HDHomeRun Review: Best Way to Get Live TV on Streaming Devices

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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.

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HDHomeRun Extend and HDHomeRun Quatro (top) add live TV to your streaming devices.

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.

 

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HDHomeRun tuners can be used with Roku when using a Plex Pass.

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.






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HDHomeRun Extend: best low cost OTA DVR
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9 Comments on HDHomeRun Review: Best Way to Get Live TV on Streaming Devices

  1. Exactly the kind of information I’ve been looking for! A former (12-years) DirecTV subscriber, then a short-term SpectrumTV customer… I’ve been looking SERIOUSLY at all TV viewing options. Currently “testing” a YouTubeTV (via Internet) subscription but unsure of our ultimate choice in TV viewing, recording, storing, etc. Thanks for THIS information!

  2. I have to say WOW!! What a fantastic article and fine responses from you guys! I was using Microsoft Media Center and I just bought a new computer for it, to still run Windows 7 because of MC. IMO, that was the BEST program that Microsoft ever made! A reasonably intelligent 8 year old could figure out how to use it without reading anything. The most user friendly software ever, which these others can’t match for DVR.

    Now the evil Microsoft, (just kidding) dumped it going into Windows 10. There is a hack for it, done by people who are way above my paygrade! It looks to be very problematic though, so I say a FOND farewell to MC. I created two monster computers, and I have decided to leave MC/7 in the silicon dust. My first one is an Asrock Formula 3.1 with a 5930K. The 2nd one is the Win 7 one with a Asus Z-97 Deluxe, 4790K.

    The 7/deluxe one has many problems that I am sure is the OS. It has the exact same problems/pop ups that My ANCIENT P6T Deluxe Ver II had, and that was nine years old! My Win 10 machine runs just fine, so I am going to put 10 on my Asus/deluxe.

    Now, I have the extend, just for starters. I noticed I can set the bit-rate to native, which I think is just STUNNING to view! (the MC-7 was stunning on my 7 foot projector screen at 10 feet away.) I suspect this looks noticeably better, but will experiment.
    NOW I have the Homerun Prime 3-cable tuner one. LOL I am waiting for Comcast to open so I can get a cable card. I have LOVED my DirectTV but it just keeps going up in cost.
    Anyway, thank you for all of this information. It is FAR better than what is on the Dust web page, and they are the ones trying to sell these.

    BTW, here near Chi-town the local CBS, Ch 2 is a basket case. They got sued for interfering with a station in Wi, and dialed the power down to about 5 watts. I had to do any recording off of DTV. NOW, this Extend brings it right in! I have not watched CBS on MC in a LONG time, in which case I was using four Cat’s Eye, 3560 Tuners. Now I see, much of the problem was THOSE.
    Sorry for the previous love rant, but now and then something comes along and it is BETTER than what the company says it is!!
    ?

  3. I purchased a Home Run Extend, and was wondering if I could connect our TiVo Series 3 to it (kinda like a NAS). We lose internet on a fairly regular basis (very rural). I want to be able to watch recordings when this happens. Please be patient with me whereas this is all new to me.

    • Hi Lynna, I don’t think there’s a way to connect the TiVo Series 3, but I could be wrong. You may want to consider getting an external hard drive and going with DVR service from either Silicon Dust or Plex. Hope that helps.

  4. Good comparison, with one exception

    HDhomerun products require a server with a fast processor to DVR shows. All Tablo requires is an inexpensive hard drive connected to the unit to record shows.

    Both products are good, but the cost comparison above is backwards. Tablo is typically less expensive to set up. HDhomerun is more for the power user. HDhomerun with Plex on a server is great.

    Choosing between the HDhomerun products is confusing. The potential buyer needs to research the differences.

    I have both Tablo and HDhomerun Connect. I’m giving Tablo to a relative because I am a “power user”. My relative would need to buy more hardware to run HDhomerun and also record shows.

    • Thanks Don. I appreciate it. There’s definitely an argument to be made that Tablo can be less expensive. It really depends on what kind of hard drive space you buy (if you need to buy any), and whether you subscribe to the channel guide. Also, Tablo has dropped their prices a little since I wrote the review.

      I tend to view things through the lens of cutting down/out any long term expenses, but that’s just my preference. Now that Plex has added DVR/Live TV capabilities to HDHomeRun, it definitely adds more long term overall value. I don’t have any vast media library, but it’s neat to be able to see what’s on TV and check out my own movie collection in one place. So I could also see someone springing for a lifetime Plex Pass and getting many more benefits than shelling out for just a channel guide for a few years. As Plex grows, the user will get more benefits. To your point, not everyone wants or needs all that. So Tablo will still get under a lot of Christmas trees in the years to come.

      • Many/most people no longer have stationary computers to use as a server. Even TV set purchases are decreasing among some demographics. It’s become a world of tablets and laptops. All the millennials in my family would need to buy a NAS or other fixed device to use HDHomeRun DVR. Tablo only requires the addition of a $59 drive to have a 1TB DVR.

        I think a 4 tuner Tablo with upgraded hardware (better thermal management, more RAM to improve guide performance) is about the ideal device for most multi person households. A $350 Tablo would be better than the current $250 tablo.

        The new Tablo Dual is a poor value with the added small amount of internal storage.

  5. I Dumped my DirecTV Service this week!

    I had the most basic DirecTV channels package DirecTV offers and had 1 High Definition (HD) Digital Video Recorder (DVR) unit and 1 Standard Definition DVR unit which cost me about $90 per month. Almost half of the cost was hardware rental fees, taxes, and other crap fees every single month! Of course for that price, there is NO ESPN, or FS1, FS2, etc… Just pretty basic channels plus a few of my Orlando Local Channels.

    I finally pulled the plug on the old satellite after being a loyal subscriber ever since DirecTV started operating.

    But today, I fired DirecTV, and became an official (Semi) Cord Cutter!!

    Cutting the Cord does require some basic investment in hardware if you want to have equal or more capability and features than you did on Satellite or Cable service, and below is a list of my costs to convert. These are all one time costs. This means I will OWN all of the equipment instead of renting it and wasting money each month. My new Whole Home TV / DVR System is made up of the following components:

    Hardware Costs:

    $ 75 Outdoor Antenna, 20′ Tall Mast, Cable, Connectors, etc… (I already had this in place)
    $ 180 New All Metal SiliconDust HdHomeRun Extend Dual Tuner Unit #1 (Local Channels)
    $ 180 New All Metal SiliconDust HdHomeRun Extend Dual Tuner Unit #2 (Local Channels)
    $ 90 Amazon Fire TV HD Box, Gen 2 for Primary TV
    $ 40 Amazon Fire TV HD Stick, Gen 2 for 2nd TV
    $ 0 Old 2005 vintage PC re-purposed to MythTV DVR system
    $ 0 Mythbuntu MythTV DVR Software (Linux) to install on old PC
    $ 86 New 2TB 5400 RPM WD RED NAS Grade Hard Disk for DVR

    $ 651.00 Total cost for new Hardware/Software

    Remember the old rabbit ears on top of your TV, or the outside TV Antenna your mom and dad had on the roof when you were a kid? Well, guess what? Since all of the TV Broadcasters were forced to switch to a Digital Signal Broadcasts from the old Analog Signal years ago, local Broadcast TV has gotten better than ever. I think we all know that using an outside or inside Over-The-Air Antenna will NOT give you the name brand cable channels like ESPN, CNN, CNBC, etc., but all of the Major Networks like ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, MyTV, PBS, CW and many more are available for FREE, and broadcast a big, beautiful signal and picture right into your home! All you have to do is grab it!

    Years ago, you would have only been able to pick up the Big 3 or 4 TV stations, but today with Digital Broadcast TV, often, each of these channels have “Sub Channels”. For example, here in the Central Florida area, we have Channel 6.1 which is our local CBS Affiliate. This affiliate also broadcasts on Channel 6.2 Cozi TV, and 6.3 Decades TV.

    In total, I can pick up nearly 80 Digital Local Channels that are crystal clear and have a huge variety of content available.

    Unlike the old Analog signal TV of yesteryear, with digital broadcasts, the days of snowy pictures are pretty much gone. With Digital broadcasts, you generally get a beautiful High Definition Picture up to 1080P with full Dolby Digital Surround Sound, or nothing at all. On ocassion you may get some pixelation if your signal strength is right on the edge, but for the most part, its pretty rock solid. I’ve heard that about 80% of the shows people watch on Cable or Satellite are available as Local Broadcasts for FREE!

    By attaching two SiliconDust HDHomeRun Extend Dual Tuner network attached devices to my home network, (I could have gotten by with just one, but it’s nice to have extra capacity), I can watch all of my local stations on any device, and Record (DVR) anything I want on the Mythbuntu MythTV DVR I built from an old vintage PC. Playback is handled beautifuly on all devices using Kodi Free software which will run on just about any device you own. Additionally, I can DVR up to 4 primary channels at once with the ability to record many more “Extra” Subchannels off the primary Channel. For example, Channel 2 is 2.1 as the primary channel, but I can also record 2.2, 2.3, etc at the same time, so really the number of total channels I can record at once is only a limitation of my SD Tuners, Storage Capacity and power of the DVR Computer Hardware. I have recorded 6 channels at once (3 primary and 3 sub channels) on this old hardware and it actually did okay. Additionally, the MythTV software has the ability to go back and tag all of the commercials after the recording completes so later when you watch the show on Kodi, virtually all of the commercials are automatically skipped !!! Way Cool !!!

    So, how do you get your favorite Cable or Satellite Channels like ESPN, Fox Sports 1 and 2, CNN, CNBC, DIY, etc…? Well, there are several new Content Providers available that you can subscribe to or get for free over the internet. A couple of the most popular ones are Amazon Prime, Netflix and Hulu for On Demand watching of Movies and TV shows. But for LIVE TV, you may want to look at Sling TV or Playstation Vue subscription services. I decided to subscribe to Playstation Vue for my service for a number of reasons including the ability to stream to 5 devices concurrently as well as Free Unlimited DVR Service in the Cloud. But in order to make it work well, you have to have a decent Internet Subscription.

    You MUST have an Internet Service with sufficient bandwidth AND Unlimited DATA (or a lot of Data usage available per month) at a reasonable cost. Lets face it, we’re trying to reduce costs here, and this is a key one. One important thing is to get an internet subscription with a Download Rate of at least 10 Megabits per second if you only intend to stream one HD Signal into your home from one of the several content providers out there. If you want to concurrently stream additional content to other devices, consider increasing your download speed by an additional 5 Megabits per second for each additional device that will be in use “Concurrently” to assure you have enough “Pipe” or data flow to satisify the need in your home.

    Of course, faster is better, but only to a point. Don’t buy 50 or 100 Megabit service unless you really need it because you will be simply be throwing money away by purchasing lots of unused capacity. I purchased 25 Megabit Download speed, and 5 Megabit Upload speed which is plenty fast enough to stream multiple High Definition TV Streams concurrently. My Plan also provides 1 Terrabyte of Data Download per month, so after my first month running mostly 1 TV streaming for a 5 – 7 hours per night, I’m using about 1/2 of a Terrabyte of Data per month. Internet Data is only used when surfing the web or watching TV using one of the Streaming TV Services. No Data is used when watching Local TV gathered by your Over the Air TV Antenna/HDHomeRun Tuners and local DVR PC.) I’m paying 29.99 Per month (Incl all taxes and fees) to my local cable provider for INTERNET ONLY service, and that rate is guaranteed for 12 months on a month to month basis, but with NO Contract!!! At the end of the 12 months, I’ll renegotiate for another year at the same or better price. I have been doing this for about 5 years now for my internet services. Several years ago, I purchased a Motorola SB6141 Cable Modem for about $60, and that saves me about $10 per month in Modem Rental Fees from the Cable Company. That simple purchase alone saves me over $120 per year!

    Getting a good Internet Deal will take some negotiation and a little backbone on your part, but you can do it. That’s right, you have to call your Internet Service Provider and get a better deal.

    If you can’t get what you want from the normal first level sales reps, you must ask for the “Customer Retention Department”. These folks have the authority to negotiate price and packages with you because they know that it costs a small fortune to acquire new customers, so it’s often in their best interest to retain you as a client, even if they have to do so at a little lower profit margin. However, BEFORE I call them, I usually login to the internet from my cell phone or my friends home who is using a DIFFERENT Internet Service Provider than I am, then surf on over to my ISP’s site to see what is being offered to “New Customers”. “New Customers” are those who have not had the service in their name in a few months…, like your spouse or mother… You get the idea. The “New Customer” prices are normally blocked out to you if you login from your home network because they don’t want you to see how much more your paying for your service than a brand new customer. Believe it or not, just like car insurance, the longer you stick with one Internet Service Provider or Cable TV or Satellite Company, the worse deal you get every year!! Shop every year for better deals and you’ll come out way ahead.

    So, just to review, my Internet Service costs exactly $29.99 per month for No Contract, 12 Month Guaranteed Rate “Internet Only” 25/5 Megabit service with a 1TB Download limit. My subscription to Playstation Vue Access Slim Pkg which provides 48 really good Cable Channels (No Crap Channels like with cable or satellite) and with No Contract and NO extra monthly fees costs EXACTLY $29.99 per month. I can change Channel Packages any time I wish, or just cancel and try something else. This is a Great Package https://www.playstation.com/en-us/network/vue/channels/

    Note: Playstation Vue may provide some or all of the Major Network Broadcast TV Channels in Major Cities like Chicago, Dallas, Miami, etc. These may include some of the Networks like ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, CW, etc, so check your zip code at the Playstation Vue site before you go spend money for an Antenna, SiliconDust HDHomeRun Tuners, etc as you may not need them to satisfy your local TV needs. The price for packages including Local Channels may be a few dollars more in your area.

    So to wrap it all up, I now have more “Quality” Channels to watch for about 1/3rd of the monthly cost of Satellite TV and I can change plans anytime I want to, and watch TV on any Device I own including PC’s, TV’s, Tablets, Cell Phones, etc.!!!! I also have access to tons of “On Demand” TV shows and Movies that I didn’t have access to via DirecTV.

    For the purpose of this project, I don’t count Internet Service Provider costs as part of my TV watching costs because I would be paying for the exact same Internet service whether I used it for TV or not, so while getting a great deal is important, and needed to make the switch, since I would buy it anyway, I don’t consider it as part of the total monthly TV Access costs in my comparison.

    Playstation Vue has been terriffic and I love that it has built in Cloud DVR with unlimited recording as well as the ability to run on nearly every device I own. It also has a TV Guide of sorts that looks out about 2 weeks into the future. They have a Client for Android, Windows, Apple devices and IOS devices, and continue to add more. They recently began streaming to select Web Browsers like Firefox and Google Chrome on Windows PC’s, however I have been unable to get streaming to work on any of my Linux PC’s using any browser. I suspect this may have something to do with DRM Licensing, but I’m still trying to figure that out. I can run up to 5 different Like a PS4, PS3, Amazon fire TV Boxes and Sticks, Android based TV devices, etc. Each Device can run PS Vue and all can watch a different live stream or DVR’d programs or what they call “Catch Up” programs or episodes.

    While there was some out of pocket expense for hardware, I will save enough to pay for it in less than a year! And, the monthly cost for TV is now only $29.99 vs my old Super Basic DirecTV package that cost over $90 per month. Oh yeah, and NO Contracts or Rental Fee’s ! On top of that, the Channel Selection on Playstation Vue is great! I now have ESPN, FS1, FS2, etc… Check it out!

    https://www.playstation.com/en-us/network/vue/channels/

    Final Comparison:
    Old Annual DirecTV Cost $1080 per year with increases each year!
    New Annual TV Cost is $359.88 per year for Playstation Vue Subscription

    1st year savings of $720.12 minus initial hardware costs of $651 gives me a savings of $69.12. However, the Savings in the 2nd year, and each and every year thereafter, at least $ 720.12 per year!!!

    Yep, I’m a Happy Camper for sure!

    My home phone is also Free through a service called Google Voice. I had to do some work to get my home landline phone number rolled over to it, (check youtube for how to do this), but it has been worth it. We have had Free Home Phone Service for many years now. It does require a little $99 Obihai box attached to your home internet router to accomplish it, but other than that its totally free to use. It has voice mail, voice to text service, conference calling, supports 2 phone numbers, Free calls to US and Canada, etc…

    Here is a link to the box
    https://www.obitalk.com/info/googlevoice

    Anyway, I digress…. LOL Check out Playstation Vue and see if that might fit the bill for your TV needs. I purchased the Amazon Fire TV Box for the livingroom TV (very robust and fast device) and the Fire TV Stick for the bedroom since its a little less powerfull and cheaper and will be used less.

    The Fire TV Box and Stick connect directly to my home Internet and the TV via HDMI Port, (If your TV is relatively new, most likely your cable box is using this same cable and port to connect to your TV’s) and are used to stream the TV from Playstation Vue to your TV. It has a nice easy to use remote and enough expansion capacity to run other programs on it like Kodi and other TV services.

    If you are currently, or become an Amazon Prime customer ($100 /yr) you get free 2 day shipping on most everything from Amazon.com and also free access to their huge library of streaming Movies, TV Shows and Music!

    • This is how it’s done! Congrats. And thanks for sharing your breakdown on how you’re getting more quality programs and channels while saving some serious cash.

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