Portable projectors and mini projectors have made outdoor movie nights, and watching TV outside the home easier than in years past.
Laser TVs are becoming a new go-to for people wanting a theater-size screen in their home for everyday use.
Picking the best portable projector or home theater projector still requires a fair bit of homework. Brightness, color accuracy, and picture resolution are all things to consider along with your budget.
Watching live over-the-air (OTA) channels from a TV antenna on any projector is fairly straightforward.
I have been watching live TV from my local over-the-air channels on projectors for years.
Getting your antenna channels on your projector does require some extra hardware. But your equipment is a one-time cost. It doesn’t require a subscription unless you want a more robust channel guide.
And once you are set up, you will be able use your projector to watch live sports and TV shows from ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, PBS and more OTA channels.
Assuming you already have the best TV antenna suited for your home, the other piece of equipment you need is a TV tuner.
Many TV tuners function as OTA DVRs that support watching and recording live broadcast channels.
But a few specific models also make your local TV channels available across your home WiFi network. And that’s how we can start watching live broadcast networks (and recordings) on our projector.
These kinds of TV tuners are made specifically for TV antennas.
Which TV tuners work?
HDHomeRun and Tablo are two major brands that deliver live TV channels across your home WiFi network.
The premise of these TV tuners are pretty simple. Each unit has two or more ATSC tuners like ones found in current Smart TVs.
Instead of plugging a TV antenna into your television, you plug the antenna into the port on the Tablo or HDHomeRun.
Each TV tuner requires that you scan for channels just like with a typical television.
HDHomeRun with a projector
HDHomeRun tuners connect to your home WiFi router or mesh network with an Ethernet connection. HDHomeRun tuners come in two or four tuner models. You can also buy the Flex 4K or Scribe 4K models for NextGen TV signals.
Here is how to set up the HDHomeRun and watch live TV on your projector.
- Connect a TV antenna to the F-connector port on the back of a HDHomeRun unit.
- Plug an Ethernet cord into a WiFi router and connect the other end to the back of the HDHomeRun Ethernet port
- Using a PC, go to http://hdhomerun.local/
- Under the menu, click on “Channel Lineup”
- Choose “Antenna” on the pulldown menu at the top of the screen
- Press the “Detect Channels” tab and let the channel scan run
- Add the HDHomeRun app to your PC, Smart TV or streaming device (e.g. Roku or Amazon Fire TV).
You can start watching live TV on the HDHomeRun app.
If you don’t own a HDHomeRun yet, you should consider buying a model that supports NextGen TV.
The HDHomeRun Flex 4K and HDHomeRun Scribe 4K support the current digital broadcast standard (ATSC 1.0) and ATSC 3.0.
I have HDHomeRun models that are over five years old, and each unit receives regular software updates.
Tablo with a projector
If you’re using a Tablo, you want to make sure you are buying a unit that is not an HDMI unit. You will want a Tablo Dual or Tablo Quad that works just on WiFi.
We are going to be watching live, over-the-air channels over Wi-Fi, so you don’t want a Tablo unit that you plug into a TV with a HDMI port.
Before watching live TV, you need to take a couple of key steps.
- Connect the TV antenna to the Tablo, and set up the antenna for optimal reception
- Under the Tablo app settings, perform a channel scan
Tablo has a number of models that I have tested including the Tablo Lite and Tablo Quad. Tablo’s NextGen TV tuner is on the horizon, but not officially on the market yet.
There are some issues related to Digital Rights Management that have to be worked out in some markets, but future software updates are expected to work out the issues.
Getting OTA channels on a projector
If you own a projector that runs on Android TV, then adding your OTA channels to the mix requires less steps.
You can download the app for your specific TV tuner (HDHomeRun or Tablo) and start watching OTA channels and recordings. In my office I have been testing a Wemax Nova 4K Laser TV. It’s running Android 9, and includes the Live Channels app.
Live Channels is an Android TV app that can pull in OTA channels from an HDHomeRun, and give you a full channel guide.
Not all home theater projectors or Laser TVs have native software that is compatible with HDHomeRun or Tablo.
As long as a projector has an HDMI input, you can use a streaming device that is supported by the HDHomeRun or Tablo.
Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast with Google TV and NVIDIA Shield are all streaming devices that I have used with projectors.
All of these streaming devices support HDHomeRun and Tablo. You just need to be within range of your home Wi-Fi network to get your OTA channels.
In my backyard, I have been roughly 30 feet away from my TP-Link Wi-Fi router, and had a great picture with no lag or problems.
While I do recommend an HDHomeRun or Tablo for adding OTA channels to a projector, you can use some other OTA models on the market.
An AirTV connects to a TV antenna and works with the Sling TV app.
Connecting a TV antenna to a projector FAQs
These are questions that come up when watching OTA channels on a TV antenna.
Can you connect a TV antenna to a projector?
Yes. You can watch over-the-air (OTA) channels from a TV antenna on a projector. You just need to use a TV tuner such as a HDHomeRun or Tablo, which makes OTA channels available across a home Wi-Fi network.
Do projectors have TV tuners?
Currently, there are no home theater or portable projectors on the market that include a built-in TV tuner with ATSC 1.0 or ATSC 3.0 capabilities.
What if my HDHomeRun is far away from my TV antenna?
Not having a way to connect HDHomeRun over WiFi can be a challenge for some people. I use a MoCa adapter to connect the cable-internet cords around my house so I can plug in Ethernet-only devices like HDHomeRun.
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Founder and Editor of The Cord Cutting Report. Before launching the site in 2016, he worked for more than two decades as a staff writer or correspondent for a number of daily newspapers, including The Boston Globe. His enthusiasm for tech began with the Atari 2600. Follow @james_kimble