How to Watch live broadcast TV on Apple TV, Roku and Firestick
An HDHomeRun tuner is a gateway to watching live broadcast TV on an Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV or Roku without cable.
Framed in little black metal boxes, these TV tuners connect to a TV antenna and a WiFi router with an Ethernet cord.
Once you scan for channels, you’ll be able to watch live TV on every streaming device in your house.
If you’ve been thinking about cutting the cord from a pricey cable TV subscription, you’re not alone. The consumer research firm Neilsen just reported an upward trend in the use of digital OTA tuners like HDHomeRun instead of traditional cable TV or satellite TV subscriptions.
Why would I want an HDHomeRun?
Sure, you can use just a TV antenna to add free live broadcast channels such as NBC, ABC, CBS and PBS in HD. But adding a HDHomeRun Extend, or HDHomeRun Connect gives you a more customized way to set up a DVR (if you want one). And it lets you watch antenna channels on just about any device in your house.
I’ve been using a number of TV tuners since 2017. And out of the many OTA DVR setups that I’ve tested, HDHomeRun tuners continue to be the best on the market.
For recordings, you need some hard drive space. So you can either buy an external hard drive like a WD MyBook. But if you don’t have the budget for a hard drive at the moment, you can simply use space on your PC or laptop. You just need to keep the PC (or other media server) powered on to capture recordings.
I love being able to record shows to watch later on my TV. But I use my Android smart phone the most. I love being able to take my phone out of my front pocket and check out the local news or weather in a snap when I’m in my yard or busy doing work around the house.
Keep in mind: These broadcast signals are digital, so your picture quality (1080i or 720p) is far better than what a cable company is capable of delivering to your home. Why? Because the signal is uncompressed.
What’s the best app and DVR options?
You can take one of two roads with whatever HDHomeRun tuner you use. You can subscribe to a few different software hubs. Each one has a 14-day channel guide and DVR service. Or, you can just use the HDHomeRun app to watch live TV on your phone or tablet with no DVR (or fees) whatsoever.
Here are a few pointers on a your app choices.
- The HDHomeRun app lets you watch your OTA channels for free on any device even if you don’t subscribe to its DVR service. SiliconDust, makers of the HDHomeRun, has a DVR service for $35 per year.
- The software hub Plex offers a Live TV & DVR service for $4.99 per month (or a lifetime pass for $149). It’s among a number of features that comes with a “Plex Pass”. Plex has been one of my favorite hubs for using HDHomeRun, especially because I can centralize all my music, and burned DVD collection in one spot. Plex also has slick user interface for free podcasts, local and national newscasts and support for Tidal. Read Plex: The Definitive Cord Cutter’s Guide for options on how to set up a Plex Media Server. You can also look over the details of the 30-day free trial for Plex Pass.
- Channels is another great software hub that supports Amazon Fire TV, Android TV and Apple TV. Channels has impressive menus and features, and it’s the most expensive to use. Using the Channels app costs $8 per month for the channel guide/DVR service.
With Plex and Channels apps, you can pause and rewind live TV. The official HDHomeRun app doesn’t support Roku, but that’s OK. Plex does a great job with its Live TV & DVR support for Roku and Roku TV devices. I have been using a Plex set-up with my Roku TV and the channel guide works great.
What streaming devices support HDHomeRun?
Major streaming devices — such as Fire TV and Apple TV — aren’t your only option for watching and recording local NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX and PBS stations.
PCs running Windows 10, and Xbox One are on the long list of compatible devices with HDHomeRun tuners.
The official HDHomeRun app supports Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, Android TV and third-party software options. You can stream the HDHomeRun app on Android TV devices like Xiaomi Mi Box and the NVIDIA SHIELD TV.
Windows 10 devices include: Windows 10 PC, Xbox One or One S, Surface Tablet or Windows PHONE.
Android: NVIDIA SHIELD TV, Amazon Fire TV, Sony Android TV, Android phones and Android tablets
Apple: Apple desktops, Apple laptops, Apple iOS (like iPads) and Apple TV 4
Which HDHomeRun is right for you?
HDHomeRun Connect Duo: The Duo has two TV tuners inside, so you can watch and record up to two TV programs at once. This HDHomeRun model is the least expensive model and great if you only have one or two TVs inside your home.
HDHomeRun Connect Quatro: The Quatro is essentially the same as the Connect Duo, but with double the number of TV tuners. With 4 TV tuners inside, you can record and watch up to four programs at once. I recommend using a Quatro if you are trying to connect multiple TVs to one antenna.
HDHomeRun Extend: The Extend has two tuners, and it is the most powerful because of its built-in transcoding to h.264 format. It makes for a smaller file size with recordings, and gives a more widely supported format for direct playback compared to MPEG-2 on Connect. That said, some third-party software like Emby already transcodes for most clients, so it might be a moot point for you personally. In that case, a HDHomeRun Connect might be just fine for you.
HDHomeRun Prime: The Prime isn’t for cable TV subscribers, not over-the-air channels. Prime is a way that you can replace a cable box and stop paying rental fees for it. You can record or watch up to three shows at once. You will need to get a local CableCard from your TV provider, and contrary to popular belief, they are required by law to provide one to you (for a fee). HDHomeRun Prime will release you from having to pay rental fees Comcast or another cable provider for your over-the-top box. HDHOMERUN Prime tuners do not work with satellite TV.
Looking ahead: HDHomeRun Scribe Duo and Servio
The HDHomeRun Scribe Duo is expected to debut sometime this year. It will be the first HDHomeRun tuner that comes with a 1TB internal hard drive. The hard drive has enough space for 150 hours of recording TV shows, live sports and movies with 1080i picture resolution.
HDHomeRun Servio will be for people who already own a HDHomeRun tuner. The Servio works as a media server and has a 2TB hard drive to store recordings. This eliminates the need for an always-on PC or NAS device.
Do you own a HDHomeRun? How do you like it? What’s your setup for a media server? Share with fellow readers in the comments below.
This review was published Feb. 7, 2017 and has been updated.