The cord-cutting movement — that is, the growing number of consumers abandoning cable TV in favor of streaming video and over-the-air HDTV — is picking up steam, and showing no signs of slowing down. Users are finding new ways to bring their favorite shows and movies to their TVs without having to rent a painfully slow cable box and pay for service, and one of the most innovative new approaches is making big waves: Using a network tuner.
A network tuner is a small, unassuming box that connects to both an HD antenna and your local network — and it’s only job is to tune in over-the-air channels and make them available for streaming devices (like a streaming box, smart TV, or smartphone) on your network. They’re perfect for watching your local channels on just about any screen, and you can even record shows and movies to a local hard drive — so it’s now possible for cord-cutters to build their own DVRs.
One brand that does network tuners better than anyone else: Silicon Dust’s HDHomeRun devices have consistently been the backbone of many cord-cutting setups, and the company is beloved by cord-cutters all over the world.
If you’ve ever thought about becoming a cord-cutter, or if you’re ready to level-up your cord-cutting game, it’s a perfect time to learn more about network tuners — what they do, the different models available, and how you can use one to help build your own cord-cutting empire.
To set up and use an HDHomeRun network tuner, you’ll need:
A local network with at least one available ethernet port (you likely have this if you have the internet in your home)
An HDHomeRun network tuner
Every HDHomeRun device works on the same basic principle: You connect it to an ethernet cable and a coaxial cable (that’s connected to an over-the-air antenna), and then plug it in to the wall for power. Once powered on, running through a one-time setup process makes it easy to scan for channels. When channel-scanning is complete, your HDHomeRun network tuner is ready for use.
Once you’ve gone through the setup, your HDHomeRun will be available as a video source to other applications, so to watch TV, you’ll need a device and an app. Silicon Dust makes compatible apps for most major platforms (including Android, iOS, Windows, OS X, and Roku), so once you’ve selected your viewing device, all you need to do to get started is download the HDHomeRun app.
Silicon Dust makes a variety of HDHomeRun devices, and while they each perform the same basic functions, they’re primarily differentiated by the number of channels they can record simultaneously.
The HDHomeRun Connect Duo features two tuners, so you can watch one program and record another, or record two shows at once.
The HDHomeRun Connect Quattro is identical to the Duo, but it has four tuners instead of two.
The HDHomeRun Extend also has two tuners, but it supports hardware transcoding, which can make it easier to use with some older media players.
The bottom line: Which HDHomeRun you use to receive and record broadcast HDTV should depend on how many tuners you’ll want. But if you’re worried about not buying enough, don’t worry: You can buy multiple HDHomeRuns and use them on the same network seamlessly.
Silicon Dust makes one model of network tuner, the HDHomeRun Prime, for recording from a cable TV provider. The HDHomeRun accepts “cable cards,” which you can rent from your cable TV provider, pay for service, and then use the HDHomeRun Prime to integrate your cable TV with apps and devices on your network.
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HDHomeRun network tuners integrate well with most major platforms, but if you’re looking to enjoy over-the-air TV in the best audio-video quality available, you’ll want to pair it with the right tech.