If you are a HTPC (Home Theatre PC) enthusiast, then you know about limitations - how many USB ports are available for that Digital Tuner USB Stick, or is there any slot available for that additional TV card?
But now and then you come across a truly exceptional product. If you are into HTPC this product is the SiliconDust HDHomeRun, available in New Zealand through DigitalPride.
What makes it so interesting is how easy it is to add digital TV reception to a network - yes, not only one PC, but your entire network at home if you want!
In short the SiliconDust HDHomeRun is a dual-tuner DVB-T receiver - ideal for Freeview HD - that plugs into your LAN and can be accessed by any PC on your network (with appropriate drivers).
I was actually surprise on how small the unit is. Dare I say "cute"?
Installation is really easy: plug the HDHomeRun to your LAN and load the driver software on a PC. You can then proceed with a search for the device using the HDHomeRun Manager software and use it to enable one or two receivers.
The driver follows the standard Broadcast Driver Architecture (BDA), which means that an operating system such as Windows will see it just like it would see an internal digital TV tuner. And without you having to open your PC!
Once the software finds the tuners and you scan for the channels then you can just proceed and use your preferred Media Center software as you would with any other receiver. It even works flawlessly with the new Windows 7 Media Center.
In my tests total installation time didn't take more than five minutes total - and that's because I had to move a piece of furniture to plug the power cord.
HDHomeRun supports DVB-T and unencrypted cable signals. But since it simply broadcasts the signal received you can easily use the appropriate card reader and software to watch cable TV on your PC - note though that plugging a non-certified device to the TelstraClear network in New Zealand is against the ToS.
Also important to note that your PC receives the raw broadcast directly from the HDHomeRun and therefore you need a good network. The best results are of course if you use a wired network all the way. Don't try using Wi-Fi between your PC and a router because the HDTV broadcast will soon saturate the channel. Also don't worry about going 1 Gpbs just for this because the HDHomeRun itself is limited to 100 Mbps anyway.
You will still need the appropriate software and codecs supporting H.264/AAC and preferably a video card that supports hardware accelerated decoding. In my case I used Windows 7 Media Center in two machines (a desktop and a laptop) with good results.
I wonder if you wanted to have a "TV server" at home if you could plug five of these devices to the LAN and have up to ten channels available for recording...
- Very easy to setup
- Works with Windows Media Center and any other software supporting BDA (32 bit and 64 bit) such as GB-PVR, MediaPortal and others
- Streaming option for VLC and Windows Media Player
- Drivers for Linux and Mac available
- Manufacturer forum for product support by other users Cons
- Layout wouldn't be good to actually stack more than one unit