Two simultaneous streams; platform agnostic
Can’t stream across the internet
Rather than chaining you to your couch, SiliconDust’s HDHomeRun Connect lets you watch live free-to-air television on practically any device around your home.
The HDHomeRun Connect doesn’t feature an HDMI socket for connecting to your television. On the back you’ll only find power, Ethernet and TV aerial sockets. The tiny box’s job is to act as a DLNA server, making the free-to-air channels available to any DLNA-compatible media player around your home.
There’s no built-in Wi-Fi, so the challenge in some homes will be finding a spot for the HDHomeRun Connect with easy access to both an Ethernet connection and an aerial socket. A Wi-Fi to Ethernet adapter like Apple’s Airport Express, or perhaps a Powerline AV adapter, could help with this.
The box features two HD digital TV tuners, so two viewers can watch different channels simultaneously. A third viewer is out of luck; they can’t even watch one of the channels already in use. Another shortcoming is that it only streams video across your home network, but not out over the internet. There are no built-in recording features, but they are on the roadmap.
Reliance on DLNA means that you don’t need special playback software to watch TV, just about any DLNA-capable media player on any device should do the trick. The only caveat is that Australia’s five high-def digital TV channels tend to use AC3-DTS audio, which not every app or device will support.
On an iPhone or iPad you’ll get good results from the AirPlayer media player app. The picture quality is excellent with perfect audio sync and there’s only a delay of a few seconds on live broadcasts. The platform-agnostic nature of DLNA means the HDHomeRun Connect also plays nicely with Android (try the official HDHomeRun app) and Windows Phone (try the MoliPlayer app), making it a handy device for blended households.
The HDHomeRun Connect also works with desktop computers, whether they be Mac OS, Windows or Linux. The Kodi media player (formerly XBMC) is a good starting place on your Mac, as there’s already an HDHomeRun Connect plug-in available. By default, the HDHomeRun Connect doesn’t stream to Plex apps, but you might experiment with the HDSurfer plug-in for Plex.
You can also use Elgato’s EyeTV 3 software to tap into the HDHomeRun Connect from your Mac to watch and record live TV across your home network (with support for the IceTV electronic program guide). The latest version (EyeTV 3.6.8) doesn’t cooperate – recognising the box, but refusing to stream video. This may change, but for now I got it up and running with the older EyeTV 3.6.5 desktop software. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the Elgato iOS apps to recognise the HDHomeRun Connect.
The flexibility of DLNA means you can also watch TV via the HDHomeRun Connect on a wide range of set-top boxes, Blu-ray players, games consoles and smart TVs around your home (although DLNA compatibility can be fickle). It works fine with the Xbox 360, Xbox One and PlayStation 3, but not the PlayStation 4 because Sony still refuses to bless it with DLNA. As for the Apple TV, you can use AirPlay screen mirroring to send the picture from an iOS app like AirPlayer, but the extra leg across your Wi-Fi network can introduce lag and lip-sync issues. Alternatively, you might hack the Apple TV to add DLNA features.
Bottom line. Apart from the lack of remote access across the internet, it’s hard to find fault with SiliconDust’s HDHomeRun Connect. It’s the perfect way to fling live television to the far corners of your home, whatever your taste in gadgets