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

Sound+Image - - CONTENTS - Adam Turner

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.

Tune in

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.

Turn on

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.

Drop-outs?

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.

Press record

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.

Con­clu­sion

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.

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