TV Tuner cards are not exactly new – you can buy cards for you desktop computer and you can even buy USB devices as well. What is new though is an Ethernet based tuner, and one that comes with not just one, but two built in tuners and supports streaming up to 1080i. This little marvel is called the HDHomeRun from SiliconDust.
What you do is connect the HDHomeRun to your home network via the supplied Ethernet cable and then connect an aerial source into one or both of the tuners (if you want use more than one tuner, and why wouldn’t you, you may need to buy an aerial splitter). Once it is all configured you can use any computer on your home network to view, and even record live TV.
HDHomeRun Networked Digital TV Tuner Specifications
One Box, Two Digital Tuners, Anywhere on Your Network
Watch TV from any computer on your network.
Record full 1080i broadcast resolution.
Pause, rewind, fast-forward live TV.
Schedule and record all your favourite TV shows.
Expand with multiple HDHomeRun devices.
For use in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand:
DVB-T over-the-air digital TV.
Unencrypted digital cable.
For United States and Canada click here
Works with popular DVR software:
Pause, rewind, fast-forward live TV.
Record all your favorite TV shows by name.
Integrated TV guide (provided by the DVR software).
Seamless operation with multiple computers:
Run Vista or Windows 7 Media Center on multiple computers sharing the pool of HDHomeRun tuners.
Tuners are automatically allocated between computers as needed.
Multiple HDHomeRun units can be used together to expand the number of tuners.
Tuner pooling works with Windows Media Center, GBPVR, MediaPortal, and TotalMedia.
Windows Media Center:
MCE 2005 (32/64-bit)
Vista WMC (32/64-bit)
WMC TV Pack (32/64-bit)
Windows 7 (32/64-bit)
MediaPortal – DVR for Windows
GB-PVR – DVR for Windows
VLC – Multi-platform media viewer
DVB-C (QAM256/128/64 Annex A/C)
8/7/6 MHz channel bandwidth (multi-country operation).
IR Receiver (signal PC with a standard remote control)
100baseTX high speed network
1 year warranty
2.8 GHz Pentium 4 (or similar) for HD playback
512 MB RAM (1 GB recommended)
1-2 GB per 1/2 hour of DTV recording
What’s inside the box?
The box comes very neatly packaged and includes the HDHomeRun unit itself, a power supply, a software CD, an Ethernet cable and two aerial cables.
The HDHomeRun itself is tiny – in fact it is smaller than a video tape (for those of you who are not old enough to remember video tapes, they were big things that were around before DVDs).
There are only four connections on the back of the unit – a power connector, an Ethernet port and the two tuner connectors.
There is no on or off switch, if the device has power then there a green light showing at the front.
Plugging the device in took less than a minute – so nice and easy there.
Installing the HDHomeRun Software
There is an installation CD that comes in the box but I would suggest you skip it and just go download the latest version of the software from the HDHomeRun website. This will not only give you the latest version of the software, but also the latest version of the firmware for the unit.
Installation was very simple and only took a few minutes.
The first time the software launched it found the device and because I was using an updated version of the software, it automatically upgraded the firmware on the device. This was a nice touch and means that you won’t forget to do it or have additional steps and downloads.
Once the unit had rebooted I was asked to choose my Country and enter my Zip/Postal Code, which I did.
The next step is to select the source for each tuner and which application you want to use. In my case I only connected one aerial point and chose Digital Antenna and Windows Media Center for my playback.
The next thing I had to do was run a scan to find all the available channels.
This doesn’t actually take that long and you can watch the progress.
When this is complete you can see the list of available channels – from here you can also disable any channels you don’t want.
If you want to check the channel, you can click the view button which opens Windows Media Player and allows you watch it. You can even just use this to watch TV if you don’t have Media Center installed.
There is another program installed with the HDHomeRun software which enables you to configure the device, check the signal strength and update the firmware if required.
Using Windows Media Center
So I decided that I wanted to use Windows Media Center to watch and record live TV using the HDHomeRun.
Set up was again very simple, I just followed the wizard in Media Center to add and configure a TV tuner.
I have to say that I really like the HDHomeRun, its very small, easy to set up and the quality is fantastic. Because the device needs to be connected to your network you can pretty much connect it anywhere, as long as there is an aerial point.
And now with Windows Home Server Power Pack 3 adding the ability to automatically move your recorded content onto your Home Server for you, having an easy to use tuner, or tuners is a winning combination.
The HDHomeRun costs around £160 in the UK and can be ordered from various sources online.
And a big thank you to Nectar for supplying a review unit of the HDHomeRun.