There’s nothing quite like free TV with the help of an antenna. But wouldn’t it be nice if you could get that live TV stream on your computer, or tablet, or Xbox? With a simple piece of hardware, you can.
Tuner cards and external boxes aren’t exactly a new technology, but the technology and the ease of use has advanced light years. What used to be an enormous hassle is now a plug and play affair you can set up and enjoy in a matter of minutes.
So, armed with your antenna (or a cable subscription) and the HomeRun TV tuner from Silicon Dust, you can stream live local TV broadcasts on every device in your home. The beauty of the HomeRun system, as opposed to purchasing a tuner card for your PC, is that it is a totally standalone unit that runs 24/7 with no need to boot up your PC in order for other devices on the network to access the TV stream.
The HomeRun comes in three flavors: the HDHomeRun Connect (~$80), the HDHomeRun Extend (~$150), and the HDHomeRun Prime (~$130). The first two, the Connect and the Extend, are virtually identical over-the-air tuners, except the Extend offers better Wi-Fi technology (AC over just N for faster connectivity) and, more critically, advanced h.264 video compression (instead of just raw mpeg2 streaming). The Prime is a tuner designed for compatible digital cable services (so it offers the same whole-house streaming to any device, but with your cable provider as the source instead of local broadcast TV stations). For the purposes of this tutorial, we’ll be setting up the HDHomeRun Extend. If you want to compare features in more depth, check out the comparison chart and detailed specifications here.
Locating and Updating Your HDHomeRun
The setup process for the HomeRun is so easy, you’ll spend more time simply unpacking and placing the device in your home than you will configuring it. Don’t gloss over this step as where your device is located has a significant impact on the quality of your experience with it.
Let’s take a peek at the back of the HomeRun to familiarize ourselves with the very simple layout. On the rear of the device, you’ll find one coax jack (where you attach the coax cable coming from the antenna), one Ethernet jack (where you connect the device to your home network) with a network indicator light, and power jack for the power adapter, all seen below from left to right.
First and foremost, your device needs access to an antenna. If you have and old an unused aerial antenna attached your chimney or the like, now is the time to blow the proverbial dust of of it. Unbeknownst to most people, those big old antennas sittings on their roofs are fantastic for pulling down digital signals—the tuner hardware changed with the digital TV rollover but the basic antenna design didn’t. Because the HomeRun streams the TV signal over your home network, it isn’t important that your HomeRun be located where you’re watching the stream, but where it can get the best signal from the antenna.
If that means placing it in an upstairs home office so it has a higher elevation and a clearer signal, so be it. If that means plugging it in down in the basement so you can jack your old antenna coax right into the box, that’s ideal too. Again, for emphasis, you don’t need to locate it below your TV set like a traditional home media center accessory unless, of course, that location happens to be idea because you’ve got coax and network access right at your finger tips
Once you’ve located an ideal spot for the HomeRun box, plug in the coax, the Ethernet cable, and the power. Before you start playing around with the tuner, though, update the firmware so you can enjoy the smoothest experience. To do so, navigate to my.hdhomerun.com from a web browser on a computer connected to your local network. You’ll see a message like the one below:
The white box on the left indicates the hardware version of your HomeRun, the current firmware version number, and the number of channels it is picking up through the antenna source. To upgrade the firmware, visit this link and download the appropriate desktop software for your operating system. Run the installer. When the installer finishes, the HomeRun installation wizard will start automatically, immediately scanning your network for the HomeRun device and initiating the firmware update. (If for some reason the device isn’t immediately found, you can always click the “Rescan” button to start the process again.)
Once the firmware update is complete, the device will reboot and you’ll see a listing for it in the control panel. You can click “Next” in the lower corner to continue or simply select the next tab in the navigation bar at the top (the wizard simply guides you through the tabs to ensure you’ve completed the setup in each).
In the “Digital Antenna” tab, click “Scan” to start the scanning process.
When complete, you’ll see a list of available channels in your location. As a fun aside, if you have an application already installed on your computer, such as the popular video player VLC, that can handle UDP video streams, if you click on the blue hyperlinked channel name for any given channel then that channel stream will load in your video player.
When you click “Next” again, you’ll be prompted to configure the advanced DVR settings for the device. The DVR functionality, if you’re using their software, has a $35 a year subscription cost. If recording broadcast TV is of interest to you, you can pay the subscription cost or you can use a third-party tool like NextPVR, a tool we use in our guide to watching and recording live TV with Kodi Media Center. For our purposes, simply created a network of live streaming television all over your home, we can skip the recording functionality for now and simply click “Finish”.
After you click “Finish” the wizard will save your configuration settings and close.
Accessing Your HomeRun
Once the configuration process is complete and your HomeRun is locked on to your local channels, the hard part is over, and now it’s dead simple to tap into the live stream from practically any device in your home. Because we just finished the configuration process (and doing so installed the HomeRun desktop application at the same time) let’s take a peek at that first. Launch the new HDHomeRun program on your PC.
If everything has gone according to plan, the HDHomeRun application will immediately tap into the local channels, displaying the first channel in full screen, and, in the process, probably make you question why you wanted to watch live TV in the first place. Did you know Maury was still on TV? Neither did we.
In addition to watching the live stream on your computer, you can also use one of the many applications available for various platforms to watch live TV on your other devices. There’s a HomeRun app available for iOS, Android, FireOS for the Amazon Fire tablets and Fire TV, and an Xbox One app in the Windows App Store. Additionally, you can access your HomeRun-supplied TV channels from any device that supports DLNA streaming (such as the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, or any smart TV with DLNA support). The HomeRun will appear under the list of available DLNA servers as “HDHomeRun DMS”.
Here’s what playback looks like via the iOS application running on an iPhone:
We’ll be the first to admit that our showcase of the system during prime cruddy-day-time-TV scheduling hours doesn’t do it justice—but if you’re looking for a simple no-fuss way to get your favorite show or sporting event on all your devices so you can watch hockey or your favorite cop show anywhere, no wires needed, the HDHomeRun really shines.