, you’ll need to install the Tablo Engine app on your SHIELD. This is the main interface that makes this whole thing work—it’ll be your guide, DVR, and all that jazz.
Once installed, fire it up. You’ll connect the tuner as part of the setup process, but we’ll discuss its placement in more detail below.
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If you’re using a 16GB SHIELD, you’ll first have to add some additional storage before you can use Tablo’s DVR functionality—even if you never plan on using this feature, the Tablo setup process requires an additional hard drive or SD card of at least 50GB. The 500GB SHIELD has plenty of storage right out of the box, so you’re good to go with that.
If you are using a 16GB SHIELD, go ahead and choose the “Set up USB Tuner” option. Connect your antenna to the Tablo Tuner, then plug it into the SHIELD. After you connect it, you’ll run through setting up your external drive. If you’re on a 500GB SHIELD, go ahead and plug in the antenna—this part of the setup isn’t required on your unit.
A dialog box should appear asking if you want to use the Table Engine when this device is connected—tick the “Use by default” box and then click OK.
In the next step, you’ll provide Tablo with the zip code of where you’ll be using the device. If you’re setting it up at home, just click the “Use Current Location” button. It will ask for the location permission. Once you’ve granted it, it’ll just take a few seconds to confirm. Click “Continue” when it’s finished.
It will ask you to make sure your antenna is connected now, which you should’ve already done. Click “Continue” again.
It will start scanning for channels, which will take a few minutes. Just chill and let it do its thing—channels will show up as they’re found. Go grab a coffee if you want. Cream and two sugars in mine, please.
Depending on where you live (and how close to a big city you are), the number of channels you can get will vary. The more rural the area, the fewer channels you’ll typically get. The closer a big city, the more.
When the scan is finished, it will give you the option to continue with the current channel selection or rescan. If you think there’s more out there for you, or if you think your anntena needs adjusting, do so and then rescan.
Before you click the Continue button, however, you’ll first want to make sure you select all the channels you want to show up in the guide. All the HD channels should be selected by default, but if you’re feeling all nostalgic for some SD goodness, go ahead and select those channels too—just highlight and click them.
Once you give that Continue button a little clicky-poo, it will download the guide. This is where things start to get fun. After the guide finishes downloading, hit the “Get Started” button.
It’ll jump directly into the guide and you can start watching TV!
Using the Tablo Engine
The Tablo Engine is pretty straightforward, and if you’ve used a TV guide before, then you pretty much already know what to do.
When you find something to watch, click on it. It’ll open a new menu with two options: Watch or Record Episode. You can even set a recurring recording schedule for that particular program if you’d like. If you don’t want to mess with any of that, just click on “Watch” to play the show. That’s easy.
Like basically all other Android TV apps, the menu is off to the left. The basic functions are here: Live TV, Recording, Guide, and Scheduled. Those are all pretty self explanatory, but it’s worth mentioning that the Live TV option is what you typically think of when you hear “guide”—a grid style layout. The Guide option, on the other hand, gives you a per-show breakdown of what’s on. It’s kind of silly.
The most confusing part of the Tablo Tuner, however, is finding the Settings menu. It’s not under a setting called “Settings” at all—it’ actually the “Tablo” option at the very top. That’s the settings menu, and it’s one of the most counter-intuitive things I’ve ever seen in UX design. Fortunately, once you know where it is, this isn’t a big deal.
This is where you’ll find all of the Tablo’s options and tweaks. Here’s a quick breakdown:
- Subscription: For $3.99 a month, you can have Tablo pull down the cover art and synopsis for everything on TV. This price also includes the DVR functionality. Without this feature, you won’t be able to get detailed info about what’s on, and you won’t be able to record anything. You will, however, still be able to watch live TV for free.
- Storage: Manage your recordings.
- Scheduling: Set recording settings for duplicates and live events that run past their scheduled time.
- Guide: Update your location and channel selection, as well as the guide info for those channels.
- Playback: Toggle surround sound passthrough, if you have a capable receiver.
- About: Details about your tuner.
And that’s pretty much all there is to it. It’s simple.
Watching TV and Other Considerations
Watching TV with the Tablo Tuner and SHIELD is pretty much like watching TV anywhere else—just kick back on the couch (or whatever) and relax.
Of course, how good the experience is mostly depends on your antenna and where you place it. There’s a real science (and much debate) on this sort of thing, so instead of going into those details here, I’m going to point you in the direction of our HD antenna guide, which will help you choose what kind of antenna to buy (indoor or outdoor), along with where to place it.
Your TV signal will only be as strong as the antenna you’re using (and its placement), but there are other factors that may affect it—like weather. While a few storm cloud or a rain shower shouldn’t have much of a negative impact on your TV watching experience, but a heavy rain could. Or crazy stuff like tornadoes.
Past that, you may just want to experiment with the position of your antenna. Putting it on something like a window will nearly always yield better results than if it’s on a wall—similarly, outdoor antennas will always get stronger signals than indoor ones, especially if you’re further away from a major city.
Overall, I’ve been pretty dang impressed with the Tablo Tuner and Engine on SHIELD. In fact, my wife and I used it to watch the Super Bowl, and it was basically flawless. I just stuck the antenna to our living room window, and it never missed a beat. Very cool.
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