SiliconDust HDHomeRun Prime HDHR3-CC Review: Adapter Lets You Share TV Tuners
At a Glance
Interested in using your computer as a TV-capable media center? No problem--but why limit your viewing pleasure to just one PC? The SiliconDust HDHomeRun Prime HDHR3-CC TV tuner product plugs into a home router, so any Windows 7 system (or iPad) connected to the network can view or record digital high-definition channels. Contrast that with the Ceton InfiniTV 4 USB, which relies on complicated network bridging and an always-on host PC, and the Hauppauge WinTV-DCR-2650, which can’t share tuners at all.
The $250 (as of October 25, 2011) HDHR3-CC is a three-tuner adapter, offering one more tuner than Hauppauge’s product and one fewer than Ceton’s. SiliconDust also sells a six-tuner model, the HDHR3-6CC-3X2, for $500.
Once you’ve secured an M-Card CableCard from your cable company, just ease it into the back of the HDHR3-CC, connect the coax cable, and then plug the whole shebang into an open ethernet port on your router. Next, head to your PC and download the company's HDHomeRun Software (SiliconDust doesn’t provide a CD). The software is fairly easy to set up, though some additional direction would be helpful for novices. The last step is to run through the standard CableCard setup procedure in Windows Media Center; at least that part is illustrated in the accompanying quick-start guide.
Because high-definition video requires a lot of bandwidth, SiliconDust recommends a wired connection between your PC(s) and your router. Of course, that isn't always practical, so I tested the tuners with both wired and Wi-Fi configurations. The bottom line: A wired arrangement does indeed work better, but I also had good luck on the wireless front--so long as I kept the computers in relatively close proximity to the router. Two floors away, the signal wasn’t strong enough, and the video skipped heavily.
The HDHR3-CC worked like a champ--with my PCs. With my iPad, things took a turn for the disappointing. For starters, Elgato Systems’ HDHomeRun app costs $18. It can tune in only SD channels, not HD ones. And although the app offers basic DVR functions such as pause, rewind, and quick-skip, you can’t schedule recordings or use more than one tuner at a time. Even worse, in my tests, live TV suffered from bursts of pixelation and frequent interruptions, even when I had my iPad in the same room as my router. I was rarely able to enjoy the TV quality.
Taking the iPad out of the equation, however, the SiliconDust HDHomeRun Prime HDHR3-CC offers excellent three-tuner performance for multiple-PC households. I definitely recommend it.