Nice hardware – shame about the software
Review Fancy a TV tuner for your Mac or PC? Chances are you’ll be looking at a USB device, but there are limitations – the most obvious being it can only be used on one computer at a time. Offering an Ethernet alternative, SiliconDust’s HDHomeRun twin-tuner Freeview box can serve two computers with independent digital telly channels, and supports Mac OS X, Windows and Linux. Interested? We were.
Silicon Dust's HDHomeRun: pitched at those needing TV streamed over networks
Here at Vulture Central, if we use those godawful titchy portable aerials supplied with USB TV tuners, Freeview reception leaves a lot to be desired. We do have a wired TV aerial socket providing a clear signal, but that limits us to watching programmes on a television or computer located in that room.
We’ve looked at a number of options to get around this – signal amplifiers, multi-room TV systems and some very long extension cables – but a TV tuner that could stream live TV across our network to a computer in any room appears the most elegant solution.
Sling Media has been the only game in town, with its Slingbox Pro delivering Freeview over a local network. Now it's not alone. Hauppage tell us that its new PCTV Telescope will be able to stream live TV across a network, but we’re still waiting for that to arrive in the UK. So that leaves the HDHomeRun.
Sold here in the UK by Nectar Electronics for £159, the HDHomeRun is a nondescript - the less charitable will prefer the word 'fugly' - plastic box. Its two digital TV tuners are tucked around the back, each with its own antenna feed. There's also a 10/100Mb/s Ethernet interface to connect the unit to your network.
Twin tuners simultaneously stream two different TV channels
If the digital reception in your area is really good, you could simply plug two separate aerials into the twin tuners in the HDHomeRun. For us, the guys at Nectar recommended using a signal amplifier to split the signal from our aerial socket in two and then feed the signals into the HDHomeRun.
Almost all the Freeview DVRs available today have their two tuners fed by a single antenna socket, so this two tuners, two aerials approach seemed a step backwards. But at least it means one tuner can be used for Freeview and the other, potentially, for other services.
Firstly, thanks to Cliff for reviewing HDHomeRun at all! We take the point from the Mac users' point of view about software; I have to admit we at Nectar are primarily Windows-based.
Writing what we describe as the 'UK Installation Notes' was a challenge because we didn't want to over-complicate what can be a very simple install for what we believe are the majority of users: they have Windows Media Center / Vista. Our experience of manuals is that if they're anything but simple, they will be ignored. There are additional instructions on the SIliconDust website, but as these refer to US cable versions as well it tends towards complexity.
We are revising the Installation Notes to help non-Windows / Media Center users a bit more effectively; and we're playing with MythTV to make sure we get it right. We'll put a revised version on the pcTVok.com website soon.
Regarding DVB-T2, the answer's a no, because there as as yet no chipsets in commercial production for demodulating it.
Finally, wireless bandwidth: one video stream from HDHomeRun occupies about 6 Mb/s. We reccommend HomePlug-P, if getting enough capacity out of your wireless network is a problem.
See that tiny speck in the distance over there,
Psymon, that tiny speck is the intelligent insight you have brought to this matter. IOW, none.
The HDHomerRun is not intended to be the whole appliance, it is a part of a structure. Of course, if you purchase it on a complete whim without understanding what it does and how it works, no wonder you are disappointed and whining. Do you expect that you can just pick up any old turbocharger for your car and it will fit perfectly?
The HDHR is specifically designed as an external two tuner add-on to work together with whatever particular software your computer uses to record and playback video. And there are lots of programs available for that purpose on various platforms. (Win/Mac/Linux)
The North American version of the HDHR works perfectly with Over-the-Air ATSC standard transmissions, and with QAM encoded (but unencrypted) cable feeds, whether in standard or high definition. It appears that in England, HD uses a different standard than SD. Don't blame Silicon Dust for that sort of cockup. All you need is an antenna for glorious high def across most of North America.
And to the supposedly knowledgeable techies of the Register, it's about time you shut down your Windows boxes and actually did some work and research before trashing things which you know nothing about...like mythtv. Mythtv handles the HDHR very nicely thank you. As for some info on mythtv, since it appears you are unable to use google to find an iota of info, Linux Format magazine had an article in the April issue about building a mythtv specific computer and has covered mythtv on numerous ocassions. Try www.linux.format.co.uk
A review of the review: A slighting and ignorant trashing of a useful piece of hardware, by ignorant chavs who did not understand the use of the hardware in the first place, and who therefore, focused on the deficiencies of software programs which do not come with the hardware, As an extra touch, since they failed to understand the purpose of the hardware nor how it worked, they trashed the included software for faults it is clear arose from that same lack of understanding. Overall E-. (barely above a complete failure, however, extra points were awarded for the dearth of egregious grammatical errors.)
The Dyspeptic Curmudgeon
see that tiny speck in the distance over there,
that was the point you completely missed.
Whether or not said TV software is any good, is completely by-the-by. The point is, that after spending £160 on a product, I shouldn't be expected to go hunting for the software REQUIRED to make it run myself. Especially if it's free. The pathetic manual and lack of bundled software is the kind of standard I'd expect some £25 korean import, or open sauce software (feed the trolls, tuppence a bag... ;)
I'd expect at the very least to have a selection of this free software provided in the box for me to try, rather than having to repeatedly trawl through their website for potentially compatible products.
A sensible criticism of this article cries out from the swamp of troll flames!
yes, more tech-specs on what formats this box supports would have been more helpful. A table of countries/up-and-coming formats would have been a god-send for those of us who don't keep up with the latest TV format wars
The HDHomeRun is a network tuner in the purest sense. RF in, Ethernet out. It doesn't matter what encoding the video uses, that's up to the clients to decode. There are also special versions of the HDHR designed to be cable signal analyzers and/or data stream receivers.
That's also why it doesn't come with any software other than the utilities. As a general rule, if you can tune it and get it to play in VLC, you can find something that will DVR it.
Can't speak for DVB, but the HDHR works extremely well for me in the US, tuning the free HD channels from digital cable.
Brainiac because when I first got the HDHR, getting it to work with digital cable required an engineering degree. The drivers have improved substantially since then.
We have no problems with MythTV.
The point, as I stated in the review, is that manufacturers shouldn't sell you a lump of hardware and then just say - "sorry there's no software but we're sure you can find something out there on the Internet..."