SILICONDUST HD HOMERUN CONNECT QUATRO TV receiver
SiliconDust’s HDHomeRun Connect Quatro lets you watch broadcast television on your own terms through home networking, no longer shackled to the couch. SiliconDust HDHomeRun Connect Quatro networked TV receiver
Four HD TV tuners for networking around the home so you can watch TV on your own terms.
Broadcast television might be out of fashion these days, but it’s still the best place to find some of your favourite content — especially live sport. Yet as our homes get increasingly networked and connected with IT cables or Wi-Fi, the humble antenna connection is getting sidelined. Instead of an antenna socket in every location you might want a TV, now you might have an Ethernet socket instead, or just Wi-Fi. What are you supoposed to do for live TV — shove a pair of rabbit ears on top? It’s hardly the high-tech dream. Equipment The $299 HDHomeRun Connect Quatro aims to solve the problem — distributing live TV all over your home via the IT network. And not just playing, and not just to televisions. It aims to stream live broadcast television to practically any device around your home, as well as automatically recording your favourite shows each week. You can watch the footy live on your computer, your smartphone or tablet, games console, smart TV, streaming box, disc player — any device which can see a media server across your home network.
The Quatro is just a palm-sized box — a ‘network tuner’. There’s no video port on the back for connecting to your television, nor a USB port for connecting to your computer. Instead you just need to connect power, Ethernet, and an aerial cable, for which there is an input but sadly no loop-through output for other equipment. The lack of built-in Wi-Fi might also present a challenge
if you don’t have an Ethernet port located close to an aerial wall socket, but insisting on a hard-wired connection is sensible considering the plan to stream potentially multiple HD channels around your home. With the Quatro plugged into your network via Ethernet, you can still stream video to wireless devices such as smartphones and tablets.
Under the bonnet the Quatro is blessed with four MPEG-4 HDTV tuners — stepping up from twin tuners in the older HDHomeRun Connect. Take care if you’re importing the Quatro, as only the HDHR5-4DT(AU) Australian model is designed to work with our DVB-T Freeview digital signals, while some countries use different broadcast standards.
Once the Quatro scans for channels you can use the free HDHomeRun apps to watch live broadcasts using your computer, smartphone or tablet — they’ll automatically discover the Quatro on your home network.
And unlike when the earlier Connect model was launched, the HDHomeRun app for iOS doesn’t have any trouble with Australia’s free-to-air HD channels.
Even better, the Quatro advertises itself as a DLNA media server on your home network. This means you can watch live television using a wide range of third-party apps as well as any home entertainment device which can stream via DLNA (keeping in mind that DLNA interoperability has always been a bit hitand-miss). You can also use the Quatro with flexible third-party media server apps like Plex, Kodi, MythTV and Windows Media Centre.
Thanks to the four onboard tuners, four members of your household can watch four different channels on four different networks simultaneously. Of course that’s assuming your home network can handle the traffic.
You’re not just stuck with a live stream, as the HDHomeRun mobile apps have a built-in buffer, like on a PVR. This lets you pause and even rewind live broadcasts — though only to the point where you last changed channel. And also as with some PVRs, if you forget you’re watching on delay and accidentally change channel, everything in the buffer is lost and you’re flung forward to the live broadcast.
Some might argue there’s less need for the Quatro now that Australia’s free-to-air networks offer online simulcasts of their live broadcasts, but these streaming services can still leave you in the dark. High-profile sporting events such as the footy are often blocked on the online simulcasts due to streaming rights deals. The Quatro bypasses this online blockade, as you’re tapping into the broadcast signals, not the stream. And with the Quatro you also enjoy broadcast picture quality, without the one-minute delay which tends to plague online simulcasts.
And the good news is that this worked successfully. With the HDHomeRun connected to the home network via Ethernet cable, it happily streamed — without stuttering or dropouts — to four wireless devices connected to a Google Wi-Fi mesh network.
It’s important to note, of course, that your devices can only see the Quatro when they’re connected to your home network. The Quatro can’t stream out over the internet — you can’t watch its live TV while you’re riding the bus.
Although there is a workaround even for this. You can link the Quatro to a media server app like Plex and then access the Quatro’s live channels via the Plex app on your smartphone whether you’re at home or out and about. Broadcasters and streaming rights owners might not like the idea of you watching live footy on your phone this way, but they can’t stop you.
Of course at this point you’re chewing through your mobile data allowance, plus you’re at the mercy of your mobile download speeds and your home upload speeds. You’re also at the mercy of how much grunt your Plex server packs under the bonnet, so it might not all be smooth sailing.
To get more from the Quatro you can sign up for the US$35 per year HDHomeRun DVR service. This lets you install TV recording software on a Mac/Windows computer or a Network Attached Storage device, which accesses the Quatro across your home network.
This is where four digital tuners come in handy, ensuring you can still channel flick even if the HDHomeRun DVR service is tying up a few tuners recording your favourite shows. Of course recording multiple channels simultaneously will demand extra grunt from computer or NAS.
The ability to watch the start of a show while still recording the end is handy, plus you can jump between devices and pick up where you left off. Recordings aren’t stored in the cloud; again you could only access them when away from home using something like Plex as the middleman.
We did find the recording features in the HDHomeRun app rather basic and clunky. You should weigh it up against alternatives like Plex’s DVR features. But you can create season passes with pre and post-padding, and thankfully it taps into the Gracenote online Electronic Program Guide rather than the unreliable EPG embedded in Australia’s free-to-air broadcasts.
The ability to fling live broadcasts around your home is great, and four tuners is enough to cater to the needs of a busy household. Linking the Quatro to a media server like Plex, so you can access it from afar, is the icing on the cake.
That said, the value proposition starts to waiver if you want to use the Quatro as a household Personal Video Recorder. Make sure you weigh up subscribing to HDHomeRun DVR against buying, say, the quad-tuner Fetch TV Mighty, which is a more robust PVR with access to a better EPG. The downside to the Fetch TV Mighty is that it won’t stream free-to-air live channels or recordings to your mobile devices. This is primarily due to technical challenges, but there’s also the lingering fear of Australia’s broadcasters and rights holders who still insist on dictating the way we watch television and have previously dragged service providers to court.
If you don’t want to live by their rules, then the HDHomeRun certainly offers greater freedom to watch television on your own terms.