Wednesday, December 11, 2013

SiliconDust HD HomeRun Dual Home Network OTA Tuner

Hitting it out of the park – the HD HomeRun Dual provides the most bang for the buck for getting your OTA antenna signal on your home network
Watching TV by antenna a few years ago meant being parked in front of TV to watch a fuzzy analog pictures and fiddling with finicky rabbit ears. Today, thanks to innovative products like the HD HomeRun by SiliconDust, watching TV by antenna has expanded beyond the TV room and plunked that crystal clear digital OTA signal onto your home network.  Hook up your antenna and you can use your Laptop for catching the local news at the breakfast table, turn your PC into a DVR to record your favorite shows or catch late night television in bed on your iPad. Let's take a closer look and see what we find:

Model: SiliconDust HD HomeRun Dual
Size:  4" wide by 5" deep by  1 1/2" high

Package includes: HD HomeRun Dual, Cat5e Cable, RG6 Cable, Power Adapter, Installation CD, Instruction manual

Input: One F-type connector (cable coax) for RG-59 or RG-6 cable, 5V DC power plug
Output: Ethernet network cable female port (Cat5e)

Pros: Great tuner sensitivity, easy to use, compact design, fully loaded accessory package included, good price, widely supported apps and software, units can be added as required to increase number of tuners, software loads are stable with no real bugs or known issues
Cons: Chews through wireless router bandwidth like a hungry termite in softwood, it will be a popular peripheral on your network so two tuners may be used up pretty fast

Build Quality
The build quality of the HD HomeRun is excellent. The plastic casing is of very robust quality with a nice finish and the connectors are solidly installed. It is lightweight but definitely does not come across as cheap.  The unit itself is perfectly silent as there are no fans, so it can be considered “home theatre” friendly as you won’t hear any humming coming from it. Overall, a very clean and compact design.

Compact and well built, so it will last for years and won't take up much room on the shelf.
Installation is a breeze – with only 3 connections and no buttons to press, there’s no way to really mess this up. Simply follow the very clear and easy instructions to connect the unit to your router via the Ethernet port, then screw in your antenna input coax and plug in the unit to power it up. The lights will cycle through various flashing and colour coeds and in the end the green light will stay solid to show you it’s up and running.

Installation is clean and simple, the unit powers up once plugged in.

The unit comes with two tuners allowing any devices on the network drive to take command of these inputs. Tuner sensitivity is better than most built-in TV tuners and is on par with most other high-end OTA DVR and set top boxes we have tested.
The HD HomeRun and its software works very well with Myth TV (Linux) Windows Media Center (PC) and other open source media center and home theatre PC programs. EyeTV or Elgato are able to run the HD HomeRun on Mac Devices.

Turn your PC or laptop into a DVR - The HD HomeRun plays really well with Windows Media Center. Once the software is installed, it easily recognizes the HD HomeRun hardware (top), it populates the program guide with info from the internet (up to 2 weeks, middle) and in no time you can watch your shows, pause, skip and record in crystal-clear DTV (bottom).

For mobile devices and tablets, we found the InstaTV Pro app (recently released after a royalty dispute for iOS) is the way to go and has versions on most platforms (the wireless streaming may put some stress on your modem though!).

Watching TV from your antenna on your iPad, tablet or mobile device has never been easier with InstaTV Pro. Simply download the app and install; the device will stream directly from the HD HomeRun. It automatically locates your HomeRun box on the network (top), downloads program guide info from the internet (upper middle) and displays program info while you browse what's currently on (lower middle). You can then watch in full screen mode from anywhere you decide to wander to in your home.
Performance is highly dependent on how good your router is. We noticed that most standard WiFi routers given by the usual internet service providers have their hands full when streaming fast moving, 720p pictures to a mobile device. There was minor but yet visible picture quality degradation in mostly fast moving programs such as sports.
In general, this is not really the HD HomeRun's fault, but it needs to be considered if you are looking to use this unit as a primary TV source on a larger screen,. In that case,you may want to upgrade your router or go with a wired Ethernet connection.
Prices and Where to Buy

The HD HomeRun Dual retails anywhere between $90 - $120 in Canada. We highly recommend waiting and buying the unit from Canadian  online discount retailers like Newegg as they have regular promotions on this device, making it very obtainable in its sale price range of $60-$80.

Apps to run the HD HomeRun feed on devices range from free versions (usually require the setup of a server on a PC) to aboput $10 for standalone versions. 

Apps like InstaTV Pro retail for about $10 but can stream directly from the HDHR. A free version requires the installation of the InstaTV Pro Server which has to stay running to be used by your devices.

The HD HomeRun Dual when purchased on sale within the $70 price range delivers by far the most bang for its buck for adding an OTA signal on your home network or WiFi. It delivers in terms of tuner sensitivity and performance, comes with a fully-loaded package from the start, is supported by a range of apps and programs on multiple platforms and is sleek and easy-to-use. For that price, there is not much more you can ask for, especially considering it's dual tuner.

With new versions of the HD HomeRun (PLUS, 3) currently coming out on the market, prices of the Dual can be perhaps expected to drop even more, making this unit all that more attractive.

Overall Rating: 9/10

More info on the HD HomeRun Dual can be found on the SiliconDust website .

More info on the InstaTV apps can be found on the InstaTV website.