Hauppauge Broadway Lets You Take Your TV With You
At a Glance
The Hauppauge Broadway joins a small crew of set-top boxes that focus on place shifting—the ability to watch whatever’s playing on your home TV on an Internet-connected mobile device (in this case, an iPhone OS or Android mobile device, or any device using a computer browser with Flash support). Like competitors such as Monsoon’s Vulkano models or Sling Media’s Slingbox, the Broadway grabs video from antenna, coaxial cable, or satellite or cable TV boxes; transforms it into a streaming-friendly format; and sends it to your device over your home network and, optionally, the Internet.
At $199, with no additional charges for client software, it’s less expensive than some competitors, but also not quite as full-featured. It doesn’t, for example, support my cable box’s DVR and on-demand controls. Also, in my tests, setup proved rather complicated; for that reason, I can’t heartily recommend the product to nontechies. But once I got it up and running, I found the Broadway to be pretty good at what it does, and less prone to the crashes and quality issues that have plagued my efforts with competitors.
In theory, the Broadway shouldn’t have been so difficult to set up. Like other place-shifting boxes, it accepts video from over-the-air signals (the Broadway has its own internal tuner), coax inputs for antennas or unencrypted cable TV, or—if you have a digital cable or satellite box, or even a webcam—composite video and stereo audio or S-Video cables. DRM restrictions preclude the use of HDMI outputs to boxes like the Broadway, but component video—the next-best connection technology—could have been used and wasn’t.
However, this lack of component video support may not matter much, since the Broadway compresses video anyway, using the iOS-friendly H.264 standard. The H.264-encoded stream is then sent over your home network. The Broadway supports ethernet or 2.4GHz 802.11n Wi-Fi, but during setup you must connect the Broadway to your router using an ethernet cable.
I had no problem connecting the Broadway to my Comcast cable box with composite video and stereo audio cables, and I then ran an ethernet cable to my router. Once these connections are made, you simply run a browser on a device connected to the same network and point it to the distan.tv site to access the Broadway’s Web interface (for both remote viewing and administration). During the following setup routine you can input info for a Wi-Fi connection, and set both a password for administrative access and a PIN for remote viewing access.
You also tell the Broadway how it’s getting video. If you’re using the Broadway with a coax or over-the-air connection, it can detect available channels automatically, and you’re good to go. However, if you want to be able to control a digital cable or satellite box from a remote device, you must install an IR blaster—basically, a cable with a dongle that sends the same infrared signals you’d send with a remote if you were sitting in front of the set. And this is where I ran into problems.
Unlike other IR blasters I’ve set up with my cable box, which have all worked work well if the dongle is in the general vicinity of the box’s IR receiver, the Hauppauge cable proved extremely picky: I had to move the dongle around five or six times before I found a spot where it would reliably transmit signals sent via the Broadway’s browser interface. I also had to experiment to determine the speed at which my box would accept transmission of multiple digits (for three-digit channels). Hauppauge’s software can download preset codes for some cable boxes, but it turned out I had to modify the presets downloaded for my box. Some users may not have the problems I did getting the IR blaster to work, but it took a lot of frustrating discussions with tech support in my case. And without the blaster, I couldn’t change channels remotely.
Once I got the blaster to work, I had to manually set up the channels I wanted to watch remotely, a rather time-consuming exercise (I literally had to type in the channel number and name for each channel). At least you have to do this only once: Hauppauge lets you create and save custom channel lists that you can load remotely.
Finally, before you can watch TV remotely on a mobile device, you must use that device on your home network to access the Broadway interface (by logging in to the distan.tv website) in order to register it with Hauppauge’s servers. Additionally, you must set up port forwarding on your router to enable remote viewing (Hauppauge’s knowledge base has helpful illustrated instructions for different popular routers, although some instructions were in German).
After that, however, watching TV on my iPad was pretty easy: Pointing the browser to distan.tv brought up the same login screen I’d seen during setup. Once you log in, by default the channel lineup appears on the left pane of the remote interface, and you click on the channel you want to watch; the active channel appears in a small window on the right side, with a YouTube-like enlarge-screen button to get rid of the channel lineup and view a larger image. You can choose between a 16:9 and 3:4 aspect ratio, and you can also choose to fill the remote screen—but on my iPad, filling the screen cut out a fair amount of content on the edges.
Some lag occurred before the TV image appeared (about 15 to 30 seconds), but the quality of the video wasn’t bad. Not surprisingly, it lacked the detail and clarity of the high-def signal I get on my home set, but it was reasonably smooth. Channel changes also involved a bit of lag, but worked fine.
Hauppauge’s well-established expertise in making TV tuners has obviously stood it in good stead in creating solid encoding and streaming technology. I didn’t much miss the high-def support that some competitors have, and overall, I found the Broadway to be a capable unit that would be a terrific buy if its setup were less intimidating—and if it added the full complement of set-top box controls that are also available on some competitors (I would have loved to be able to access my cable box’s DVR or on-demand content).