Engadget HD Review: HDHomeRun

Ben Drawbaugh
B. Drawbaugh|10.30.06

Sponsored Links

Ben Drawbaugh
October 30th, 2006
In this article: ATSC, features, HD, HDTV, QAM
Engadget HD Review: HDHomeRun

It isn't everyday that a new class of device is released, one that requires an explanation, it's a dual ATSC/QAM tuner network device, sorta like a NAS for OTA tuners, it's called the HDHomeRun and it's about the size of a small hub, has 2 coax inputs and a Ethernet port. You plug it into your antenna or cable and then into your home network and you can stream HD to any computer on your network and it even streams perfectly via WiFi, no it doesn't have WiFi built in, only Ethernet. Best of all you get all of this for $169.00. Some may call it the open source Slingplayer, and although there are some similarities there is no Slingplayer with a ATSC tuner.

The HDHomeRun is a simple little box and lacks many markings of any kind, in fact you can't even tell which input is which. Not that it matters too much since they both do the same thing. You can connect an OTA antenna to one and QAM cable to watch unscrambled QAM on the other, of course you can also use both for either as well if you like.

About the software.
Plug everything in and head over to your pc, what you do next depends on what kind of computer you have. Out of the box the tuner works best with MythTV, it's as simple as a adding the two tuners to your MythTV config. If you don't have MythTV things get a little more complicated, as well as this hardware works there is no doubt there is something missing in regards to software. We had no problem using this device on a MacBook Pro, but we can see how others might shy away. First you download the source code, make sure XCode is installed run make and you have a very simple CLI application to control the HDHomeRun. Then you launch VLC, tell it to open a UDP stream and then you enjoy HD. Sound easy enough, then go for it, this thing works great! If it seems a bit complicated we don't blame you, but there is hope, there is a Windows GUI that doesn't require you to compile it and will launch VLC for you, but you still have to know what channel you want to watch and unfortunately it may not be the channel you think you want to watch. ATSC channels use PSIP information to remap the real channel to the channel you know and this box doesn't pick up the PSIP information automatically, lucky for us Antennaweb.org has all the info we need, and it doesn't take long to learn that CBS Ch 10 is Ch 24.


The windows GUI has a nice little signal strength meter while Linux and OS X fans have to use the watch command to get the same info. Of course MythTV takes care of all this for you as well as recording and there are plans for a MCE plug-in as well as BeyondTV, there is even talk of a client for the Roku HD1000. Personally I think they need to make a Sling like player for your computer maybe using the VLC source. The good news is the player uses open standards and the software it does come with is open source so the smart people of the world will be able to do a lot with this box.

Hardware performance
Software aside this is a solid piece of hardware. It works flawlessly streaming HD to every box we have thrown at it. In the past we have had plenty of trouble trying to stream HD via WiFi to our Xbox360 and we are starting to think it isn't the WiFi's fault, as this little box can stream via WiFi without missing a frame. It does use UDP which has to help (not sure what the Xbox uses), we open VLC info and verified that it was streaming the full 19.3Mbps stream and network monitor to confirmed it.

If you are in the market for dual ATSC tuners for your MythTV setup this may be the way to go, the network-enabled device allows you to add as many tuners as you want without being limited by the number of PCI slots in your PC, which opens up opportunities with small form factor computers like the Mac Mini. Priced at $169, you will have a hard time buying two ATSC tuners cheaper. If you aren't a MythTV user yet, you may just want to hold off and wait for the community to deliver compatible software that is more user friendly. We're going to have to pay for this thing so we can keep it, as it is the perfect way to watch HD while writing on Engadget HD.
All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Popular on Engadget